How I Met Your Mother: “Twelve Horny Women”
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How I Met Your Mother: “Twelve Horny Women”

I may want Marshall to make good just a little too much. There’s something in me that responds with deep yearning whenever he’s put in a situation where he appears to be in danger of losing, or of succumbing to a bad break. Marshall is one of the most fundamentally good-hearted characters on television, yet he’s not some sort of paragon or ideal. He’s a goof with a streak of sincerity a mile wide, one of those people that the world ought to treat right. When it doesn’t—when Marshall gets dealt a bad hand or finds himself on the wrong end of the stick—his expression of wounded, shattered optimism slays me. If this guy can’t get an even shot at success, I think, who could?

So I was unusually invested in the main storyline this week. It’s a flashback from some unspecified future date at which Marshall is appearing before the New York State Judiciary Committee (and trying out some judiciary material, e.g., “May I say those robes really do you… justice?”). He’s relating the story (in our present) of the big trial with Gruber Pharmaceuticals, the one that kicked off last week with old college “bro-beans” Brad turning out to be a spy for the defense. As Brad proceeds to win over the jury and an apparently bi-curious judge with ample displays of pecs, biceps, and ass, Marshall hangs his head over the environmental devastation at Frog Lake and the shambles of his case—the one that he imagines inspiring his son someday, teaching him that one good deed ripples outward to change the world. (“Man, you’re wise,” the admiring young Erickson responds. “That’s probably why I never felt the need to do drugs or rebel in any way.”)

From the framing device, it appears that this storyline is building up to some terrible episode of misconduct on Marshall’s part. Given my perhaps too strong dependency on Marshall’s belief in truth, justice, and the American way, this worried me. So much so that I was almost actively annoyed by the perfunctory B-story, wherein everyone else in the gang compares tales of teenaged mayhem in an attempt to claim the title of most previously badass. Lily corrupts a poor sweater-vested Scooter, who protests that his mom only allows him to have three friends, turning him into a punked-out loiterer swilling from a paper bag and sneering at the pigs. Ted proclaims that “Johnny Law was not a fan of Teddy Westside” and recalls the defiant way he posed for his mugshot. Robin reminisces about partying in hotels as a teen pop star, responding to polite Canadian mountie requests to keep it down by throwing TVs out the window. And Barney catches up with a bailiff who remembers the many times Barney got cuffed. “Only time I’m wearing handcuffs now is in the bedroom,” he assures the bailiff, who humorlessly replies, “Bondage, I get it.”

But who can concentrate on these obviously fabricated tales of oneupsmanship when Marshall’s about to ruin his career by engaging in underhanded tactics or outright ethics violations, I ask you?  (And fabricated they all are: Robin actually received a trophy for being the hotel’s most well-behaved guest, Ted put his head in “Scallywag” stocks for a picture at a Renaissance fair, and Barney was the youthful mascot of the court’s magic club, renowned for his tiny-hands-aided handcuffs escapes. Well, all except Lily. Lily was actually badass, it turns out.) My anxiety was somewhat alleviated when Marshall got Brad to remove his shirt in court, showing the dermititis he contracted while filming a beefcake video at the lake. (And editing it. “Yep, I edit stuff too.”) But then the judge reduces the damages to a mere $25,000 rather than the $25 million figure named in the suit, reasoning that the continued health of the company is more important than the collective health of a few birds and frogs. So while Marshall had behaved circumspectly during the trial, would he go off the rails in some fashion because of his Pyrrhic victory?

I remained on the edge of my seat during the subsequent conversation at MacLaren’s, where Brad tells Marshall that he’s quit his firm and joined the side of the good guys, and regains his friendship by making an “11:15 brunch rezzie at the Popover Pantry,” if Marshall doesn’t object. (“I’ll allow it,” Marshall succumbs with a happy grin.) Only when it became clear that Brad’s impact on Marshall hasn’t been to corrupt or disillusion him, but to encourage him to reach for higher office, could I relax. And the payoff was beautiful, with Marshall closing his case for a judgeship before the judiciary panel, then hanging around hoping to get another laugh or two before he’s ordered out.

Oh yes, there’s the tiniest sliver of a C-story. Barney and Robin avoid anything but falsely enthusiastic small talk since Barney kissed her after their strip club auditions last week. Then Barney decides to fix things by declaring that he’s done pursuing Robin and making a fool of himself—done for good, he says, so that they can always be genuinely glad to see each other. He goes off to get them drinks, and Robin’s smile fades. “Huh,” she says as if she’s just realized something. Yes, it’s about time in this Barney-Robin fated-relationship dance for her to move from pursued to pursuer. But you know me; I love to watch the dance, and I don’t mind for a second that the choreography is familiar. It’s still a beautiful thing.

Stray observations:

  • Brad’s declaration that after his idealistic law school days he “suited up, started lying to get what I want” cuts pretty close to the Barney moral code—that phrase “suited up” can’t possibly be a coincidence.
  • Call me shallow, but I find the habitual McConaughey-esque abbreviation of random words hilarious. “How you gonna provide for the little dude’s fyootch?” Brad asks Marshall. “Objection, your Honor, on the grounds that this is redonk!” he protests Marshall’s surprise witness move. And best of all, “People with hope, vision, and integ” from his speech that convinces Marshall to go for the judgeship.
  • A flash of the old HIMYM pacing during the scene at MacLaren’s where Ted announces the maladies he assigned to each person when calling them in sick so they can support Marshall in court: strep throat for himself, bronchitis for Robin, and “massive hemorrhoids” for Barney. “I don’t want to sit in that courtroom all day,” Barney protests, and Ted mutters, “I’ll bet you don’t want to sit anywhere with those hemorrhoids.”
  • Ted riffs a boxing-style intro for Marshall immediately thereafter, very complimentary although a little focused on Marshall’s failure to wear the tie Ted bought him, ending with “Marshall I Was Going To Say Nice Tie Erickson!”
  • Lily: “You were never a badass.” Ted: “Au contraire!” Lily: “Off to a good start.”

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