Spoilers for "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I leap in slow motion...
On this season's "HIMYM" vs. Sitcom scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing "HIMYM" at its most distinct (say, "How I Met Everyone Else") and 1 representing a leftover "Suddenly Susan" script with the names changed to protect the innocent (say, "We're Not From Here"), I'd have to put "The Platinum Rule" at a solid 9, maybe even a 9.5. Flashbacks within flashbacks -- with characters referring back and forth to the previous flashbacks to explain why they're reliving them -- Barney presenting another dating rule, a bit of meta main character mockery with the talk of how much Ted obsesses over his stupid hair, more anti-Canada bigotry ("What's the opposite of name-dropping")... Really, the only thing keeping it from a 10 is that I'm pretty sure Lily has never before sported the hairstyle she had in the neighbor flashbacks, even though those scenes would have taken place not long after "Slap Bet." That's the sort of continuity error the show doesn't usually make.
Then again, maybe "Platinum Rule" ought to score higher. There's a reason I've spent so much of this season harping on what is and isn't a "HIMYM"-y episode, and it's that the way Bays, Thomas and company play with structure is at least as important as -- and sometimes more important than -- the characters, or the plots, or even the jokes. Told sequentially, the three storylines here would have gotten repetitive and predictable in a hurry (Robin's in particular; the guy didn't remotely seem like an ex-hockey player, and overall they have yet to crack the code for giving her a good dating subplot), but the way they kept folding in and out of each other became part of the fun. Sequences like the three-tiered break-up, with Robin and Marshall/Lily trying to dump graciously while Barney was candid to a fault with Wendy the Waitress worked precisely because they were placed next to each other in that "Slaughterhouse Five" chronological style that "HIMYM" does so well.
I've liked some of Barney's previous rules better than this one -- Lemon Law's hard to top, and Crazy/Hot did come with a visual aid -- but there were enough amusing moments to compensate, whether Marshall performing charades for "We just go across the hall!" or the gang ordering Barney to marry Wendy the Waitress to keep from losing the bar. And Neil Patrick Harris had some wonderful slapstick moments, with both his slide across the apartment to prevent Ted's exit and his slo-mo leap to slap the taste of burger out of Marshall's mouth.
Meanwhile, I'm still undecided on whether "HIMYM" is going to make the cut for my Top 10 list for '07. "Slap Bet" and "Single Stamina," the high points of season two, both aired at the tail end of '06, and season three has been up and down. Since I'm planning to pair the Top 10 list with a list of great episodes (or even moments) from shows that didn't make the list (either ones that just missed the cut or ones that are usually not that great but had a transcendent show), I'll have room to mention "HIMYM" somewhere, but my question is this: if you had to pick a single episode of the series that aired in this calendar year as the best, what would it be? "Showdown"? "How I Met Everyone Else"? Something else?