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How I Met Your Mother Review/Recap: "The Poker Game"

Andy Pham ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff

This week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother continues to follow Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) wedding weekend.

The time: Friday, 6 pm, 48 hours before the wedding.

Marshall (Jason Segel) continues his road trip with Daphne (Sherri Shepherd) to New York, and what’s a good road trip without a good talk about Gozzola’s pizza, set to classical music with each word describing it? Insignificant for now, but we’ll get back to this.

Meanwhile, as Barney’s Best Man Poker Party comes to a close, two conflicts arise: Ted against Marshall and Lily, and Robin versus the Stinson clan.

Let’s discuss the first, shall we?

Josh Radnor and Alyson Hannigan in How I Met Your Mother. Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright/CBS.
Josh Radnor and Alyson Hannigan in How I Met Your Mother “The Poker Game.” Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright/CBS.

Ted (Josh Radnor), being the best best man he can be, announces his excitement to give Barney and Robin not one, but three, wedding presents. Across the table is a scornful Lily (Alyson Hannigan), muttering to herself with her teeth clenched. It’s not long until she calls Marshall, who is fuming with anger at Ted. The backstory? Apparently six years ago, after her and Marshall’s wedding, they received wedding gifts from everyone, except none other than Ted himself. Thus brings the show’s iconic flashback sequences to years before, each with Lily’s rollercoaster of hairstyles perfectly fitting the timeline of its placing. Marshall and Lily, frustrated that Ted is oblivious to his action, hints to Ted that he has not given them a wedding gift. They go so far as sending him a gift-wrapping station as a present for his and Stella’s failed wedding.

Meanwhile, Robin finds herself in hot water with Barney’s brother James, whose recent separation has left him being a nonbeliever in marriage. Robin sees James’ antics and comments against marriage to be a potential threat to her engagement to Barney. She pulls Barney aside to discuss her feelings, who tells her to deal with the problem on her own. Unfortunately for him, that does not calm her down, as he had hoped. Instead, Robin wages her engagement ring against James’ wedding ring in a game of poker and wins it all.

Wayne Brady and Frances Conroy in How I Met Your Mother "The Poker Game." Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright/CBS.
Wayne Brady and Frances Conroy in How I Met Your Mother “The Poker Game.” Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright/CBS.

What is a Stinson to do for revenge? James brings in their mother, Loretta (guest star Frances Conroy). Loretta tells Barney that he must choose between defending his family or Robin. Robin retaliates in a game of strip poker against Loretta, with an uncomfortable Barney squirming in his seat. Barney asks why Robin would not respect his family. She explains that she wishes for once he would be on her side, and that this would have been the perfect opportunity. As Barney goes to return the ring to James, he reveals his marriage failed due to his greater commitment to going to the gym, rather than to his family and his husband. Barney sees this as a wake-up call, and denounces his family as no longer his kin, and he declares that it’s all thanks to Robin. Robin, in shock, is humiliated and ashamed to face Loretta and James. The closing seconds find Loretta saying to Robin, “You may have won the battle, but I’ll win the war.”

Dun dun dun!  Now, back to Ted’s dilemma:

When Marshall calls Ted in regards to his absent wedding gift, Ted reveals he gave them a coffeemaker, and has been waiting for a thank-you note for the past six years. However, Lily claims the gift was given by Stuart and Claudia. However, it turns out Stuart, being the frugal man he is, took credit for Ted’s present. Marshall and Ted make up, and Ted sends a gift to Marshall: a man in a car driving by, delivering him Gozzola’s pizza.

Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother "The Poker Game." Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright/CBS.
Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother “The Poker Game.” Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright/CBS.

What is striking to me, as an avid HIMYM viewer, is the minimal role of Marshall and his storyline so far over the past five episodes. Granted, Marshall is stuck on a long road trip with a stranger, who I do admit played a larger role in her introduction in the season premiere. It’s disappointing that the sassy woman who played an initial antagonist to Marshall is lacking a greater role in Marshall’s story. I’m sure the dynamic between Marshall and Daphne will find its own comedic stance somehow sometime as the season progresses. Like the rest of the world, I have always loved watching Jason Segel portray the quirky and silly Marshall Eriksen. However, the past few episodes have failed to grab my interest in his storyline, frankly wanting to skip past to the more prominent scenes with the other characters in Farhampton. Despite this, Segel’s minimal scenes do have their share of classic Marshall, who’s always there to help his best bros and his Lilypad (via Skype, telephone, etc.).

In addition, it is important to note the absence of Cristin Milioti’s character as “The Mother” this season since it’s premiere. So far she has met Lily, and her character was foreshadowed to be Robin’s second close girlfriend in last week’s episode. Milioti has been billed with the main cast in the opening titles, listed before Allison Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris. One would think a character of this importance, as well as someone that the audience has been dying to know more about, would have played a greater role so far since the premiere.

However, there are things to consider: the season is still in its early episodes and it is taking place over the duration of a single weekend. We have waited nine years for the Mother, I’m sure we can wait a little bit more.

Thoughts? Opinions? Feel free to comment below.

Catch all new episodes of How I Met Your Mother Monday nights at 8/7c, only on CBS!

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