Episodes like last night’s represent the best and worst of HIMYM. On one hand, there’s a promising storytelling device — in this case, Barney’s prenup, which leads each of the guys to confront things about his partner that he does not like. On the other hand, everything from there on out was pretty ludicrous. The prenup itself was filled with asinine demands: Quinn must enhance her breasts over time and pay $2,000 for every pound she gains. The stipulations, as she noted, were more like rules for the relationship, and it’s hard to believe such offensive suggestions would lead to a serious discussion elsewhere — although even Barney admitted that he went a “fairy eyelash, a unicorn whisper” too far. But, he asked, “Can you honestly say there’s nothing in any of your relationships that you’d want to change, no behavior you’d want to outlaw, no terms you’d want to renegotiate?”
With this, Bays and Thomas, who wrote last night’s episode, tried to justify the premise. There is some truth to the phenomenon: The problems within one couple’s relationship can have ripple effects for the couples around them, and idle gossip can lead to conversations that can lead to arguments as each partner takes a side, kind of like when Barney and Robin had their first fight on a chairlift in the course of discussing a squabble between Marshall and Lily. Except “Bagpipes” was one of the best episodes of How I Met Your Mother ever; “The Pre-Nup” was not.
Most of the issues that were raised last night were lackluster. Robin found herself aroused by her own news broadcast, and it bothered Nick that she liked to keep the TV on when they’re doing it. (Incidentally, something we failed to note last week, and forgive us for not recognizing Battlestar Galactica’s Michael Trucco sooner: Nick is actually the guy Robin met at Club Hopeless in season six. His return had been alluded to then, and so presumably it had to be shoe-horned in before Robin and Barney can be together.) Victoria was upset that Ted was upset that Klaus was living with them, and Lily was angry that Marshall accused her of being too precious with Marvin. But at Arthur’s urging, and during a ridiculous détente in the GNB offices, they all realized how lucky they were to have one another — well, except for Barney and Quinn, who called it quits with almost as little fanfare as Robin and Kevin (Kal Penn).
What we liked:
- The early setup of a breakup by the episode’s end. Future Ted established temporary suspense when he told us that one of these couples would split the very next day (admittedly, not Marshall and Lily). Since we know all three of the remaining relationships end at some point, there isn’t a lot of mystery to be had in the grand scheme of things, which is kind of the downside of the “little ways down the road” nonsense. But at least we knew something would happen within these 22 minutes (although, with actress Becki Newton co-starring in Goodwin Games, the result wasn’t all that surprising).
- Marshall’s brothers’ roughhousing with him as a baby and his mother’s caution: “That’s how lamps break.” Despite the exaggeration, Marshall’s abusive siblings are a long-running plot point, and of all the skirmishes last night, Lily and Marshall’s was the most believable. Lily even acknowledged that her memory of his carelessness with Marvin might’ve been amplified, which we took as a nod to HIMYM’s playfulness when it comes to unreliable narration. Also, we saw the return of Lily’s “you’re dead to me” look.
- The popular German sitcom in which one character is very neat and the other one is very, very neat.
- Hero Ted’s hero’s remorse. We know Ted is fond of grand gestures, but he also seems like the type of guy who might occasionally make those gestures to further his idea of himself as a loving and generous person — only to regret them later.
- And on that note, the exchange in which Victoria accused him of “caving the moment a ferret bite breaks the skin.” Ted: “The skin of my eyelid.” Victoria: “That’s how they kiss!”
- The return of Bob Odenkirk, who is not as delightfully sleazy as usual, but only because we are accustomed to his delightfully sleazier Breaking Bad lawyer, Saul.
- Barney’s suit. We’ve literally never noticed them before, but the three-piece number he had on last night was seriously dapper.
What we didn’t like:
- Klaus living with Ted and Victoria. We enjoyed some of the German jokes last week; this week, it was mostly overkill. It’s not that a sitcom can’t be forgiven a few screwball turns — it’s that those turns are such a radical departure from what happened literally the week before (well, in the series’ time, a few months before). These two left each other at the altar! The only purpose it served was to illuminate Ted’s phoniness. And why no reference to the Naked Man?
- Barney’s chauvinism. There just has to be some limit to his crassness or he seems like a completely unevolved character.
- The scene at GNB in which the whole gang showed up. Quinn summoned Victoria, Robin, and Lily with a way too girl-powery “Ladies!” Before Becki Newton left the show, it might have been interesting to have a subplot where these women actually got to know each other, instead of seeming like strangers who came together for a story line. It’s unexplored territory and a waste of new characters. Also, none of them are lawyers.
- Quinn’s hasty departure. It’s up to the writers to give the temporary characters a substantive entrance and exit, yet the series is never more uneven than when dealing with the potential partners of Robin and Barney. (It’s almost as if they, ahem, don’t have a long-term plan.) Kal Penn and Becki Newton had not-insignificant story arcs, yet they both left the show as though they were shoved, with sudden marriage proposals followed by immediate dismissals. How did it take Barney and Quinn this long to realize they didn’t trust each other? Answer: It didn’t. It took the writers that long to figure out how to handle their story lines. To us, that’s lazy. The fast-forward to Barney talking up his wedding to Robin didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. If the season just teases us with the future as a way of making up for the present, it’s not going to be a very entertaining journey.