Wednesday, November 18, 2009

HIMYM 5.08: "The Playbook"

“Actually, my bed is kind of on a stage. I put a platform underneath, I got some lights going. It’s a real production. Barney exits!”


As much as I love to watch Neil Patrick Harris mug for the camera (and that would be a lot), there was something bubbling under the surface of this episode of HIMYM that kept me from loving it as much as I should considering all the Barney shenanigans. I guess I’m still extremely disappointed in how Barney and Robin’s relationship was handled. And yes, I know I’m beginning to start sounding like a broken record in my HIMYM recaps. I’m hoping it was all a set up for something better in the future, because it’s almost completely changed my opinion of the show.

“The Playbook” briefly starts to address the fall-out of the Barney and Robin break-up in-between essentially being a 20 minute ad for the new real life HIMYM tie-in book of the same name. Yep, a sequel to “The Bro Code” is hitting stores this holiday season. We get to find out the secrets behind many of the lies, cons, and scams Barney uses to get women into his bed. There’s the “He’s Not Coming” where you go to a place like the Empire State Building where couples tend to go when they want to reunite and tell every woman “He’s not coming” until one of them responds. I think that was my favorite, actually, since it turns a romantic comedy trope on its head.

There are also basic moves like the “Don’t Drink That,” the reenactment of which gets Ted tackled by a bartender. We've also got “more advanced maneuvers” such as “The Mrs. Stinsfire,” which doesn’t really need much explanation. Picture a mash-up of a stereotypical sorority house and Mrs. Doubtfire. Yeah. Kinda creepy. The one Barney really seems to want to use, however, is “The Lorenzo von Matterhorn.” That one involves some pretty intricate web design in order to make the player appear to be somebody really famous. Barney uses it on a woman Lily is trying to set Ted up with, but it’s all really part of Barney’s master plan.

The episode does use a pretty interesting framing device, at least. Barney is in the middle of one of his “plays,” called “The Scuba Diver” and Lily is trying to warn his target about him. She and the gang end up telling this girl the whole recent history of the Playbook. As the episode progresses, it gradually becomes more and more apparent just what “The Scuba Diver” is. It’s an elaborate ploy to get Lily to talk Barney up to the woman he’s after. And of course it works like a charm.

Not surprisingly, considering the rabidness of my Barney and Robin shipping, I didn’t really like the B story of the episode at all. It dealt more with Robin’s side of the break-up. Now, I think Robin’s perspective was definitely needed, and I actually even wish we had seen more of Robin’s perspective leading up to the big kiss in “The Leap,” but the plot still irked me. Basically, taking the opposite approach to post-break-up life as Barney, Robin has decided that she’s going to take a break from dating for a while and focus on her career. Ted and Marshall think this means that she’s instantly going to meet the love of her life and get married. The only thing that amused me at all about this plot was when Ted and Marshall are going through a list of people they know who found “the one” after swearing off dating. The best part was when Marshall talked about one of his co-workers who is now in a “civil union and planning to get married pending legislation currently on the floor of the New York State Senate.” That had me cracking up, because of its specificity. And of course, at the end of the episode, Robin meets her new co-anchor, Don. I guess we’re supposed to believe he’s the love of her life? Count me out.

Although the implications of what Ted and Marshall were telling Robin (ie she’s going to find somebody who isn’t Barney to be the love of her life, when it’s clear that Barney should be…or at least the Barney of season 4 should be…but I digress) irritated me, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Robin. She felt awkward around all of Barney’s “Playbook” grandstanding, and I totally can understand why. Frankly, I don’t know how she could stand to be around for so much of it.

Anyway, the reason I’ve given the B plot so much space here is because the actual story of the A plot was so thin. Like I said, it was more a vehicle for Neil Patrick Harris to do silly skits to promote the upcoming book. And the skits were a lot of fun, even if they lack substance. I’m such a pathetic fan girl that all the HIMYM writers need to do is tell Neil to wink at the camera, and I’m good with it. The abundance of winking and mugging for the camera temporarily makes me forget my disappointment over the fact that we’re supposed to believe Barney is totally okay with this break-up. Barney who is so insecure that he had to create this elaborate persona after his college girlfriend left him. There was a brief moment, near the end of “The Scuba Diver,” where I believed Barney when he said that he went back to the tricks and cons because he was having trouble getting over Robin. But apparently that wasn’t really the case. Unless there was another layer underneath the Awesome!Barney layer that really was upset, just like I thought in the first place. Like pie.

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