Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: "The Perfect Cocktail"

Season 6, Episode 22
The perils of a serialized comedy series

I want to start this review by discussing the ending of the episode – or perhaps the lack thereof – as I believe it is indicative of everything that was wrong with this episode. After 20 minutes or so that dealt with Zooey and Ted confronting the problems in their relationship, and Marshal and Barney confronting theirs, the episode just kind of ends, and it feels as if nothing as actually been accomplished in either storyline. Marshall and Barney are still mad at one another, and even though Ted and Zooey are in a more secure plane in their relationship now, the shadow of the imminent breakup still hangs around, and given that we know that’s how the relationship is going to end, this development seems like a waste of our time. I rather would have spent the time with something totally unrelated to the plot, something where I could just laugh and have a good time.

The main problem isn’t that this episode is filler – thought that’s totally what it was – but rather how the filler was used. Season five aside, HIMYM has in the past made some good, solid episodes that had little connection to the overall plot, be it mother-focused or otherwise. (And who knows? Maybe some of those episodes were even great. I’d have to check/somebody would have to tell me.) But this wasn’t one of those episodes. No, this episode did a lot of table setting, and table setting that I’m not sure we even needed. It was maybe hinted in “Exploding Meatball Sub” that Barney was upset at Marshall for leaving him. (Or maybe not, because despite what tonight’s episode told us, and still can’t be sure what to make of Barney’s sandwich-based revenge plan. God that episode was a mess.) So we totally didn’t need any of those scenes tonight, especially considering that despite Lilly and Robin’s interference, it all reset by the end of the episode.

And Ted and Zooey? I honestly can’t care at this point, nor should the show expect us to, given how it already told us that the two aren’t going to make it. (And that also took place in “Exploding Meatball Sub.” Coincidence? I think not.) As I more or less stated then, this plotline had effectively become dead airtime to me, not just because there is no mystery left as to how this arc will play out, but also because Zooey isn’t that interesting of a character. And on that note – is this break up even going to do anything for Ted? Will he grow from it some way? I could accept her presence if she did, but there is nothing special about Zooey that would seem to indicate that she has her own personalized lesson for Ted. Or will she be the reason he meet The Mother at Punchy’s wedding in a few week? Because there are definitely other ways to get there.

I can’t shake the feeling that all of this happened because the show has been trying harder this season to come back to its more serialized roots in an attempt to give us better episodes. I commend the show for this, mostly because apart from the fact that it took the season arc a little while to get off the ground, it has paid off handsomely in the back half of the season. Yet as the show is approaching the season finale, it seems as if they didn’t budget their time correctly, and so we are left with an episode (or two – the finale’s not for a couple of weeks) were the show in forced to over stretch it’s long form story in order to serve both masters. And in a comedy such as this, you can’t exist in the mushy middle. Your episodes either need to lean heavily on the serialized, emotional beats, or they need to stay away. Otherwise, you get episodes like this.

I don’t want to say the episode was an entire waste; this wasn’t “Exploding Meatball Sub” after all. The prank war between Marshall and Barney was just hilarious, and a great callback to the first season. (Another great callback? The return of the cockamouse.) In fact, I kinda wish that the prank war had been the entirety of their plot, because I totally could have watched 10 minutes or so of them one-upping each other. I also liked the reveal that Zooey used live in the Arcadia, because all of my problems with the character and her arc aside, I respect that the show is trying to make Zooey seem a little more real (even if it’s sort of a uphill battle at this point), and it gave Ted a legitimate reason (legitimate for a romantic like him, anyways) to come over to Zooey’s side. And maybe, just maybe, this development could lead to a good moment or two between the three best bros anyone could have. (Suck it, The Hangover.)

Yet there were some bad things about this episode, and they ultimately outweighed the good, and that was what really brought the episode down. In addition to the problems listed above (which were more season-based than episode-based), the Lilly and Robin runner about The Great Booth War wasn’t really a plot so much as a reason for the show to shoehorn them into the Barney/Marshall plot. And even when those “plots” converged, their part of the story felt a little flat, mostly because the joke about how different kinds of alcohol affect people differently wore out its welcome, which pretty much made their presence in the rest of the episode even more pointless. In fact, I think the joke would have gone over better if they had only talked about three examples in the apartment, just to get the joke started, and then use different types of alcohol to show different actions later in the episode. It would have kept the joke fresher and given the girls a reason to stick around.

I think what makes this episode so frustrating is that it’s taking place in a season that has reach some unprecedented heights for the show. (If an episode such as this had aired back in season five, we would have greeted it with open arms for not completely sucking.) Compared to those great episodes, this one just doesn’t hold up. Let’s hope the last two episodes of the season – both of which are written by Bays & Thomas – can.

Quotes, Etc.:

“We fired him when we caught him clubbing a seal in his office…with an even cuter seal.”

“While no one wants to see a coyote wearing a little hardhat more than me…”

“Glad to know she’s also mouthy in a good way.”

“Is this because I brushed Lilly’s boob with my elbow the other day?”

“The Stinkeye Walbye? Awww, hell no. I hope this drink isn’t teething, because it’s about to get nursed.”

“I’m sorry, but your crabs have superherpes.”

Martinis cause Lilly to try and make out with Robin. Another episode, another implication that Lilly is totally gay for Robin.

Family dinners at the Scherbatzsky house include a mommy, a daddy, and daddy’s mistress.

“Can you get STD’s from the ghost of a prostitute?”

“Sharing a brandy. Which is what I walked in on my parents doing once.”

“Kids, don’t drink tequila.”

“Look, it had babies. Good for it.”

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