I don't like it when half-hour comedies appear only sporadically during the television season. I know that the number of episodes in a full-season order has decreased, that seasons are longer, and that networks love to juggle the schedule to maximize sweeps 'n such. And I know that the schedule of filming has nothing to do with the way episodes are parceled out, sometimes in a thin trickle, and so it doesn't make sense to blame inconsistencies of pace or tone on the weeks when the show's in reruns. But it's not just the actors and crew who develop a rhythm -- it's also the viewers. A regular appointment schedule with a comedy create a kind of pacing all its own. It's hard to get back in the groove when we're put on a variable reward schedule.
That's how I feel about "Twin Beds," an episode I've been looking forward to ever since I read the description: Barney and Ted both realize they want Robin back after seeing her get serious with Don. And while there's plenty to like in the clever way Lily and Marshall's bed dilemma comments on the choices Robin is facing and the regrets her exes are recognizing, I thought "Twin Beds" missed a chance to add the right touch of resonance to this situation. Maybe it's just my timing as a viewer that's off, thanks to the network's stinginess with new episodes this spring. But I didn't feel the change in the group dynamic as deeply as I was hoping, and this much-anticipated (by me) episode fell a little flat.
Let's explore the good ideas before moving on to what I thought didn't work so well. In the B-story, Lily and Marshall discover that they are sleep-deprived when they collapse on the twin beds at their weekend getaway and don't wake up until check-out time. (Lily: "We missed four prepaid meals." Marshall: "I lost eleven pounds!") They admit to each other that sleeping in the same bed is torture; she's a thousand degrees, he's got dagger-like toenails, she won't let him eat in bed, he drools. So Lily suggests separate beds. (Marshall responds enthusiastically: "Yes, a mini-fridge! And separate beds!") They decide to decouple sleep and sex by having three beds -- two for sleeping, one for sex. (Lily responds enthusiastically: "Yes, a sex bed! A dirty, dirty sex bed! And a beanbag chair just for special birthday stuff.")
Meanwhile Don asks Robin to move in (at first just on the couch so he can sit down with the nachos, but then for real) and she asks the group's opinion. Ted's all for it, thanks to her annoying habit of putting the empty milk carton back in the refrigerator ("to remind us to buy milk!" she insists), but Barney doesn't trust Don, whom Robin has been keeping away from him. Turns out Robin hasn't told Don she used to date Barney, and Barney spills the beans in his usual macho fashion: "I like you, Don. We both love a good scotch, we both enjoy my stories, and we both dated Robin!" But she hasn't told Don she used to date Ted, either -- Ted, whom Don has spent time with but assumed (with Robin's tacit support) is gay. (Evidence: He takes calligraphy, records Project Runway, and gets petulant when he can't fix creme brulee because his kitchen torch is on the fritz.) Don's freaked out that Robin's core group of friends is 50% composed of her exes, but he gets over it fairly quickly and invites Ted and Barney for sushi at his apartment ... where Barney proceeds to play a one-sided match of one-upsmanship by stuffing spicy food in his mouth.
Ted is determined to save Barney from making a fool of himself running after Robin, and pulls out his own foolproof system of getting over his exes: Letters to Future Ted, saved in a box labeled FOR MY BIOGRAPHER. But Barney asserts that Ted, too, wants Robin back and simply hasn't admitted it. When Ted reads his letter to himself upon breaking up with Robin, he discovers it's true: "Until Robin's ready for the next step, she's not your girl." Now she's getting serious with Don, which means she is ready for the next step ... which means she's perfect again. Barney and Ted get drunk, fight over Robin, go to her place and yell outside her window, and then get dressed down by her for their immaturity. She says she's got to withdraw from the group in order to take the next step with Don. And a few days later, just when Ted thought she'd forgotten about it, he storms her room to confront her about another empty milk carton and finds it empty, save for a blue French horn.
The over-insistence on the French horn as a tangible symbol of the Ted-Robin connection, Robin's lack of reflection about what it might mean to move in with Don, the lack of involvement of Lily and Marshall in the Robin storyline ... it all struck me as problematic. But the biggest mistake in the episode was our lengthy visit with Drunk Ted and Drunk Barney. After repeated hiatuses this spring, the broadness here was grating. I didn't want to spend time with those people. I wanted to hang out with Ted and his slightly ridiculous grandiose conceits, and with Barney telling stories about sexual conquests. And so the break-up of the old gang, even if temporary, didn't have the poignancy it should have, because its members weren't being the people I enjoy spending time with. Lily and Marshall end their experimental sleeping arrangements by accepting each other's quirks for the sake of intimacy. That's what I wanted to do, but the quirks were sketched far too clumsily for me to find endearing.
- The pain of being left at the altar by Stella is assuaged somewhat by being written down in calligraphy.
- Barney consoles himself for the loss of Robin by remembering other women ... and more importantly, other boobs. And all the stuff you can do with boobs.
- Barney's finest moment in "Twin Beds" was his desperate bravado at Don's apartment: "I love spicy stuff too, guy! Probably more than you do!"
- Robin's finest moment was answering Drunk Barney's "It's Barn Door, and guess what, I'm open!" phone call with "Hang on, Barn Door, I've got another call."
- "Can we at least push them together?" "Sure! ... Oh, you mean the beds."