‘How I Met Your Mother’ – ‘Desperation Day’: If it bleeds, we can kill it

Senior Television Writer
02.15.11 71 Comments


A review of last night’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I have a sick Dr. Mario run…

“HIMYM” doesn’t have a perfect track record with holiday episodes (this season’s Halloween episode, to name one, was a low point), but the series often seems to rise to the occasion, and “Desperation Day” was – other than some shaky Ted/Zoey moments – a fine example of that.

There are times when the show tries to force a catchphrase and/or Barney theory, but Desperation Day seemed such a natural extension of his character that I’m surprised we didn’t get it 3 or 4 years ago. Neil Patrick Harris acting like the Predator? Excellent. That story also had the first effective Barney history lesson in quite a while, thanks to the Roman numeral jokes and Cobie Smulders affecting a terrible English accent (as a comment on how most costume dramas set in ancient Rome feature clasically-trained Brits being very British). And the conclusion to that story not only gave NPH a chance to do the petulant little boy thing he does so well (“You like her! You think she smells like rain!”) but also acknowledged that Barney has grown in some ways over the years. If they did this plot 3 or 4 seasons ago, he just goes home with the silver medal-winning gymnast, where here he seems genuinely interested in Nora.

Lily and Marshall’s story, meanwhile, was one of the best involving those two in a very long time. I’ve been affected by parts of the story about Marvin’s death, but not necessarily by any one episode as a whole (and I know I’m in the minority when it comes to the funeral episode), but I thought all of this worked, both comedically (the clothed body pillow, Jason Segel busting out his own pouty little kid voice, Marshall deciding the way to manhood is to leave the crusts on) and emotionally, first with Lily leaving Minnesota, then Marshall explaining his fears to Ted and finally, especially, Marshall imagining some fatherly wisdom from Marvin on the long, cold drive to New York. A really lovely scene between Segel and Bill Fagerbakke.

Ted and Zoey, on the other hand? Meh. I liked how it tied into the Marshall story – Marshall needed another regressing boy to confess his fears to, I think, and Ted’s astonished, “You have Super Mario Kart?” was one of the episode’s bigger laughs – but didn’t like the reason he went there. Ted is Mr. Over-Investment – remember that the series pilot climaxes with Ted freaking Robin out by being way too into her way too quickly – and while I can see how this particular circumstance might unnerve him a little, it seemed too big a reversal of his character for him to panic this much. Ted is the guy who would love it if his new girlfriend started talking about how they’ll always remember their first Valentine’s Day together. I liked the earlier stuff with the gang teaching Ted about booty calls and overnight bags, but it felt like the writers wanted to do that reversal but didn’t know quite how to make it work.

Also on the plus side for the episode: Artemis from “Always Sunny” as one of Robin’s new co-workers. And one of the guys she and her friend went home with was red-faced Buy More extra Fernando from “Chuck.” That guy gets around!

What did everybody else think?

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