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

How I Met Your Mother: "Slapsgiving"

Image for article titled How I Met Your Mother: "Slapsgiving"
Image for article titled How I Met Your Mother: "Slapsgiving"

I suffered through Pacific Time, with its unnatural three-hour delay of prime-time television, to bring you Slapsgiving. Now that's the kind of perseverance usually seen only on heartwarming airline commercials. (I'm afraid my trip home tomorrow, through the airspace crush two days before American Thanksgiving, will not be the stuff heartwarming airline commercials are made of.)

Probably no episode titled "Slapsgiving" and featuring a website with a slap countdown could really live up to the hype. There was some simpering here — Marshall laughing at himself in the middle of a line comes to mind — and the unconvincing groans that met Ted and Robin's military rank running joke were unpleasant at best. Maybe it comes down to my dislike of Menacing Marshall. I find any display of self-possession and confidence by Marshall utterly creepy. So every time Marshall made some weirdly sexual slap-threat, I felt like I was watching the first stages of a serial killing.

Besides, we all knew the instant Ted and Robin confessed that they did something stupid that they hooked up, because that is what "doing something stupid" always means, and always will mean, in the universal grammar of series television. And then the episode had the gall to make me hope for an instant that they just had a bad fight over pies and Orson Bean, only to go with the hook-up anyway in the end. (I let out an unconvincing groan at that point.) And while Barney was gibbering in fear during his slap-breakdown (I do like scared Barney, I admit), I couldn't get past the fact that nobody had cleaned up the overturned platter of stuffed mushrooms on the floor.

OK, enough kvetching. While this was not the classic slapisode for which we all hoped, there were some bright spots. Marshall's turkey hands (it works on two levels!). Orson Bean in general (or General Orson Bean). Robin saying "that is a truth fact." Slap Commissioner Lily reversing herself suddenly during the final countdown (at least legen, if not dary as well).

And Ted and Robin's dilemma — even though it was handled in a disappointingly standardized fashion — nevertheless concealed some barbs. Finally this central relationship in the show has come into its own. Nervous, hurt Robin and angry, frustrated Ted hit just the right notes, and uncovered some of the bitterness and anxiety in those characters that gives them resonance.

Surely we won't have to wait another year for Slap #4, though. And as much as I enjoyed Barney's falsetto sing-moaning during Marshall's composlaption — if you're going to have a musical number, HIMYM, don't half-ass it like this. Credulity-straining spontaneous choreography is required.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

- Robin involuntarily starting to raise her hand off the table to salute Major Pay Raise may be my favorite Robin moment of my favorite Robin season.

- I do not want to see Orson Bean say "bitches."

- The show returns to an old Ted trope — having him one-up his own comic insults — but only "dating the Cryptkeeper's Dad" is at all funny.

- Barney looking uncomfortable in the middle of the "relapse five" provided his best moment of a, shall we say, challenging episode.

- It must be a measure of my stage of life that I identify with Lily, trying to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving for a bunch of self-obsessed ungrateful yahoos. Because it certainly isn't the amount of work I actually do on Thanksgiving; I am reliably one of the self-obsessed ungrateful yahoos. Why can't I sit on the sofa and watch the parade one day?