Recap and review of How I Met Your Mother – Season 8 Episode 18 – Weekend at Barney’s:
With the problem of Jeanette (Abby Elliot), How I Met Your Mother has disposed of the last hurdle in Ted’s (Josh Radnor) journey toward The Mother. “Weekend at Barney’s” would have been successful if this had been all it did, yet it succeeds by doing quite a bit more. Ted’s journey has always been one of introspection through experience — it’s all in the way that Ted’s relationships, and their sometimes disastrous ends, prepare him for married life, and to recognize real, true love when he sees it. As usual, we saw the flashforward that closes this episode several weeks ago, with Ted and the gang sitting outside Ted’s apartment building as Jeanette rains his property down on him from above. But only now are we filling in the details surrounding it, and it turns out that there’s just as much development for our other two central relationships as there is progress for Ted.
After crazy Jeanette surprisingly breaks up with him, Ted announces his intention to win her back, since Ted is very much one of those types of guys who doesn’t really know how to handle the inversion of a relationship’s power structure. Had things simply ended with Ted pulling the plug, he might not have felt that itch to get her back. Or perhaps if he’d at least have seen coming, he wouldn’t have been so compelled to fix what was broken. But the suddenness with which Jeanette turns the tables destroys his confidence. Enter Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), who embarks on a quest to turn Ted into a savant with the women by utilizing The Playbook, which wasn’t actually destroyed after all. This produces a comical series of scenes in which Barney, via radio headset, plays Cyrano de Bergerac for Ted, who inevitably fails each time he approaches a woman with one of Barney’s plays (such as The Kidney, in which Ted pretends to be a hospital patient preparing to donate a kidney to his best friend). In each scenario, Ted blows it by using Barney’s increasingly crass pick-up lines (the failures of which Barney attributes to Ted mispronouncing the word “penis”, in the best running gag of the episode, even if it is a relatively easy joke). Ultimately, Barney becomes entangled in his own relationship issues and isn’t there to protect Ted when Jeanette comes to take him back. Ted, as clueless as ever, doesn’t realize how much his other friends hate Jeanette, so he doesn’t have any inhibitions about hooking up with her again. However, the relationship doesn’t last long at all, as Jeanette discovers The Playbook in Ted’s apartment and flips out. She breaks up with him again, then begins trashing his apartment, throwing his stuff out the window, depositing us right back at where the flashforward left off. And this is where we begin filling in the details surrounding the moment…
Barney and Robin (Cobie Smulders) come upon the scene after making up. Robin had discovered that Barney never really destroyed The Playbook, meaning that their entire engagement has been built on a lie, since his burning of The Playbook had been one of the key moments in convincing Robin that Barney was a changed man. In the best moment of the entire episode, Barney launches into a tirade, explaining that their entire relationship is based on lies. In a strange choice for the scene that totally works, Barney gives this speech while doing magic tricks, to illustrate the point that, as a magician, lying is his stock in trade – yet he isn’t lying about his love for Robin. As Barney and Robin come upon the scene, Jeanette threatens to destroy The Playbook with fireworks. When Ted pleads with her not to, for Barney’s sake, Barney tells her it’s okay, insisting that she blow the thing up. Barney gets to come full-circle for a second time, and it’s the best arc of the episode for that reason, even if it comes across as a bit of a retread. For as much as Ted has final hurdles to overcome on his journey to The Mother, Barney has hurdles to overcome on his path to the altar. His progress as a man has been one of the most rewarding elements of the series, for me.
There’s even a great Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) plot, as Marshall accompanies Lily to an art gallery opening and worries that he won’t fit in. It becomes his mission to try and fit into the art world, in order to be a more substantial part of Lily’s new career. The storyline works for a storyline perspective, but it’s also pretty funny, with Marshall’s terrible jokes about Monet and the Ninja Turtles, to candy raining out of his pockets during a solemn moment of silence in remembrance of an artist’s late grandmother. Marshall ultimately makes a connection with a Ninja Turtles-loving artist, and finally begins to feel like he fits in at the gallery, particularly after Lily boosts his self-esteem by recounting all the times he’s been there for her (the majority of those times involving nip-slips on her part, in continuing with another great running gag: Lily’s world-renowned boobs). Marshall and Lily have long run the risk of feeling like an inessential component to the show, but it’s episodes like these that help them feel relevant still.
“Weekend at Barney’s” is an exceptional episode of How I Met Your Mother, incorporating heartfelt storylines with some of the more random humor that the show is best known for (particularly the fantasy sequences of a “Weekend at Bernie’s”-style getaway for the gang). The eighth season is nearing its end, and each week gives me confidence of a strong finish come May.