‘How I Met Your Mother’ Recap: Barney tricks, undermines, and manipulates his bride-to-be Robin in a feel-good episode

Last week: all-rhyming. This week: all-PRANKING. Robin, how much severe emotional trauma does Barney need to cause before you realize that marriage to this individual is going to be a living hellscape, just lies upon lies all in the name of “surprise” or whatever we’re calling psychological torture these days? Not to turn a perfectly middle-of-the-road (by Season 9 standards) episode into cause for a makeshift clinical evaluation, but, at some point, we’ve got to look at all the “wacky hijinks” Barney has pulled in anticipation of his upcoming nuptials and acknowledge that no, this is not a mentally sound individual we’re dealing with. Charming as his magical acts often are, this guy might actually be a sociopath.

In last night’s “Rehearsal Dinner,” a turned-up-to-11 Barney spent the entire episode convinced that Robin was planning a surprise laser tag rehearsal dinner… that is, until he revealed that he had planned a surprise ice skating rehearsal dinner for her, because Canada. Basically SURPRISE was the watchword of the episode, spinning and spinning into a place of profound interpersonal wounding until the magician revealed his trick and everyone got to enjoy a nice song from Alan Thicke.

(Pay no attention to the fact that my recaps all season have felt like the worst kind of MagnePoetry, or a Mad Lib, because most every episode has operated like “___ wants ____ but ____ stands in their way until a surprise visit from ____ leads them to ___ their ____”)

Can we talk about that one flashback for a second? You know, the one where Barney pretended to call off his engagement with Robin only to reveal, after telling her to get out of his apartment, that he had bought her a suitcase full of puppies? Hahahahahahaha WHAT?! Even knowing that it was a prank and not to be taken seriously, the way it unfolded was borderline unwatchable. For about a minute, Robin was DESTROYED. But then all’s well that ends well, right? By Barney logic, this is a perfectly acceptable way to mess with your fiancée because a) she did the same thing to him at his bachelor party, and b) seriously, take a joke, bro/fiancée! “You’re so weird!” said both Lily and Ted to him as he repeated the story at the bar. I would have gone with “THE F**K IS WRONG WITH YOU, MAN,” but then I’m not a HIMYM enabler.

There’s a part of me, a small part, that actually believes we’ve been treated to episode after episode of Barney Stinson, SOCIOPATH, for a reason — that reason being the wedding is actually not going to go off, that Barney and Robin will not be getting married. How ballsy would that be? And true to the situation HIMYM’s writers have outlined in this first half of the season? There is NO reason — logical or emotional — for Robin to want to marry the man we’ve been watching since September. Maybe, optimistically, all his mania isn’t just empty window dressing but proof that we’re headed for some high degree of difficulty emotional terrain.

…Probably not! But we’ve got to write about SOMETHING.

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