Well, if Job One for How I Met Your Mother right now is to convince CBS to take it off the bubble and renew it for next season, this, more than the Britney stunt-cast episode from last week, may have been the episode to do it. No better way to prove you’re a good corporate soldier than to devote an entire episode to the network’s current big sports franchise. I’m not sure March Madness actually needs the cross-promotion from HIMYM, but synergy is synergy. Too bad CBS doesn’t have the Olympics!
In a way, the story (Barney using a tournament bracket to determine which wronged woman from his past is trying to sabotage his dating life) was like a B plot elevated to A status. But I do enjoy an HIMYM every once in awhile that goes for straight-ahead laughs without big story or a lot of narrative jumping around, and this one had enough payoffs for me. I suppose Barney’s despicableness might seem pretty, well, despicable if you thought about it too much (“Dead in the eyes with an aura of self-loathing and despair? That’s all of them” and “I’m pretty sure I sold a woman”). But scenes like the drunken game of handicapping the bracket seeds—”Evil twin!” “Prince of Norway! How could it not be Prince of Norway!”—were worth it, as was the brilliant bit with Marshall freezing up at having to fake conversation in the bar. (“I don’t know what to do with my hands! What do I usually do with my hands?”) And Neil Patrick Harris just gets slapped so well.
If the point of the Britney stunt-casting last week was to lure in a lot of new viewers and get them to sample the show, this may have been a better episode to cast her in. It may not have had the big romantic moment to appeal to regular followers of the show and its true-love main storyline, but it was more strictly ha-ha funny in a conventional sitcom way, without requiring a new viewer to know anything about what had happened in previous episodes. (There were backward references for longtime fans, but they were in the background and easily ignorable, except for the “more on that later” conclusion, which—gasp!)
I guess Britney just wouldn’t have been convincing as a blonde who had had a one-night stand with some guy, though.