If there is one thing How I Met Your Mother has become good at in its eight years of broadcast history, it’s how to properly spread things out. “P.S. I Love You” is the fourth time HIMYM has ventured into the “Robin Sparkles” era of Robin’s past. Some might think this is dipping in to the well a little too often, but considering how stretched out these episodes are its becomes more acceptable. The last time we visited Robin Sparkles was back in Season 6’s “Glitter,” and thank goodness we’ve had a two-year gap in between. It gave us enough time to mostly forget what a letdown that episode was. In terms of quality, “P.S. I Love You” is more in line with Season 3’s “Sandcastles in the Sand,” which is a comparison worthy of the highest praise – though we did get a surprisingly enjoyable callback to “Glitter” with Barney exclaiming “It’s Robin Sparkes 4, y’all!” Heck, I might even be so bold as to say this was the best Robin Sparkles episode.
Unless you’ve been paying attention to the previews, you might not have even been aware “P.S. I Love You” was going to the fourth and final Robin Sparkles episode. It starts off with a focus on Ted and the subject of stalking – we’ll get to his storyline in a bit – which segued into Robin revealing she once stalked someone while still living in Canada. Barney, being the overly curious type that he is, makes it his mission to discover which of Robin’s exes she became obsessed over. He flies all the way to Vancouver and interviews each ex-boyfriend in a Tim Hortons – the Canadian jokes are really top-notch, which is saying something considering this is my homeland they’re poking fun at – eventually leading Barney to come face-to-face with Simon (James Van Der Beek), who left Robin for the never-seen Louise Marsh.
Can I just stop for a second and say, without a shadow of a doubt, the only thing that could have made “P.S. I Love You” any better would’ve been more screen time for James Van Der Beek? Simon is just so fun, even if his Canadian accent is borderline Irish.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way; Simon’s brief conversation with Barney inadvertently brings Barney’s attention to a taping of Under the Tunes, the Canadian version of Behind the Music, that tells the story of Robin’s obsession and the end of her career as a pop star. Cue Barney running out of Tim Hortons like a mad man on a quest. He of course finds it – I often wonder how Barney is able to scrounge up old VHS tapings of practically anything – and plays it for Ted, Marshall and Lily, who are all too eager to bask in Robin’s shameful past. What follows is just pure genius; a melting pot of Canadian celebrities – it’s okay if you have no idea who some of them are because even I couldn’t tell you who K.D. Lang is – and so many jokes at the expense of Canada, but they’re made with such love – and let’s face it, most of them are shockingly accurate and we’re just too proud to admit it.
HIMYM knows how to write these Robin origin stories in truly satisfying ways, with “Glitter” as a bizarre exception. I couldn’t have had more fun watching Barney interacting with Canadians and having his own one-quarter-Canadian-on-his-father’s-side self show up now again, especially during his one-sided fight with Alan Thicke. And we get one last Robin Sparks music video, although now’s changed her name to Robin Daggers. The grunge look is fun and is a fun turn for the character. The music is full of 90s stereotypes and manages to even squeeze in the robot. Overall, this was very successful final installment to the Robin Sparks saga.
Now let’s backtrack to where we left Ted: he exchanges glances with a pretty woman on the subway, noticing they are both reading the same book. Ted being Ted, he breaks out the yellow legal pad and begins jotting down everything he can remember about her so he can orchestrate a serendipitous meeting – he notes she has a cute, but crooked smile, which suggests she grinds her teeth, so he looks up the city’s top 5 TMJ specialist to see if he can track her down. Marshall and Lily douse his out of control fire, telling him he’s being creepy. They might be able to stop Ted, but nobody could keep this woman from doing the same thing. She tracks Ted down and meets him outside his building at the university. It seems innocent enough – Janet saw his chalk-covered tweed jacket and assumed he was a professor – but as the episode goes on we learn she’s less of a Lloyd Dobler – John Cusack’s character in Say Anything – and more of a Jeffrey Dahmer.
You’ve got to hand it to the writer’s for consistently coming up with great metaphors and systems for these characters to judge the world around them. This new one, the Dobler/Dahmer Theory, suggests there is a fine line between love and insanity. It’s technically a true statement; people do crazy things when they’re in love, it’s a matter of differentiating what someone does out of love and what someone does because they’re simply out of the mind. Janet starts off seeming like she’s just a girl who couldn’t stand not getting to know Ted, so she figured out where he worked and staged a meeting. But as we get to know her and Ted really starts to think about things he realizes her story doesn’t quite add up. First he finds it suspicious that she just happened to be there the day the fire alarm went off. He asks and she admits she pulled the alarm to drive him out, and he’s fine with that. But Marshall and Lily point out his building uses smoke alarms, meaning Janet would’ve had to start a fire. Yikes! But Ted’s okay with even that. Then we learn that she bought her copy of the book she and Ted were reading at the same store, on the same day, as Ted. And now the whole story comes out. She’s been stalking Ted for a year and half, ever since he was on the cover of New York Magazine. And does this finally cross the line for Ted? Nope! The two embrace in a passionate and utterly nutters kiss, with Future Ted narrating that every man needs to make one last big mistake before they meet the one they’ll marry.
Ok, I might have lied about Van Der Beek’s small role being the only weak part of the episode. I was a little uncomfortable with the rewrite of how Marshall and Lily met. It technically doesn’t change anything in a major way, but the whole point – for me at least – was that Marshall and Lily were meant to be together. They found each other naturally and it was actual serendipity. But that’s been taken away from us. Sure, it serves the story in that learning Lily fabricated meeting Marshall was likely what motivated Ted to accept Janet despite stalking him for over a year. But now I can never look these two quite the same way. But don’t let that get you down! This is still a phenomenal episode in almost every way. I’m almost a little sad this is the last time we’ll get a Robin Sparkles episode, but it’s probably for the best.