How I Met Your Mother – The Stamp Tramp episode review 1

Brad returns in The Stamp Tramp and uses Marshall’s goodhearted nature to take advantage of him.

★★★☆☆

The Stamp Tramp tackles Marshall’s over-enthusiastic tendency to give just about anything his stamp of approval. The others argue that he’s too much of a nice guy sometimes and gives rather awful things a stamp just to be nice. His excessive stamping gets him in trouble when he agrees to set up a disheveled Brad with a job interview at his law firm.  Meanwhile, the stamp talk gets Ted worked up about the fact that he’s never been the first to give his stamp of approval to something good. And with Nick now out of the picture, Robin and Barney took one step closer to their future wedding with a sloppy, drunken kiss. “The Stamp Tramp” was better than last week’s episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” but overall the show is starting to show its age.  If you watch a rerun of an episode from one of the earlier seasons, it’s easy to see—those jokes and stories are simply funnier and more memorable.  But that sort of thing is bound to happen when a show gets into its eighth season, and now the show is doing it’s best with an older cast and changing times for its characters.

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“The Stamp Tramp” opens with Barney’s predicament: since Quinn has gone back to working at The Lusty Leopard, he has to find a new strip club.  After being a loyal customer for the past seven years, Barney’s now a free agent who can consider all of the different offers he receives from places that want to be his exclusive establishment. Strip clubs from all over New York City come to plead their case before him at MacLaren’s, including Moneyball (represented by a dork focused on crunching numbers), The Golden Oldies (an old guy insisting that old strippers have their benefits) and The Lusty Leopard itself, begging for his return. When Robin hears about all this, she mentions that Barney is like the Lebron James of strip clubs, setting up the joke for the rest of the episode.

Though the Lebron James reference comes about two years late (The Decision happened during the summer of 2010), it was still a clever bit. And besides being a fun jab at the NBA’s most hated player, it was also a way to bring Barney and Robin together again. Since Barney is struggling to sort through all the strip clubs wooing him, Robin offers to act as his agent and find the best place for him. She ends up taking bribes from The Golden Oldies and picking them as Barney’s new club, which he soon finds out and then fires her as his agent.  But the two make up after a night of drinking, and as they stumble out of the bar together, Barney plants a sloppy kiss on Robin.  Robin is flustered by the kiss, after insisting that “this can’t happen,” she leaves Barney to awkwardly reflect on his actions.

It’s good that “How I Met Your Mother” isn’t wasting any time in getting to Barney and Robin’s eventual wedding, but this drunken kiss scene was just weird, uncomfortable, and could’ve been handled better. In last week’s episode, Barney and Robin almost shared a kiss after Barney confessed his love for her in front of Nick, which would’ve been the right way to do it.  It’s a mystery as to why the writers thought that they should both be drunk when the kiss actually happened.  Maybe they figured that Barney would have to be drunk in order to actually make a move on Robin, particularly after she just broke up with Nick.  But the bottom line is that Barney and Robin’s reunion and re-hook-up should’ve been a romantic reminder of their old feelings for one another, not this drunken disaster.

While Barney and Robin stumbled back into their relationship, Marshall was busy dealing with the consequences of his stamp tramp ways. The rest of the group insists that he gives his stamps of approval out far too frequently and to plenty of things that really shouldn’t be recommended (such as a restaurant whose health rating was just bumped up from an F to a D). His latest blunder is giving a stamp of approval to his old friend Brad, a former lawyer who shows up outside Marshall’s office building looking ragged and unemployed.  Marshall gives Brad his stamp of approval and sets him up with an interview at Honeywell & Cootes, only to find out that Brad was spying on them for the law firm that’s representing the opposition in their latest case.  Honeywell tells Marshall that if he doesn’t win this case, he’s fired.

Marshall’s stamp tramp storyline was funny but also kind of sad, seeing how Brad (who has always been amusing in previous appearances on the show) just took advantage of Marshall’s tendency to always see the good in people.  What a depressing message to take home from Marshall’s story – that it’s good to be kind to others but if you’re too giving, people might take advantage of you.  It’s a true life lesson, but one we don’t want to learn from our favorite “HIMYM” characters, especially not at the tribulation of Marshall Erikson!

All the stamp of approval talk gets Ted thinking about his own stamps, especially after Barney accuses him of being a “Piggyback Stamper.”  Barney insists that Ted’s stamps are always on things that other group members have discovered. In a quest to find just one thing that he honestly found on his own, Ted searches through old college home videos and finds that Barney was right – every “brilliant” idea he had in college came from somebody else.  But in a sweet turn of events (and really the only good part to Ted’s story), it’s revealed that Ted persuaded Marshall to stick with Lily when they first started dating in college.

As with most of Ted’s narratives on the show, his search for an original stamp of approval was rather boring and unappealing. Maybe it was because there was such a focus on his lame college years, or because of the fact that he tends to latch on to things that nobody else (including the audience) cares about. Revisiting his college days meant a return to Doctor X, a joke that’s always been more pitiful than amusing. Most of what Ted does on the show can be summed up by a particular exchange he has with Lily in The Stamp Tramp.  When he tells her that he’s going to rise to her challenge to find something original that he stamped, she casually comments, “Didn’t challenge you, don’t care.”  We couldn’t agree with you more, Lil.

Overall, The Stamp Tramp was a decent episode, especially for a somewhat subdued eighth season thus far. Barney and Robin shared their first kiss since their break up (as sloppy and uncomfortable as it was) and Marshall was set up for the biggest case of his career (foreshadowing a possible mid-life crisis story arc?). Though there were plenty of funny moments, The Stamp Tramp seemed more focused on moving the characters forward along their storylines, especially Robin and Barney in their relationship.  Things are moving quickly in season eight, which is a good sign that ‘somewhere down the road” isn’t very far off now. Maybe once we finally get there, the show can return to the strength of seasons past.