“Desperation Day,” as Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) explains, is the 24-hour period leading up until Valentine’s Day, in which the single ladies are ripe for the picking. Back story is delivered in a tunic-filled historic reenactment, allowing Robin (Cobie Smulders) to do her generic/amazing period piece voice. (If there’s still any chance of getting her in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” may we be the first to enthusiastically suggest?)
So D-day is just another vehicle for Barney to have casual sex. Or is it? Our player is dealt a surprising card in the form of a beautiful Brit who smells like rain and knows his game all too well. But before we get to that, let’s look at our other players, all avoiding Valentine’s for one reason or another.
Still temporarily widowed by Marshall’s (Jason Segel) stay in Minnesota, Lily (Alyson Hannigan) is getting a little stir crazy. She dresses a body pillow in her husband’s clothing, names him “Marsh-pillow,” before heading to Minnesota to keep him company. But instead of finding him doting on his mother, he’s completely regressed into his childhood self.
Taking things at a snail’s pace with Zoey (Jennifer Morrison), Ted (Josh Radnor) thinks he’s finally going to the next level with his new girl when she invites him over to “bake cookies.” His overnight bag, complete with “British morning socks,” throws her for a loop and she reveals that she’s taking this new relationship really seriously. Her clearly not being the mother, he is not. So he too flees to St. Cloud, Minnesota, apparently the avoidance capital of the Midwest.
Several lines into his attempt to bed a coquettish little thing in a mustard cardigan, Barney realizes that she knows him too well to succumb to his usual tactics. But instead of giving up, he waxes on about his love laser tag. Nora spends the rest of her Desperation Day evening hanging out with the abridged gang, before leaving Barney slightly heartbroken at their McLarens booth.
Not one to complain about being date-less for Desperation Day, Robin hits the bars with her awkward co-workers, one of whom is Artemis Pebdani, playing more or less the same character she does on “It’s Always Sunny.” Not that we’d ever complain… Robin doesn’t get a whole lot of development in the episode, but being the best ex-girlfriend ever, she ditches the Valentine’s laser tag competition and sends Nora in her stead. We’ll give this new relationship two or three more episodes before we start seeing some jealousy from Scherbatsky.
As much as Marshall would like to think his mother is enjoying his lingering in Minnesota, she’s over it. She tells Lily to take him back to New York with her, but he won’t budge. Going home means fully digesting the loss of his father. The time and care “HIMYM” has given this storyline is one of the more memorable things its ever done. And before we see it dip out of weekly reference, we get a parting shot from Bill Fagerbakke as Marvin Eriksen Sr. Marshall. He takes a seat behind his son as he drives down a road beset with metaphor-laden blizzard, and tells him he never really knew where he was going either.
And if Marshall can accept life without his father, Ted can certainly deal with the emotional pressures of the newly divorced Zoey. They head back to New York to take their respective bulls by their horns.