How I Met Your Mother Review: "The Poker Game" (Episode 9.05)
Is it possible to have a bottle episode in a 22-episode season that takes place in a single weekend? How I Met Your Mother put forth the effort to try and discover the answer.
This week’s episode revolves around a poker game between Ted, Barney, Lily, Robin, Marshpillow, James, Ranjit, Tim Gunn and William Zabka. This itself was pretty bland, but what was good about this episode was the use of flashbacks to reveal unseen history of the gang and remind us of some of the better moments in the show’s past. The lack of this made last week’s episode nearly unbearable, so I was glad to see more of it.
This flashback takes us to the few weeks after Marshall and Lily’s wedding. It turns out Ted never gave them a wedding present, and there are a series of scenes depicting Marshall’s attempts to drops hints. During one of these we see Lily dressed as Pauly from Juno . And it’s awesome. Eventually the flashbacks take us to Ted and Stella’s wedding, and Marshall vows revenge on Ted and gets him a gift wrapping station.
Another series of flashbacks that mirror the original batch reveal that Ted did get a gift, but never got a thank you note and was equally angry at Marshall. Bonus awesome points because we get to see the Slutty Pumpkin in the background of a scene, giving longtime viewers a special call-back to a memorable storyline.
However, another flashback actually reveals that Stuart and Claudia gave them the coffeemaker; the result is Ted going above and beyond to make things right between him and his best friends. Meanwhile Lily discovers Stuart stole the gift from Ted and has been lying for six years.
You still with me? That’s a lot of flashbacks to sit through, but it helped me forget that it’s been five episodes that have spanned about 10 hours.
It also helped spice up the current timeline story. It was still bland, but not as bad as it would have been taking up 22 minutes by itself. At the actual poker game Robin makes James feel bad about being divorced, and Barney’s black half-brother goes running to their mother. The episode drops not-so-subtle themes about how marriage is a team and Barney has to start considering Robin’s feelings in all of the decisions he makes.
If this season is going to use flashbacks to give us unseen moments, then I’m actually okay with that. However, I still want to see an actually interesting story unfold at Farhampton. HIMYM was lucky that did a good job with flashbacks, but they’re going to have to up the substance of the wedding weekend’s plotlines.