The beginning of How I Met Your Mother’s fourth season may not have been as ridiculous and hilarious as earlier seasons, but last night’s episode had me oohing and aahing and sighing over Barney (NPH) and his continuing affection for Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders).
Maybe it’s partially because Neil Patrick Harris’s acting skills are above and beyond or maybe it’s because his comedic timing is simply genius (why oh why, didn’t he win the “Best Supporting Actor” at the Golden Globes on Sunday?!?!?). Or maybe it’s also because of the great characters that creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas created years ago.
As the CBS show was originally conceived, the main character of HIMYM, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), was supposed to fall in love and (eventually) marry Robin. Sure, Ted fell for Robin and even dated her for the entirety of Season 3, but it was clear from the very first episode of the very first season that Bays and Thomas had changed their mind about this particular couple. C’mon, at the very end of that first episode, Ted reveals that she ends up being “Aunt Robin.”
Cue Barney and Robin’s potential as a couple.
Both of their characters—like the rest of the cast, including Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel)—have distinct personalities. Robin is the gun-toting, scotch-drinking, hockey-loving, two-time Canadian pop star. Barney, from the start, has been defined by his womanizing ways, his magic tricks, his theories about relationships (the Hot-Crazy scale, Lemon Law, and, last night’s “every single international conflict essentially boils down to sexual tension,” etc.), his catchy phrases said in a high-pitched voice (“Suit up!”, “AWESOME”, etc.), and his eternal devotion to the Bro Code—all of this combined makes Barney one of the best and biggest crowd favorites of the show.
From the start, a Barney and Robin coupling made much more sense than Robin and Ted. Look way back into Season 1, Episode 14, “Zip Zip Zip,” when Robin has a “bro’s night out” with Barney and not only plays laser tag but also “suits up” to go smoke cigars. Barney declares that Robin is a much better wing-man than Ted ever was. Or, ask other die-hard viewers, and they’ll say they were rooting for Barney and Robin since Season 1, Episode 4, "Return of the Shirt," when Barney paid Robin to say things like “booger” and “I’m a bad, bad girl” during her news broadcasts.
The initial and most obvious problem with Barney falling for Robin is that he is a show favorite because of his ridiculous womanizing ways. He can’t be womanizing and be in love with Robin, can he? The writers have been struggling with balancing his womanizing with his crush on Robin for some time—ever since Robin and Barney’s one-night stand, or maybe even before.
This season the writers have even forgone certain themes to make Barney’s secret crush stay secret. For one, Lily’s inability to keep a secret isn’t a factor in that she’s kept Barney’s secret (even from Marshall!) since the first episode of this season.
Yet, Barney is changing. Sure, he’s failed miserably at trying to stop sleeping around, but throughout Season 4 so far, we’ve had small doses of Barney pining after Robin, such as him turning on her newscast just to see her on TV, as well as his attempts to show Robin how much he has changed, such as initially ignoring the large-chested waitress on their pseudo-date. But, all in all, he’s been the same ol’ Barney who will sleep with anything that moves.
This brings us to last night’s episode.
Robin and Ted’s decision to start sleeping together in order to avoid fighting as roommates didn’t result in Barney congratulating Ted with a “Relapse High 5” as in previous episodes. Anything but. Instead, upon hearing of Ted and Robin’s “friends with benefits” relationship, Barney exclaimed, “So, wow, you two, slept together, that is awfsome. Awfsome.” He also started breaking TVs (as well as buying TVs to break) to deal with his unspoken frustration at his best friend sleeping with the woman he loves.
Barney eventually takes action by cleaning up Ted’s apartment and fixing anything that might cause a fight between Ted and Robin—consequently, cutting them off from sleeping with one another. He takes out the trash, buys 10,000 stamps, fills the fridge with milk, and buys them a dishwasher (and forgets to take off the price tag). Ted quickly realizes that Barney has cleaned his apartment because Barney is in love with Robin. Of course, Barney doesn’t man up to this, opting instead to share his feelings to Lily’s Kindergarten class during Tuesday’s sharing time. (The fact that Ted is okay with the idea of Barney being in love with his ex is just another reason why this show is awesome, but that’s another post for another day).
Even when Barney decides to admit to Ted that, yes, he really is in love with Robin, he runs into Robin instead. But he hears the news he’s been waiting for: Ted officially called off the “friends with benefits” relationship. Unfortunately, Robin doesn’t get it, thinking that Ted is the one who will “get hurt” if they had kept it up. Then, she only makes it worse (thereby causing Barney’s face to drop—which just pulls at your heartstrings) when she declares, “Dating friends never works out.”
Considering all of Barney’s quirky reactions in this episode, the writers were quite successful in keeping around the same-old Barney we’ve come to love over the past few seasons while also creating a Barney capable of caring for and having a relationship with Robin. Barney, really, doesn’t have to change that much, and, really, he shouldn’t. Barney and Robin’s established personalities naturally fit together and have from the very start. They work. If only Robin saw it too.
Luckily, we still have plenty more episodes. And now that Ted knows? It’s only a matter of time before Marshall, and eventually, Robin will too.
And then just imagine all the possibilities of Barney navigating a relationship for the first time!!! Yeah, he’s still going to be the Barney we know and love—but he’s going to prove he’s capable of loving Robin too.