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When I was a tweener, I fancied myself a bit of a contrarian. It seemed like all the good ones were taken — so I decided to devote myself to the also-rans, the ones nobody wanted. I hung up pictures of Parker Stevenson instead of Shaun Cassidy. When my best friend and I fantasized about marrying our favorite SNL cast members, I took Bill Murray while she got Dan Ackroyd. (Believe me, at the time she was getting the better deal, but I gloat over the fact that I turned out to be right in the long run.)

When HIMYM started, Robin seemed like a serious weak link. But as the show has progressed and Ted has moved on to other true loves and one-night stands, Robin has become an absolute linchpin of the show. Or so I thought, and would tell anyone who listened. But was it just my contrarian past reasserting itself? Was I positioning myself as a Cobie Smulders fan because Barney and Marshall and Lily were clearly the class of the show?

My friends, I have been vindicated. Not just because tonight's episode showcased Cobie's best assets (no, not those — her comedic talents), but because it showed that the HIMYM team agrees with me. They love Cobie and Robin, too. They know that she's the secret star of the show. And tonight, they gave her her due.

Let's start with that dress. Look at it! The show is as obsessed with Robin's fantabulous wardrobe as I am, and they even made a joke out of it in the cold open. Nobody can carry on a normal conversation when Cobie's rocking that cleavage — and more to the point, nobody would wear such a thing to the bar downstairs. Then when everybody talks about her breasts, Robin makes little excited bounces of delight. There's something about that reaction that shatters my defenses. It's so sweet, so confident, yet so unguarded.

And as the foil to Robin's awesomeness, let me introduce James Van Der Beek as Simon, her teenage Canadian crush, the bass-playing frontman of The Foreskins. He's a loser of the first order, but Robin falls for him just as hard the second time as the first, thanks to something Marshall insists on calling "revertigo," the phenomenon of reverting to one's high school self in the presence of certain individuals who act as triggers. (To his and the show's credit, Ted refuses to go along with this particular neologism.) And when she does, Cobie loses her cool and gets all giggly and stupid. And that's the kind of adorable that only works when played against supreme competence — exactly what the show has been setting up for Robin all season.

Long story short: Loser Van Der Beek dumps her again (but at least doesn't ask her to load out the drum kit), and Robin feels like a fool. And that's when Barney shows her the same compassion that any of us would, had we been there. Who among us didn't want to dry her tears and tell her how wonderful she is? Because Barney did exactly what needed to be done, we start to believe in his basic goodness, too. And so I say to the pairing of Barney and Robin — godspeed. Work it out, you crazy kids.

Oh, there was some kind of video at the end, wasn't there? Nice of Barney to read the pop-up video factoids for us ("Is that Tiffany? Is that Alan Thicke?"). Raise your hand if you thought a new Robin Sparkles video would actually be an anticlimax to the episode. Yup, me neither — which says a lot more about the strength of the episode than it does about the quality of the video.

Grade: A

Stray observations:

- Tape, cotton balls, half a Nerf football. Ding! What does Robin have stuffed into her dress? Now I'll take Alberta On My Mind for $500, Alex.

- Actually the whole episode could function as metacommentary on the HIMYM formula. I especially enjoyed the elided half hour of jokes about Robin having sex with Simon Canada-style. (Ted: "Something about fur trapping.")

- As brilliant shorthand for total loserdom, Simon is the guy at the top of the waterslide who tells you when you can go. We all hate that guy, don't we? There's absolutely no reason he should have power over us, yet he makes us sit in the water until he waves his bored hand at us. We all know he hates our guts. But I admit, I probably had a crush on him at thirteen.

- Simon's explanation of his band's excruciating name ("There's four of us, and we play without shirts") makes me wonder if there's a band called The Foreshirts roaming somewhere above the 49th parallel.

- And the little B-story comedy, the "revertigo" stuff, was absolute gold, too. Lily's homegirl talk with her high school buddy Michelle (Barney: "Do they make out?" Marshall: "Better!" Ted: "Comparable." Marshall: "… Comparable.") and Ted's wrestling with his old bud Punchy ("You wanna go?" "I'm already there!") was perfectly timed and presented. But the biggest laugh of the night goes to … "Murder Train" played over the slideshow of puppies waiting to be adopted.

- Barney made the Pac-Man death noise! He totally deserves Robin.