Sandra Gonzalez
March 01, 2011 AT 01:47 PM EST

Image Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS*Raises hand reluctantly*

Maybe it was the way Nora had nursed Barney back to  health (complete with a violin lullaby!). Maybe it was the earnest and tender way Barney said “Thanks” to Nora at the restaurant after she gave her condolences for Marshall’s loss. Or maybe it was music playing in the background of what I will always refer to as “the scene.” But I thought it was real. I thought that after many seasons of waiting for Barney to get to the right place mentally, he was ready to grow up, ready to get out of the playboy game, fall into adulthood — fall in love. But no.

Last night was weird in that way, though. Most of the characters found themselves unprepared for certain things. Marshall still wasn’t ready to let himself rest easy after his father’s sudden death. (He made everyone get their hearts checked.) Robin wasn’t ready for the responsibility associated with owning a pet — or man-pet, for that matter — again. And Lily wasn’t ready to give up on Barney yet — she insisted that he had lied to Nora when he said he didn’t want marriage and kids, even though Barney claimed the lie occurred when he initially expressed interest at the restaurant. (Ted was just sort of there, playing with Scooby, Robin’s Mog — man + dog.) And I wasn’t prepared for how upset I’d be that Barney didn’t, as the episode titled suggested, experience “A Change of Heart.”

Well, I suppose he did, but I’d anticipated it being a positive. Then, the cardiologist told (a post-double-slap!) Barney, who had worn a heart monitor for 24-hours, that his heart skipped a beat the moment he saw Nora in the restaurant. (The hopeless romantic in me pooed twice and died, which ironically is not a romantic thing at all.)

“Your heart’s talking to you Barney. Do you have the guts to listen to it?” Lily asked.

I believed he did. When I saw the taxi roll up to the brunch place, and Barney march in and said “I want to be confused … with you,” I was done. I was a puddle of molten goo that bubbled with the love of Barney Stinson.

Then we panned to the door, where Barney was still standing frozen. And where he stood just long enough to miss getting spotted by Nora as she glanced to the door. Devastation.

This season has been all about the fake-out, and whether you love them or hate them, you can’t deny they make for fantastic TV. Sure, you run the risk of overusing the trick, but HIMYM hasn’t gotten there yet. I was genuinely heartbroken, but after a half hour of pretty good laughter, there was a good balance. I only have one rule when it comes to Mother: Make me laugh — unless it’s worth it not to.

Was it, PopWatchers?

On Twitter: @EWSandraG

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