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How I Met Your Mother Recap: Vanilla Thunder

Last episode, the commenting consensus was that HIMYM had burrowed itself into a rut. This week, actual development: A failed romantic pursuit proves to Ted he’s ready to seek the one (again). But would it be enough to counteract a warmed-over-for-like-the-third-friggin’-time Marshall subplot and not enough Barney? (Spoiler alert: No.)

Things get rolling with a mysterious phone call from an elderly lady — Ted, the window is open. Our man barrels down the street to ask out a freshly single Maggie Wilks, and we get the backstory: Ted’s been obsessed with Maggie since college, but she’s a serial monogamist and a serious catch (“the ultimate girl next door”), so her windows between boyfriends are comically small. The old woman on the phone was Maggie’s neighbor, giving Ted the jump. (We know, we know — who the hell knows anything about their neighbors' lives? Almost as ridiculous as a group of friends who hang out, nearly exclusively with one another, at a bar directly downstairs from one of their apartments where they could be drinking cheap store-bought booze in their sweatpants. Sorry, that just crossed our mind.) Ted brings Maggie to the bar … but totally forgets the class he’s teaching tonight! He leaves Maggie in the care of Marshall and Lily, who must block all male pursuit until Ted returns.

Meanwhile, Marshall’s found a letter of instructions written by his 15-year old-self to his 30-year-old future self: never stop wearing stone-washed overalls; never cut your rat tail; maintain ability to dunk; legally change your name to White Vanilla Thunder to reflect said dunking prowess; and don’t become a corporate sellout. Oh no, what has become of young idealistic Marshall?! Okay, seriously, how many times have they done this exact identity crisis before?

It does, however, lead to the awesome mini-subplot of Barney challenging himself to bed a lady while wearing overalls, and to this exchange:


Robin: That’s cheating. You can’t wear the overalls over a suit.
Barney: Why? They’re not called over T-shirts. They’re not called over shirtless fat guys who used to fix my mom’s car and then hang out with her upstairs for a little while. They’re called overalls.

In class, a visibly distracted Ted tries to wrap up the session early, but instead gets caught up in a discussion of his love life with his students. And we realize something — yes, Ted is sappy, but he’s believably sappy. From what we know of Ted, he would end up teaching for the opportunity to mold young minds or whatever, and he would end up having inappropriately personal relationships with his students. (That part when the whole class chanted mock advice was just awful, though).

A series of contrivances — primarily involving an erotic dog-art show — later, the irresistible Maggie has left the bar, and Ted, plus both Barney and another random guy, are in pursuit. As in, the three of them are literally running to her apartment. When they get there … she’s already got a dude. But not any dude — her childhood best friend/first love, who extremely inconveniently just looked her up. We get a Maggie and her man’s puppy-love-to-wedded-bliss montage set to “Two Weeks,” and we get Ted realizing he wants to find that real love himself.

Also, Marshall can’t dunk, but it’s okay cause he’s married to Lily, and Barney has sex with the old lady from the beginning cause she likes his overalls? Yeah, not so good.

Other Recaps:
The Shame Index was also underwhelmed, but once again we find ourselves at a crossroads on individual laughs — they liked the sex-with-old-people joke.
The A.V. Club liked it, calling it "a classic ring-the-changes sitcom episode, executed adroitly in signature HIMYM style."
TV Squad is still hung about Barney — "we've seen how much of a good guy Barney can be. So seeing him back to his old tricks seems a bit emptier than it used to, doesn't it?"

Photo: Courtesy of CBS