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'How I Met Your Mother' Review: 'The Rehearsal Dinner'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
December 3rd, 2013 9:31am EST

How I Met Your Mother Season 9 Premiere

Bays and Thomas and the other writers, you all have done this kind of Barney story before. The insane viewers thought it charming; the sane viewers thought it not. Barney, you’ll recall, lied to Robin a great deal last season before the proposal. Barney lies again in “The Rehearsal Dinner.” The lie is long and elaborate. The most thrilling part of the episode was watching the production uses the most sets used this season. The parts involving the lie were not thrilling. No, watching yet another apology for Barney’s character is as unpleasant as watching an episode of The Cape and According to Jim consecutively, followed by a WWE movie starring Randy Orton or The Miz.

My most persistent question throughout the episode was why Barney convinced himself of Robin’s secret laser tag rehearsal dinner. The history of secrets between the two characters is another reason why I think romanticizing their relationship and impending marriage with a season-long wedding weekend is a bad idea. Robin lied to Barney so that he could experience the best surprise at his Bachelor Party, forgetting of course how horrible a night it was for him overall. The same works for Barney’s lie leading to their engagement. The romantic comedy fantasy of the series allows the writers to use cheap tricks to make up for insulting storytelling. Magical snow falling from the sky, or from the top of an ice skating rink, makes the lies and dishonesty suddenly noble and worthwhile. Billy Zabka taking off a clown costume to surprise his biggest fan is worth putting a guy through hell because of romance. The dysfunction in the Barney-Robin relationship is insane.

Since Barney is a caricature, he won’t change, not even in the slightest. Sure the character experiences moments of clarity when he acts like a person, but Barney was never a character meant to reflect the everyday person. Barney’s a crazy caricature of the bro you know who treats women like shit and thinks money and expensive suits make the man. That kind of a guy is a loser, and the Barney character is a loser. Robin experiences a gamut of emotions in the episode, though the dominant emotion she feels is frustration. She’s frustrated that her fiancé because he doesn’t listen, he insists on something happening that’s not, he treats an important dinner less than 24 hours before the wedding as a joke, and he forces her away from the dinner to retrieve him from a laser tag security office.

Lying and dishonesty is implicit in their relationship. Connor, a character in Joss Whedon’s and David Greenwalt’s ANGEL, said, “You can’t be saved by a lie. You can’t be saved at all.” Lying saves the Barney-Robin relationship. Barney embraces lying as a fundamental aspect of his character. To Robin he says, “I won’t stop lying.” Robin smiles. The end game for the lie was a rehearsal dinner that brought Canada to Robin. Robin’s first choice for a wedding locale was Canada, but her friends spent hours insulting her home country. It brings the characters closer together. One supposedly forgets the doubts Robin raises prior. The happiest ending for this season particular storyline will be the couple breaking-up.

The episode seemed structured to allow its characters to ‘rehearse’ before what they rehearse is their life, which brings us to Lily. Lily reveals Marshall’s secret, as well as her own feelings about the secret. Nothing comes of it. It leads to Ted celebrating her ability to keep secrets by telling the secret about the actual location of the rehearsal dinner.  Lily’s humor is built around her bad habit of letting out other’s secrets, lowlighted by the tropey ‘character x is pregnant but will file for divorce because her husband had sex with a man.’ It’s a low light because of the pregnant pauses between the jokes. If done right, it’s funny—for example any Simpsons episode from season 1 through 9.

“The Rehearsal Dinner” is the halfway point of the final season. The story is spinning in circles. The promised mother character is barely a presence. The writers make up for her absence by turning her into a character like Fate or Time from an Elizabethan or Jacobean play. She’s not part of events as much as influencing events. Set variety was the most impressive part of tonight’s episode. This season has been an utter disaster. The second half of the season promises worse things. At least it’ll be done forever in six months.

Photo Credits: CBS