9×05: “The Poker Game”
Not a lot happened this week. The episode felt like half its usual length, although, as any man struggling with self-esteem will tell you, it’s not the length that matters—it’s what you do with it.
That being said, this week’s episode, the much-anticipated poker game, was a little lacking in the “doing something with it” department.
There are two main storylines in this episode. First off, Ted mentions that he’s gotten Barney and Robin three wedding gifts, which pisses Lily off to no end, as she’s convinced that Ted never gave her and Marshall a wedding gift when they got married six years earlier. They’ve been dropping hints, both subtle and non, during that whole time, and Ted seemingly never picked up on any of them (yet another display of exactly how obtuse he can be sometimes). But what’s this? He did get them a gift, a really expensive coffeemaker, and he’s been dropping his own hints about how he’d like a thank-you note this whole time?
Yeah, turns out Stuart (the less attractive half of Stuart-and-Claudia) totally took credit for the coffeemaker and built his whole relationship with Claudia on the success of that gesture. Also, he’s a kleptomaniac now and there’s a strange lady in his shower. I’m actually more interested in that than in Ted and Lily/Marshall’s storyline, because how in the actual hell did Stuart find someone more attractive than his wife who would actually sleep with him? I mean, he looks like Gollum, except with more hair.
Oh, right, the wedding present. Yeah. So hints and stuff, and finally Ted makes a great grand gesture and sends Marshall a Gazolo’s pizza because the boys and Daphne were passing Chicago and Marshall waxed poetic about it (yeah, we’re talking about the pizza that burned like hot lead and possibly had cockroaches on it).
The second storyline is Robin, who’s getting fed up about James’s constant digs at marriage. So she takes his ring in the poker game, and he tattles to Loretta, who plays against Robin to get the ring back, and ends up literally losing the shirt off her back. But the big thing is not Robin’s sudden proclivity for poker: it’s the fact that Barney is having a lot of trouble standing up to his family for the woman who’s about to become his wife.
I know how difficult it can be to shift priorities from family to significant other. It doesn’t feel right. It feels like a betrayal, like you’re turning your back on the people who raised you and loved you and made you the person you are now, the one that’s actually good enough to land a person like the one you’re about to commit to. But Barney comes to realize that, yeah, his family loves him, and yeah, they’re flawed, but Robin is the one he’s marrying and the one that’ll let him “do sex to her,” which, let’s be honest, is a major selling point. And yet he can have both of them. Maybe I’m an idealist, but that’s how I think every relationship should be. So now he’s got her back, and that’s nice to see.
But then he goes too far in the other direction and completely cuts off his family in the most baffling way possible. He just yells about how they’re not his family anymore and how that’s all straight from Robin and all her fault. The opportunity for some good character growth was wasted, and now Barney’s just made an awkward, majorly sloppy turn, which can’t possibly end well. And that didn’t fit at all with the sensitive, hopeful character we saw in the season premiere, especially because he doesn’t see what’s wrong with that.
The back-and-forth with these characters is killing me, because after seeing such strong development from them over the last few years, it’s like watching them be shredded to bits in front of my eyes. I don’t feel like they’re the people I knew and loved anymore, and if something doesn’t turn around soon, I’m not going to keep watching. And that’ll be really, really sad.
In summary, it didn’t feel like a lot happened this week. The wedding present storyline was a throwaway, and while it was kinda funny, it felt stiff, forced, and yanked directly from another sitcom (I was thinking Friends—thoughts?). The only thing that really caught my attention was Robin’s attempt to make peace with Loretta at the end, which was met by a veritable throwing down of the gauntlet. Apparently there’s a war on, and I’m a little bit excited to see who’s going to prove the victor.
Final Grade: B-
Items of Note:
- Lily dressed up as Paulie Bleeker from Juno.
- I can’t believe a grown-ass man like James is still tattling to his mommy.
- “But Robin is gonna be my wife, but James is my brother, but Robin lets me do sex to her!”
- Barney actually tried to command Robin to do something. It’s almost like he doesn’t care if he still has functioning genitalia.
- Everyone hiding in the room to listen to Barney and Robin’s conversation. Oh, Lily and Billy.
- Barney with a tan and cornrows. What?… What?
- Wow, Tom was actually really bad at being married. And they kinda skated right over that. Like, really bad. Who gets married and then works out for hours every day at the gym because “I might be single again”? With two kids??? That is all.
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