Tuesday, October 6, 2009

HIMYM 5.03: "Robin 101"

“When you date someone, it's like you're taking one long course in who that person is, and then when you break up, all that stuff becomes useless. It's the emotional equivalent of an English degree.”


It’s probably not much of a surprise that I absolutely loved this episode, since I’m a total sap for Barney and Robin. It had all the Barney and Robin sweetness of “Definitions” without Lily meddling to make me angry. In this episode, Barney desperately needs to learn how to be a good boyfriend to Robin, and Ted wants to take the opportunity to hone his teaching skills. And Marshall’s having trouble getting rid of a barrel…yeah.

We get to see several sides of Barney in this episode, and the first is the more familiar one-night-stand version. Robin wakes up in the middle of the night to find the bed empty and Barney frantically jumping back into his clothes. She has to remind him that they’re dating, and this isn’t a one night stand. Barney flops back on the bed. Robin is complaining about Barney’s attitude to Lily and Ted, and apparently he’s pulled this stunt three times in the past week. He also isn’t especially great at listening to her when she’s having a bad day. Which kind of runs contrary to episodes like “Sandcastles in the Sand,” although it did take Barney a minute to realize Robin was upset in that episode, so I’ll stop short of waving the “inconsistent!” flag here. While Robin is venting, Ted is saying the word “bowl” over and over in an attempt to illustrate how anything sounds strange if you say it enough. His tone of voice changes when Robin says that she’s wondering if dating Barney is a big mistake. It’s more like “Bowl?”

Soon enough, Barney is suddenly acting like the perfect boyfriend. He’s sending Robin flowers and buying her candy. It’s freaking her out. She’s not used to Barney actually being…nice…so she’s convinced that he’s cheating on her. She tells Lily that she wants to sledgehammer open Barney’s briefcase to figure out what he’s up to. Marshall interrupts the fun by bringing in his latest find from the basement storage area. He and Lily forgot to take some stuff with them when they moved out.This particular recovered item is his favorite barrel, Mabel, that served as his night table for many years. He wants to leave it in the Bermuda Triangle…aka the curb in front of the building…for someone to find. The Bermuda Triangle thing is not unique to NYC, really. I once had the living daylights scared out of me while walking in my Central Pennsylvania college town on the trash company’s large item pick-up day. Yes, I realize now those two cars came to a screeching halt right next to me so their passengers could root through the trash pile…not to attack me.

Robin does sledgehammer open the briefcase and discovers a notebook. She opens it to reveal pages of details…about herself. Marshall accidentally reveals that it’s Barney’s notebook from the “Robin 101” class he’s taking from Ted. Some of the lessons Ted teaches Barney are really very funny. There are ways to distract Robin, the fact that “Butterscotch is to Canadian women what chocolate is to American women,” and “Robin Scherbatsky’s Surprising Erogenous Zones.” Robin is reading all of this in the notebook, and she is not pleased. Barney, meanwhile, is proving to be a pretty good (although extremely immature and easily distracted) student. This is the second side of Barney that we get to see in the episode. Child-like Barney. All he wants is to have class outside.

Robin discovers that class is being held right as she, Lily, and Marshall are looking at the notebook, so she decides to pay the guys a visit. I love the in synch “oh crap” look both Barney and Ted give when they realize she knows what they’re up to.

Robin lets loose all her anger at Ted and Barney. She tells Ted all his Robin info wasn’t perfect (her left knee is not, actually, an erogenous zone), and she tells Barney that he can’t use a crib sheet to date her. She storms out after shoving the notebook back at Barney. Ted later finds her at MacLaren’s and tries to do some damage control. He explains that he was just trying to put his Robin knowledge to good use. Since they aren’t dating anymore, those opportunities are few and far between. Robin forgives him and asks his opinion of her relationship with Barney. Ted says, “I’ve never seen him work this hard to keep a woman around.”

Robin finds Barney sitting on the stoop. Before she can say anything, Barney apologizes for the whole mess. This is the third side of Barney that we get to see in the episode. The nervous, in love Barney. Robin smiles and tells Barney “you’re an idiot.” We know from Ted’s class that this actually means “I love you.” Barney recognizes this and smiles too. There’s just one problem. He set the notebook down on Mabel the Barrel (still wasting away in the Bermuda Triangle), and now it’s gone. I have no doubt that this will be a plot point later this season, given how great HIMYM is with continuity.

Other than the absolutely freaking adorable scene between Robin and Barney on the stoop at the end of the episode, the thing I liked best about this episode was that it showed how much all the main characters really like each other and enjoy being each other’s friend. Lily reveals her occasional romantic fantasies about Robin. When Ted finds out Marshall is giving up a barrel, he automatically knows it’s Mabel. Ted and Barney have a genuinely fun time together in the Robin 101 class once Barney gets over his initial resistance. It was a sweet, feel-good episode all around. It deftly maneuvered from huge laughs (Barney’s ADD shtick in the class) to sweet and “aww” inducing with Robin and Ted’s heart-to-heart in MacLaren’s and the scene on the stoop (yes I mentioned it again).

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