Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

How I Met Your Mother Recap: Kugel Exercise

"The Burning Keeper" -- Lily and Marshall throw a housewarming party, where Ted (Josh Radnor) nearly comes to blows with Marshall√¢¬?¬?s boss, Garrison Cootes  (Martin Short), and Barney hits on a crazy divorcee, on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Monday, Feb. 6 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.   Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/Fox √?¬©2012 Fox Television. All Rights Reserved.

You know the drill — if bees in the basement are mentioned in the first act, and so forth. How to feel about this episode? Well, it relied on a structure that the HIMYM audience is a fan of, which is three separate story lines simultaneously unfolding in parallel situations, though it was a cheaper imitation of episodes that did it better (“Three Days of Snow,” will we ever stop praising you?).

At Marshall and Lily’s housewarming party, the high points were the small details — beekeeping is somewhat the rage in Brooklyn (though the setting here was Long Island). A little while ago, bees in Red Hook turned pink after foraging at a maraschino cherry company, which was the bee-equivalent of happy hour, which is kind of funny. Also, appetizers should always get their due, so the shout-out to bacon-wrapped figs, pigs-in-a-blanket, and mini-anything was the right call for the couple, who had long ago established their superior hosting skills, though Marshall’s “don’t sleep on the gouda” wasn’t as amusing the second time around. The whole gimmick of five minutes at a party, timed to Robin and Ted’s warming up of kugel, results from Lily’s sudden panic at hosting an evening beset by mishaps, prompting her to confess to Ted: “Every 30 seconds there’s a crisis. Oh God, this is parenthood.” It’s not a bad idea — sure, this is hardly their first party, but the older you get, the more formal and managed such events need to be and the idea that adulthood, and especially child-rearing, demands constant negotiation and attention is not a wrong-headed comparison. But the premise was stretched thin when a burning beekeeper became the pivotal moment.

First off, Chris Elliott needs to get off this show. If he were ever a charismatic actor, his skills are not being put to use now when he just comes across as a nuisance to Marshall, Lily, and the cast in general. The only meaningful interaction last night was between Robin and Ted. We expect more will happen between the two of them before the season’s finish, so it’s not too disappointing that their argument was limited for the moment, but everything previous to their fight in “the Kitchen” portion of the episode was heavily situational. In “the Living Room,” Cootes (Martin Short) yelled at Ted for eating all the vegan spring rolls. This was surely a reference to the food restrictions, whimsical or otherwise, that determine modern-day platters, but it registered as more self-aware than clever. Something happened with the gouda that made Lily knock it off the serving dish, but did anyone really care?

In “the Dining Room,” it turns out Barney’s been devouring the vegan offerings while chatting with Geraldine the neighbor, which is what Lily was reacting to when she said, “Oh no, that’s not what you want.” Geraldine natters on about her cat’s bat mitzvah, but Barney only gets interested when he notices her boobs. When Bays and Thomas write nowadays, they tend to over-rely on his caddishness, which lasted them through many seasons, but now seems more and more exhausting. Ditto Barney’s barely believable persona, special agent Gary Powers, interceptor of asteroids. Barney sends Cootes after Ted for eating the spring rolls while Lily demands to see him in the kitchen.

The mice hit too close to home! Seriously, those little beggars running across the gouda was the Before picture to this recapper’s After, where they gnaw their own limbs off in a glue trap and we’re left Dexter-ing the whole horrible scene. Again, though, this is Long Island — what’s with all the city-insidery? Anyway, that’s what happened to the gouda.

Lily tells Barney that Geraldine has a habit of castrating her lovers, Barney flies out of the kitchen to tell Robin how much he loves his penis, meanwhile Robin had been in a conversation with a beseeching Marshall, who wanted her to scream at him like she does “strangers on the street at the slightest provocation.” (Oddly obstinate of Marshall to suddenly want to shirk his job when he had recently been unemployed, no?)

But Future Ted rewinds the whole story back to the first moment the food was put in the oven to explain his fight with Robin: She had screamed at an old lady. Yes! Finally, a story line worth relating to. Maybe this speaks to our deep fondness for Robin, or maybe this only speaks to how weak this episode was, but if she’s willing to disrespect the elderly, she really is the most complex character at the moment. Remember the HIMYM episode about how one proves to be a real New Yorker? Well, adding to that, you’re not a real New Yorker until your interpretation of  “standing up for yourself” includes flare-ups of ageist hostility. Robin: “She was trying to cut in line! She was going to get the last kugel!” Ted: “She was 90 years old! It was probably going to be her last kugel.” Robin: “Sometimes in life you have to be assertive.” Ted: “You called her a whore.” Robin: “Who wears that much makeup?” Ted: “Old ladies!” Robin quotes Sun Tzu from The Art of War: “Never give up. Never surrender.” Ted: “That was Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest.” The whole exchange worked, which is why it’s reprinted here.

In the end, Ted, for no real reason, or probably because of that vegan-related spat with Cootes, turns to Robin and says, “I guess it’s kinda nice that you’re such a badass.” And Robin, chastened by Marshall’s appeal to her meanness: “It’s pretty badass that you’re so nice.” Really, there was no need to resolve things so quickly. This could have been a more significant difference of opinion. Maybe this enthusiasm for Robin’s anger issues is a little scary, but it feels right because it’s wrong and therefore so true. 

Perhaps you’re wondering: When are we going to talk about the bees? Well, the bee budget was clearly misspent on setting the beekeeper on fire. It would have been way more funny if those bees escaped earlier. Whatever prompted Barney to suggest dousing the beekeeper suit in kerosene, and whatever prompted Cootes to put the suit on, and whatever it was about the whole experience of running through the party aflame that made Cootes reprioritize his life — it failed to make an impression, or even to make sense. Also, if you didn’t notice the first time around, the partygoers are pretty tame considering there’s a human fireball in the living room. For all the hysteria that a premise involving bees-on-the-loose suggested, this episode didn’t deliver.

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/FOX