“How I Met Your Mother” — Symphony of Illumination episode review 4

SPOILER ALERT: If you aren’t completely caught up on the show, don’t read this review!

Last night’s episode of “How I Met Your Mother”, Symphony of Illumination, was a Robin roller-coaster ride. Coming off of the cliffhanger at the end of last week’s episode – in which Robin told Barney she was pregnant – we knew that this episode was going to be a big one. Robin’s pregnancy could pose a number questions, especially what effect it would have on the recent Robin / Kevin / Barney love triangle. Is the baby Kevin’s, and if it is, does that mean the end of Barney and Robin as we know it?

Recap

Well, right off the bat Robin clarified who the baby’s father was, admitting to Barney that the baby couldn’t be Kevin’s because they hadn’t had sex yet. Barney takes the news surprisingly well, excited at the thought of becoming a Dad. To prove to Robin how great having a kid coud be, Barney brings her along on Lilly’s trip to We B Babies. But Barney’s enthusiasm disappears when he sees a former swinger friend, Insane Duane, in the store with his wife and multiple kids. Insane Duane admits that, since he had kids, he hasn’t been to a bar in years. That’s all Barney needs to hear.

Barney and Robin at "We B Baby"

Robin and Barney go to see the doctor together, ready to hear the worst but hoping for good news. When the doctor tells them that Robin isn’t pregnant, the two do a celebratory happy dance on the spot. But Robin’s relief is short-lived. Days later, she gets a call from the doctor who informs her that she won’t ever be able to have kids. Though this is huge news, Robin keeps it from the others, who are left to guess what is really on her mind. At first Robin seems fine with the fact that she’s barren because she’s always been clear about never wanting to have children. But a return trip to We B Babies makes Robin realize the magnitude of her condition, and she suddenly is missing the possibility of one day having kids. In fact, she’s so upset about it that she ends up telling the story to her two imaginary future kids (cleverly mimicking the way Future Ted is telling each “How I Met Your Mother” episode to his future son and daughter). After much resistance, Robin accepts Ted’s attempts to comfort her. She still refuses to talk about what is bothering her, but allows Ted to keep her company in NYC for Christmas.

Marshall stuck on the roof with his Christmas lights

Throughout Robin’s emotional ordeal, comic relief is provided by Marshall’s side-story involving Christmas decorating at the Long Island house and a neighborhood kid named Scott. Scott pretends to help Marshall hang christmas lights and acts like the son Marshall has always wanted. But when Marshall accidentally drops his cell phone off the roof, Scott pulls the ladder away from the house, trapping Marshall without a way to call for help. While Marshall is stranded atop the house, Scott hosts a wild party in Marshall’s house.

Review

One of the greatest strengths of “How I Met Your Mother”, now halfway through it’s seventh season, is that it doesn’t shy away from some of life’s toughest issues. At some point over the course of the show, each character has had to deal with their own big issues – Barney finally meeting his father, Lilly’s breakup with Marshall to pursue her art career (thank God that didn’t take), and Ted’s constant quest for his soul mate (still ongoing). And just last year, mid-way through the season, Marshall’s father passed away. So when last night’s episode came along and it was Robin’s turn for some trouble, it was nothing new to HIMYM fans.

First of all, I loved how the episode started off with a twist on the typical opening, with Robin telling her future kids the story of tonight’s episode. In telling them the story of “how I met your father,” Robin seems to finally put to rest the question of whether or not Barney and Robin end up together. In fact, this opening seemed to confirm that Robin was really pregnant, that Barney really was the father, and that things were going to be a whole lot different from now on.

Robin's future kids listen to her tell the story

But a trip to the doctor not only dismissed Robin’s pregnancy, it gave the episode a 180 spin with the news that Robin was barren. Throughout the episode, Robin’s emotions were all over the place and she took the audience along with her. Though there were brief periods of happiness, the overall feeling of the episode was quite a downer, but that’s okay. I don’t take joy in seeing Robin or the others struggle, but I appreciate the fact that the writers aren’t afraid to delve into the darker side of life that sitcoms so frequently avoid. In the end, these major issues lead to more dynamic characters and greater character development.

To be honest, I was hoping that the pregnancy scare was real. Some people may find that shocking, but I’m ready for some of the characters on HIMYM to change, especially Robin and Barney. After six-and-a-half seasons, everybody is getting older (along with the show itself), and with age comes change. I’m ready for Ted, Robin and Barney to either settle down or get closer to it as the end nears. Still, I can understand why the writers turned Robin’s pregnancy into a fake-out. Last March, HIMYM got picked up for two more seasons, putting it into at least May 2013. Robin being pregnant would probably pose a problem with so much time left before the show finally signs off.

Overall, “Symphony of Illumination” was a solid episode, resolving the pregnancy issue while simultaneously exploring Robin’s attitude towards having kids. Putting characters through hard times makes them more relatable, which leads to more of a connection for the audience and a more enjoyable show. As “How I Met Your Mother” hits the mid-season break of it’s seventh season, it once again proves that a great sitcom doesnt’ always have to stay away from the harshness of reality.