by Grace Crawford

Images courtesy of Bay & Thomas Productions and 20th Century Fox.

Images courtesy of Bay & Thomas Productions and 20th Century Fox.

9×12: “The Rehearsal Dinner”

This episode begins with Barney handcuffed to a pipe in a laser tag security office. And that’s probably the highest point of the episode.

Remember back in season 9 when Robin planned Barney’s bachelor party and made it the worst night of his entire life? What you didn’t know is that, only a few short nights later, Barney announced that he was calling the wedding off and kicking Robin out of his apartment because he couldn’t handle the idea of marriage.

Nope, just kidding. Apparently Barney thinks that’s an awesome idea for a return prank, and as a result of such an excellent prank, Robin must be planning to get him back. And after he suggests the idea of a laser tag rehearsal dinner, obviously she’s going to plan that as a surprise for him. And excuse me for a second while I write that down, because frankly that idea is gold.

Flash forward to the night of the dinner. Robin’s more than a little sad that they’re not having the wedding in Canada—probably in no small part due to the fact that her mom would’ve actually been able to come—but she’s rallied and put together what looks like a really nice dinner in the Farhampton Inn’s dining room. Only problem is, Barney’s convinced it’s a fake dinner and that the real thing is happening at the laser tag place just next door (in reality, like eight miles away).

Of course he breaks in, and that’s why he’s handcuffed to the pipe, forcing Robin to come down and bail his ass out. And damn, is she peeved. Not only did they just ditch all their guests, but Barney patently refuses to listen to the truth, and as if that weren’t bad enough, he also seems to believe that marriages are built on mutual prankitude.

Let me break in at this juncture. From the beginning of the season, I was convinced that something jaw-droppingly terrible would happen at the rehearsal dinner. Barney would do something stupid, Robin would have some stunning revelation, or Ted would do what he always does and declare passionate love for Robin even though—seriously, dude—the entire universe is telling him that she’s not the right girl for him.

But that’s not what happens.

This is what happens.

Instead, the walls of the laser tag office lift away, and we discover that there is no laser tag place: it’s a skating rink. The rehearsal dinner has changed venues. Instead of Robin planning a surprise rehearsal dinner, Barney has. Knowing how much Robin wanted to get married in Canada, he brought little pieces of Canada into the rehearsal dinner instead. It seems he’s learned the distinction between what’s acceptable in a prank and what’s not, which I guess is a nice little bit of growth for his character. Unnecessary growth, definitely, but growth nonetheless.

And that was the episode. There really wasn’t much else, to be honest. There was a little bit of Lily, a small side plot where Ted planned to play the piano at the rehearsal dinner while dressed as Liberace, and absolutely nothing with Marshall. It was a nice episode, yes, but there wasn’t a whole lot there. And that might be why it failed for me.

This is a very specific type of show. How I Met Your Mother takes every romantic movie trope, every silly or thoughtful gesture, every desperate action, every disappointed hope, every moment of triumph, and turns all of that into a story about five people who are just trying to find happiness in a world that’s quite a bit bigger than they are. The stories are larger than life—and quite possibly falsified, at least a little bit, by the narrator—and I expected that of such a pivotal episode. And I didn’t get any of that.

“The Rehearsal Dinner” was a nice episode. There were some sweet gestures. It showed that Robin and Barney are maturing as a couple, and that they’ll be very happy together in the long run. But overall, it wasn’t an episode worthy of a top ten list, a long verbal debate, or even remembrance. Because even though I just wrote a thousand words about this episode, I don’t remember much about it, except that it started with laser tag.

Final Grade: B-

Items of Note

  • Oh, hey, look, it’s the Gretzky photo… wait, that’s it? That was a lot of lead-up for not a lot of pay-off. (Which I’m sure Ted has heard every single time he’s done the nasty with a girl.)
    Ted learning to play piano dressed as Liberace. No, wait, he’s learning to figure skate dressed as Liberace. I’m confused, and also I think I may have missed out on some big cultural happening, because I legitimately have no idea who Liberace is.
  • Wait, Barney loves Canada now? I’m actually not okay with that, because the contrast between America-loving Barney and Canada-crazy Robin was always fun for me, even when they weren’t together. I mean, yes, I’m Canadian, and Canada is awesome and all, so it’s nice for people to realize that (especially because we have William Shatner, so suck it, every other country). But this disappointed me a bit.
  • Lily tells Ted—very briefly, I might add, proving that the writers had a lot more on their minds than a game-changing event in Lily and Marshall’s relationship—that Marshall accepted the judgeship. Ted is mad, as he should be, but Lily just lets it slide. But I think I’ve finished ranting about that, so I won’t bore you with more of the same.
  • Apparently the apartment has been sublet. I just realized that we’ll probably never see it again outside of flashbacks. I’m really, really not okay with that. It seems a hasty way to cut ties with one of the most important places in the entire series, tied only with the bar. That’s fairly significant, and this isn’t the right way to say goodbye to the apartment where I learned that it really is pronounced “en-sy-klo-pay-dee-ah.” That is all.

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