How I Met Your Mother Ep. 9.05 “The Poker Game” sacrifices character for easy humor, drama

himym 9.5

How I Met Your Mother Season 9, Episode 5 “The Poker Game”
Written by Dan Gregor & Doug Mand
Directed by Pamela Fryman
Airs Monday nights at 8pm ET on CBS

With an episode so full of new running gags and old returning jokes (and so many wigs), it’s no surprise that “The Poker Game” stumbles into its climatic moments: it’s clear the focus was on slapstick over emotional resolution in the construction of this particular segment of season nine’s puzzle. It’s a funny episode, but another one that works against its own characters, creating unnecessary, petty tension in the core friendship of the show – and in the other corner, throws Barney (the character who has grown the most over the series) under the bus for a quick laugh, and another plot line To Be Continued at a later date for anyone interested in poker movies (and one nobody is interested in, to boot).

The Barney material really falls on its face in the final third: up until that moment, there was at least a respectable effort made to draw tension between Barney and his family. But again, it’s petty, superficial material: James is just being a dick because he got divorced, and Barney’s mother is just being her normal over-sexed Mrs. Clavin self, except with some extra mother-in-law bitch thrown on top for good measure. And in the end, Barney does the worst thing a groom could do: he puts all the pressure and blame on his bride (47-or-so hours before her wedding, no less), throwing her under the bus to James and his mother so he can walk away scot-free. It’s all laughs in the studio audience, but Barney’s manipulative, immature turn in his brother’s hotel room contradicts the healthy relationship they portray in other scenes this season (and in this episode, for that matter).

In a way, the two plots of the episode mirror each other in an interesting way: where the Barney/Robin material starts off strong only to crash into the ground, the Ted/Marshall/Lily B-story goes from painful to pleasant as the episode carries on. Again, this is kind of a bullshit story to have (people getting mad over wedding gifts and thank you notes?), and it pushes characters like Ted and Lily’s face into parody territory (though Ted’s “I fold” remark is gold): but at least they find their footing in the end, remembering why none of this matters. Unfortunately, it takes 20 minutes of head-scratching passive-aggressive behavior from the both of them that is more disturbing than amusing – but when it does get there, it at least ends in pleasant fashion without undermining seasons of character development (though one could argue Barney’s the only character who has grown over the course of the show… but these are discussions for different times).

Overall, “The Poker Game” is definitely a step up from the past two weeks: the jokes in particular are much sharper than the last few weeks, and it elevates what is otherwise pointless material into something entertaining and amusing (the cards flying out of Barney’s suit in the bathroom as he tries to play innocent topping all of them). Inconsistency is the name of the game so far for the ninth season, though: for every funny scene and running gag, we get eyebrow-raising, frustrating decisions from different characters (let’s not forget big old Asshole Ted resting in the shadows right now, waiting to pull his “wild card”) for the sake of humor and/or drama. Here’s hoping things improve once all the set-up for the final third is complete.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– another fantastic Marshall/Lily Halloween costume: Juno, with Marshall as the titular character.

– James: “It is a good time to be gay!”

– “J’accuse?” “…. Me’accuse?” “You’accuse!”

– Barney gets cornrows in Belize on his honeymoon? HOW DOES HIS HAIR GET THAT LONG.

– “I’ll have a blue bluffy muffbluff.”

– hey, let’s shit on Stuart and Claudia some more! Hahahaha, their marriage sucks!

– nice little CGI touch adding a shot of the slutty pumpkin to the end of the Halloween scene.

 

– Randy Dankievitch




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