“How I met your mother” (himym) was a sitcom which ran from 2005 to 2014. It was set in Manhattan and seemed to pick up where “Friends” left off (in fact there was just a year between the end of Friends and the beginning of himym). Its premise was simple – It's the year 2030 and Ted is recounting to his future kids the story of how he met their mother. From then on it was a comedy about a group of friends hanging out, getting into mischief and falling in and out of love with each-other. The particular episode we are talking about (series 2, episode 9) was called “Slap Bet” and centred mostly around one of the friends, Robin, and of how the gang made an explosive discovery about her mystical past.

The great cast of How I met Your Mother

Robin Scherbatsky (played by Cobie Smulders) was born in Canada but moved to the USA in order to take a job that was going at a New York news station. She is a cigar-smoking, straightforward, scotch-swilling, gun-lover with a no nonsense attitude; very much opposed to any stereotypes a woman 'should' possess. This makes the discovery all the more shocking when it is finally uncovered! It also explains why her embarrassment is so very real. Her Canadian heritage is the butt of many a joke on the show.

The story begins when Barney is going to celebrate the opening of a new Sharper Image. The whole gang agree to tag along, until Robin hears that the store is opening in a Mall. She suddenly becomes rather hesitant and the rest of the group are intrigued. In the end she flat-out refuses, saying she does not do Malls. Soon thereafter the wild speculation begins. From this speculation develops two main schools of thought: Robin got married in a Canadian Mall and to this day Malls remind her of this time (Marshall's theory, who, incidentally, really likes the idea of getting married in a Mall of America!). The second hypothesis (put forward by Barney of course) is that this emotional scarring is somehow related to Robin doing porn in her Canadian past. Here begins a famous running joke from the series: the “slap bet” (role credits!), where a bet is placed and the loser gets a slap to the face. Not a gentle, loving slap but a full on open-handed sucker-punch! So, to keep count:

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In order to throw everyone off the scent, Robin falsely admits to boyfriend Ted that the reason was indeed that she was married in a Mall in Canada, but the marriage came to a sad end when her new husband went off the Hong Kong for work. Word of this admission gets back to the group and Marshall almost immediately gives Barney a good one right across the face:

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However, Marshall later uses his access to a legal database to verify the marriage but sees absolutely no record of this event. Robin Lied! Once again word gets back of this deception and the whole thing is once again blown open. But what of the already-administered slap-bet?? Well, according to the rules and judgment laid down by the Slap Bet Commissioner, Barney gets to slap Marshall across the face three times:

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After all of this, the truth is finally revealed when Barney gets hold of video evidence which will put the whole issue to rest. The only problem is that Barney has only seen the very beginning of the video and is still convinced it's pornography. This is not a far stretch because it seems to be going in a very seedy direction, with Robin in a schoolgirl outfit and being chastised by her attractive teacher. Before we get to see the rest, Barney pauses the video and, well, you guessed it:

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Shortly after this punishment is administered, Robin reveals the truth as the video plays on: she was an early 90's pop-star (even though they are dressed in archetypal 80's attire, but in Robin's own words, the 80's didn't come to Canada 'til, like, '93) in Canada who, to promote the song, did an extensive mall tour, hence her severe aversion to Malls. The brilliance of the writers of himym has led to an entire backstory for the pop-star known as Robin Sparkles. She first starred in a Canadian kids' show called “Space Teens”. Soon after the show she released her first single called, imaginatively, “Let's go to the Mall” and then took to the Malls for her mega-tour. She followed this mediocre hit with “Sandcastles in the sand”, which was a bit of a flop. She then began a relationship with Mr. Teen Winnipeg, who appeared in her new single's music video. He became the love of her life, but alas it was not to last. Her pop-star career's swansong was “PS I love you”. Robin Sparkles even ended up getting her own alter-ego, Robin Daggers, an emo grunge singer who emerged out of the ashes of Sparkles' career.

In all her bedazzled jean-jacket glory - Robin Sparkles

Robin Sparkles' mid-sized Canadian hit, Let's go the the Mall!

The show is a tongue-in-cheek homage to all of those 80's and 90's pop-stars who used the Mall as a tool to get their music out to the masses. The Queen and pioneer of this formula was Tiffany Darwish, clearly the main inspiration for Robin Sparkles, denim jacket and all. She had a massive hit in the 80's with “I think we're alone now”. Please click here to see our full feature on the rise of Tiffany. The episode name, Slap bet, was originally meant to be called “Robin Sparkles” but the writers decided to change it as the twist may have been easier to foresee.

The slap-bet has now become a staple of the series

The template for the Robin Sparkles character, Tiffany Darwish

The Mall mentioned in the episode is the Willowbrook Mall. There is a Willowbrook Mall in New Jersey, but it is not known if the two Malls are actually related as we don't actually see it, but the real one is close enough to Manhattan to rule out coincidence. It could be that one of the writers was a fan of the real Mall and this name just popped into his/her head. The name of the Mall in the 'let's go to the Mall' music video is never mentioned and is clearly a set, which is a bit of a shame because we do enjoy it when real Malls work their way into popular culture. The episode itself was extremely well-received, with critics and fans alike agreeing that is is one of the top ten himym episodes out there. We can recommend giving this classic episode a watch!

Oh, one last thing - Slaps due to Barney: 4

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