Fall TV Preview

HIMYM: Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders Preview Barney and Robin's New Love Square

When How I Met Your Mother returns on Sept. 19, unrequited love will be in the air.

Remember Season 4 of the CBS sitcom, when Barney was crushing hard on Robin? Well, flip it around and you’ve got the new season. After staring longingly at Barney as he and old flame Nora reconnected in last season’s finale, Robin will come to realize she’s still got feelings for the one that got away.

“There’s some pining for Barney happening at the moment,” says Cobie Smulders. “It’s all about her being really depressed and not quite knowing how to tell him how she feels.” Or if she should even tell him at all. “It’s a hard thing of knowing how she feels, but not knowing if it’s quite right to pursue,” she continues. “He seems like he’s really happy with Nora. He’s finally in a relationship that he’s seemingly very committed to seeing through.”

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Robin may be respectful of the fact that her ex is getting serious about another girl, but that doesn’t mean she has to be happy about it. “She doesn’t like it,” says Smulders. “She doesn’t like it one bit.” So what’s a girl to do? Step back and admit defeat? Throw herself at the guy? “She’s figuring that out,” replies Smulders. “She’s been quite aggressive at the moment with letting Barney know without actually saying it. I think, eventually, she’ll do what she thinks is right.”

She might get her window of opportunity to spill the beans if Neil Patrick Harris’ theory about his character’s new romance is correct. “I think Barney’s infatuation with Nora revolves less around a specific attribute about her and more probably about timing,” he explains. That’s not to say Barney doesn’t have feelings for Nora – “He genuinely likes her,” says Harris – but “this whole Season 7 is a lot about timing. And she appeared at a time when he was emotionally available to fall for someone.”

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Plus, Barney’s not a completely changed man. He’ll be back in “player mode” in the season premiere. “Barney’s growth in Season 6 was more emotional and his growth in Season 7 will be more…” Harris trails off before finally adding with a smile, “genital.” He’s kidding. We think.

In the meantime, the awkward love triangle will make things even more complicated for Robin in another arena of her life. “Robin works with Nora, so there’s a lot of work-related frustration about that,” teases Smulders.

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With all that the gal’s dealing with, it’s hard to fault her for getting violent. “It has to do with Barney,” is all Smulders says of the incident that lands her character in court-mandated therapy with new shrink/love interest Kal Penn. “There is something to having a man who forces you to talk about the sh—y things in your life,” says the actress with a laugh. “He’s doing that for her, and she’s never been confronted with that before.”

As for Barney and Robin’s future prospects, Harris knows TV is all about postponing the inevitable and drawing out the romantic tension. “[Barney and Robin are] a good match,” he says. “So I think there might be some long-distance pining for a little while on the show. I don’t think they’re going to end up back together — at least anytime soon.”