How I Met Your Mother seems to be developing a pattern in its eighth and possibly final season. The show redeems itself with a great episode, gets fans believing things are back on the right track, and then stumbles back down with another clunker the following week. I loved last week's "Splitsville," and I really, really thought the show had solved the woes that've plagued it so far season.
Well, I was wrong.
"The Stamp Tramp" wasted one of the precious few episodes of HIMYM that we have left, failing to advance any plots, develop any characters, or answer any questions. Yes, Barney kissed Robin at the very end of the episode, but they were both drunk and this is a couple that's gone much further on just a spur-of-the-moment whim. The emotional and touching speech that Barney made last week about his love for Robin deserved a better follow-up than just a post-strip-club smooch.
Even the return of Joe Manganiello as Brad, Marshall’s law school buddy and former brunch partner, and a cameo by Joe Lo Truglio as Honeywell, Marshall’s boss, couldn’t save the episode. After seeing Brad looking kind of homeless outside his law firm, Marshall invited him to interview for an associate position. This prompted the gang to inform Marshall that he was a stamp tramp, handing out stamps of approval way too easily. Brad appeared to be a horrible job candidate, embarrassing Marshall in front of Honeywell. The episode revealed that Brad was really working for Gruber Pharmaceutical and his appearance and behavior were part of a ploy to steal secrets about Marshall’s firm’s case against Gruber.
Marshall’s stamp-tramping led to Lily calling Ted a piggyback stamper, accusing Teddy Westside of only giving out his stamp of approval after someone else had offered theirs. Ted’s defense against Lily’s charges forced him to not only reveal his half-hearted love of Dishwalla but also confirmed that he was pirate DJ Dr. X. Cue spit take by Lily, Robin, and Barney. Ted broke out his college video diaries in search of a clue that he wasn’t a piggyback stamper, but became even more dejected when he realized how lame he was in college. While his friends were busy lighting up sandwiches in the background, College Ted was plotting his pirate radio career and attempting to pierce his own ear. Even though we’ve been told that Marshall always knew he was going to marry Lily, one of Ted’s video diaries took place after Marshall’s third date with Lily and showed Ted convincing Marshall that it was okay to want to spend his life with Lily so soon. Lily saw this and realized that she owes her marriage and family to Ted giving her the stamp of approval years ago.
Meanwhile, Barney began the search for a new strip club after Quinn returned to work at the Lusty Leopard. He enlisted Robin as his strip club agent, and she began weighing deals from various clubs who wanted Barney to bring his business to their establishments. After Barney chose Mouth Beach, he and Robin spent the evening there and ended up drunk, leading to the aforementioned kiss. Nothing says romance like a strip club, right?
The real revelation of this episode was just how inconsequential (and boring) Marshall and Lily’s story has become. Some of you have been trying to tell me this in the comments for weeks now, and after this episode, I’m on your side. HIMYM episodes that focus on Marshall and Lily used to be some of the highlights of the series. It was their engagement that sent Ted on his journey to find the one. The death of Marshall’s dad two seasons ago gave HIMYM an emotionally dramatic heft that it hadn't previously possessed.
But now? Geez, these two are awful. Yes, I know they had a baby, and that would change the dynamic of any couple, but Marshall and Lily are completely different characters now. Where’s the Marshall who dreamed of Loch Ness Monsters? Where’s the Lily who loved to paint, even if her paintings were only good at soothing pets? Baby Marvin came along and just sucked the personality right out of Marshall and Lily. What a disappointment.
Speaking of disappointments, can we settle on exactly who Barney Stinson is? Is he a womanizing connoisseur of strip clubs? Or he is a man who’s ready to settle down? It’s one thing for a character to evolve as a show goes on, but Barney has been all over the place this season and last. One minute he loved Nora. Then he dumped Nora for Robin. Then he was back to the strip clubs. But then he loved Quinn. Suddenly he wanted to keep living the bro life and created a ridiculous pre-nuptial agreement. Back to Robin. But it was just a ruse! Strip clubs! ROBIN! What. Are. We. Doing?
It seems like after eight seasons, the writers have lost the ability to write for their own characters. We saw this with Victoria earlier this season, and she wasn’t even a hard character to get a grasp on. If this season of HIMYM were a car, we wouldn’t be driving smoothly down the road to a finale. This season is Barney behind the wheel of Marshall’s Fiero, stuttering through a parking lot while "I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)" plays endlessly on the stereo. We’re not going anywhere. And it seems like no one has any idea how to even get the car to move forward.
– Gotta give the writers credit for the many different strip club names. Moneyballs (where sabermetrics lead to a high on-pants percentage), Golden Oldies (where GILFs are extra flexible thanks to advanced hip dysplasia), and Mouth Beach now join the Lusty Leopard.
– Ted: “Wow, you’re like the LeBron James of strip clubs. Actually you’re probably tied with LeBron for that title.”
– For a man who believes in Sasquatch, I wouldn’t expect Marshall to be afraid of giant hot dogs. Speaking of Marshall, can we get a HIMYM-Finding Bigfoot crossover? Marshall and Bobo would get along like crazy.
– Brad: “I hope this works out, bro. I couldn’t even fit in my leg in that bratwurst outfit.”
– Ted to Lily: “You know the best part of you challenging me on Dishwalla?” Lily: “Didn’t challenge you. Don’t care.”
– “Stincinatti Brohio” just might be the best Barney nickname since “Swarley.”
– I was surprised that Marshall pointing out the fish tank to Brad and Honeywell didn’t segue into Marshall’s fish names standup comedy act. I mean, have you ever really thought about the names of fish?