How I Met Your Mother – “Robots vs. Wrestlers”

“Robots vs. Wrestlers”

May 10th, 2010

With its timey-wimey narrative, How I Met Your Mother usually tends to join traditions and ongoing storylines at a point somewhere along the road rather than at the very beginning. So when “Robots vs. Wrestlers” starts talking about the eponymous event being a tradition, it seems premature, but that’s part of the episode’s conceit: the very idea of it is too awesome not to become a tradition, and that’s something that Barney (especially) is concerned with as the group discusses their different trajectories in the wake of Robin trying things out with Don.

I like a lot of what the episode is trying to accomplish, showing each character enough of a potential life without this group to make them both understand their desire to have a life of their own and how important their friends are, so I think this is ultimately a good step for the series. I do think, though, that there were a couple of points in the episode which seemed underdeveloped, like the focus was spread out so much in the episode that details were overlooked that kept it from becoming an outright classic.

I want to try to hash out the situation in regards to Lily and Marshall’s decision not to start having children until they see Barney’s doppelganger. I understand that this is something they’re all sort of looking out for, and it’s something that Future Ted has told us we will eventually see, but do they have any reason to believe that he exists other than their own knowledge of the game they’re playing? The idea that they’re “playing the game” of finding doppelgangers rather than sort of stumbling on them is a bit odd, and I am having trouble rationalizing why they would pick something so indeterminate for something as important as when they will have a baby when it could take decades. We, of course, know that it will happen sooner or later, but it seemed like their timeline was set for our benefit (so we have another fact from the future for us to look forward to) rather than for the characters themselves, which strikes me as a bit strange.

The episode also struggled to explain the characters of Marissa Keller and why, precisely, Robin shows up at McLaren’s after Robots vs. Wrestling has ended. In the former case, I really liked the idea that they had pieced together an image of this woman based on their mail, but I find it strange that we never learned why it is that she responded to none of the gang’s attempts to connect with her. I think, if I had to guess, that she was putting on a certain air in order to fit in at the party, which is why she connected with Ted’s “classy” talk in the lobby, but we never really learn why, and she ends up getting tossed aside even once they get to the party. The “Young and the Restless” joke in the elevator just doesn’t make any sense, and even if we had learned that she had changed or evolved in some way might have made it more realistic. It seemed strange that the gang wasn’t more interested in the idea of meeting the “real” Marissa Keller either, and so it seemed like something which could have carried the entire episode got shoved aside. With Robin, it just seems weird for her to show up and buy drinks when she and Don were having a romantic evening in, so I’m left wondering if something’s wrong or if the show just wanted them to all be together so Future Ted’s line about the Robots vs. Wrestling tradition could be more complete.

However, those issues aside, I liked where the individual characters ended up here. Barney, while sometimes taking their friendship for granted, panics at the idea of everyone leaving him after Robin disconnects herself even when Robots vs. Wrestling is on the table, and I liked the concern he showed here while still remaining his normal self. Similarly, I like where the show took Ted here, as he finds an environment where his douchey ways fit right in and which force him to realize that while his friends are a bit crude with their fart noises they’re in some ways protecting him from himself (a rare bit of self-awareness for the character, and a welcome one). And it’s hard to complain with Marshall and Lily discussing the baby issue, as the show has to get there eventually and now seems like a logical time to get things moving in that department. The characters were very much concerned with their relationships with one another this week, and those are what make the series work so well, and even with some concerns in general I thought there were some nice character beats and some funny jokes around them.

The show can have as many gimmicks as it wants (and Mexican Wrestler Ted is certainly a fun one), but it needs those characters to work in order for the show to survive. It may not have been the cleanest of episodes, but I like where we eventually ended up, and am curious to see how the show uses this momentum heading into the final two episodes of the season.

Cultural Observations

  • Great to see Michael York as Jefferson Van Smoot, even if he didn’t get much actual material – Josh Radnor was given the bulk of the pretentious content here, and he absolutely nailed it. Say what you will about this side of Ted’s character, but Radnor plays it so well that I’m almost always laughing. “That’s my FAVOURITE book of Madrigals” had me rolling, and I don’t even know what a Madrigal is.
  • The Arianna Huffington cameo was pretty worthless, but I really loved the contrast between Barney being shut down by the intense knowledge of the attendees and Ted fitting right in.
  • Interesting juxtaposition between the Ted montage last week (where his behaviour was read as gay) and this week (where it was read as pretentious): I’d be curious to go back and compare the two scenes in order to see how Josh Radnor’s performance changes, and whether there’s actually that much difference in the way the lines are written between the two stereotypes.
  • I was not, in fact, aware that Willem Dafoe’s name sounds like a conversation between a frog and a parrot, but it’s sure stuck in my head now!
  • How did Marshall and Lily become financially stable again after both Lily’s crippling credit card debt and the renovations to their apartment? Is Marshall’s sell-out job really that financially beneficial to them?
  • It took me a while, but I eventually realized I recognized Darby Stanchfield as divorcee Helen Bishop on Mad Men. Okay, that’s a lie, I had to IMDB it – I’m such a fraud.
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3 Comments

Filed under How I Met Your Mother

3 responses to “How I Met Your Mother – “Robots vs. Wrestlers”

  1. Katie

    A madrigal is a classically arranged secular piece of music for 3-6 voices, a capella and usually from the Renaissance or Baroque periods. /music snob

    I only know this from singing in choir and being in an a capella group for so long. I’m such a music nerd…

  2. CharlieDia

    With no knowledge of what’s to come, I suspect they’ll have a whole episode to focus more on what happened with Robin and Don that night, like in “The Platinum Rule” where we went from the crew convincing Ted not to date the doctor removing his tattoo (Stella) to him returning that night, saying that she didn’t think it was a date. We then returned to that actual date in a later episode.

    Then again, this could just be wishful thinking.

    The other underdeveloped stuff, I assume, is due to time constrictions. I heard they write and film 45 minutes worth of show and somehow have to edit that down to 21 minutes to air.

    I’m also ashamed to admit that I thought that Michael York was just some no-name poor man’s Michael York. Sigh, he’s gotten a bit older than we last saw him on “Gilmore Girls,” hasn’t he?

  3. JJ

    Hi Myles, first non-Buffy-related comment here…

    I wasn’t at all bothered by Lily and Marshall deciding not to have children until they find Barney’s doppelganger. The whole show exists in its own peculiar plane of unreality, and to me, it’s a plane where characters would quite naturally understand that the universe is playing a doppelganger game with them.

    Also, I wouldn’t put it past the show to have an episode about one or the other of them breaking that promise, anyways.

    Along the same lines, why did Robin show up at the end? Well, maybe we’ll get an explanation, and maybe not, but she had to be there for the narrative, so good enough.

    I DO agree with your Marissa Keller gripes. Is this actually the same woman, or is she faking her way into the party as well? Why doesn’t she respond to their comments about her mail? Is she a potential new paramour for Ted? OMG IS IT GOING TO BE HER??? ( <– voice inside my head whenever a new woman comes on the show). The concept was far too interesting and got far too little material.

    Michael York, also, is far too interesting to get so little material.

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