HIMYM's got a lot of work to do before the end of the season, and it's laboring under several handicaps. Alyson Hannigan is unavailable, and Cobie Smulders' baby bump is growing between takes, it seems. Ted has a serious case of the douche. And two big storylines need to be moved forward: Barney's secret love for Robin, and the master plot of Ted meeting his future kids' mother.
Counting this week, there are five episodes left to get that all done. Are they on track? Let's check the scoreboard:
Hannigan absence: Before the credits rolled, the writers knocked this one out of the park. Ignoring warnings from Ted and Marshall that it's "boy funny, not girl funny," Barney tells Lily a really dirty joke. (You can read it -- including the answer, which was not revealed in the episode -- here.) Lily storms off, and Bob Saget intones, "And we didn't see Lily for four weeks." See you in the finale (filmed out of order, months ago), Alyson!
Cobie's pregnancy: Still in the stage where it can be camoflaged by bathrobes, floaty tops, lampshades, and the inevitable oversized purse. But just barely. Good thing she's still in the game, because without Robin, this ensemble is merely good rather than great, as her work this week with Ted's assistant and mentee PJ proves. "A hot guy telling you when you can and can't pee? That's the dream!" she muses, reflecting on her opportunistic affair with headset-wearing PJ who guards the keys to the bathroom in her apartment.
Douchey Ted: We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on this one, and I know it's none too soon for many of you. On his own after being fired for losing the Goliath National Bank project, Ted decides to finally start his own firm, Mosbius Designs. The firm is a desk in his and Robin's apartment, an official pen (maybe felt-tip?), an unfinished brochure and website, and a lot of "wisdom walks." His problem with delaying actual work in order to preserve his firm's pristine, failure-proof dream state pegs douchey Ted's doucheyness: Disappointed that he's not farther along in achieving his goals, he continues to play at life rather than live it. As far as I'm concerned, though, douchey Ted has a lot more comic potential than sweet, romantic, boring Ted circa season 1. So I hope that serious growing-up Ted will retain the flavor of his particular brand of doucheyness, as it were. (Would that be vinegar?)
Barney's case of the Cupids: All season long, NPH has been rocking the funny, and never more so than his flailing efforts to hold it together when he learns that not only is PJ not a hot chick that Ted is banging, but it's actually a hot guy that Robin is banging. "Wait for it" has been conspicuously absent this season, and I'm starting to think the writers have withheld it deliberately in order to make Barney's halting confession to Marshall that much more hilarious. "I'm--wait for it--in--wait for it--love--wait for it--with--wait for it ... a--wait for it--certain--" The way NPH oh so subtly varies the "wait for its" should be part of the core curriculum in sitcom school. Now Marshall knows (actually, he already did), and Barney is getting more agitated at Robin's behavior. We're heading for a crisis.
The Mother: Nothing yet. But we've been promised action by season's end, and by moving the growing-up storylines along, the show is putting the pieces into place.
And lest you think it's all about the mythology, this episode was nimble, inventive, and perfectly pitched in every scene. The B-story involving Marshall's attempts to RIF-proof himself by getting a "thing" like Food Guy ("who wants pulled pork!"), Toy Guy ("... while wearing Wolverine claws!"), and YouTube clip guy (even while ralphing in the trash can, one viewer completes the high five) was given almost equal time with Ted's office A-story. And it was ideally suited for both Marshall and Barney. Marshall stresses out trying to run the fantasy baseball league that makes him Sports Guy, and Barney congratulates him on becoming indispensible to the office. ("Last week you were trash, and now you're Sports Guy!" "I was trash?" "Last week!").
If the next four weeks have got game like this week, we're in for a great ride through May.
- Check out this informative Watcher column by the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan about what's coming up on the show; very general spoilers and a good inside peek.
- Ted can't resist Wheel of Fortune: "A penny saved is a Penny Marshall! Yes!" When PJ turns it on after being fired, Ted, in the background, momentarily shows interest before remembering that this is a bad thing.
- Barney rejects Marshall as Eco-Guy, Monty Python Guy, and Daily Fun Fact Guy: "Did you know that ... you're fired?"
- Strange fixation on bodily fluids tonight. Most disturbing: PJ coming back from the bathroom to tell Robin, "I still have to go a little bit, but I couldn't stay away from you one second longer."
- "Babies can smell money, everybody knows that!"