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

How I Met Your Mother: “Karma”

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

Donna Bowman’s out of the office this week, and so I’m here with a quick and easy report on how to woo a stripper.

I didn’t particularly care for the reveal that Becki Newton’s Quinn was a stripper a few episodes ago—it seemed unnecessary. She could have been a lawyer, or in banking, or working for the mayor’s office, or anything she wanted to be, and the appropriate autotuned R&B song for their hypothetical wedding could have been “Independent Woman” instead of “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper).” And no disrespect to America’s strippers, but because Quinn’s occupation felt unnecessary and like a gimmick, Barney and Quinn seemed doomed to fail, yet another casualty of How I Met Your Mother’s ever not-expanding universe of characters.

Quinn’s future success as a character is no guarantee, but after tonight, the character makes more sense. Newton and Neil Patrick Harris actually have great chemistry—she has a bit of an edge to her that sells Quinn gaming Barney (and… waiting… for… the… end… of… that… one… song…), but also relenting in the coffee shop without it being some grand declaration of Feelings. There’s something kind of awesome about Barney informing a stripper, “I have been trying and trying to be a better person,” and it actually sticking.

It’s possible the writers took two common complaints to heart and then headed, like, off to a workshop, Grinch-style, to fix them for us. One would be the phantom boyfriends and girlfriends who drifted in and out of seasons, dragging down plots, and whittling themselves down to cliches and rote problems and oblivious answers. Despite having the sexual chemistry of two Lego pieces with Cobie Smulders, Kal Penn’s Kevin got more screentime and casual hangout time than any tertiary character since Victoria. Newton’s supposed to be hanging around for a while, and if the show applies that wildly revolutionary “Show the characters who are dating interacting” rubric to two actors who actually have a natural dynamic? Well, hey, there could be something in that. Fine, I like the stripper. I'm sorry.

Meanwhile, the living arrangements changed for real, for good, probably. We all wondered how the show would actually deal with the time constraints of Lily and Marshall living in East Meadow, and here’s the answer: not well and not for long! The suburbs horror story plot was some weak ass stuff (and the suburbs really aren’t that bad, y’all). This show in the later seasons sometimes reaches for the broadest material (the lame Marshall and Lily early onset elderliness), but good on the show in general for mining a decent arc of material out of it (the drunk train) and putting it away when there wasn’t much left by moving Marshall and Lily into a familiar space with new problems (the baby), and Ted out of the familiar with the same problems (lonely meat-smoking).

The Robin-Ted living arrangement never brought much to the table—it didn’t take anything off of it, either, but very little came out of the situation. Off the top of my head: the scene in “Bagpipes” when they scream at their neighbors, Barney asking for condoms at the beginning of season four, and the beautiful, awesome, bittersweet light display in “Symphony of Illumination.” That’s not much for characters who have shared an apartment since the fall of 2008. Seeing Ted somewhere else is kind of weirdly exciting, even if it doesn’t really change that much.


And that’s the second complaint the writers seem to have sort of addressed: that nothing ever happens. Not much has really changed besides some living arrangements and Barney’s choice of ill-advised lady friend. But enough has happened this season—or at least, the illusion of things happening has been maintained—such that this strange experience I believe they call momentum continues to roll on with How I Met Your Mother.

Stray observations:

  • The only redeeming part of the suburbs storyline: Smulders’ delivery of some of her diary lines. Favorite two: “Also, Diary, I think writing in you is stupid, but you were a gift from Lily, and she’s watching me right now.” And “I’ll swipe Shirley’s Rascal and drive to the train station. Shirley’s 42, by the way, and rides a Rascal, I swear it’s the second half of Wall-E out here.” It’s entirely in the delivery on the latter especially, which Smulders basically read without punctuation, if that makes sense.
  • The mechanics of this Chinese fire drill of residence switching don’t even come close to making sense in real life (Today, I want to move into a new apartment! Tomorrow, I want to paint the ceiling with ice cream and Ryan Gosling will walk through the door with an Eames chair if I just believe, Peter-Pan-style!)
  • But Lily and Marshall ended up turning some hell of a profit, didn’t they? They sold their original apartment, they get to sell a house they didn’t buy, and they're moving into an apartment they’re not putting a deposit down on.
  • The cutaway to Patrice!
  • “I like smoking meat, but I have a new passion: wood.” “You hear these things that come out of your mouth?” The Ted scenes were pretty decent, no? “I see, too” was funny, as was Ted getting angry at Barney for Ted’s knowing the Lusty Leopard Friday special.
  • Another case of Great Delivery by NPH: “Well, at my job we don’t rip out people’s hearts for money. My company briefly backed a lab in North Korea that did, but we sold it.”