Barney takes the gang to a strip club where they encounter a very familiar face.

By Joseph Brannigan Lynch
Updated January 17, 2012 at 07:30 AM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS

To celebrate the 150th episode (hard to believe) of How I Met Your Mother, the show tackled a real downer of a subject: The sobering reality that friends grow apart as they grow older. Then again, compared to recent episodes about death and infertility, Monday night’s episode was one of the more ebullient ones of the season.

The show opened with Barney, Robin, and Ted staring blankly at the empty side of the booth in front of them. They informed Kevin (Kal Penn) that they had terrible news about Marshall and Lily — something that outranked death on the sadness scale. What could be worse than that? Well, if you live in New York City, the answer is clear: your friends have moved to Long Island.

Flashback to ten minutes earlier: Marshall and Lily gave the gang keys to their house and insisted nothing will change. After all, their house is a mere 46-minute train ride away (which really isn’t that far in New York terms, considering it takes longer than that to get to Manhattan from various borough neighborhoods).

The gang was stymied even though they knew it had to happen. Barney pointed out they could find spray tan cans just as easily in Manhattan, but his solid line of reasoning didn’t sway the expecting couple. Ted, understandably, took the news the hardest, but within minutes Barney had found himself some silver lining.

“No lame married couple shooting down my ideas anymore,” he realized. “Great news! I’m the leader of the gang!”

To commemorate the power shift, we were treated to a Stinson-centric version of the HIMYM opening credits which retitled the show “How I Met Your Barney,” a series presumably more focused on teaching Ted’s kids the Bro Code than recounting the story of how he met their mother (although actually… HIMYM is already that show).

So what was Barney’s first act as team leader? Hit up a strip club, of course! As he put it, “Let’s celebrate our independence with an on-da-peen dance.” Without Lily and Marshall present to reject the idea outright, Ted agreed to go along, as did Robin and Kevin.

Why would a couple that just started dating go to a strip club together? Well, it wasn’t just sitcom logic: the show astutely pointed out that during the first few weeks of a relationship, couples often end up doing a lot of activities they would otherwise never bother with. In this case, Robin didn’t want to seem uptight and Kevin didn’t want to bristle with her friends, so the new couple found themselves making it rain on them hoes before they knew what had happened.

While Barney was riding high at the strip club, drunk on his newfound power, Ted was just plain drunk, leaving one needy message after another on Marshall’s phone.

Back in suburbia, Marshall and Lily were dealing with a different type of sleaze: As you may recall from two weeks ago, Lily’s dad Mickey (Chris Elliott) showed up at her door at the end of the episode. Well, apparently he never left. Using the fact that he grew up in their house as an excuse to redecorate, micromanage and leave chiding notes, Mr. Aldrin was making Marshall and Lily feel like intruders in their own home. Disconcertingly, he also revealed that most of the wall plaster in the home was just dried toothpaste… but that was nothing compared to his suggestive tales of awakening sexually as a boy (years earlier) in Lily and Marshall’s new bedroom.

NEXT: Alyson Hannigan brings back Jasmine the Russian stripper.

Back in land of network TV-safe striptease — where the girls wear more material than you see in the Miss America swimsuit competition — Kevin and Robin were internally panicking while pretending to enjoy the exotic dancing.

Ted was yanked out of his sulking by the reappearance of Lily’s double, who you may recall from 60 (!) episodes ago was a Russian stripper named Jasmine. Given that Alyson Hannigan has had to play “settled down” for a while, it was clearly fun for her to bust out of her regular role (so to speak).

We then met Jasmine’s… boyfriend… a hulking Russian goon Barney declared to be the “new Marshall.” With a despondent Ted highly open to suggestion, Barney decided they had found their replacement best friends and we were treated to another re-imagination of the opening credits. This time, “How I Met Your Mother” was written in a Soviet-styled font and although Barney seemed to enjoy the more-revealing version of Lily, Ted didn’t seem too partial to the new knife-wielding version of Marshall.

With Jasmine’s work “day” over, the gang followed Lily’s doppelgänger and New Marshall to their next destination: a seedy late-night poker game.

Back in Long Island, Lily put her foot down and ordered her dad out of the house. Unfortunately, Marshall then literally blew a fuse and plunged the house into darkness. As you might imagine from the kind of a guy who designs board games, Mr. Aldrin’s response to their situation was rather childish: He hopped on their intercom system to taunt Marshall during his search for the fuse box.

With the night-vision camera plopped in front of Jason Segel’s face at a Blair Witch Project distance, we witnessed Marshall stumble through the house while Mickey continued tormenting him, which was almost more irritating than funny. Elliott’s a great comedic actor, but the writers haven’t seemed to figure out exactly what to do with him in the context of this show.

While Marshall was in imminent danger of a stubbed toe, the gang (plus Kevin) was in imminent danger of being whacked by angry Russian gamblers — the most menacing of whom sported a Mohawk, an eye patch, and puppy. In spite of oozing vodka out of every pore, Ted was cleaning up at poker (“I built chip city on all your dough” he sings) and acting none too humble about it.

When the disgruntled Russians lunge at Ted, New Marshall stepped in to save the day. Well, actually, he intervened in order that he could muscle the gang out of $200 apiece in a back alley later, but so it goes.

NEXT: Domino celebrity portraiture and an ‘awwwww’ ending.

In a much darker but less sinister world, Lily convinced her dad to act like a father and help her husband find the fuse box in the basement. Mickey conceded and helped Marshall complete his quest, but not before his son-in-law knocked into a pool table and destroyed Mr. Aldrin’s precarious domino likeness of I Dream of Jeannie’s Barbara Eden (thereby destroying Mickey’s chances of scoring with the ’60s sitcom star).

After his spectacular failure at running the show, Barney broke down and admitted he couldn’t lead the gang. They all bemoaned the likely eventuality that they would be seeing less of Marshall and Lily as the years went on, but only Barney bemoaned a less-likely distant future where he guiltily sleeps with Lily after Marshall dies.

Defeated and swindled, the gang decided to make that 46-minute trip to Long Island after all. The next morning, Robin, Ted and Barney arrive in the ’burbs. Future Ted informed us that although the gang wouldn’t always live near the booth at MacLaren’s, “our booth is wherever the five of us are together.”

And on that awwww moment, the episode wrapped. Overall, I think this one had some better one-liners than last week’s, but the Puzzles bar song-Cheers homage was just a shade funnier than the redone HIMYM credit sequences. Still, it was nice to see the series have some real-life heart without being too overly dramatic.

What did you think of last night’s? And is there any chance that Jasmine the stripper (and possibly hooker!) will turn out to be the long-sought-after mother? (My Spidey sense tells me… no.)

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