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'How I Met Your Mother' 'The Rehearsal Dinner' Recap: Bamboozled in the Best Way

The final season of How I Met Your Mother has been a series of highs and lows. If Cristin Milioti is in the episode as The Mother, fans are in store for at least one touching moment. If Milioti’s not in the episode, fans can expect a filler episode or an episode that falls flat. This Season 9 phenomenon makes The Rehearsal Dinner all that more impressive.

Milioti wasn’t in this week’s episode, but HIMYM still found a way to reconnect with what makes the show special. The Rehearsal Dinner almost completely got the gang away from the Farhampton Inn, telling its story at a few new locations but also wisely setting it in flashbacks at MacLaren’s and the old apartment.

The plot of the episode was simple. Despite Barney’s promise to Robin that there would be no surprises in light of his trick bachelor party and an ill-advised attempt to surprise Robin by Barney telling her that he was calling off their wedding, Barney was still convinced that his fiance was planning a surprise laser tag bachelor party. Barney had pitched this idea months before the wedding weekend, but everyone shot it — along with Robin’s hopes to have the wedding in Canada — down. 

As the rehearsal dinner got started, Barney still clung to the belief the entire event was a ruse. According to his theory, Robin would announce the ice machine had broken down, Barney would volunteer to get ice, the ice store would be conveniently next to a laser tag place, and Barney would walk in to discover that the rehearsal dinner was actually being held there, compete with unlimited tokens.

When Robin actually did announce that the ice machine was down, Barney ducked out of the Farhampton Inn to go pick up ice, but actually traveled six miles in the opposite direction to the nearest laser tag place. Robin learned of this when the laser tag place called her to say that she had to come pick up Barney after he threatened to dunk the snack bar guy’s head into a scalding vat of cheese whiz if he didn’t reveal the surprise laser tag rehearsal dinner.

While Robin was approaching the end of her ability to deal with Barney’s steadfast belief that this was all a game, Ted and Lily stayed behind at the Farhampton Inn. Just before Robin got called away, Lily had told her friends about Marshall accepting a judgeship, ending Lily’s dream of moving to Italy. Lily’s day wasn’t going so great. In addition to Marshall’s betrayal, the rest of the gang had mocked her inability to keep a secret, with Ted telling Lily, “I trust you with a secret as much as I trust Marshall with Pop Secret.” Ouch.

To console Lily, Ted told her that he knew she could actually keep a secret. Unlike the rest of the gang, Ted knew this from personal experience. For the entire wedding weekend, Lily had been keeping Ted’s planned move to Chicago a secret. Lily hadn’t blabbed about this big secret. In return, Ted let Lily in on what he called a bigger secret. Armed with this secret, Lily announced to the rehearsal dinner that there was a “slight change of plans.”

Back at the laser tag security office, Barney was about to turn the tables on Robin. You see, kids, it turns out that there was a surprise in store for the rehearsal dinner. It wasn’t a laser tag party though. As Barney handed Robin a pair of ice skates, it was revealed that Barney’s weird behavior was actually part of a plan to surprise Robin with a Canadian rehearsal dinner. If his fiance couldn’t go to Canada for their wedding, Barney would bring Canada to Robin. There was ice skating, hockey, Robin Thicke and Labatt Blue beer.

HIMYM co-creator Craig Thomas called the ending to The Rehearsal Dinner “one of my favorite endings of the season,” and I have to agree with him. With the exception of the episodes featuring The Mother — the proposal, the reveal that she urged Barney to pursue Robin — the ending to this week’s episode was perfect, rolling a touching moment between two characters we care about together with a plot twist and bit of Canadian fun.

I’m fascinated by the fact that the past two episodes before The Rehearsal Dinner were written by Thomas and Carter Bays, the creators of HIMYM, but those two episodes wound up being duds. How did that happen? How did the two guys who should understand this show more than anyone else in the world drop the ball like that? It took Chuck Tatham to right this ship. Tatham previously wrote Season 4’s Little Minnesota and Season 5’s Duel Citizenship, so he’s probably HIMYM’s expert when it comes to illustrating how much Robin’s Canadian heritage means to her. Is Tatham the only Canadian on HIMYM’s writing staff? Kudos to him for including Labatt Blue in the episode.

As the episode progressed, I only had three complaints. The first two were alleviated by the end of the episode. The first complaint was that it looked like HIMYM was ready to rehash Barney-Robin relationship issues again. That topic is one of the show’s most played out, so I was thrilled when it was revealed that Barney had not only planned a huge surprise for Robin but also did so in a way that didn’t hurt her. Like Robin’s staged bachelor party for Barney, the story about Barney tricking Robin into thinking he was calling things off only to give her puppies was hurtful. Hopefully Robin and Barney have moved past that. They can keep surprising each other, but let’s stop doing it in ways that involve crushing each other’s spirit.

The second issue I was worried about was the gang, Ted included, telling Lily that she couldn’t keep a secret. Lily had been keeping Ted’s Chicago move a secret all season, and I thought for a second that the writing staff had forgotten about that. There have been a few moments during Season 9 when HIMYM has made plot and character choices that ignored previous events and developments — I figured it was happening again. Thankfully, Ted recognized that Lily was loyally keeping his big move a secret. I’m guessing by the end of the season, though, that secret won’t even matter.

My final issue with the episode couldn’t be fixed. How could Marshall miss the rehearsal dinner? We’re talking about two of his best friends here. The Marshall I know from the first eight seasons of HIMYM would have never missed Robin and Barney’s rehearsal dinner. It’s unfortunate that whatever shooting demands Jason Segel had to agree to sign on for another season of HIMYM resulted in this split. Marshall belongs with his wife and his friends. They’ve always been there for him, whether it was when Lily left him to move to San Francisco, for his wedding or when his dad died. The real Marshall would’ve moved heaven and earth to get to Farhampton in time. He wouldn’t have let Daphne sabotage his journey. What a shame.

After The Rehearsal Dinner aired, Thomas took to Twitter again, tweeting, “Folks are asking if The Mother is in the next new HIMYM. I could say ‘No spoilers.’ Or I could just say, ‘Yes. A LOT.’ Seeing as how the next episode is called Bass Player Wanted, this isn’t a shocker. Bring on The Mother.

Notes and quotes 
Robin to Barney: “This is my mad face.” Barney: “Then we’ve got a problem … because it looks a lot like your pretty hungry face.”

Barney’s slogan for his failed run for mayor: “The only poll I care about is in my pants.”

Loved the round of Canadian jokes at Robin’s expense. Ted’s line of “Canada? Are you registered at Tim Hortons?” was my favorite. If you’ve been to Tim Hortons, you’d know that registering there shouldn’t be a laughing matter.

During the montage of the gang taking shots at Canada, HIMYM snuck in a condensed love story in the background, showing a couple get engaged, be pregnant, celebrate their son graduate from college and then have the man pass away.

Apparently, Barney is always prepared for laser tag, carrying his hands-free token satchel and lifetime-refills root beer mug with him.

So Lily and Marshall have already sublet the apartment? I guess they could live in one of their many other residences if they win up staying in New York City.

Barney to Robin: “Every now and then, I am going to lie to you. I just am. If it’s in the interest of an amazing surprise, that is. You’re going to get bamboozled, hoodwinked, heck, I’ll just say it — you’re gonna get snowed.”
'How I Met Your Mother' 'The Rehearsal Dinner' Recap: Bamboozled in the Best Way Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 12/02/2013 Rating: 5

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