How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 8
The Playbook
After slinking through the first several episodes of its season depending almost solely on Barney and Robin, tonight's episode, which is basically about Barney and Robin, managed to unwittingly display why the first part of the season has failed so miserably, and yet also be one of the more solid episodes of Season Five so far. While I am a huge fan of Barney and Robin together, it is impossible for them to get together without each settling down a bit, which will hurt the awesome. I think the writers learned this lesson the hard way, and so those of us pulling for Barney and Robin may have to wait until the end of the series to see it (if we see it at all. This Don character sounds like he may be a big player in what happens to Robin over the next few seasons).

Barney, back on the market, decides to run the gamut on his classic and complicated "get women into bed" schemes by relying on "The Playbook." This comprehensive list of all of his tricks will allow him to get over his break up with Robin and resume his awesome ways. While I am a bit saddened to watch Barney take major steps backward in terms of personal development, I have to admit I'm glad to have the old freewheeling woman-eater back. It seems you can't cage Barney (at least not yet), and so the writers letting him out of the Robin cage seems like a good move for the coming episodes.

On the Robin front, she has decided to focus only on herself and her career for the time being, which, as Ted and Marshall point out, is what people always say right before they meet the love of their lives. Robin dismisses this, but the two are insistent, and at episode's end we meet Don, Robin's new co-anchor. Whether Robin will marry Don, as Ted and Marshall think, or whether she will just fall hard for him, it seems we'll be spending some time with Don over the coming weeks (and, if a marriage is in the cards, a lot longer than that). Combing through my sadly almost encyclopedic knowledge of the things we know about Robin in the future, we very clearly do not know if she is married or ever has been. We also do not know if she is in a relationship in 2030. The only future character shrouded in more mystery is Barney, whom we know literally nothing about in the future.

The contrast between Barney and Robin tonight was clear and, I hope, intentional. Barney continues to score by pretending to be other people, but Robin has found someone by just being herself. Perhaps Don will teach Robin the keys to a successful relationship, while Barney will learn how to stay awesome in one over the next few seasons. Or perhaps Robin has just met the man she will spend the rest of her life with.

After an opening that made me hopeful we were finally getting a Ted episode, he was relegated to the background again, though at least he and Marshall had some great lines throughout the night. The show may not have re-grabbed the master plot like it needs to, but "The Playbook" did play with the narrative in the way the best episodes do. It was obvious to any long time viewer pretty early on that Barney's "The Scuba Diver" was just his most elaborate play, revealing the playbook, bagging Lily's friend, getting the gang to trash him then playing the insecurity card all to get into the pants of one girl. But this sort of narrative complexity and clever turns are exactly what How I Met Your Mother has been missing all season, and it's good to see they haven't entirely forgotten what made the show great in the first place.

Grade: B


-Barney's plays are as follows:
· The Don't Drink That
· The Mrs. Stinsfire (which continues the tradition that characters on a sitcom blatantly mocking Mrs. Doubtfire is hysterical)
· The Lorenzo von Matterhorn
· The SNASA (Barney works for "Secret NASA" which goes to the "Secret Moon.")
· The Cheap Trick (actually very expensive)
· The He's Not Coming (the optimist buried deep inside of me shudders to think that one of those guys did show up after Barney bagged his girl).
· The Ted Mosby (wear flannel and claim you were left at the alter)
· The My Penis Grants Wishes

-Marshall had some great moments tonight, like awkwardly calling Barney Steven King because he'd written another book, and asking for frozen waffles after an extended metaphor about how they were Robin's dream man.

-"When you pick up the newspaper, be sure to check the wedding announcements"¦for yours!"

-Barney thinks Al Qaeda stole The Playbook.

-"An actress. Of course! That explains her impeccable diction, and her sluttiness."
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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