How I Met Your Mother: "Girls Vs. Suits"
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How I Met Your Mother: "Girls Vs. Suits"

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How I Met Your Mother

"Girls Vs. Suits"

Season 5, Episode 12

So your friends mock you for watching HIMYM?  You want to show them what all the fuss is about?  What better way, you ask, than showing them one of the best episodes the show's ever produced -- the 100th episode in the series, tonight's glorious celebration of all things HIMYM, "Girls Vs. Suits"?

Make no mistake, tonight's episode is transcendent.  It's a tribute to almost everything the show does well, done so well it reminds us how vital this ensemble can be and how talented the people  who bring them to us.  Noel and I got a screener for it just before the holidays; we watched it then for sheer delight, then watched it again to take notes for this recap yesterday afternoon.  The second viewing confirmed just how closely tailored to my particular fandom "Girls Vs. Suits" is.

You got your lists.  Barney delivers a list of the job descriptions of women he's slept with, as a way of explaining why he needs to bag the new hot bartender at MacLaren's: "Lawyers, teachers, poets, doctors, professional equestrians, amateur equestrians, a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker (yes, we're in the rhyming section), a math professor, a tax assessor, a weight guesser, a puppeteer, a blackjack dealer, a stay-at-home mom (yes, it's a job)."  And Ted delivers a semi-list of the rather mundane dreams he is giving up by ceasing to pursue the Econ 305 student who is worried about the university policy forbidding professor/student fraternization: "So long, elegant yet welcoming home in Westchester with a sensible mortgage I can handle without dipping into my savings!  Bye bye, two kids I raised with a stern yet loving hand finding the perfect balance between father and friend!  Adios, triplet schnauzers Frank, Lloyd and Wright!"

You've got Lily revealing a bit too much of her bisexual tendencies yet again, as she tries to convince Marshall of the bartender's hotness by explaining that she herself finds the bartender smoking hot: "And that ass? I would wear that thing for a hat! Last night in bed, I'll admit it, she popped into my head a couple of times."

You've got Robin trying to bolster her own insecurities by (a) clinging to Marshall's assertion that the bartender's not all that hot (the cutaways to Robin's agreeing nods add a wonderful extra layer to the joke); (b) proving that the hotness is only "circumstantial" by going behind the bar and getting her own slo-mo montage complete with Warrant's "Cherry Pie" and wind machine; and (c) protesting desperately as she's ejected from behind the bar, losing that hotness: "I was somebody back there!  Everybody loved me ..."

You've got mythology, delivered in a way that doesn't commit us to the mother anytime soon but gives us more tantalizing glimpses than we ever have had before: Her apartment, her shelf of trinkets (including the yellow school bus seen behind the kids in 2030 and a Robbie the Robot figurine), her position as bass player in a band ("Damn that's cool," Ted muses despite the fact that he's trying to convince Cindy that he doesn't care about her roommate), her hobby painting robots engaged in sports, her love of making breakfast foods sing ("Your mother's rendition of 'Memories' as performed by an English muffin," Future Ted tells his kids, "is to this day the most hauntingly beautiful thing I've ever heard"), her appreciation for The Unicorns and T.C. Boyle, her yellow umbrella (returned unwittingly by Ted when he leaves it behind in the apartment), and even an ankle disappearing into a bedroom when the mother crosses the hallway after her shower.

And of course, you've got that musical number.  Performed with exuberant panache by Neil Patrick Harris, proving himself once again one of the consummate entertainers of our time.  A patter song -- hooray! -- with plenty of clever touches and a soaring third bar: "That eighties dude with muttonchops/That baby with a lollipop ..."  The other principals joining in -- all but Jason Segal without committing themselves to actually singing, although they all do some nifty steps, especially in that relatively lengthy last crane shot.  And maybe the single funniest line in this whole finely-tuned comedy machine of an episode: Barney shutting down the song temporarily when Lily wonders if he'd pick suits over world peace: "I'm going to stop you right there.  It's suits.  Get your head out of your ass."

As Noel tweeted after we enjoyed "Girls Vs. Suits" for the second time: Fans are going to eat this up.  And that brings me back to my question up top.  It's a feast for fans, everything we love about the show.  Would non-fans find their way into it and feel the love as well?  My instinct is that "Girls Vs. Suits" isn't velvet-roped the way some of the other episodes I love might be.  It's not catering to fans in a way that shuts everyone else out.  The snappiness of the writing and editing, the terrific integration of the future voiceover (maybe the best the show has ever used this trope), the generosity of giving everyone in the cast their moment to advance their character's particular story -- that's supremely accessible, surely.

But I'd like to hear from the rest of you.  Is this an episode you can show to your sitcom-averse friends?  I hope so, because while the show is firing on all cylinders, revved up to its maximum potential right now, at this moment, I want the world to bear witness.

Stray observations:

- "Hard lemonade?  You know what, Boomer, you can keep that."

- Another huge laugh, illustrating the timing that HIMYM's post-traditional editing makes possible: "What's she like?" "She's a whore."

- "I don't know how to make an Um.  Is that equal parts vodka and get the hell out of my face?"

- Marshall really committing to commitment: "Hell yeah I'm gay.  Gay for you."

- Barney not sure whether he's ready to commit to the Hot Bartender quest: "Suits and insecure women -- I hate 'em!"

- The Tim Gunn cameo would have been way too cutesy had it not been for four syllables uttered in voiceover by Bob Saget: "TV's Tim Gunn."  Great save, writers.

- Barney: "I'm going to give up -- wait for it -- " Robin: "We know you're going to say 'suits.'" Barney: (dramatic pause) "Suits!"  Lily and Marshall: (gasps of horror)

- Two little things that make me goofy with glee: Ted's "Thank you, New York! I'll try not to screw it up!" response to the cheering outside the apartment (reminiscent of his "shrimp fried rice! totally!"); and Barney's body-language-sync, if that makes any sense, to the embellishments he adds to the last note of the song.

- "Those -- I mean that -- I mean she."

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