We start with a four-way split screen showing four members of our five-person ensemble -- specifically Marshall, Lily, Robin and Ted -- hiding in different closets. Before you get too excited, no this isn't the prelude to another installment in R. Kelly's magnum opus, Trapped in the Closet. Neither are any of them forced to watch Dennis Hopper do unspeakable things to Isabella Rossellini in between taking hits from a gas canister. All I'm saying is that this episode would have been a lot more interesting had it been directed by either R. Kelly or David Lynch or, better yet, both of them together, Cloud Atlas style. Kelly could have taken the Marshall and Lily material, while Lynch could have helmed the Robin and Barney stuff. Lord knows that Barney is as big a sexual psycho in his own way as Frank Booth.
Anyway, why are they in these various closets, you ask? Actually, you probably didn't ask because you've hopefully wised up and abandoned HIMYM until May's series finale, but let's pretend that you asked just for fun. For the answer, we flash back a week to a typical night at MacLaren's Pub, where Lily is bemoaning the fact that Marshall's mother is coming to stay with them for a few days. Nice to know that she still has little room in her two-sizes-too-small heart for a still-grieving widow; one can only hope that lil' Marvin returns the favor one day and forces her to bunk at a hostel whenever she wants to visit him and his family. So Marshall is badgering Ted about lending them his air mattress, but Mosby refuses, on the grounds that his pals never return the things they borrow from him, up to and including his limited edition DVD of Weekend at Bernie's with tons of special features.
Nobody cares about Ted's protestations and we move onto the week's other plot point -- that Barney and Robin's work nemesis Patrice are now officially an item. She insists that it's a phony Justin-and-Selena-like romance staged only to get back at her for rejecting his advances, but Ted instead hypothesizes that it's a case of Because Barney was engaged to a woman he didn't fully trust and is now compensating for that by attaching himself to the warmest, most nurturing person around. We go into the credits off a cutaway scene that randomly involves Jason Segel doing a terrible Chris Rock impression. And you wonder why I want the poor guy to quit his day job already.
After the credits, we're in Marshall and Lily's flat preparing for Mama Ericksen's impending arrival. Robin comes barging in instead, still on a tear about Patrice and Barney's fauxmance. She reveals that she's been actively trying to break the duo up, but so far to no avail, since Patrice won't accept the idea that her "honey bear" was, just a few episodes ago, more of a "pussy Robin goes off to continue her Patrice-harassing ways and we're treated to what passes for a tender scene on the show these days, with Lily offering Mama Ericksen some advice about how to get back into the dating game. To cut to the chase, this storyline eventually results in Marshall's mom knocking boots with Lily's dad, who magically reappeared this week after a hiatus that hopefully afforded Chris Elliott the opportunity to do something more creatively fulfilling, like, say, a live reading of his original Cabin Boy script overseen by Jason Reitman. Marshall and Lily are both grossed out when they learn this bit of information and their stomachs turn further when Mama Ericksen and Papa Aldrin reveal that no-strings-attached sex is the extent of their romance. Hey, better these two than Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.
Meanwhile, the writers continue Robin's ongoing character assassination, dispatching her to Barney's apartment on a mission to find his top-secret "playbook," which she can then show to Patrice as proof that she's dating a horrible person. After a few false starts -- and the unexpected arrival of Barney, who is planning a big night in with Patrice -- she discovers the book's hiding place in a secret ceiling compartment. Eventually, it finds its way into Patrice's hands, who is suitably skeeved out by the playbook's contents and is about to leave when Barney proves his commitment to their unlikely relationship by burning his life's work in the trashcan he borrowed from Ted. We end up back in MacLaren's where Barney lectures the gang on how nice it can be when two people searching for happiness find it together, no matter how unlikely a couple they might seem and even though he's referring to Mama Ericksen and Papa Aldrin, it's once again all about him and to a lesser extent, Patrice. Despite his flowery talk, Robin still insists on an intervention and so her friends hold one for her. Gee, with that kind of cliffhanger, next week's hour long episode is bound to be a real knee slapper.
Oh, and before I forget, here's why everyone was in a closet in the first scene. Marshall's hiding in his own closet from Mama Ericksen and Papa Aldrin so he wouldn't have to hear them talking about having gross, old-people sex; Robin's hiding in Barney's bedroom closet so he wouldn't discover her while she continued her hunt for the playbook; Lily's hiding in Barney's other bedroom closet because she's been using his apartment as her private breast-milk pumping place and didn't want to be caught in the act when he came home; and Ted's hiding in Barney's living room closet because he's an idiot. Well, that and he didn't want to be caught picking up Robin's forgotten purse before Barney discovers it. Told you R. Kelly would've come up with something better. Ten episodes down, 14 to go.