Recap and review for How I Met Your Mother – Season 8 Episode 6 – Splitsville
Of the three relationships introduced (and reintroduced) between the end of last season and tonight’s “Splitsville”, How I Met Your Mother has fostered the expectation that the relationship between Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Nick (Michael Trucco) would be the first to go. Instead, the relationship has weathered most of “The Autumn of Breakups” by being an artlessly uncomplicated union. We learn that the early days of their relationship consisted of little else but sex. They never needed to confront their emotional compatibility, since they were already sexually compatible and that was all that was necessary. It speaks to a larger component of Robin’s character that she’d go headlong into a relationship that is so clearly and completely devoid of substance. Whereas Robin might have kept things casual at a younger stage of her life, it appears as though has no interest in ever being alone. This is a theme that’s been addressed at several points over the last few seasons, particularly last season when Robin discovered she couldn’t have kids. How I Met Your Mother has often been a show that addresses the transition from young adulthood to the stage in which a person must come to grips with how the rest of their life is taking shape, and how their life thus far has brought them to this point. Robin, much like the other unmarried members of the group, is known for being long in letting go. However, she can’t really know where her life can go until she does.
Though “Splitsville” is about Robin trying to get around to breaking up with Nick, after realizing that their relationship has no substance to it beyond sex, the episode is as much about Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) inserting himself in the Robin/Nick dilemma by giving Robin an ultimatum: break up with Nick, or face having to spend a day of BFF activities alongside super-annoying co-worker, Patrice. It’s an act that seems to be planted firmly in getting Robin to overcome her own inertia, to get her moving towards the changes she needs to make in her life. And it’s a decently funny storyline too, with the threat of the timed e-vite, which will send automatically in a matter of hours if Robin doesn’t break up with Nick, serving as a kind of ticking time bomb Robin needs to defuse. But as he gets more actively involved in breaking up the relationship, we see how invested Barney is in seeing Robin single again. This culminates in Barney rushing down to the restaurant where Robin is wavering on lowering the boom on Nick, and “confessing” his feelings for her in order to facilitate the breakup, claiming that he’s “irretrievably” in love with Robin, far more than she knows. Neil Patrick Harris always does a great job with Barney’s big, heartfelt speeches, and even though Barney tries to insist that the performance was all for show, we know from the flashforward that Barney and Robin are going to find themselves in a church together sooner rather than later.
While Barney attempts to facilitate a breakup, much of the rest of the episode focuses on Marshall’s attempts to keep Robin from dumping Nick. As the coach in an after-work basketball pickup league, Marshall (Jason Segel) is desperate to beat the opposing team of that uses ringers to do all their winning for them, and so he’s employed Nick in helping them level the playing field. The basketball storyline provides some of the episode’s funniest material: Ted (Josh Radnor) forms a team of architects who nitpick the court’s building specifications, and then utilize the fundamentals of their profession to score points, which are later voided under league rules. Also, Marshall provides a stirring motivational speech that really hits home with Nick, who we learn is a well-meaning moron in this episode, a man who is seemingly incapable of understanding when Robin initially tries to dump him by claiming that they aren’t working out, which Nick takes to mean that they need to start going to the gym together. There’s also a subplot involving how Marshall and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) haven’t had a chance to have sex since little Marvin was born, leading to an amusing bit of editing where Ted leaves the apartment, and immediately returns seconds later to find the Eriksens naked beneath the covers of an inflatable mattress.
But “Splittsville” is routed less in the group’s weekly trivialities and is instead more earnestly engaged in bringing “The Autumn of Breakups” to a resonant close. I feel the episode succeeds, in that regard. Robin and Nick are broken up, and Robin is perhaps starting to see that Barney could provide a new avenue for her life to take. This season seems to be reorienting our characters, placing them into the positions they need to be in to begin to final march towards their endgame. The series has been building to this for eight seasons, and it feels like we’re finally on a meaningful road to seeing those paths tread to fruition. “Splitsville” is a funnier episode than I’m giving it credit for (the photo montage of Robin and Patrice’s BFF Day is great), but it’s not really an episode that’s concerned with making us laugh, so much as it is with making us realize how these characters have grown and changed, and how they need one another: whether it’s in how Marshall and Lily need Ted to babysit Marvin so they can have sex, or in how Robin and Barney need one another to feel a little less lonely.