How I Met Your Mother: “The Fortress”

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Grade: B-

Airdate: 3/18/13

I was pleasantly surprised by this episode of How I Met Your Mother. It started with a witty joke, followed by an over-the-top Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) antic and then what seemed like a shameless pop culture reference. When Older Ted (Bob Saget) started explaining the widely popular television show “Woolworhty Manor” by probably reading the first paragraph of Downton Abbey‘s Wikipedia page verbatim,  I groaned thinking back to The Hobbit references in “Ring Up.”

But the episode surprised me. I am still glad that Downton Abbey did not allow the show to use it name — it’s far too dignified for that. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Ted (Josh Radnor) keep watching the rip-off Downton without Lily (Alyson Hannigan) because she is spending so much at her new job of being The Captain”s (Kyle MacLachlan) art consultant.

At first it seemed like another weak pop culture reference because Marshall and Ted aren’t two guys who would typically watch Downton together. But, as Lily spends more time away from them and starts becoming a billionaire snob like The Captain, Marshal and Ted are mistaken for a gay couple; two guys that would watch Downton together.

HIMYM, is that a theme? I’m impressed. Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney’s plot line didn’t have much of a theme, except crazy Barney features in his apartment. Robin is trying to get him to sell it and holds on open house. Barney goes through every ridiculous feature to try to turn off potential buyers. Like most jokes on this show, if they had done it three times it would have been funny but seven was a little much.

Marshall and Ted bring Marvin to the open house and get mistaken for his dads. Ted is already speaking in a posh British accent and Marshall decides to act sassy — it was a little much — and go along with it. Lily then comes and everyone mistakes her for being homophobic when she tries to get Masrhall to listen to her. With Neil Patrick Harris being the star of this show, you’d think they would have had a couple gay themes before but I think this was a first.

One of the girls at the open house is incredibly attracted to Ted, who she thinks is a posh, gay Brit, but of course she can get him to make an exception for her. That joke bumped the episode up a letter grade. Barney gives Ted a hug at the end of the episode for using the play and sleeping with her.

In the end, Robin turned down potential buyers because she took them insulting Barney’s apartment as insulting Barney. Lily told The Captain she needs to work less and spend more time with Marshall.

My feelings on the episode were continuously up and down. The bad Downton rips got on my nerves, but the show’s themes were used well. The gay jokes were funny, but Marshall’s gay impression was a little too much. Overall, it might have been the best episode in a while. That only means next week is going to be terrible. I will try not to be too disappointed.

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How I Met Your Mother: “The Ashtray”

The Ashtray

Grade: C

Airdate: 2/19/13

How I Met Your Mother confuses me most of the time. Last week’s episode was terribly written and not funny, but did a least had a point. Ted (Josh Radnor) needs to date one last crazy girl before he meets the mother. This episode on the other hand was slightly better written but lacked a plot and for some reason brought back my last favorite story line: Zoey.

Thank god, Jennifer Morrison is on a good show now and Zoey did not actually make an appearance in this episode. But her story line was brought back when Ted got a message from her ex-husband The Captain, played by Kyle MacLachlan. HIMYM used a common later season format of telling a story within a story about the last time the Ted, Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) saw The Captain. The present story only had one funny joke of Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) trying to insert himself into the past story, because he was convinced he was there. If the joke had stopped at three times instead of six or seven it might have been funnier.

Ted, Lily and Robin saw The Captain at the opening of an art gallery a year and a half ago. The story is told three times. In the first, Ted realizes The Captain was dating his current girlfriend at the time. Robin then says that wasn’t true because Ted was high at the gallery opening and The Captain was hitting on Robin the whole time. Lily then tells us that neither of those were true because Robin was drunk. It turns out Lily really liked a painting down in the gallery by The Captain and his art consultant laughed her because apparently it was a terrible painting. He was calling to get Lily’s number because he wanted to offer her a job as his new art consultant because the painting was now worth a fortune.

Earlier in the episode, Lily started crying during a fight with Marshall (Jason Segel) over her using Aldrin Justice to steal The Captain’s ashtray about how she never got to be an artist. It was a good emotional scene, but seemed out-of-place in this episode. It was like the episode was trying to have a dramatic element but it just randomly through in one scene in the midst of comedy and drunk/high jokes. In the last scene of the episode, Lily tells everyone she took the job and Robin and Ted make up another version of the story including Barney doing a play from “The Playbook.”

Apart from my inital horror that Zoey might be in the episode, it was rather fun and okay. Still not as funny as earlier episodes, there wasn’t another that contributed to the story arch and the one attempt at drama failed. But whatever, I don’t expect too much from this show anymore.


How I Met Your Mother: “Bad Crazy”

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Grade: C

Airdate: 2/11/13

This episode was pretty average for How I Met Your Mother these days, but some of the jokes were even more overdone than usual.

The show is keeping alive the idea that Jeanette (Abby Elliott) is the last mistake and the crazy girl who Ted (Josh Radnor) dates before meeting the mother. I like that it keeps bringing that up because I’m certain the show will not forget and bring in a thousand other terrible girls.

There is an overdone montage of Marshall (Jason Segel) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) buying stupid stuff and then storing it at Ted’s. But, that leads into a witty jokes of Ted trying to convince the gang that Jeanette isn’t crazy and Barney happens to by fixing a cuckoo clock.

Later on, Ted says that he broke up with Jeanette but she doesn’t seem to think so. Barney and Marshall let her into Ted’s apartment and she locks herself in his room. Ted tries to get her to come out and leave but he ends up sleeping with her. Lily (Alyson Hannigan) tells ted that Jeanette is crazy but maybe crazy is what he needs. She predicts that it will end badly and in something being set on fire. Older Ted (Bob Saget) tells us she is right.

Robin (Cobie Smulders) has her own story line that she has never held Marvin before. That fact somehow lands her in a strip club with Marvin and Mike Tyson. It was kind of funny but the future scene of her telling Lily about what happened was a little over done. And the two of them seemed to not age for 16 years. The show did make Mike Tyson a senator in the future; that was a good joke.

Average episode overall. The show slowly seems to be following a story line again by setting up Ted’s last relationship and telling us it is going to end. I hope it is soon.


How I Met Your Mother: “P.S. I Love You”

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Grade: C-

Airdate: 2/4/13

Even with bringing back Robin (Cobie Smulders) Sparkles and the story of how Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) met, this episode of How I Met Your Mother was exceeding average. And a later season level of average, so it had a lot of not funny, overdone jokes and a pointless story line.

Because this show is supposed to be about Ted’s (Josh Radnor) love life, the episode starts with Ted having a brief connection with a girl on the subway. He starts to become a little stalker-ish and Marshall and Lily tell him to stop. Ted ends up meeting the girl, Jeanette, played by Abby Elliott, and finds out that she was a little stalker-ish too.

So, that created the stalker theme for the episode. Ted tries to convince the gang that Jeanette isn’t crazy. Ted says you can’t force destiny and the rest the story line is about debunking that. It turns out Jeanette is really a stalker, who has been stalking Ted for almost a year. But, he gets with her anyway because Older Ted (Bob Saget) tells us you have to make one horrible mistake before you meet the one. One horrible mistake, really? You’re trying too hard, HIMYM. Every girl since Stella has been a mistake.

Anyway, when they were having the stalker conversation Robin admitted that she become obsessed with someone when she was a teenager in Canada. Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) goes on a journey through overdone and forced Canada jokes as he finds the Canadian version of Behind the Music on Robin Sparkles. The episode seemed to forget that Robin Sparkles was a one-hit wonder in season two and three because suddenly she was popular enough to have played at the Canadian version of the Super Bowl.

The gang finds out about her lost grudge music video “P.S. I love you,” which she wrote because she was obsessed with some famous Canadian. It turned out to be Paul Shaffer, so that was mostly a wasted plot line to set up one lame joke.

Barney realized he became obsessed and confirmed Robin’s earlier point that it could happen to anyone.

This episode was everything I expect a later season episode to be: bad, not funny, plot-less, not having anything to do with how Ted become the person he needed to be to meet the mother.


How I Met Your Mother: “Ring Up”

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Grade: D-

Airdate: 1/21/13

This episode of How I Met Your Mother opened with Ted (Josh Radnor) telling the group he was dating a 20-year-old. And all my hope created by last week’s episode was lost. If the show was consistently bad, I don’t think I would be so disappointed each time a terrible episode comes along. But, knowing that the show can be good and then having an episode like this one just makes me sad.

So, Ted goes on his date with 20-year-old Carly, we weren’t even told her name until the episode was almost over. You know, names aren’t important for character development or anything. Ted tells us that the date was terrible and Carly is an overly weird and stupid version of New York hipsters that probably only exist in movies. That would have been okay if the show didn’t use that model for all 20-year-olds. Also, the “kids” as Ted puts it turn into actual kids at one point.

After that part I was left in a position I commonly find myself in while watching HIMYM: trying to find a reason not to give the episode an F. A musical number about how awesome Robin (Cobie Smulders) is and a bad Lord of the Rings/Hobbit reference is not one of the reasons I was looking for. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) had there own story line about Lily being attracted to bad boys or in their terms Marshall wearing a leather cuff. Most of that was okay, but it was mixed in with all the terrible and had a slapstick comp out.

Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is claiming that he is going through one-night-stand withdraw and needs Ted to bang the 20-year-old for him. Barney says he just needs to find something they have in common. Ted realizes Carly likes Star Wars too. The joke about her only liking the new ones did help the grade a bit. Ted said that was close enough and bangs her for Barney.

Ted then shows Barney a picture of Carly and she is his half-sister. Barney has a half-sister? Ted said now of them knew she existed until two years ago, so maybe it was in an episode I can’t remember. Barney realizes that he finds the whole thing immoral and Ted tells him his one-night-stand withdraw is over.

Robin spends most of the episode in her LOTR/Hobbit reference with her engagement ring making her invisible to men. It was a very superficial reference. The show referenced The Hobbit the whole time and has never said anything about the cast liking Lord of the Rings before. So, it was just picking a popular fab and trying to run with not. If LOTR really fit into the show, it would have been like The Big Bang Theory Lord of the Rings episode.

Robin’s problem is pretty much solved by Lily telling her Barney is the only men she needs.

And to think I thought the show had writing ability again. Can it just be over already? D-.


How I Met Your Mother: “Band or DJ?”

Band or DJ?

Grade: B

Airdate: 1/14/13

After much debate with myself, I decided to give this episode of How I Met Your Mother a B. And — as much as I hate to admit it — I liked this episode, for the most part. It had some moments that had me thinking it was the old HIMYM. It even did something serious and took it seriously!

The episode picks up with Older Ted (Bob Saget) reminding us that Robin (Cobie Smulders, who was clearly sick during the filming of this episode) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) are engaged. The gang minus Barney are at the bar and joining through a strain of childish, not funny poop jokes — one reason the episode got a B. The poop is to confetti as weed is to sandwich analogy almost made up for it.

Ted (Josh Radnor) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) then square off for who gets to be Robin and Barney’s wedding planner. Their first disagreement: Lily wants a band, Ted wants a D.J. That turned into the theme of the episode and HIMYM, I applauded your sudden ability to write television again.

Robin tells them to hold off the planning because Barney has to ask her dad, Robin Sr., played by Ray Wise, permission to marry her. They go to a tacky NYC restaurant to meet Robin’s dad, who claims he is cool and fun now. But, he doesn’t give Barney permission and says he isn’t a real man because he has blonde hair.

Barney tries to prove he is a man to Robin Sr., which leads to lots and lots of Canada jokes. Robin tells the rest of the gang her dad keeps friend requesting her on Facebook. They warn her not to accept for all the regular, but always funny reasons. She eventually does and finds out her dad got married without telling her. She confronts her dad about it, tells him she is marrying Barney without his permission and he isn’t invited to the wedding. A black-haired Barney was standing behind Robin holding a bunny in that scene, but other than that is was serious. Old HIMYM, have you returned?

Lily and Ted are still going at it about the band or D.J. choice. Marshall (Jason Segel) thinks they are both being ridiculous, but Lily realizes there is a bigger issue and takes Ted up to the roof. Lily know he isn’t really happy about Robin getting engaged to Barney. Lily tells him he has to say it out loud, but she will say something worse first and admits that sometimes she wishes she wasn’t a mom. Ted then admits Robin should be with him and not Barney because he is the D.J., which is saver and more reliable than a band. I like that it was Lily, not Marshall, who took Ted to the roof. Lily has almost been a purely comic character for a while and she cried in this episode. There was a montage of all of Ted’s injuries in that scene, which was the second reason for the B.

Back in the tacky restaurant, Barney gets Robin Sr. to sort of apologize to Robin. Robin tells Ted that her dad has never apologized to her before and she decided to go with a band. But, Older Ted tells us he made a strong case for a D.J. that night.

The show then jumps four months into the future with Ted running into his ex-girlfriend Cindy, from season four, on the subway. Wow, the show remembered her and got the same actress. Cindy is there with her girlfriend, because she’s a lesbian, and they just had lunch with her former roommate, aka The Mother. Ted tells her the band just cancelled for the wedding and Cindy says her roommate’s band — she’s the bass player — could do it. Ted accepts. Older Ted tells us that if Robin hadn’t married Barney and they hadn’t gone with a band, he never would have met the mother.

That was a pretty good plot point, but clearly not how that originally was intended to happen. Cindy was dating Ted back in season four, when the show was still set on its five season course. The detail about her being gay and Ted’s chance encounter with her on the subway made it seem like there was a planned story arch for Cindy but the show let its popularity get the better of its storytelling.

Overall, this was a good episode. Does that mean anything about the next episode? No, I have learned from the past. It might seem that HIMYM is on a clear path with good writing that is finally getting us to a moment that should have happened three seasons ago, but it could return next week with terrible classic later seasons episode. But, I hope it doesn’t.


How I Met Your Mother: “The Over-Correction”

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Grade: D

Airdate: 12/10/12

About half way through watching this episode of How I Met Your Mother I come to the realization that I might be giving HIMYM its first F. I spent the rest of the episode trying to find something to help its grade. In-law sex and the intervention banner were this episodes only redeeming qualities.

The episode starts with a 4-way split screen of the gang minus Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) all trapped in closets somewhere. Basic HIMYM story format: Older Ted (Bob Saget) says he needs to explain and we jump to a week earlier with everyone minus Barney at the bar. The show has recently become a huge fan of Cleveland jokes. As I have said before, its funny for Ohioans but I don’t know about the rest of the world.

Robin (Cobie Smulders) says that Barney dating her annoying co-worker and not funny comic relief character Patrice, played by Ellen D. Williams, must be a cry for help. Ted (Josh Radnor) says Patrice is just an over-correction because of his failed relationship with Quinn. Still with Quinn? Come on, it took Ted less time to get over Stella after she left him at the alter and that was Ted. Anyway, Robin decides she needs to steal The Playbook and show it to Patrice so she knows that Barney is really a womanizing scumbag. Everything with Robin and Patrice is awkward and not a funny kind of awkward just a plain-old please stop type of awkward.

The only part of the episode that was OK was Marshall’s (Jason Segel) mom Judy, played by Suzie Plakson, coming to stay with him and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) for a few days. Judy tells Lily that she is ready to start dating again and asks Lily for help. Lily tells her she thinks her dating is a good idea, but that backfires when Marshall catches Judy sleeping with Lily’s dad Mickey, played by Chris Elliott. Marshall and Lily tell them they are OK with it if they want to date. But, then their parents tell them it is just for the sex. It was actually a little funny.

Back in the other story line, Robin breaks into Barney apartment to try to find The Playbook, but he comes home with Patrice. Robin finds it but has to hide in his closet. Lily was already hiding in one of the closet because she has secretly been using Barney’s apartment to pump breast milk. I’m not even going to common on that strangely random aspect of the episode. Robin had called Ted for help and he also ends up in one of Barney’s closet

Robin puts The Playbook on Barney’s bed so Patrice finds it. Just like Barney did with Nora and Quinn, he tells Patrice he is trying to be a better man. He throws the book into a trash can and lights it on fire. Ted, Lily and Robin see all this. Ted and Lily agree that Barney is serious about Patrice. Robin still thinks it is all crazy. Ted, Lily and Marshall start an intervention for Robin but the episode ends about 30 seconds into it. I’m not really sure why. I’m guess we will find out how it went next episode.

This whole Patrice thing is terrible. Trying to make a purely comedic character an actual character has never worked for the show before. The show is going to end up writing itself into a hole and having to write-off Patrice. Just like they did with Wendy the waitress. But unlike Wendy the Waitress, I will not be disappointed when Patrice is gone. She might be the Arcadian building of this season.