Well, shit if that wasn't delightful.
Barney Stinson is hardly a stranger to elaborate and over-the-top plans—one is, after all, the reason Robin and Barney are even engaged right now—but not once during "The Rehearsal Dinner" did I consider the idea that he was playing Robin again. It might be the lasting remnants of a Thanksgiving hangover that clouded my eyes, but it might also be that I had no reason to believe Barney wasn't the kind of guy who'd fixate on an idea so much that he'd eventually run it into the ground. That was the entire point of "Mom and Dad" a couple of weeks ago. Plus, the dude really likes laser tag.
Oh sure, I knew something was up after that ridiculous laser tag sign was hung on the building, but I didn't see him importing the best of Canada for Robin either (hi, Alan Thicke!). In fact, I was pretty convinced that Robin actually had planned a surprise laser tag rehearsal dinner and kept waiting for her to reveal her master plan just as Barney would inevitably accept that he once again let his overactive imagination and obsession with laser tag ruin a pretty important key to the wedding puzzle. In short: I was ready for the show to make Barney a childish little boy and to keyboard smash the hell out of this episode.
The sad thing is, is that I wouldn't have been at all surprised if the above scenario had happened. The way Barney and Robin were written at the beginning of Season 9 was absolutely frustrating. Their storylines weren't funny and their jokes were cringe-inducing. Every other week they were doubting whether or not they should be getting married. They were relegated to a separate storyline every week and didn't interact much with the rest of the gang, which really made each episode suffer a bit. I was ready to protest the series like a weird follower of Ted's college radio personality Doctor X.
But then something strange happened: the series remembered everything that made Robin and Barney work as a couple and since "The Lighthouse," they've more or less been the couple that I've always rooted for. But I won't lie and say that I don't worry every week that these funny and heartwarming episodes have just been a fluke. Every week I pray that the writers will refrain from doing something to ruin Barney and Robin for me.
Which is why the reveal that Barney was playing Robin again made me so damn happy. Even if I should have seen it coming long before I actually did. Only the man who'd concoct an elaborate scheme in order to win back Robin's heart and propose would also concoct and fully commit to a plan as ridiculous as the surprise Canadian rehearsal dinner covered up by a silly obsession with a surprise laser tag rehearsal dinner, and that's why it worked. Barney loves Robin enough to fully commit to these crazy schemes that take months of build up and planning. Thank God we only have to wait 30 minutes for them to unfurl.
After having watched Barney and rest of the gang rattle off Canada jokes for so long that a man and woman got engaged, had a child, watched that child graduate from college, and then mourn the loss of the child's father in the background of the scene, Barney understood Robin well enough to know that being in Canada on her wedding day really would have meant a lot to her. By bringing it to her instead, the series executed yet another emotionally heartwarming episode, complete with over-the-top Barney and a butt joke that you can't even pretend you didn't laugh at.
Oh sure, I could ask the obvious questions, like "How did Robin get into that fake room without noticing an entire ice rink?" Or "Wasn't homegirl freeeeeezing in that strapless dress?" But I won't nitpick, because I thoroughly enjoyed "The Rehearsal Dinner" once Barney revealed his master plan and neither of those things actually bother me enough to take away from the sentiments of the episode. In fact, I don't really have any complaints about the episode. It hit all my checkmarks for a great and fun episode of How I Met Your Mother. It had a lot of heart. It made me laugh. It moved the main story along. It featured an acceptable amount of Marshall. Neil Patrick Harris played the funny, the extravagant, and the emotional better than anyone could have hoped for. And it involved puppies and the aforementioned butt joke. Seriously, the only downside of this episode, is that its happiness has to last until the next new episode on December 16. Because I'm not sure I can wait that long.
- Lily finally told Ted and Robin about Marshall taking the judge position. No doubt this will be more fully discussed in the next new episode when Marshall arrives at the wedding.
- Barney's really bad ideas: Gluten-free edible panties, hot dog on a stick on a bun, inflatable sex toy life raft, the breast augmentation channel, single-malt scotch tape, and running for mayor.
- "Every now and then I am going to lie to you. I just am. If it's in the interest of an amazing surprise, that is." Would you grow tired of these pranks? Or do you love the idea?
- The ongoing gag of Ted dressed as Liberace might be my new favorite thing.
- Wayne Brady as Robin Sparkles deserves way more screen time.
- I beg you to go back and watch that final scene where Barney is rattling off all the great things Canada has done and just pay close attention to the background. You'll be glad you did.
(Credit for the GIF)
AIRED ON 3/31/2014
Season 9 : Episode 24