Last night, through some quirk in the Finite TV Story Line Universe, How I Met Your Mother repeated a plot — a primary character gets mugged, has valid reason to lie about the mugging, engenders sympathy, and is ultimately outed thanks to the help of a local-access television talk show — from an episode of Parks and Recreation that aired no less than a month ago. We’re not suggesting any plagiarism, as the production cycles probably meant HIMYM’s episode was shot before Parks and Rec’s version was shown. It’s worth noting, though, because we kept thinking the HIMYM plot was a complete non-starter until we remembered that when Parks and Rec did it, it was goddamn hilarious.
Other than being an unsettling, surely portending coincidence, the different handling of the subject matter reminded us how much of a sitcom HIMYM can be compared to Parks and its ilk: Sometimes, it’s just all smooth edges, expository dialogue, and — oh, brother — puns. The worst offender last night was the bit that came after Marshall, the mugging victim, tells a freaked-out Lily that it was actually a monkey who stole his wallet in order to convince her not to get a gun for protection. You knew it was coming, and it did: the crew trading a string of stupid (really, not particularly clever) monkey puns. If there are groups of friends who behave like this, we are glad we do not know them.
(We also felt that the writers were trying to have the plotline resonate, à la 30 Rock, specifically with New Yorkers, mostly because at one point Lily says something like, “I’m a New Yorker, I’m not going to let this change me.” If that was their intention, it was too broad. We felt pandered to, not included).
So, yeah: When Robin hears of the monkey mugging, she excitedly books Marshall on her show. Her producer is totally into it, and it could even go national! (Um, what?) Marshall doesn’t want to lie, or screw up Robin’s career, but he can’t tell the truth to Lily or she won’t be able to sleep at night. There’s a moral about lying in there somewhere, especially seeing as the plot was coupled with repeated incidents of Barney’s fraud-heavy pickup techniques and his motto, “A lie is a just great story ruined by the truth.” We’re not sure what it was, though, because when Marshall shows up on the set of Robin’s show — with the monkey, Captain Bobo, in the studio, so Marshall can face his accuser — he keeps flip-flopping between blaming the monkey and exculpating it, never “revealing” what really happened. Only, obviously it wasn’t the monkey who did it, because then he would just say it was the monkey. Moving on.
Our favorite parts came randomly and isolated, and they included: Robin pulling out that hand-cannon from her purse; Barney’s three-way WWE-style championship belt; and “was it one monkey standing on top of another monkey wearing a trench coat?” Also, the montage of Marshall accidentally hurting Lily, but just for the very last bit. See it for yourself right here:
The Shame Index says “Marshall’s concern about Lily obtaining a gun seemed overheated. Why would Marshall feel he needed to concoct this absurd tale in order to prevent Lily from buying a weapon?”
The AV Club puts the blame for the lackluster episode on the “supposed comedic rule that monkeys are funny. Because after Marshall confessed that he’d been mugged by a monkey, his friends spend the rest of the episode laughing at the thought of that monkey. And you know what’s extra not funny? Actors pretending to be convulsed with laughter.”