Spoilers for the "How I Met Your Mother" season four premiere coming up just as soon as I force my wife to watch "Hoosiers" again...
Ah, my beloved "HIMYM" is back, and even a B+ episode like "Do I Know You?" was simply de... wait for it... lightful!
The Ted and Stella story had its moments, particularly anything involving Marshall being creepy (hiding behind the couch was a good gag) or Ted's various interactions with 15-Year-Old Ted (high-fiving himself, imagining the high school quarterback ganking his proposal with a "What's up, turd?"), which continued the series' motif of "Ted Mosby is unstuck in time." And I can certainly relate to the existential dilemma of wanting the woman I love to love the same stuff I love (see above "Hoosiers" reference, or my semi-successful attempt to get her to read "Astro City").
Overall, though, it ran into a couple of problems. First, Josh Radnor is always in danger of pushing Ted's neediness into unpleasant territory, and he came right up to the line several times here. Second, there's that matter of whether or not Stella is The Mother. I like Sarah Chalke a lot, and think she and Radnor work well together, but the way the show is structured makes it harder and harder to play the Is She Or Isn't She? game with Ted's girlfriends, particularly one where he's in this deep. I spend too much time trying to parse Future Ted's narration and not enough on just engaging with the story.
But any episode with Barney swooning over a woman while still retaining his essential Barney-ness is a keeper, regardless of the A-story. Every time I feared that they were making him soft, another hot babe would wander through his apartment while he was whining about feelings to Lily, culminiating in the brilliant, rom-com-spoofing "Bimbos make me want to be a better man" monologue. Neil Patrick Harris had a lot of great moments throughout, whether it was him swaying his legs around the kitchen like a lovestruck 12-year-old girl or his high-pitched, indecipherable voicemail message to Robin. ("You left a voice, but it wasn't male.")
So here's the question: where do you want this story to go? NPH and Cobie Smulders have great chemistry, and I think the writers have shown here that they can stay true to Barney while placing him in a more sincere storyline, but how does this all work from Robin's end? How does Robin get with Barney without hating herself or looking like a fool?
Some other thoughts on "Do I Know You?":
• Outside of the running gags about Canada and her love of guns, the writers don't always know what to do to make Robin funny, but her increasing dismay at those awful news teases ("Stay tuned for the full... scoop... Really?!?") was hilarious.
• Craig Thomas lied to me. No full frontal nudity for Jason Segel, and no crotch-grabbing for Alyson Hannigan. Sigh...
• They may have been neither nude nor gender-bending, but Segel and Hannigan did some good work in support of the others, before getting the final punchline of the episode, with Lily swapping out "rhinoceros" for "chimichanga" for her "We must have sex right now" code word. And speaking of which, Barney's explanation of the time-to-word ratio necessary to place booty call was the most quintessentially "HIMYM" moment of the whole episode.
• Is the Carter the Great poster in Barney's apartment new? I know we haven't been there very often, but I don't remember seeing it before. I'd like to think that Barney was a fan of Glen David Gold's wonderful novel "Carter Beats the Devil," but my guess is it's just a production design hat tip to Carter Bays.
What did everybody else think?