Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How I Met Your Mother: “Disaster Averted”

Illustration for article titled How I Met Your Mother: “Disaster Averted”

Apparently Hurricane Irene was a boon to the sitcom writing industry, and apparently the gestation period for those episodes has now passed, because both It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and HIMYM have now aired Irene-inspired episodes featuring yelling, panicking, hunkering in bunkers, and banging in bathtubs. (Or banging in bunkers, as the case may be.) And as funny as it was to watch Sweet Dee get all indignant that her bunker was raided before the storm of the century, I think HIMYM wins the hurricane sweepstakes. “Disaster Averted” recalls in many wonderful ways “The Ducky Tie”: constantly interrupted storytelling, callbackariffic structuring, fleet pacing, machine-gun dialogue, and a dollop of sweetness at the end.

While the group tells Kevin the backstory of the “Absolutely No Boogie Boarding” sign outside of MacLarens (good eye, those of you who spotted that last week!), Barney tries to maneuver his way out of the ducky tie bet that he lost with Marshall. After his imaginary action-hero cold-open tale, in which he uses the tie to save a child hanging off the side of what appears to be the GNB headquarters (isn’t that the set where he and Marshall used to go for their smoke breaks?) fails to fool the Eriksens, he resorts to a complex strategem: trying to get Marshall mad enough to use up his last slap from the slap bet on him in order to open up negotiations on trading the ducky tie for another slap. The two best attempts involve Barney using Robin’s makeup to fake a spot of sunburn on his cheek (“It’s so sensitive, it’s like a big red bullseye”) and claiming in the middle of the hurricane story that when Marshall went to the bathroom, Lily told everybody else about her frequent assignations with Barney.

“So boogie boarding!” as Kevin frequently reminds Ted, in a direct repeat of “The Ducky Tie's” never-not-funny method of getting back to Ted’s Victoria story. Ted, as a former boy scout, attempts to herd the gang into a rental car and up to his house in Westchester where they will be safe from the storm. But Robin pooh-poohs the danger, claiming that in Vancouver, this would be “lawn-cutting weather! house-painting weather!” Barney thinks Ted is a weenie, Lily wants some time away from Marshall, and Ted, fed up with all of them, invites a random hot NASCAR fan to ride with him to safety listening to the end of Memoirs of a Geisha. Best moment: Every member of the group proclaims whether they are going or not going depending on who else is going (Lily and Marshall rising from the sofa, then sitting down again with hands folded, like some petulant version of musical chairs, is worth the price of admission all by itself).

Turns out that Lily, moved by Marshall’s gesture drawing her a bubble bath so she can read alone, invites him in and conceives her child therein. Elated at surviving the storm, Marshall throws his uninsured caution to the winds (best moment in that great minor storyline: morbid Marshall musing by the mantel about the grim reaper gripping his throat and then turning on a confused Lily: “And you, with your blithe request, you only hasten his inevitable triumph; is that what you desire?”) and boogie-boards down the flooded street on a garbage can lid, eventually going through the MacLaren’s window somehow in a scene too expensive to film.

What didn’t “Disaster Averted” give a HIMYM fan? There were slaps: two of them, vicious and masterful, taken immediately from the three extra slaps Barney gives Marshall in exchange for ducky tie freedom (a decision he instantly regrets, stammering “I think I need to go home and reevaluate how I make life decisions”), which leaves one more slap in addition to the one still left over from the original bet coming down the pike. There was a bear that Marshall imagines mauling him any time he ventures into dangerous places like the bagel shop, his own apartment, or a bathroom, while he screams “Not like this!” And there was a perfect moment for Robin and Barney, almost kissing in the rain when Barney apologizes to Robin for toying with her affection for her father, then remembering in the cab after the slaps how they nearly ruined their relationships with Nora and Kevin before they even started. “Disaster averted,” they congratulate each other, then begin making fun of their own kissy faces, and then… a real kiss. Just about perfect.

Stray observations:

  • Although the pregnancy test was positive at the end of last season, that has to have been a flash-forward in the middle of the series-long flashback because, as established at the beginning of this season, we’re still in the first trimester. In other words, I’m sure that chronology was either established in timestamps that I’m too lazy to look up or will be retconned later.
  • Among the best lines of the Bob Saget voiceover in any season, a pithy statement that sums up the fondness with which we look back on our wild youth: “Kids, you haven’t truly lived unless somewhere somebody puts a sign up because of something you did.” (Among those signs: No smoking on the carousel, do not punch the llamas, and no motorcycles on the casino floor.)
  • Out in the dangerous world, people get run over by buses, hit in the nuts by skateboards, and bitten by babies, even though they did not get up in the morning planning to become a YouTube video (unlike Marshall, who has gotten up in the morning with that plan on multiple occasions).
  • Kevin thinks Marshall and Lily are crazy not to take Barney’s monetary offers to get out of the ducky tie bet; when Barney offers $10,000, he interjects, “Yes!” right before Marshall’s definitive, “No.”
  • Did YouTube sponsor this episode? Barney wants to stay in his apartment during the hurricane in case the wind blows the clothes off a hot chick: “If I’m not up here to videotape it and put it up on YouTube who will? FEMA? Come on, open your eyes!”
  • “I want you guys to know, and I really mean this: I wish I’d branched out and made more friends in my 20s.”
  • “Hurricane Eriksen would be a sweet name.”