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Monday, November 21, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: "The Rebound Girl"

Thanksgiving has been surprisingly fertile ground for How I Met Your Mother over the years, giving us the hilarity of Slapsgiving, and its more-or-less successful Slapsgiving II, as well as other highlights of the series' run. But the show is in a decidedly dramatic arc this year, and that overshadows the holiday, which barely figures into the main plot tonight.

The Rebound Girl was, once again, light on outright comedy. I found little to laugh at in Barney’s and Ted’s hare-brained idea to co-raise an adopted baby. I did at least appreciate that they followed through with it to a certain extent, and didn’t leave it in the realm of drunken ideas. The fact that Ted and Barney still thought it was a good idea in the morning was slightly redemptive, as was their married couple sparring as they tried to fill out the online forms. Less humorous was their creepy rejection of “girls” (which, seriously, HIMYM writers, it’s creepy for 32-year-olds to use the world girls to refer to people they want to sleep with) and their fantasizing about the freaky sex they could have if they and the absent Marshall were gay.

The other plotline, featuring Robin frantically trying to keep Marshall and Lily from moving out to Long Island, was a little light on jokes but still managed to wring laughs. I especially liked the sight gag of the Erickson’s shrinking apartment. Robin’s insistence on the apartment’s spaciousness, despite her constantly knocking over lamps (“Don’t you have any overhead lighting?”) was also pretty good, although her put downs of Long Island and list of things you can do in New York at 4am were both pretty lame.

The episode’s initial reach for heartwarming conclusion felt contrived and unconvincing, with Barney’s gay brother James (Wayne Brady) showing up as a living deus ex machine, to relate his tale of also considering starting a fake family. Yeah, I know. But then at the last minute the show threw us a big curve (SPOILER) with Robin’s pregnancy. End scene.

I don’t know where they’re going with this, and I like that. It feels almost certain that Barney is the father, if not logically, than by the show’s internal logic. I just like that the show can still surprise me seven seasons in, and do it in such an organic way. Robin’s anger was understandable even before the revelation of her pregnancy. She’s had a rough year and it’s only gotten worse in recent weeks. I also like that, even if only in the brief second between the reveal and fade to black, it seemed pretty clear that Robin isn’t overjoyed at this new development. That’s a strange place for a comedy to put itself in, but that’s just fine with me. How I Met Your Mother is at its worst when it tries to be a normal sitcom.

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