A review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I stop sitting on the art...

Last week's episode (which aired while I was on vacation) wasn't great, but it was at least a reminder of the structural cleverness "HIMYM" has played with at its best. "Weekend at Barney's," on the other hand, was mainly a reminder of the difficulty the show has in writing for its characters at this late stage.

We finally get to see how Ted wound up in that moment on the sidewalk where he declares that he's ready to settle down — this time, with Future Ted adding, "And kids, for the first time in my life, I really meant it."

Which is among the most ridiculous, false things anyone on the show has ever said.

Ted Evelyn Mosby has been ready to stop dating and settle down from the very first episode of "HIMYM." It's been his defining trait, and his primary goal. That he hasn't been able to accomplish that goal isn't because he wasn't sincere until now, but because he's the main character on a long-running TV show that doesn't want to introduce him to his wife until as close to the end as possible. If Robin had wanted kids, he'd have been happily married by the end of season 3. If Stella hadn't turned out to be a horrible human being, he'd be content living in (gasp!) Jersey. Circumstance, and the whims of his creators, have kept him single, not a need to keep playing the field.

For much of this season, the writers have been willing to sell out established backstory and characterization for the sake of jokes, but for the most part they've tried to be honest and fair when it comes to the emotional moments. And this was just irritating revisionist nonsense that foiled any attempt to get me to feel what the show wanted me to feel.



The Robin/Barney storyline that gave the episode its title, meanwhile, was another illustration of why they're kind of a horrible couple, even if once upon a time it seemed like a brilliant idea. Had you paired the Robin of the first couple of seasons with a Barney who had genuinely matured just a little bit, there might be something special and fun. This, though, is an entirely different, far more traditional (and shrill) Robin, and a Barney who can't stop being Barney because the show isn't over yet and the writers enjoy Playbook gags too much. (Even after Jeanette's assault on the book last night, I would not be surprised in the slightest if we got to see one or two new plays over the final season.) Neil Patrick Harris is so good at sincerity (and close-up magic) that his plea to Robin to almost landed despite the grossness of the sentiment. But as with the proposal that he kept mentioning in the speech, it's really best not to think at all about the motivations and flaws of the parties in this relationship.

Marshall and Lily at the gallery was broad and largely forgettable, which probably makes it the most successful of the episode's three stories. I laughed a couple of times throughout the half-hour (including, I have to admit, at Ted getting the drink thrown in his face from using the penis line again), but "Weekend at Barney's" was more aggravating than not.

What did everybody else think?