I admit that I was a latecomer to How I Met Your Mother. It was well into the fourth season before I began watching the show, having binge-watched the previous three like so much Halloween candy. And, while I come from the Todd VanDerWerff school of thought on HIMYM as a delicious little truffle to start the week, I agree with Donna Bowman that the show can still hit the peaks that it had at the beginning of it's run—the beginning of this season was as marvelously madcap and emotionally resonant as sitcoms come these days. Which is why I was delighted to get a chance to write about it and slightly disappointed that the tone of “Field Trip” was more “Stinson Missile Crisis” than “The Ducky Tie.”
“Field Trip” had some funny moments, but in general seemed a little hampered by its deviation from the intrigue of the whole Barney-Robin-Ted triangle. When we left Robin last week, she was in therapy thanks to pummeling a bimbo on the way to ruin Barney’s date with Nora, a move that seemed to promise future loaded Robin and Barney encounters. Robin’s dalliance with Kal Penn-as-therapist, while it offered some cute moments, felt pretty light in comparison. Their eating breakfast side-by-side as a not-date also reminded me of Ted’s Hail Mary pass of a compressed date with Stella, where the stakes were much higher. I did love that it afforded Barney the opportunity to chide Kevin on being sleazy. “It’s one thing to pretend to be a shrink and bang your patients,” Barney chides, “But that’s creepy.”
Barney grabbed most of the zippy moments in this round, thanks to his personal relationship crisis over Nora hating Ewoks. The writers have done an admirable job of keeping Barney’s essential weird Barney-ness intact, despite his out of character commitment to Nora. Ted, determined to bring his enormous Intro to Architecture lecture out on an inspirational field trip (and willfully ignorant of the truth that, as Marshall nails it, “Nobody takes an intro class to get on a path except the not being hungover path”), ends up shut out of his construction site and marches the gullible collegiate stragglers into Barney’s office for reasons that are pretty unclear. But of course Barney is not only prepared with a Powerpoint entitled “sex lessons” and another one with a detailed analysis of Ewok culture, diet, topography, and hairstyles. And then we get to the real point: Because anyone who was 10 years or younger when Star Wars came out must love Ewoks, Barney concludes that Nora’s hatred of the teddy bears of Endor must mean she’s eight years older than he thought she was, the hideous post-20s age of 37.
Of course, it ends up that Barney’s careful calculations were for naught—Nora just happened to not have seen Star Wars until last year—but his decision to use the remainder of the field trip as a focus group on the course of his relationship and the status of macaroni salad as salad was great, as were his amazingly spot on descriptions of Ted’s students. (“Weird beard! Bieber!”)
Jason Segel has been on his game this whole season, and his turn in “Field Trip” was no exception. Marshall fears that his boss, the environmental pixie/lawyer Garrison Cootes, has gone soft, accepting a ridiculously small amount of money to settle with a billion dollar pharmaceutical behemoth. Martin Short, as Cootes, had a lot more to do in “Field Trip” than the last time we saw him in “Challenge Accepted,” and I loved how his office party seemed like a crazed, Wizard of Oz-level munchkin bacchanal with not one, but three cakes with his picture plastered on them. Marshall scolds Cootes for backing down so easily, so Cootes brings him into his office and explains that his strategy is based on the assumption that we’re all going to die anyway. “We sue the guys for just enough money for cake before the sun fried us like chalupas.” Cootes is planning on hiding in a Colorado mineshaft with assault rifles and all of Friday Night Lights. Cut to Marshall frantically eating cake.
But if we know anything about Marshall, it’s that his convictions are stronger than his sense of dignity. His gut-twistingly awkward presentation to the pharmaceutical board about fish seemed like a stand-up comic, ahem, “floundering.” But Marshall’s arc had another interesting twist—it seems that Cootes and Marshall Eriksen are bound to do some world saving. There’s that familiar How I Met Your Mother cliffhanger—let’s just hope that next week returns to some of the clues they dropped earlier in the episodes. And, obviously, for more Barney Stinson slideshows.
- I loved Marshall's quick self-editing of his work story in the beginning, sort of like the whole "sandwich" thing in the beginning. "It was like watching The Breakfast Club on TBS." I wonder if he'll have to keep it up for the entirety of Lily's pregnancy.
- Do you think Barney always has a suitcase packed for Vegas, just in case?
- "Frog Creek, a tributary of trout river that runs in Clearwater Lake, all three of which need new names."