This week, Robin has to decide whether or not to make the ultimate commitment. No, it doesn't involve her relationship with Barney...it's all about making the leap and becoming an American citizen. But can the ultimate Canadian leave the Great White North behind? Meanwhile, Ted and Marshall find out if they can still do an old-fashioned road trip now that they're long out of college.
Future Ted begins by reminding his (unseen) kids that Aunt Robin was Canadian and that, as such, she was a little different from your regular girl. We see the gang suiting up for some ice skating, bundled in their wintery best, while Robin enters in a denim mini-skirt and short sleeved T-shirt. At McLaren's, Robin complains to Ted about their electric bill using the Canadian term for what we Yanks call a garbage disposal (garburator, per Wikipedia, is indeed what they call it in Canada. I know...weird, right?) And finally we see her in a bar brawl at the Hoser Hut (last seen in season 4's "Little Minnesota"). I guess it's not always that friendly there, eh? A review of the scene seems to indicate a Montreal Canadian/Vancouver Canuck split to the two fighting sides, although we never do see who Robin is threatening to brain with a chair.
At McLaren's, Robin declares Canada the best country in the world, which leads Barney to start up a bar-wide "U-S-A" chant. But Robin argues that it proves nothing, as drunk people will chant anything. Her attempt to get a "Canada" chant going falls flat, however, so apparently people will not, in fact, chant anything. They will, however, chant along with Barney and his "shrimp fried rice," but who wouldn't, because that stuff is delicious. Ted walks in and joins in the chanting like the goof he is before sitting down to tell Marshall that, sadly, Gazzola's is closing.
What is Gazzola's, you ask? Apparently it's a pizza place in Chicago that Ted and Marshall discovered, and even though they went to college in Connecticut (Wesleyan University), they still went back there on road trips in the Fiero (last seen being put out to pasture in "Arrivederci, Fiero"). It was on these road trips, explains Marshall, that he and Ted really became bros. Twenty-two hours, with nothing but beef jerky and Tantrum soda. Tantrum, Future Ted tells us, is a soft drink with the highest caffeine content legally available over the counter. It was apparently banned by the F.D.A. for making lab rats explode, although at McLaren's, Ted seems almost wistful as he describes how it once made him colorblind for four days. And apparently Marshall passes out when he hears church bells due to his Tantrum intake. All of this reminiscing leaves Ted and Marshall only one choice: road trip to Gazzola's!
The next day Ted is packed up with jerky and Tantrum and ready for the road trip. Apparently he's already had one can, which leads to him ripping up a chair cushion and yelling "Tantrum!" Is soda-rage a thing? A psyched up Ted explains to Barney how awesome this road trip will be, just him and Marshall, because apparently since getting married, Marshall no longer says "I"...everything is "we" (whether it's watching a football game or getting hemorrhoids removed). As Ted exits to the kitchen, Robin enters to tell Barney that she's being sued. Looks like that chair in the opening wasn't just a threat; she broke the guy's nose and is now facing deportment. BUT...she has the option of becoming an American citizen and avoiding the deportment. Barney offers to help her study for the citizenship test (after making several jokes of the "bone up" variety) because it is, as he says, difficult, unlike the easy Canadian one, which consists of two questions:
- Do you want to be Canadian?
Marshall arrives, wearing one of those helmets that holds your drink for you; one side holds black coffee, the other side Tantrum. He calmly asks Ted for a phone book, and when Ted obliges, he rips it in half and yells "Tantrum!"—a feat that also causes Ted to scream the aforementioned carbonated beverage's name. Again, a review of the tape indicates that the book was already pre-ripped except for the bottom inch or so, with a sound effect added to make it sound like Marshall was indeed ripping a phone book in half. Although it's a credit to the production team and Jason Segel that I could legitimately believe he could have pulled that off for real. Guy is huge. As Robin and Barney look on in stunned admiration, who should arrive but Lily to add a third wheel to Ted and Marshall's road trip.
The first thing we learn about Lily on road trips is that she has to pee, like, a lot. The gallon jug of water she has is probably a contributor to that, but Marshall assures Ted that, pee breaks aside, this road trip will be just like old times, and we zip back to 1999 and Ted and Marshall belting out The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" while eating some beef jerky. (My first thought was that this might violate Marshall's long-held "no food/no drink in the Fiero" rule, but I figure one of Tantrum's side effects was memory loss, so maybe Marshall and Ted don't remember that they ever broke it, until just now, when Ted hears about Gazzola's. That's my explanation, anyway.) However, our current-day road trip has Lily and her bag of sugar-snap peas, which sends her into another potty break, the first of many, as we flash back and forth from 1999 to present day. The best moment is a shirtless Ted paying a toll and saying "Thank YOU!" (in that same high-pitched voice he used in the season opener "Definitions") while Marshall guzzles Tantrum. So apparently that's not a new thing for Ted.
As the road trip from hell (from Ted's perspective) continues, Lily offers some listening material: a "Marley & Me"-esque audiobook called "Goodbye, Sparky"—read by, of all people, Kenny Rogers. So he doesn't just do reasonably priced chicken restaurants, huh? The book continues for more than seven discs (that we hear), but before we can get through a list of all the balls Sparky liked to play with (including grapefruit, which isn't really a ball, but is round), the gang arrives at a hotel. Well, not a hotel so much as a charming little bed-and-breakfast called Crumpet Manor, which more or less exclusively caters to couples. So now Ted has become the third wheel, and he looks on in barely disguised disgust as Marshall and Lily merge into a single being (Mily?) and exclaim that they'd love a cornmeal body scrub. But maybe that's just the Tantrum talking. Eventually, Ted decides he's had enough and kidnaps Marshall in the middle of the night, ostensibly for a beer run—but once they're in the car Ted reveals that they're on their way to Chicago and Gazzola's.
As the road trip resumes, Marshall insists that he can't do this, and that Lily will be pissed at him for abandoning her, but Ted promises fun anyway. How much fun? Five hundred miles of fun, via The Proclaimers, which has Marshall more or less instantly dismissing whether or not Lily will be pissed, such is the power of The Proclaimers. They finally reach Gazzola's and are enjoying the pizza (even with the chest pains it apparently causes) when they discover that the secret ingredient in the delicious crust is cornmeal. This, of course, brings Marshall back to his adult senses, and he realizes that leaving Lily behind was the wrong thing to do. He storms out, with Ted close behind, to return to Crumpet Manor. But on the way there, the "Goodbye, Sparky" audiobook seems to be talking about Ted and Marshall and Lily, with Ted occupying the Sparky role. Apparently just because you get married you shouldn't leave old friends behind, especially not when they can get pancaked by a car (Sparky, not Ted). The bros make apologies, and then decide to put "Goodbye, Sparky" back on. Never underestimate the power of a sentimental dog story.
Back at Crumpet Manor, the guys are shocked to discover Lily never even noticed they were gone. She was apparently too busy getting various spa treatments and rubdowns to notice her phone vibrating. So not only is she not mad, she had fun on her own. And it turns out it's probably for the best she didn't get any pizza, as 19 minutes later Ted and Marshall are cursing Gazzola's and screaming in gut-wrenching agony at the stomach pains the pizza brought out. Ted compares the feeling to a ball of lead, but Marshall one-ups him by asking Lily to "cut it out" of him (while your recapper has flashbacks to the "not again!" scene from "Spaceballs").
Meanwhile, while all this is going on, Barney and Robin have their own excitement to deal with. Barney's citizenship coaching is less concerned with getting Robin ready for the test (which she already seems ready for) then it is with getting Robin to finally embrace being an American, which apparently means buying stuff that's bad for you and then suing the people who made it. He'd also like her to denounce curling and realize that a picture of Queen Elizabeth II is actually, as he puts it, Elton John. After much training, Robin gets to the final question: Who is this guy? The guy in question is Jim Varney in his Ernest P. Worrell guise (you may also know him as the voice of Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story films) but Robin IDs him as comedian Jeff Foxworthy. However, she is so belligerent in defense of her (wrong) answer that Barney gives her credit for the answer anyway, belligerence in the face of wrongness being the American Way, and he pronounces her ready for citizenship.
However, while walking (home?), throwing empty beer cans in the street and yelling at taxi drivers to learn English, she sees the Hoser Hut. She voices over to herself (have we ever had a present-day, non-Future Ted, voiceover?) that one drink will surely be OK. But before you can say Saskatchewan, she's drinking Labatt Blue and singing "Oh, Canada" with the rest of the patrons. Who can blame her, though? "Oh, Canada" is a really great national anthem, seriously.
The next morning Barney finds her in a hotel room in (dramatic curtain pull back) Toronto! Apparently she met up with a women's curling team, and the next thing she knew, she was on her way to a Bryan Adams/Rich Little concert. She declares, despite Barney's protestations, that she is and always will be Canadian. However, the cashier at Tim Hortons (kind of the Canadian Dunkin' Donuts) says otherwise, because she paid with American money, had not watched the preceding night's Maple Leafs game, and did not say "please" or "thank you" for her coffee. This leaves Robin unsure of whether she belongs to any country, but Barney leaps up on a chair and proclaims that letting girls like Robin get away is what Canada does wrong (besides having Monopoly-like money). This earns him a beatdown from the Tim Hortons patrons, but luckily (thanks to Canada's free healthcare), he makes it back to New York in more or less one piece — although he does sport a black eye, a neck brace, and crutches. Ouch.
Seeing Barney get a beating for impugning Canada simultaneously made Robin glad to be American (because it has guys like Barney) and glad to be Canadian (because they stood up to defend their country's honor, and Robin may or may not have kicked him once or twice after he was knocked unconscious). So she decides to have the best of both worlds: dual citizenship. Just then, Barney regains the vision in his left eye, so it's a win-win for everyone! How this will affect the lawsuit against her is not mentioned, so unless it comes back dramatically in a future episode, I think we can assume it got settled some way.
So, what did everyone think? For those who've felt the last few episodes were a little off with people acting out of character, was this a return to form? For those who think the show has been on a roll, did this continue the momentum? Anyone have any stories about their own Gazzola's-like places, where the food is great while you eat it but you pay for it later? Have at it in the comments!