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How I Met Your Mother – Recap: When In Rome

Recap and review of How I Met Your Mother – Season 8 Episode 21 – Romeward Bound:

Following a brief, unfortunate detour into the surreal, it appears that How I Met Your Mother is back on track as we get closer to the end of the season. “Romeward Bound” flirts with huge developments, leaving it to subsequent episodes to either follow through or reverse course. We are presented with the possibility of Lily (Alyson Hannigan) moving to Rome with The Captain (Kyle MacLachlan) to serve as his art consultant abroad. Meanwhile, a surprising, late-episode blow-up between Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Ted (Josh Radnor) seems to imply that the tension that exists between the two over Robin (Cobie Smulders) hasn’t entirely subsided. The latter development comes out of nowhere, and escalates in alarming fashion, and it’s a scene that proves to be one of the most effective of the episode, as both men have valid points to make. It anchors what turns out to be a pretty strong episode for the series.

Credit: CBS

Credit: CBS

The main thrust of the episode is Lily’s back-and-forth decision on whether or not to join The Captain in Rome for a year to continue her work as his personal art consultant. It’s one of the few times this season that a Lily story has been asked to carry an episode, and it mostly works, thanks in large part to the story having been set up much, much earlier in the season. Lily’s conversation with Ted on the roof way back in the early part of this season, about her secret resentment over how she’s been held back from achieving her dreams. Here, she’s presented with the opportunity to follow through, yet she naturally can’t help putting her family first. She worries that the move would upset Marshall (Jason Segel), who’s been bragging about his job, and how many clients he’s been getting. Lily turns down the job, before discovering that Marshall has actually been lying. He hasn’t had a client in months, and he spends the lion’s share of his time at the office screwing around with his co-workers. Lily is understandably frustrated, yet that frustration is tempered by surprise, as she learns that Marshall is enthusiastic about Lily’s job offer. He encourages The Captain to offer her the job again.

And this is where the story takes a turn. Lily rejects the job offer a second time, rationalizing that she has a good thing going, and that she’s comfortable with the life she has. However, this justification is her way of avoiding having to confront the possibility of failure. Her fear is that she’ll get to Rome and let The Captain down, earning his scorn by recommending pieces of art that prove to be worthless. That failure would essentially call into question her suitability as a purveyor of art, and as an artist herself. Yet it’s Marshall who convinces her to pursue her dream anyway, in an amusing bit where he tells Lily he loves her via the only Italian phrase he knows, “Don’t Bogart all the Funyuns.” He explains that he’ll always support her, and that even though they won’t know anyone in Rome, they’ll still have each other. And like that, it looks like the Eriksens are off to Rome, which is as big a development as this series has ventured to make, in terms of shaking up the ensemble. It won’t be permanent, but it is an interesting change to introduce (or tease, at the very least).

Credit: CBS

Credit: CBS

Also interesting, Ted and Barney’s aforementioned argument. It comes at the end of a pretty hilarious storyline in which Barney and Ted try to get Liddy, an insanely hot woman from Ted’s yoga class, to take off her large puffy coat. Barney wants to see Liddy’s “ridonkulous” body that Ted has been hyping all episode. However, things get complicated once Barney discovers that Liddy has been hired by Robin as their wedding planner. Yet things go in an unexpected direction when Robin reveals that she, too, is curious about the body Liddy is hiding underneath her puffy coat. This storyline is filled with great gags, such as the red-hot rays Liddy’s body radiates (an homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark), as well as Barney’s theory that Marshall could probably get away with asking Liddy to take her coat off, since he doesn’t have the stink of desperation, since he’s already found and married the woman of his dreams. Robin theorizes that Barney should be able to do this as well, if he’s truly found the woman of his dreams. Barney tries, he succeeds, and the sight of Liddy’s “ridonkulous” body nearly melts all their faces off. But this is merely window dressing for the more substantial development at the heart of the story…

Credit: CBS

Credit: CBS

Ted confronts Barney about being such an open, flagrant horndog in Robin’s presence. He says that while Robin has been cool about it, she isn’t nearly as cool as he thinks she is. Barney takes offense, and tells Ted that he’s not the one marrying Robin. Barney pretty much tells Ted that he needs to get over it already, since Barney is the one who knows Robin best. It’s a very real conflict that stems from both men having valid arguments. For Barney, it isn’t Ted’s place to try and tell him how to think about his fiancee. Barney knows that, at best, Ted has only just gotten over Robin, once and for all; at worst, he still has lingering feelings for her. For Ted, Barney actually is being pretty disrespectful by being so flagrant about his horndogging right in front of Robin, and Ted was simply doing the brotherly thing, as Best Man, by telling Barney that he should maybe tone it down a bit. It’s the best moment of the episode, and it teases bigger developments to come.

“Romeward Bound” is a solid episode, complete with great gags (such as the dream sequence involving Marshall in an existentialist Italian film) and great character development (as Lily’s arc comes full circle with her decision to chase after her dreams, despite her reservations). The season finale is quickly coming upon us, and the show is introducing the endgame for the season. While it might not tread entirely new territory (Does Ted still love Robin? Will things work out between Robin and Barney?), it’s a direction that is exceedingly compelling.

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