A review of tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as my ability to grow facial hair correlates with my ability to be a good father...

God help me, they're screwing up Robin and Barney twice.

The first time around, the writers were afraid to commit to the idea. They turned Robin into a stereotypical clingy girlfriend, had them fight constantly, and eventually put Barney in a fatsuit. They could not get out of that storyline fast enough.

But still I let myself believe that if they ever got back to it, it would work. The chemistry between Smulders and Harris was too good, the match between the two characters too strong, for it to not work if the show wanted it to work.

Instead, it's like the "HIMYM" writers are going out of their way to make the prospect of them getting together as unappetizing as possible.

First, they had them make out, then fall into bed together, while they're both in committed relationships with other characters. Sure, we care not at all about Nora (and I'm not sorry to see her gone, given how little the show even tried to make me care about her) and only slightly more about Kevin, but they're both good people who don't especially deserve to be cheated on. So had Barney and Robin both gone through with their confessions tonight, version 2.0 of their relationship would have been built on a very unsympathetic foundation.

And yet, NPH was so good in those scenes where Barney was acknowledging how he felt about Robin that I would have probably let that go eventually. Instead, we get one of those lame sitcom contrivances where one character gets out of a relationship and the other doesn't, not because it's what that character would actually do, but because the writers want to delay things for a while. Now we get to see Barney pine for Robin (or overcompensate by going hardcore back to the playbook), get to see Robin feel conflicted, get to see the umpteenth variation on Ross and Rachel. Sigh...

Again, I like Kevin as much as I've liked any outside boyfriend or girlfriend since Stella's first couple of appearances. (The show ruined Stella after a while by only bringing her in to argue with Ted, but at first she was great.) And his answer to Robin's "why do you like me?" question was much better than Barney's. But it also seemed hollow, the sort of thing you say during the early, easy parts of a relationship, not when you've known and cared about somebody for as long as Robin and Barney have.

I imagine we're eventually going to get back to Robin and Barney linking up - with Nora out of the picture, it's hard to imagine Barney committing himself to another woman enough to want to marry her - but my enthusiasm for that is going to wane with each passing week until it's just another "HIMYM" future storyline I once cared about and now kind of dread.

Still, the performances by NPH and Smulders were very good, and I'm at least slightly curious to see how Ted starts to figure into things now that he knows how Barney was feeling about Robin (and also given what Future Ted said at the end of the Victoria episode).

Ted and Marshall eating a bad sandwich, on the other hand, was a single joke repeated over and over, and the sort of thing where I imagine you either found it funny every time or not at all. I fell into the latter camp, and so time ran very, very slowly for me during that one, and not even the "HIMYM"-y revelation of what actually happened was amusing enough to compensate for the previous batch of labored antics. I like the idea of Ted and Marshall confronting their age and (for Marshall) increasing responsibilities, but I found none of it funny. (Other than seeing David Neher - Todd from "Community" - pop up on the fourth sitcom I'm watching this season as the goateed guy with the nachos.)

What did everybody else think?