Spoilers for the latest episode of "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I wave some kids through the waterslide...
Those bastards. Those magnificent, clever bastards. Those prestidigitating, misdirecting, clever SOBs.
They knew we'd all be focusing on the sequel to "Let's Go to the Mall" -- and, therefore, the half-sequel to the series' all-time high point, "Slap Bet" -- and they suspected they couldn't live up to expectations. And so just at that moment when everybody in the audience would be saying, "You know, that wasn't as good as the first Robin Sparkles video," they had Robin and Barney make out -- resolving a bit of Unresolved Sexual Tension that's been lingering since way back in season one's "Zip, Zip, Zip." (That's the one where Robin and Barney have a bro's night out of cigars and Laser Tag, and when Barney tries to put the moves on Robin, only to be told she still has feelings for Ted.) If one of the chief rules of spin is to create a new story to take people's minds off the one you don't want them discussing, then Bays and Thomas and company did one hell of a job spinning here.
Now, I should say that "Sandcastles in the Sand" the episode was quite good. Not "Slap Bet" good, but very little in the series comes close to that level. The idea of Revertigo, and seeing it in practice with both Robin (pathetic lovestruck girl with thick Canadian accent) and Lily (homegurrrlll!!), were vintage "HIMYM" (as was the fast-forwarding through all the Canadian insults) and I thought James Van Der Beek was quite good and self-deprecating as Simon. He may have sounded Irish half the time, but he threw himself into the part in a way that went beyond the hair and makeup choices. When he was re-enacting his life-saving gig at the water park with Ted, I didn't for a second see Dawson Leery.
It was really only "Sandcastles in the Sand" the video that was a disappointment. Because Bays and Thomas are part-time musicians, their past song parodies have been wonderful: "The Slapsgiving Song" (with a pained Barney doing the "whoa-oh-oh"s), "Ted Mosby Is a Jerk" and, especially, the original "Let's Go to the Mall," which was hilarious as both song ("I'll rock your body till Canada Day!") and video (the robot!). "Sandcastles in the Sand" was... okay. It totally worked as the sort of overwrought ballad the likes of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson tried in a bid for artistic credibility. It just wasn't very funny, and the cameos by Alan Thicke and Tiffany herself weren't enough to save it.
But then, just as I was trying to convince myself that I knew the sequel wouldn't be as good as the original and therefore shouldn't act disappointed, Future Ted kept talking about how Barney and Robin kept watching the video, and Barney and Robin kept moving closer together on the couch, and then they totally made out, and all was right with the world.
In a lot of cases, when a veteran show paired off its two remaining single characters, it would smack of creative desperation, but "HIMYM" has been building to this for a while -- from the bro's night out in season one all the way through the two of them sharing cigars and ice cream last week(*) -- and it makes sense for the characters. They're both control freaks about their living spaces, both commitment-phobic to the extreme, enjoy a good smoke and a good firearm, and they both dig the company of Ted Evelyn Mosby. Add to that the great chemistry between Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders, and I see this as a terrific coupling, the sort that's going to be completely different from Ted and Robin, or Marshall and Lily, or Ted and The Mother (Stella?), because I expect Robin and Barney will attempt to keep this on a superficial level. That, or I expect them to try and, to their shock and dismay, realize they have something resembling real feelings for each other. Either way, awesome.
((*) Said cigar/ice cream scene had a number of "HIMYM" fans believing that Barney and Robin were already together, in secret, and that we would find out about it at a later date, ala Ted and Robin breaking up several episodes before the other characters, and the audience, found out about it. Guess not.)
What did everybody else think? Does the prospect of Robin and Barney sucking face make up for the shortcomings of the second Robin Sparkles video? Or am I being too tough on our resident Canadian teen pop sensation?