To sum up the past two episodes: Kevin proposed. Robin admitted she couldn’t/wouldn’t have children. Kevin un-proposed. Upon hearing this, Ted felt the appropriate response was to tell Robin that he loved her (because that worked so well the first time). Audiences nationwide groaned as they were hit with the Robin Wrench for the upteenth time in HIMYM history (and I hate to say I told you so, but, called it).
Which brings us to the present: Robin and Ted kiss the next morning and are both excited to see where their relationship is going to go (despite that, 24 hours earlier, Robin was engaged to an entirely different man). However, their talking time is suddenly cut short when Robin’s coworker (and nemesis, apparently) Patrice arrives to whisk her away to Russia for coverage of the Moscow butter festival. She leaves Ted with a kiss and promises they’ll pick up where they left on when she returns in a week.
Ted immediately calls Marshall to meet him at MacLaren’s (at seven in the morning, no less). Marshall receives this call while asleep in bed with Lily and Barney, who explains that he took the drunk train (see last week’s episode) and needed a place to crash. As Lily leaves to go after Marshall, she tells Barney not to mess with anything and not to look for a sex tape because they certainly didn’t have one. Barney’s response? Challenge accepted. He calls a maid service over to help him go through the contents of their Long Island home and, instead of a sex tape, finds a cash box decorated (in glitter), "Long Term bets."
At the bar, Lily is trying to convince Ted to make a grand romantic gesture he is so capable of (like when he stole the blue French horn from the restaurant where they had their first date, or dressed in the same Halloween costume five years in a row, or took a girl with a tight schedule on a two minute date): leave her voicemails! Follow her to Russia! Take a hot air balloon to get there! Marshall knows they’re all things Robin would hate, but Ted is nearly sold — that is, until Barney runs in and reveals that Lily bet Marshall that Robin and Ted wouldn’t end up together.
That’s not the only things they’ve wagered on — the couple have been placing bets (for money) on their friends for years. Their excuse? It’s an escape from the monotony of monogamy and their married life. Plus, they’re bored. Lily even admits she bet Marshall that Barney would one day find their sex tape. Ted is deeply hurt that Lily tried to sabotage his happiness and treated his love life so cavalierly (she tried to get Marshall to hand over her winnings when Robin and Ted broke up, when Ted got engaged, even at Ted’s wedding); Barney is long gone, searching once again for the tape. But Lily insists that she was never rooting against him – she just feels that Robin the girl he belongs with, and he knows it on some level too, because he hasn’t settled down with her by now.
Back in his apartment, Ted is trying to figure out why he and Robin aren’t together, when Barney rushes in, sex tape in hand. And then something clicks: Robin is in love with Barney. Confronted, Barney denies it, but Ted brings us the night he saw Barney putting away all the rose petals and candles in Robin’s room (really, Ted? You didn’t question that as soon as it happened? Classic Shmoseby), and Barney comes clean. He tells him how they spent a night together, that he broke up with Norah because of it, and Robin didn’t do the same with Kevin. But because she didn’t feel the same way about him, Barney says he’s over her (in a scene that convinces no one but the perpetually dense Moseby) and if Ted wanted to date her, he’d support them. Bros before hoes – though, in this situation, Robin is the bro. Satisfied, they settle in to watch their best friends get it on.
Marshall and Lily come bursting in, each trying to win the sex tape bet. Barney eventually becomes so traumatized by Lily’s seduction and Marshall’s repulsive sex outtakes that he destroys Ted’s VCR before they can watch the tape.
When Robin finally returns, Ted picks her up from the airport, takes her to dinner at that same first-date restaurant, and they talk once they’re home — and they both realize it isn’t going to work out. According to Robin, this isn’t because of Barney: it’s because Ted’s friendship is stability for her, and she’d never want to lose that. Ted, to his credit, isn’t bitter at all — but he does call off their deal to be together if they turn 40 and are still single, because he knows that he’d otherwise be clinging to the hope that she’ll someday love him, which she doesn’t. When Ted tells Marshall this the next, day, he respects his maturity at the whole situation — but, as his best friend, also knows that he can’t be the one to tell Robin to move out, so Marshall does it for him.
Though there may have been some minor factual errors in this episode (there’s no way that Marshall and Lily’s sex tape would require any video device predating the DVD player), HIMYM has taken a major step. They finally tackled the Ted-Barney-Robin dynamic (remember, the one Victoria said was at the root of all Ted’s failed relationships?), and they handled it well – though Marshall’s refusal to pay up on Lily’s bet at the end suggests that plot line might not be entirely resolved. But as seemingly gratuitous and out of the blue as their brief reunion might have been, Robin and Ted’s last shot at love did something important: it made Ted move on. He had all but given up on the one, but now he’s open to finding her once again, and she could be anywhere. Emboldened by this, he walks out of MacLaren’s, into the rain, and everyone around him is a girl with a yellow umbrella — the same one the mother uses. Suddenly, everyone is a possibility.
Flashback to Marshall and Lily about to film their sex tape
Marshall: Lily, I thought you said you wanted to.
Lily: It was your idea.
Marshall: I starved myself for week to get camera-ready.
Lily: You had a bear claw for breakfast.
Marshall: Yeah, a bear claw.
Barney, on his knees while ransacking Lily and Marshall’s
Barney: God, if you help me find this sex tap, I am going to make some changes in my life. I am going to stop sleeping around, quit drinking so much, no more shenanigans. I am going to devote my entire life to doing good deeds and praising your name.
Maid: Is this what you’re looking for, Mr. Barney?
Barney: Never mind bro, found it.
Barney destroys the VCR
Ted: Barney, that was my VCR.
Barney: Ted, it’s a VCR.