'HIMYM': What do you do with a drunken Barney?

The last How I Met Your Mother, three weeks ago, gave us a sweet and tender episode about Ted letting go of Robin that may or may not have resonated deeply with yours truly. It was a nice note to end on before the Olympics pre-empted network television, and a good reminder of what this show is capable of when it focuses on realistic human moments and not cartoon antics.

Now I wouldn't go so far as to say Monday's episode negated all that, but with just five more entries between now and... the end, it's hard not to take stock of each of these 21 minutes and how much they're doing to promote the HIMYM we really want to see. An episode about Barney and his hangover cure? In and of itself not a bad idea, and one that — as we saw tonight — affords us the chance to learn more about the future of these characters at the same time we're looking into their pasts. But the ultimate conclusion of that story doesn't give us anything we didn't know before so much as another quick detour en route to the Big Show on March 31st.

What exactly is Stinson's Hangover Fixer Elixir? According to Barney — narrating a fake historical discovery as he's done many times before — Tantrum soda, Funions, bananas, and of course a secret ingredient. Mixed together, they're a potent recovery tool that Barney has utilized with his friends many times in the past.

The reveal that there is no secret ingredient, and that every drink Barney ever made was really just a placebo, plays out nicely against the "Weekend at Barney's" backdrop that everyone is trying so hard to avoid. Why did Barney lie to his friends? Because he loves them, and wants to help them. It's sweet! But it's also nothing we didn't know before.

Things we didn't know before:

  • Marshall will one day become a New York State Supreme Court Justice, beating out his old law school buddy, Brad.
  • Two years from now in Buenos Aires, Barney and Robin will get super-drunk and wake up in the wrong room — several times — with a crying baby.
  • Lily and Marshall's son Marvin will attend their alma mater, Wesleyan. On the day they drop him off, Lily will get wasted at a campus bar.
  • Ted's wife, aka The Mother, will write a great book on economic policy that will earn her tremendous literary acclaim.

There's inevitably a certain wheel-spinning that takes place on a long-running show like this just before the end (when things will actually change), but it's hard to watch episodes like Monday's and be satisfied. Let's see what next week brings.

Image: CBS