Robin pulls her career together as Ted and Barney's DIY bar, Puzzles, tanks

By Joseph Brannigan Lynch
Updated January 03, 2012 at 09:14 AM EST
Credit: CBS

Those HIMYM devotees who have worried this season has favored drama at the expense of belly-laughs are probably breathing much easier (and grinning wider) after last night’s episode.

Following December’s Robin-narrated detour, 2030 Ted was back from the future to narrate a story about Uncle Marshall recounting a tale to his late father’s headstone (a deceptively dark opener for an otherwise lighthearted episode).

Getting over the mind-twisting fact that last night’s episode was a flashback within a flashback from the future (my post-New Year’s brain is reeling!) was easy enough given the bounty of choice one-liners. Speaking to Marvin Sr.’s stone slab, Marshall informed his deceased father that “The most appropriate way to honor your memory today… is to get blasted and watch the Vikings make the Bears their furry little bitches! Go Vikes!!”

Reality check: The real-life Minnesota Vikings decided to prove the HIMYM writers wrong and choke during their New Year’s Day game against the Chicago Bears.

As for what Marshall wanted to tell his dad, we learned that he had to twist Lily’s arm just to get her to tell her own father that she’s “with child” (to say the least, at this point). But when Lily called her father (the dependably hilarious Chris Elliott) to share the joyous news, he simply responded, “Great, thanks,” and hung up. Apparently, working a board game convention is already enough excitement for some people.

Meanwhile, things were less desperate for Barney and Ted, unless you consider a cover charge at MacLaren’s to be tragedy on par with decades of shoddy fathering (which to be fair, Barney probably does). Stung by the $100 price tag for a New Year’s Eve at their favorite watering hole, Ted and Barney decided to resuscitate their long-dormant idea of opening a bar.

As you may recall from the 2009 episode entitled “Three Days of Snow,” Barney and Ted once plotted opening a bar called “Puzzles.” “Why Puzzles? That’s the puzzle!” Barney explained, which is a circular line of reasoning that’s rather genius in a Stinson sort of way, even if Aristotle wouldn’t approve.

Ted and Barney even collaborated on a theme song for Puzzles, a ditty suspiciously close to the Cheers theme that finds Barney declaring his intentions to use their bar “to bang chicks in Ted’s room.” Ted, for his part, hoped Puzzles will end up closer to an early 20th century Parisian salon, the kind of place where like-minded intellectuals discuss James Joyce and smoke Sherlock Holmes-styled pipes. Unsurprisingly, Barney got a whole lot closer to his goal, even if Ted did sport the pipe.

As for Robin, she was hardly given a moment to dwell on her recent infertility shock. With the anchor Sandy Rivers (returning guest star and Buffy vet Alexis Denisof) thoroughly soused, Robin was called in to deal with the situation.

Rivers was supposed to ring in 2012 Dick Clark-style, but with liquor oozing from his pores, it turned out he was too busy relieving himself on the Times Square JumboTron to bother with television. He only sobered up long enough to try to rope Robin into a three-way, and in the next scene, a perfectly droll Cobie Smulders informed him that his attempted Ménage à trois began and ended ignominiously alone… in a hallway.

NEXT: Robin takes hold of her journalistic destiny

Back on the domestic side of HIMYM life, Marshall and Lily argued whether their kid should be raised with Marshall’s sense of fantasy or Lily’s hard-nosed realism. What might have turned into a weighty “faith vs. reason” argument on another show (I’m looking at you, Glee) was handled far more innocuously on HIMYM: As it turned out, Marshall’s conception of “faith” had more to do with werewolves and alien probes than the Almighty.

Back at Puzzles, Barney and Ted saw their ill-conceived venture fall apart before their eyes. As patrons ralphed into their houseplants and generally treated their apartment like a Big Ten college fraternity, Barney and Ted were forced to hire/steal the bouncer from MacLaren’s. (Who would think inviting random New Yorkers into your flat could be so dicey?)

To make up for the damage to Ted’s apartment, they repeatedly raised drink prices, which nearly induced a riot from their barfing barflies. Before the night was over they were charging a whopping $15 per beer… unless, of course, you actually live in the real-world Upper West Side. Then you call that a “Happy Hour Special.”

With Sandy Rivers suddenly AWOL and a New Year to ring in, Fate (i.e., the show’s writers) forced Robin to step up to the plate and get in front of the camera herself. Offering up a poignant understatement given her recent drama, Robin the Rockin’ New Year’s host told viewers, “When that clock strikes midnight, we all get a fresh start. And I don’t know about you, but I could really use one.”

Future Ted told us this would prove be to be a watershed in Robin’s career and a flashforward (well, technically a flashback further along the timeline) showed us that Robin will become a co-anchor on World Wide News next to Sandy Rivers. Fingers crossed we get to see Robin as a successful anchor sometime before the show wraps.

Even though Robin’s journalistic breakthrough was a much-needed relief for her and us, the most uplifting part of the episode took place back in the wintery dead body-depository.

Joined by the unwanted company of his brothers and a horde of Minnesota moochers (who apparently just hang around cemeteries waiting for someone to start grilling burgers), Marshall seemed like he was about to snap at the end of the episode. Just as he was about to drop the Minnesota nice and tell off a guy for cracking open a bottle of hard cider on his father’s headstone, someone mistakenly called him by his father’s name. Correcting himself, the neighbor apologetically explained that Marshall and Marvin just seemed so much alike.

With that slip-up, it dawned on Marshall that his inadvertent tailgate party was a lot closer to his father’s “more the merrier” mentality than the solitary vigil he had intended to hold. Jason Segel, who has truly shone on the show in recent years, conveyed that realization with a wordless clarity that’s rarely seen in sitcom acting.

As for Lily, it turns out her dad only hung up on her because he was in shock — not because he’s a terrible father (although, really, he still is). After driving all night, he showed up with a teddy bear bigger than Lily’s belly and heartfelt congratulations. At least for a moment, that gave her reason enough to have the kind of faith in the mysteries of life Marshall is always talking about — well, maybe not the tuna salad-related ones.

Choice Quotes:

“Shoplifter doesn’t promote crime: It celebrates it!” — Lily’s father, defending his board game

“Sliced Processed Alien Meat.” — Marvin Eriksen Sr. explaining the acronym SPAM to a young Marshall

“A bar where we get chicks drunk and bang them.” — Barney Stinson explaining his hopes and dreams for Puzzles

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