Recap and review for How I Met Your Mother – Season 8 Episode 9 – Lobster Crawl
As we get closer to the winter finale in two weeks, How I Met Your Mother has made it an issue to cast Ted’s search for the mother to the sidelines, in service of furthering the “will they?/won’t they?” arc between Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). This is probably a smart move, as a method of distracting an increasingly-impatient fanbase from the fact that we don’t seem much closer to meeting the titular Mother than we were at the start of the season. “Lobster Crawl” is weightier than the last several episodes, but it approaches its subject matter with considerable levity. One of the things the show has been better about in recent weeks is not taking itself too seriously, even if that light-heartedness has frequently come at the cost of the season’s overarching story. But an occasional detour is to be expected, if not welcome, on a serialized sitcom such as this. The episode breezes by, but it’s got plenty to like.
Much of “Lobster Crawl” follows Robin’s desperate attempt to sleep with Barney one last time. Lily (Alyson Hannigan) notices that Robin is flirting with Barney while hanging out with the group at McLaren’s and, being the group’s self-appointed psychiatrist, Lily declares that Robin only wants Barney now because she was told she couldn’t have him. She relates how Robin went on a lobster binge after being told by a doctor that she couldn’t have it anymore (and Cobie Smulders in a fat suit is the stuff of nightmares). “You shut the door, but Barney locked it,” Lily observes, stating that Barney essentially got the last word in their relationship when he told Robin that he was done chasing her. Lily then makes the crucial mistake of telling Robin that she’ll never sleep with Barney again. Challenge accepted.
It’s a solid storyline with a clear goal (bedding Barney) and real stakes (what if Robin sleeps with Barney one last time, but doesn’t get over him?). It also produces solid laughs, from Robin’s increasingly-desperate attempts (as part of a montage that recalls Barney’s book of plays: Robin dresses up like Angelina Jolie for a laser tag match, tries to elicit his jealousy by surrounding herself with good-looking admirers, plays damsel-in-distress at her office, and even plans a girl-on-girl makeout session that quickly goes awry when the other girl in the scenario, co-worker Brandi, leaves with Barney) to the callbacks of Lily’s minor crush on Robin, and the advent of Barney’s Bro Bibs, with Lily suggesting she and Robin go into business and create “Bitch Bibs” and make a fortune. There are also some fittingly poignant moments, as Barney comes to realize that while he’s kind of over the whole “sleeping around” thing, he doesn’t actually know what it is he wants out of his life. To this end, he winds up going on a date with newfound kindred spirit, Patrice (Ellen D. Williams), Robin’s comically omnipresent arch-nemesis (well, arch-nemesis on Robin’s end of things. Patrice just wants to be her friend, but is simply overbearing with her good intentions).
The dynamic between Robin and Barney has changed to a significant degree with the events of “Lobster Crawl”, as Robin has now been rejected by Barney, while Barney now knows that Robin carries a torch for him. We know that they will eventually become engaged and even make it to the church, though whether or not they make it down the altar is anyone’s guess. This relationship doesn’t have the same Marshall/Lily sense of destiny about it, that these two people belong with each other more than they belong with anyone else. The show will have to work to reestablish just how perfect of a fit these two are for each other if they want viewers to reinvest in the relationship. Subtle personality similarities (such as Robin’s Barney-like penchant for taking on the impossible) go a long way in showing that they connect at a more significant level than what’s merely on the surface. This will help the relationship feel more consequential, as romances between two people with real chemistry tend to feel.
The B-plot of the episode follows Ted (Josh Radnor) as he takes over babysitting little Marvin when Lily’s dad, Mickey (Chris Elliott), takes ill. “For someone who survived numerous beatings from loan sharks, he has a surprisingly delicate constitution,” says Marshall (Jason Segel), in one of his better observations in the episode. The storyline seems to build to separate thematic explorations, 1) that Ted wants a family, and 2) Ted has nothing to dedicate his time to, hence the heightened desire for a family. It’s mostly the latter though, as Ted ends up taking his role as babysitter way too seriously, in that way Ted tends to get about everything. Marshall and Lily decide they need to reclaim their child from Ted by filling the GNB Building-sized hole in his heart, as Ted has no outlet for his creative endeavors. It’s fairly rote business, but not without its charms, such as Lily’s increasing frustration with Marvin’s inability to walk, or her horror at discovering Ted took Marvin to see Santa Clause without them. The episode tag is strong too, as we flashforward to Ted leaving his daughter with Marshall and Lily, and Lily revealing that she’s going to get her revenge by taking the child to her first meeting with Santa.
“Lobster Crawl” isn’t a game-changer, but it gives us an appreciable sense that this season is back on track, in a big way. That’s a heartening realization, given how sketchy the last few weeks have been. Nothing’s been outright bad, but there was a general feeling that the show had lost its direction. Thankfully, this week’s half-hour went a long way in dispelling that notion altogether.