HIMYM rifled through their bag of tricks last night, and used pretty much every one. Nostalgic pop-cultural framing device? Check. Women-be-crazy subplot? Check. Lily wit’ attitude? Check. (How delirious were the writers when they decided What the damn hell? was such a funny punch line that several characters needed to say it?)
I didn’t laugh once. Or maybe just once, when, during the Indy reenactment, Ted says: “Really? I’m the one working with the Nazis?” Barney’s theory that wedding-weekend hookups are determined during drinks on Friday night held promise, but the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade reference was too convenient. You can almost picture a white board in the writers’ room with a list of plot points and a corresponding list of eighties and nineties movies and catchphrases that, when crossed, will redeem any story line. Ted has his pick of three single women at the wedding, and from the moment Cassie (Pitch Perfect’s Anna Camp) bumps into him at the bar, the knight informs him, “You chose poorly.”
(Side note: Anna Camp is such a nomad. She seems to pop up everywhere — as Mindy Kaling’s eventually phased-out best friend on The Mindy Project, in the original incarnation of Super Fun Night, on True Blood and The Good Wife — but she never seems to stick around full-time. Maybe she’s just getting better offers.)
Anyway, it wasn’t Ted-the-sentimentalist who listened to Cassie carry on about her job and her stolen car and her ex, it was Ted-the-player, a guy who had been looking forward to skipping straight to the meaningless sex for once. And as wedding guests go, Cassie, the person with the hard-luck story to whom no one wants to get stuck talking, wasn’t unfamiliar. But the final scene in the hotel room with her crying and saying she would have let Ted do all sorts of crazy things to her, while he looks conflicted about acting like a gentleman, gave the icky impression that Ted wonders if he once again chose poorly.
As for Robin and Barney’s canard about how they met, which borrowed Marshall and Lily’s wholesome origin story — it was cute to see the actors swap roles and reenact scenes from earlier episodes, but this didn’t have a big payoff other than being impressed with the wardrobe department. HIMYM can never top the myth-making from season three’s “How I Met Everyone Else,” in which Lily and Marshall cop to embellishing the kismet of their first encounter, and it doesn’t help that Robin and Barney’s motivations for lying come out of leftfield. The show doesn’t touch much upon religion, so that either of these two would feel the need to grease their way into a particular church, especially when Barney thinks one of the commandments deals with “fat chicks,” feels completely implausible. (Enough with his stupid fat jokes already.) And how could the writers leave a Lost Boys reference on the table with Edward Herrmann playing the reverend? Is that classic somehow less worthy than The Karate Kid, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Princess Bride, or other films they’ve leaned on so heavily recently? I hated how the whole thing ended with Robin and Barney once again speechifying to each other about how, to hell with everyone, they love each other and their effed-up history is special to them. No wonder this annoying display actually killed the reverend.
And then finally, there’s Marshall and Daphne. Despite my fondness for Sherri Shepherd, I don’t care a lick about her character, or this road trip. Their role-playing of Marshall’s inevitable confrontation with Lily was … fine. Having Shepherd voice Lily’s reactions was maybe a minor callback to Lily when her friend Michelle comes to town, but I didn’t think the rehearsal was even necessary. I’d much prefer to see Marshall reunited with Lily so I could watch this conversation go down for real. The season started out pretty strong, but I worry that the next few episodes, or until we get more of the Mother, are going to get stuck treading water.
What I (sort of) liked:
• Lily’s bilious recap of Barney and Robin’s relationship as one defined by lying, cheating, and backsliding wherein he is a sociopath (true!) and she is a slut. Wait, what? That last judgment was way harsh, Tai.
• The nineties car-alarm sounds of Sophia’s sexual satisfaction. Although those alarms were still going strong in the mid-aughts, when Robin and Lily camped out for a wedding-dress sale.
• “Come again, for Little Fudge.” I’m grasping at straws here, and this only qualifies because of its association with Big Fudge.
More of what I didn’t like:
• The Mother is as absent as always. At least the Cassie story line serves its purpose in the sense that, now more than ever, any little twist of fate could prevent Ted from meeting her. His narrative is full of near run-ins and almost-theres, but for real, we are less than two days away from the end of this story.
• What is Barney’s mom’s best friend’s daughter’s ex doing at this wedding? I can only think that the “She chose … Wesley” line (which, yes, ha) trumped narrative logic.
• Daphne texting Lily about Marshall’s judgeship. Obviously, this is just grist for next week, but what an unlikable thing to do! It would have been more understandable for her to ditch Marshall and let him miss the wedding than to meddle with his personal life.