How I Met Your Mother
The Stamp Tramp

Episode Report Card
Ethan Alter: C | 1 USERS: D-
YOU GRADE IT
Barney Tricker and the Stamp Tramper

We start with a reminder that Barney used to date (and was briefly engaged to) a stripper, although said stripper is fortunate enough not to have to actually make an appearance in this episode. (Way to dodge a bullet, Becki Newton.) Since their break-up, said stripper has returned to work at her place of employ, The Lusty Leopard, thus ruining the spot for her ex-fiancé. Now a freelance perv in need of a new place to get his rocks on, eat popcorn, watch a body move to a pop song that he's singin', ding a lingin', funky beats ringin', Barney's reveals that he's being wooed to be the star player payer at other clubs, leading Robin to drop what appears to be a random LeBron James reference. But nothing is ever random on this show (well… almost nothing; Katy Perry's guest spot appearance a few seasons back was pretty random), so you can expect that gag to recur later. For now, just put a pin in it -- a pin attached to a scrap of paper that says "Warning: Dated pop culture joke ahead."

With that belabored set-up out of the way, we move on to what constitutes the episode's A-plot: Marshall turns up and tells the group that he bumped into his old law school buddy Brad (played by Joe Manganiello, sadly not reprising his Magic Mike character Big Dick Richie) outside his office and was horrified to learn that the guy currently appears to be homeless and destitute, reduced to pilfering half-eaten hot dogs from garbage cans. Wanting to do a solid for a friend, Marshall mentioned that his firm is looking to hire an associate and that he'd put in a good word for Brad. This inspires a burst of chatter from the rest of the gang, but you'll have to wait until after the theme song to find out why.

As the melodic "bah bah bah" of the title track fades away, it seems that the gang is chattering because Marshall has a bad habit of giving dubious things -- like his homeless buddy Brad -- his "stamp of approval." "You're a stamp tramp," Robin says matter-of-factly, as Cobie Smulders inwardly rolls her eyes about having to add yet another made-up term to the growing HIMYM glossary of words and phrases that don't actually mean anything. Ever the brown-noser, Ted helpfully provides us with the definition: a "stamp tramp" is a person who gives away his or her stamp of approval to everything to the point where it's rendered meaningless. As an example of another stamp tramp, Ted offers up his poor old mother, who apparently recommends any movie that has Richard Dreyfuss in it. (Which means the last time she was inside a movie theater was in 2010 for a double bill of Piranha 3D and Red, as those were the most recent movies Dick Dreyfuss appeared in. Wonder what she thought of the severed-penis gag in Piranha?)

Marshall's stamp tramp ways have gotten him into trouble before, like when he ordered from a stamp-approved takeout joint that gave his entire office, including his boss Mr. Honeywell (Joe Lo Truglio) -- not to be confused with his other boss, Mr. Cootes (Martin Short) , who has yet to appear this season -- the runs. That incident didn't endear him to Honeywell, a short-tempered and just plain short hothead who holds Marshall's future in his hands, specifically in regards to a big case that the firm has coming up that he desperately wants to be a part of. Even though all his friends suggest giving up on Brad, Marshall plays the Minnesota card and says that he's going to stand by his man and his stamp. Just when the scene seems over, the writers suddenly remember that they need to give their ostensible hero, Ted, a storyline as well and concoct something about how he's a "piggyback stamper" -- meaning that he takes credit for other peoples stamps. Ted gets indignant about this as he is wont to do and dedicates his apparently copious free time (guess he's not overly concerned with making tenure) to finding one instance from his past where he contributed his own stamp instead of borrowing someone else's. It's not much of a plot, but hey, at least the words "Victoria" and/or "yellow umbrella" aren't involved.

So on Marshall's recommendation, Brad gets some face time with Honeywell and the interview goes as disastrously as you might expect, with his pal dropping not just one, but two jokes about his bowel movements and insulting his diminutive interrogator about his (lack of) height. Brad's self-immolation seems to send Marshall's future at the firm up in smoke as well, as Honeywell claims he'll never trust his opinion on anything again. Fortunately, Lily devises a cunning plan to get her hubby back into his boss's good graces, one that involves him lending his stamp of approval to minor, but great things like mixing caramel and cheddar cheese-flavored popcorn, thus proving to Honeywell that this Eriksen fellow has sound judgment after all. By the end of the episode, Marshall is in court for the big case and discovers that Brad was lying to him all along. He's actually on the opposing legal team and preyed on Marshall's good graces to infiltrate the Honeywell & Cootes HQ to gather information on their strategy. With this revelation, Honeywell turns on his heel and walks out, informing Marshall that if he doesn't win this case, he'll be the next one fishing hot dogs out of trash cans. Future Ted then helpfully informs us that this is the case that will represent the turning point in Marshall's career… and then of course adds that he'll tell us all about it at a later date. Man, Future Ted really is the worst kind of tease.

While all this is going on, Ted digs up a box of old VHS tapes documenting his college years in search of a moment where he expressed an opinion that was actually his own. What he sees isn't pretty, although it is pretty funny as douchey College Ted is one of the few remaining reliable sources of humor that this show has left. Eventually it turns out that it was College Ted's stamp of approval for Lily that helped convince Marshall to stay with her, so there's one point in his stamp column that doesn't require an asterisk for piggybacking. Meanwhile, Robin helps Barney try and pick his new favorite strip club by acting as his agent, a ruse that nets them both plenty of swag, until Barney makes her feel guilty for profiting too much from her privileged position. Eventually the day of "The Decision" arrives and the LeBron reference is called back in full, complete with an, "I'm going to take my talents to…" preamble. This joke is so timely, it can only have been suggested by Aaron Sorkin. (Apparently, it was even too dated for The Newsroom.)

Barney and Robin celebrate his choice -- which happens to be Mouth Beach, for the record -- with a night filled with drinking and groping… strippers, not each other. On the way home, though, Barney goes and spoils the mood by abruptly planting a kiss on his on-again, off-again love interest, followed by her abrupt rebuff and an equally abrupt fade to black. Sigh. And the long, slow slog back to Robin and Barney's wedding day continues. You know, I'd complain that this moderately funny episode was largely a time-waster that didn't advance the overarching plot in any significant way, but considering how terrible the overarching plot has been of late, I'd almost rather the show just keep spinning its wheels. Seven episodes down, 17 to go.

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How I Met Your Mother

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