Screen: CBS

How I Helped Fool Your Aunt For The Glory Of Canada

How Mother-y was Barney's rehearsal dinner and laser-tag ruse, which led to a celebration of Robin's Canadian roots?

I'm a sucker for a bow-tied, sweet How I Met Your Mother episode ending, the kind that gives you butterflies as Ted's life path gets closer to The Mother's or when Lily and Marshall grow as a couple. This week's episode-length practical joke, culminating in Barney throwing a big Canadian-themed rehearsal dinner party for Robin, wasn't as great as any of that. The stuff leading up to the big reveal dragged, every bit of it seemed implausible given that by this point the wedding must be costing several million dollars, and the emotional payoff didn't make up for the lack of laughs throughout. But it at least reminded me of sweet endings in long-past episodes, and these days, as things wind down on the series, that's almost enough.

At 8 PM on Saturday, 22 hours before the wedding, Barney is apparently going to be arrested for causing a disturbance at an emporium of laser-tag action when he should have been at his own rehearsal dinner with Robin. Robin has come to rescue him, but Barney instead tells a mostly uninterested security guard the story of what led to this. Flashing back four months, we get Barney's floating of the initial idea to have the rehearsal dinner as a mash-up with laser tag, an idea deemed his worst ever by the rest of the group. ("Gluten-free edible panties" was another bad Barney idea, says Lily, among others.)

At MacLaren's some time later, the conversation is about the sometimes cruel pranking that Barney and Robin engage in. (Mostly it's cruel when Barney does it, at least.) The best bit of the episode follows when Robin says she wishes her rehearsal dinner could be in Canada. Ted, Barney, Lily, and Marshall take turns busting out their Canada material. The jokes, involving mittens, Crash Test Dummies, and subsidized health care, aren't even that great, but they go on for so long that in the background, a young couple meets, falls in love, has a kid, watches that kid graduate high school and eventually separates when the husband dies. It's a throwaway background joke, but so well-executed that you don't even mind the millionth Tim Horton's joke.

The rest of the episode is really just Barney driving everybody crazy with his mistaken belief that Robin is going to surprise him with a laser-tag rehearsal dinner where Ted will play piano dressed as Liberace. (No real reason for this. It was a bet.) Barney's laser-tag obsession ruins the rehearsal dinner, but it turns out Barney was planning a big Canadian dinner for Robin, bringing the country to her on a rink of ice disguised as the laser-tag building. In addition to a figure skater (Patrick Hancock) dressed as a security guard, Barney has invited Alan Thicke and actors to play the Canadian discoverer of insulin, Frederick Banting, the inventor of the paint roller Norman Breakey, and Wonderbra innovator Louise Poirier. Ted was in on it as well, and let Lily know about it toward the end (she can't keep a secret, ever). She in turn tells the rehearsal dinner crowd about Barney's plan after Robin left, and presumably made sure everybody got over there.

Marshall is nowhere to be found, but Lily uncharacteristically interrupts Robin's freak-out over the dinner with the news about Marshall taking a judgeship and the plans to live in Italy falling by the wayside.

Things tie up when Barney says that he'll occasionally lie to Robin if it's in the service of a wonderful surprise like this one. Ted wears the Liberace outfit but instead of playing piano, he tries to figure skate and falls on the ice. Robin and Barney are more in love than ever as she sees the lengths Barney will go to give her what she wants. It's nice and all, but Barney has behaved so over-the-top strangely this season and Robin seems so unlike the star of her own wedding that it's difficult to allow the ending to speak for what was overall a pretty mediocre episode. But don't take my word for it. Let's look at the numbers.

How Mother-y were the elements of this week's How I Met Your Mother?

Mother-Y Element Present?
Ted Still Pines For Robin...Or Does He? No, Ted was too busy dressing up as Liberace and helping Barney carry out his ruse.
Robin And/Or Barney Shows Signs Of Cold Feet Before The Wedding Robin gets increasingly exasperated with Barney sidetracking the rehearsal dinner, and at one moment early on Barney worries that marriage means the end of mean-spirited pranking for the couple. Trust me, the mean-spirited pranks have only begun.
Guest Star From A Past Season Pops Up (Ex-Boyfriend, Old Boss, Ranjit The Cab Driver) Alan Thicke (as himself) shows up at the real rehearsal dinner, singing for Robin.
Baby Marvin Does Something Cute And/Or Disruptive Present-day Marvin and Marshall on the road did not appear this week.
Gay Jokes About Barney’s Brother James Stinson? No gay jokes, but James shows up briefly toward the end in half-body drag to sing with Alan Thicke at the Canadian-themed wedding reception. The half-bodies? Half Mountie, half Robin Sparkles, all amazing!
Ted Moves A Tiny Step Closer To Meeting The Mother Lordy, no.
Humor Involving Wacky Relatives Doing Wacky Relative Stuff At A Wedding Robin's Aunt Edith might get so drunk that she'll take off her wig and they'll use it as a hockey puck. We don't actually see this, but the mental image is so great that it counts for our purposes.
Ted Is An Insufferable, Pretentious Prick About Architecture, Wedding Etiquette, English Literature, Or Any Other Pedantic Bullshit Piano lessons that turned out to be figure skating lessons.
Public Transportation High Jinks None that we saw, though they had to have gotten all those guests over to the real rehearsal dinner somehow.
Flashback To Ted, Lily, And Marshall In College Not this week.
Pop Song Montage Or Episode Outro A modified version of "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies plays over the Canadian wedding reception reveal.
Barney Says Something Inappropriately Dirty About A Hot Woman Because, Come On, Barney None, since Barney's ruse took up too much of his brain (and other body parts that need lots of blood) for him to get dirty.
"Legend…ary!", "Wait For It…," Or Any Pun On The Word "Bro" The re-written "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" lyrics include "Legendary" and high-fives. Good for Barney.
Retro Video, Instructional Tape, Book, Or Other Multimedia Project Starring Or Created By One Of The Main Characters (Robin Sparkles, Barney As A Fake Astronaut, Etc.) Barney’s entire rehearsal-dinner surprise was a giant piece of performance art, including actors playing security guards and Canadian historical figures.
Slap Bet No.
Unanticipated Wedding Hookup Robin and Barney kissed, but everyone kept it in their pants this week.
7 / 16
Nearly 44 percent "oh, it was all just a bunch of misdirection 'til the end" Mother.
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