So we’re all on the same page about last week’s farce-tinged episode of How I Met Your Mother being far from the sitcom’s finest (half) hour, yes? Be that as it may, at least “The Burning Beekeeper” had a solid structure in place -- it was just missing anything in the way of laughs. In contrast, last night’s installment, “The Drunk Train,” had a few scattered chuckles, but it lurched jerkily about like the titular mass transit choo choo that ferries inebriated travelers from Manhattan to Long Island late at night. We can’t say which type of episode we prefer: structured and unfunny, or formless and occasionally amusing. Let’s just agree that the past two episodes, along with the season in general, have been pretty terrible, m’kay?
The evening began with a few easy dick jokes, a well that the writers would return to again later on. (That’s to be expected when one of the main storylines involves a pair of drunk guys riding a train.) This first round of size gags is at the expense of poor Marshall, who has successfully badgered poor Kevin (Kal Penn, still hanging around like the last guy at a party everyone else has already ditched) into putting his hands on his wife’s belly to feel their baby kick in utero. Once the Marshall ribbing is done for the moment, Barney seizes the opportunity to flash us back to the previous evening, when Ted lured him away from an easy lay to serve as his wingman. His assignment? Keep the friend of the girl Ted’s pursuing busy by any means necessary. For Barney, that means trying to convince said friend -- whose name is Quinn, by the by -- that he’s suffering from EPS... Enormous Penis Syndrome. (See what we said about that dick joke well?) It’s a ruse that seems to be working until Quinn reveals that she’s suffering from her own condition called I’m Not a Gullible Dumbass Disorder. (Sorry Quinn -- INAGDD is a far less memorable acronym than EPS. Don’t expect any fun runs to be organized to support your particular syndrome.) Barney is initially repelled by the fact that his target actually has a great set of brains to go along with her -- well, you know -- but it’s clear that he’s also intrigued by the fact that she’s calling him on his usual B.S. Keep that thought in mind because it’ll become important later.
Anyhow, Lily and Marshall have better things to do than listen to Barney bitch and moan about his horrible experience as Ted’s wingman. For starters, they have to book it over to the train station before they’re forced to catch the last train out from Manhattan to Long Island, one that’s always filled with drunken louts and ladies eager to “hook up with anything that moves.” Hearing about this, Barney conceives of the perfect way for Ted to repay him for wasting three hours of his precious time the night before. Drunk Train, here they come!
Back from the theme song and suddenly we’re in Vermont, where Lily and Marshall have invited Kevin and Robin on a Valentine’s weekend couples retreat. The expectant couple is being adorable as usual and eagerly shares the secret of their successful relationship with the new lovers on the block. Their counseling session takes a turn for the tense, however, when it becomes clear that one of the chief components of their marriage is their endless desire to compete with each other and keep score over who won each round. Retreating to their room after dinner, Kevin suggests that they fall back on medicinal remedies to get through “five more meals and a sleigh ride with those guys.” Robin promises him another weekend to make up for this one and Kevin responds that he’s thinking beyond a mere two-day getaway. He then drops to one knee and whips out an engagement ring while Robin looks in with a mixture of shock and horror. (Mostly horror.) She says that she’s not saying no, but needs some time to think and Kevin agrees without looking too disappointed.
The next evening, Lily and Marshall try and fail to hide the fact that Robin told them what went down and, once again, Kevin doesn’t express much in the way of surprise, disappointment or really any emotion. (Note to Kal Penn: Dude, you’re not in the White House anymore. It’s okay to change your facial expression once in awhile.) Things get super-serious for a moment when Robin reveals her infertility to Lily and Marshall, explaining that that’s the reason she can’t accept Kevin’s proposal even though she thinks she wants to say yes. They advise her that honesty is the best policy and, after telling him her secret, Kevin proposes again. This time, she agrees without hesitation.
While all this is going on, Barney and Ted are happily ensconced on the Drunk Train, trading dick jokes (“It’s the little engine with wood!”) and in general being lame. How lame? So lame that they fall asleep after three minutes. They decide to try again the following evening and this time Barney comes prepared by downing 18 cups of coffee prior to boarding. His obsession with the Drunk Train is driven partly by his ever-present desire to get laid and partly by those nagging memories of Quinn summing up the details of his sad little life too succinctly for comfort. For his part, Ted wants to get back on the train because he’s fed up with his unsuccessful search for “the one.” Round two doesn’t go much better though, as the duo’s flirtations are met with slaps and half-full cups of booze in the face. After spending the night at Lily and Marshall’s Long Island pad, they finally crack the formula for what they need to do in order to take full advantage of the Drunk Train: get drunk themselves. Alcohol proves to be the magic charm, as two skanky Long Island girls throw themselves at our douchey, drunken heroes. But they can’t go through with the subsequent drunken sex as Barney can’t shake the thought of Quinn (who, it turns out, is a stripper at a gentleman’s club he frequents, which already makes her more interesting than Nora) and Ted can’t shake the thought that he’s wasting his life.
As Barney and Ted are coming to these twin realizations, Robin forces a slightly naïve Kevin to really think about what he’s agreeing to by marrying her. “You’re future always had kids in it,” she tells him. “That would be something huge you’d be giving up for me... If we get married, you will never have children. Are you really okay with that?” And with that, Kevin’s face finally registers an emotion and it’s not one that bodes well for their future together. Sure enough, Ted comes home to find a newly unengaged Robin smoking a cigarette on the roof. She spills her heart out while he listens and then utters the words that everyone at home dreaded hearing: “I love you, Robin.” Oh show, please don’t do this to us! Bring back Victoria, Stella, Karen... hell even Zoey. Just don’t make us have to sit through Ted & Robin Version 2.0