This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of How I Met Your Mother, including last night's Season 8 mid-season finale, episodes 11 and 12, “The Last Page" parts 1 and 2.
For Barney/Robin shippers, this has been a big season, and no episode bigger than the double episode midseason finale. Part of the fun of shipping is following a couple from that first meeting, through the ups and downs of their relationship until it all explodes in a supernova of romance. Long-suppressed feelings finally declared, hard-won commitments made, and in a way that's not only right for the couple but for each individual.
“The Last Page” of Barney's fabled playbook contains his greatest play of all, and, as we hear in Barney's own words, the last play he'll ever need to make. Barney plays this one like Yo Yo Ma plays the cello, tricking Ted into believing Barney intends to propose to Robin's nemesis, the ever-perky Patrice, then swearing Ted to silence. Oh, Ted, did you really ever believe Barney thought you would keep quiet on this one?
Despite the severe consequences of breaking his silence, despite the fact that this was slated to be both the celebration of Ted's skyscraper and Marshall and Lily's first night away without baby Marvin, Ted stays true to form and confesses all to Marshall, asking if he should tip Robin off and soften the blow. But does Ted still have feelings for Robin? Marshall encourages Ted to do what's best for Ted and not think of anything else...which is exactly what Ted does, delivering Robin straight to the WNN building, where he believes Barney is about to propose to Patrice. Does Robin want to do anything about that?
She does. It's Patrice who forces Robin to finally understand that feelings can't be shut off forever—hm, is there a term for a girl bromance?—and all of the feelings hit Robin at once when Ted clues her in on Barney's plans. Barney plans to propose to Patrice on the roof of the WNN building, which happens to be Robin's favorite spot in the entire city. Robin insists she's done chasing after Barney, insists she's over him, over making an ass of herself around him, but Ted reminds her how glad he is that he made an ass of himself over her, because that led to having her as his friend.
Buoyed by Ted's support, Robin heads to the roof and finds no Patrice, but lights, mistletoe, and the last page of the playbook, entitled “The Robin.” This single page spells out Barney's long game, his tricks, his accomplices, the misdirections and maneuvers, all of which put Robin in touch with her...anger. How could Barney think he could manipulate her into dating him again after it went so badly before?
Then comes the kicker. Barney asks Robin to turn the page over, and when she does, she reads the final step in the final play Barney will ever make. “The I Propose: she says yes.” Robin lowers the paper to see Barney down on one knee, offering a diamond ring. No dating this time, but marriage. Robin does, and the crowd goes wild. The crowd meaning shippers, of course, as Barney and Robin are completely alone, this most private of moments entirely and uniquely theirs.
Was this a perfect moment, or was there still something lacking? Do lovers need to exchange the specific words “I love you” for the commitment to seem real? Was Barney being a bad friend by planning his proposal on Ted's big night? Does Marshall encouraging Ted to go after Robin have anything to do with his long-ago bet with Lily? Should Robin have been the one to propose, since she'd rejected Barney so many times? Or does none of that matter because Barney and Robin are now engaged?
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing with Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.