“How I Met Your Mother” Recap: The Third Wheel

Two words: “the belt.”

At this point, we don’t know what they mean, but Ted does, and as he speaks them over the phone to Barney from the men’s room at McLaren’s, they’ve got him freaking out. Barney also seems to grasp the importance of the belt, while the rest of us must wait for a flashback to “less than 30 minutes ago” to find out what’s going on. And here it is.

Ted, Barney and Marshall are headed to McLaren’s. Or, at least, that was the plan, until it took Ted too long to suit up and achieve that “just rolled out of bed look” with his hair. Now Barney and Marshall are engrossed in a game of Wii tennis (which is understandable, because Wii tennis is awesome). They tell him to go ahead and they’ll join him in five minutes, so he heads downstairs and orders three beers — just in time for Barney and Marshall to tell him they’re still not coming. The beers won’t go to waste, though, as Ted runs into Trudy from “The Pineapple Incident” (Danica McKellar, who still looks like Winnie Cooper only more grown up and kind of slutty) and her former sorority sister Rachel (Busy Philipps from Dawson’s Creek and ER).

After a short time, Ted thinks he’s got a pretty good chance of scoring with one of his new companions. He’s wrong. He’s got a pretty good chance of scoring with both. He calls Barney to confirm that the situation is indeed “a tricycle” – meaning it’s OK for there to be a third wheel (wink, wink) —and Barney lays down the ground rules for such a situation: All participants must have a combined age below 83 (check), an aggregate weight below 400 pounds (check) and Ted can’t be paying for the women (seriously? check).

It is also at this point that we — along with Marshall and Lily — find out exactly what “the belt” is. It seems Barney and Ted have an agreement that the first of them to “ride the tricycle” would be awarded the championship belt. Marshall assumes the belt is a metaphor, but Barney produces an actual gold belt, not unlike the ones worn by pro boxers and wrestlers. He also displays a crown he’ll wear if he ever becomes “the king” by sleeping with an unnamed actress from Days of Our Lives.

Back to the bar. Ted lures Trudy and Rachel up to his apartment with the promise of listening to a Wilco CD. Wait a minute … what? I’ve got every Wilco CD there is, and not one of them has ever helped me get a girl, let alone two. Just another way in which life is not like a sitcom. But I digress. On his way up, Ted texts Barney to let everyone know that “we’re combing upsars.” His typo sends Marshall into a brief SARS panic but more importantly confuses his friends long enough that they can’t get out of the apartment — something Ted discovers when he opens his bedroom door to find the wrong three people already inside.

Lily and Marshall offer to let Ted use their bedroom, but when Ted goes to retrieve the all-important Wilco CD, Barney unexpectedly snaps it in half. It seems he’s got a problem with Ted winning the belt before him, comparing it to Jimmy Olsen capturing Lex Luthor instead of an impotent Superman. Or something like that. It turns out Ted doesn’t need the CD, but just as the tricycle starts into motion (is anyone else starting to get a little creeped out by this metaphor?), Ted panics and retreats to his room. Barney now decides to help Ted rather than hinder him, as, it turns out, Barney uncharacteristically choked in a similar situation once before.

Barney’s advice to Ted plays out in three fantasy scenarios. The first involves Ted in purple Hugh Hefner-inspired pajamas and the use of a remote-controlled fireplace. The second employs a technique in which he tires the girls out and invokes his grandmother during a foot rub. The third, a mortality-themed one that Ted admits is “actually pretty good,” could be best described with three words: Don’t postpone joy.

After gathering enough input from Barney, Ted returns to the living room to find it empty. Initially thinking the girls have left, he discovers that they have simply moved the party into Lily and Marshall’s bedroom, where … well, we really don’t know what happens. And much to Barney’s dismay, neither does he.

Oh yeah, Robin had a storyline, too, but it was pretty lame so I’ll sum it up like this: date with doctor, unshaven legs, butter, concussion. Got it? Good. Here’s what else was good about last night’s episode:

Highlights

Ted talking to his three beers after finding out that Barney and Marshall won’t be joining him. Alternate versions of the flashback to Barney’s almost-threesome.

Best Barneyisms

“Always party with Dr. Strangelove.” — Barney’s advice on whether to go for an old flame or a new girl

and

“Space suit up, Ted.” — after comparing Ted’s threesome to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon

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