How I Met Your Mother Falters in the First Half, But Finds a Second Wind in “Ring Up”

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Did anyone else get the impression, while watching “Ring Up,” the writers were deliberately writing most of this episode for How I Met Your Mother’s more devoted fans? Ever since she was offhandedly mentioned way back in Season 5, I have read many a forum/blog posting theorizing Barney’s half-sister would wind up being the girl Ted marries. It wasn’t the worst theory in the world – she’s old enough to go to college, if not old enough to drink in a bar –and for a while I was really starting to hope it came true. But “Ring Up” not only proved Carly isn’t the mother, it rather blatantly taunted those fans by having Ted sleep with her and Barney force a wedding upon them.

Of course, they don’t actually get married. That’s just Barney’s way of dealing with the idea of his best friend nailing his sister. It was a joy to see such a prominent theory be directly addressed and debunked. As soon as it became clear who Carly really was the jokes were ten times funnier. Unfortunately, it took more than half the episode to get to that point and everything that came before is largely forgettable. It’s just another story of Ted dating a random girl he met that isn’t going to mean much in the long run. If dating Barney’s sister weren’t such a goldmine of winning comedic material, the episode would have fallen on its face. Thankfully, Barney’s mixed feelings – he’s disgusted, but keeps asking for details accidentally – changes the tide. But did it change it enough?

Ted and Barney’s storyline might have had a last minute change up for the better, but the other storylines were still mediocre at best. We got yet another weird Marshall and Lily sex story, this time brought on because apparently Lily is attracted to the idea of Marshall being some loser in a band. We get it, these two are into some weird crap and they have a lot of sex. It’s kind of a tired gag. And giving Marshall an allergic reaction to a wristband he’s wearing doesn’t make it work any better; it’s an old trick.

Speaking of old tricks, how many sitcoms can you name that have done the whole “wearing an engagement/wedding ring turns you invisible to single men” storyline? HIMYM tries to make this old joke seem fresh by putting a Lord of the Rings spin to it, but it’s still the same thing we’ve seen time and time again. While I appreciated the brief musical sequence and Robin’s heartwarming realization she doesn’t need to be noticed by every man so long as she has Barney, it just wasn’t enough to justify the entirety of the, mostly, one-note joke.

“Ring Up” suffered by relying too much on what we’ve already seen, made all the more clear by switching things up in the second half and having Barney be the one appalled by something Ted did – a complete role reversal. If this change had happened sooner in the episode and affected all storylines we might have wound up with a better overall episode. As it stands, we got a passable half-hour; not the best we’ve seen from HIMYM, but it could have been a lot worse.

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