This week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother was awfsome. Not awesome, awfsome. Let me explain.
This season has been OK, but episodes always stop just short of greatness. I liked Not A Father’s Day, but parts of it fell flat. This one felt similar. It had everything I like, but it wasn’t perfect. Some good things:
– Barney making up theories and words and displaying his unexplained wealth by shopping around for the best TV to smash. (Neil Patrick Harris continues to act the shit out of this role, by the way.)
– Marshall populating a useful euphemism (The part where he talks to Kim Kardashian and calls her “super hot lady who my wife keeps telling me why you’re famous but I can’t remember” is perfect and I love his delivery of the “celebrities pick up their dry cleaning? I pick up my dry cleaning!”)
– Lily and the Feely the share bear (Lily was kind of absent from this episode, but it needs to be said, her cleavage is FANTASTIC and very much present. Pregnancy agrees with Alyson Hannigan!)
-Robin being the kind of girl that society would have you believe does not exist. (A slob who enjoys having sex just to have sex and not to trap a dude into a relationship.)
-Ted being a total douche and coming up with hot off the presses topical references like Revenge of the Nerds. (I really liked Ted in this episode, which is maybe a little weird because he’s usually my least favourite character. It’s not fair, because Ted has had some great moments and Josh Radnor is hilarious, I just find his quest for true love a little sappy at times. He’s better when he’s allowed to revel in his douchness.
Despite all of the above moments, it still isn’t approaching the levels of awesome from last season’s Sandcastles in the Sand, Slapsgiving or even The Bracket. Largely because these plotlines feel a liiiiiittle bit recycled. Alan Sepinwall of the blog What’s Alan Watching explains why sometimes you have to have sex to save the friendship and why being the master of your domain is similar to reading a magazine much better than I ever could.
I think the problem I have with this episode is the same problem I’ve had with many episodes this season: They are more focused on finding the drama than finding the funny.
I mean, the main plot here is not that Ted and Robin are doing it again, it’s that Barney is jealous that they’re doing it again. Everything leading up to actually dealing with the main plot was funny. The reactions from Barney, the TV shopping, the TV smashing, the cleaning scene (and my favourite line “I’ll name you two! Misters Clean and Belvedere!”), all those are great. But when it came time for something to happen, they dropped the ball. Case in point, I think this scene between Barney and Robin was both lame and endearing:
Robin: “And Ted’s all like-”
Barney: “I love you.”
Robin: “Exactly! He’s not like you!”
It was acted well on Neil Patrick Harris’s part. God, he is good at the hurt puppy look. I’m sure for Barney, there’s nothing worse than giving in to your feelings only to be shot down. And I think he feels extra pathetic because now Lily and Ted both know that he’s hung up on Robin. And we must assume, based on past episodes, that if Lily knows, Marshall knows. So everybody knows except Robin. Fine. But it’s so, so ridiculous and frustrating and ridiculous that Robin doesn’t even consider that Barney is telling her he loves her. In fact, it’s so lame and sitcom-y that I have to believe Robin DOES understand what Barney is getting at and is just acting this way to avoid the issue entirely.
If we were dealing with anybody other than Robin and Barney, it would be very easy to “solve” this problem by having them fall in love and live happily ever after and then Chandler says something bitter and sarcastic while Monica nags him in a shrill voice. Please. God. No. Thankfully, as screwed up as Barney is, Robin is matching him note for crazy note. And though they’re both totally fucked up, it doesn’t stop them from also being awesome, I just want the show to know: OK. You have established that they’re both crazy and they’re both awesome and together, they would be crazy awesome. We trust you not to fuck it up!
Man, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore. My point is, these two are so obviously meant to be together, that it’s only a matter of time before they do that and I think they’ve got to do it soon, because this show is not called “How Your Aunt Robin and Uncle Barney Stopped Being Lame and Started Being Awesome Instead – True Story.”
By now, it’s well established that this show is like, the anti sitcom and everthing last night confirmed that. I mean, two single adults doing it, no strings attached? And then mutually ending it in a mature way without any high drama? Embarrassing D-list celebrities by insinuating that the only reason they exist is to fill the pages of magazines nobody reads unless they need something to keep them regular? That’s stuff you don’t see on sitcoms very often. You do see it in life all the time, and that’s part of the reason I like this show. It still manages to surprise me. Maybe I’m jaded from years of watching shitty shows, but of all the ways the Barney scenario here could have played out, Ted realizing that his bro has feelings for his ex and respectfully stepping back (but not being obvious about it) was not the one I expected to happen.
All in all, Benefits was a solid entry into the pantheon with a few niggling problems that, so far, I have faith will be figured out. If I were grading, I’d give it a B-.