'How I Met Your Mother' Review: "The Poker Game"

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How I Met Your Mother’ season 9 offers its fifth episode of the final year, “The Poker Game,” as Barney finds himself caught between Robin, James (Wayne Brady) and his mother Loretta ('American Horror Story''s Frances Conroy), while Ted, Marshall and Lily argue over wedding gifts from years earlier.

Last week’s ‘How I Met Your Mother’ installment “The Broken Code” saw Barney and Ted sorting out Ted’s lingering feelings for Robin, while Lily attempted to find Robin a female friend besides herself, so how does the final season keep rolling down the aisle?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ season 9 episode 5, “The Poker Game!”

While Marshall and Daphne (Sherri Shepherd) argue about stopping at a Chicago pizza place, Barney’s bachelor poker game winds down, with Ted espousing his love of getting people wedding gifts to Lily’s chagrin. Future Ted remembers how Lily and Marshall had believed Ted never got them a wedding gift, repeatedly dropping hints about it over the years that Ted never seemed to pick up. Even after getting Ted a gift-wrapping station for his wedding to Stella, Ted finally mailed back his thank-you note as a gift.

Meanwhile, Robin finds herself continually annoyed by Barney’s brother James' criticisms of marriage, though Barney does his best to avoid getting caught in the middle. Pointing out that he still wears a wedding ring, Robin bets James to give it up over a hand, ultimately winning. James quickly returns with his mother Loretta, while Ted tells Marshall over the phone that he actually gifted an expensive coffeemaker as a wedding present, though they never sent a thank-you note, and Ted too had been dropping hints over the years.

Barney comes to Lily and Ted for advice, for which Lily recommends he side with the wife, also pointing out to Ted that it was actually their friends Stuart and Claudia who had bought the coffeemaker. Meanwhile, Robin plays Loretta for the ring, ultimately costing Barney’s mother her shirt. Barney begs her to return the items to his family, but Robin insists Barney should be taking her side, ultimately handing the shirt and ring over to Barney. Along the way, Robin confirms to Lily that Ted bought the coffeemaker, and a quick trip downstairs sees wedding guest Stuart admitting he took credit to look good for his own girlfriend.

Barney returns to Robin with the ring and shirt, having realized from a conversation with James that he too had been selfish in the relationship, and needed to view marriage with Robin as a partnership. Rather than stop there however, Barney went overboard with his mother and brother in saying that Robin wanted him to cut ties altogether, alarming Robin. Elsewhere, Ted and Marshall make up over the phone, as Marshall sees that Ted paid a pizza delivery man to deliver to Marshall on the highway as a thank-you.

After the credits, Robin attempts to return Loretta’s blouse and end the conflict, though Loretta retorts that the war for Barney has only just begun.

Yikes. So, remember last week, wherein we realized that a story that perfectly warranted the mother's inclusion into the gang (and overall arc of the season at large) revealed how glaring filler episodes would become over the course of time spent at that Farhampton Inn? "The Poker Game" fails to merit even that excuse, and instead presents as its addition to the final season a few minor conflicts quickly glazed over by a shift in perspective.

Granted, the same could be said of any sitcom story, but the few and far between laughs 'How I Met Your Mother' manages to conjure from some earnest wordplay and hammy performances seems especially paper-thin when the story flat-out isn't there. Marshall remains on the road, though not incapable of drudging up a six-year feud we've apparently heard nothing about, and Barney and Robin learn another minor lesson that will wind up undermined by doubt in the hours before the wedding anyway (we've already seen it).

Oh, and for some reason, digital footage is used to insert Katie Holmes' Slutty Pumpkin character into the background of a Halloween shot, Frances Conroy takes her top off, and we see another brief glimpse of the future in a tanned and corn-rowed Barney's return from a honeymoon in Belize (no, not that kind). Other than that, "filler" feels far too generous a description for "The Poker Game," which apparently even lacked the effort of a more interesting title.

Well, what say you? Did ‘How I Met Your Mother’’s latest “The Poker Game” sell you on the final season format?  What did you think about Robin's war with Barney's family? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again next week for another all-new recap of ‘How I Met Your Mother’’s latest episode “Knight Vision” on CBS!

http://youtu.be/nsezmGkKBOk

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