A review of tonight’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I’m a professional Scotch taster…
It’s Passover, and if you’ve been reading me long enough you probably know that around this time of year, I like to quote the Passover song “Dayenu,” which features line after line listing all the things God did for the Jews in the Exodus from Egypt, each line concluding with the word “Dayenu,” or “It would have been enough.” As coincidence (or hackery) would have it, there’s often an episode of my favorite show that airs on or near Passover that’s overflowing with moments that, in and of themselves, would have made me say “Dayenu” and left me pleased with that episode even without all the other moments.
“Hopeless” was certainly not overflowing with Dayenu moments, but it did have one, when Barney’s lie about the gang having a band together led to an alternate version of the opening credits with our five actors performing the theme song in place of Bays, Thomas and the rest of The Solids. I watched Neil Patrick Harris and company launch themselves into that gag and I thought, “Okay, no matter what else this episode does or doesn’t do right… Dayenu.” (A bootleg clip of those credits embedded below; when CBS posts the official version later today, I’ll swap that in.)
And for the most part, the elaborate web of lies that Barney told Jerry – and then the ones that it turned out Jerry was telling Barney – weren’t particularly funny. In general, I’m not a fan of sitcom plots built around complicated, unnecessary, often ill-timed lies. I appreciated that the show didn’t try to take the gang’s cover identities too seriously – Marshall and Lily were mainly just amused to do it, and then used it as a springboard for “our usual bet” where everyone’s a winner – but it was still goofy, much of what didn’t explicitly depend on elaborate lies and fake identities featured the return of Ted’s douchier qualities.(*)
(*) It even managed to take his red cowboy boots, introduced in season three, and insert them back into the days of Ted and Robin’s relationship in season two, which is the most likable, least douchey prolonged period the character’s ever had.
But the episode was also a reminder that when the emotional stuff is clicking, “HIMYM” can get by without many laughs. And NPH and John Lithgow were, again, very, very good together. Barney’s “I’m too far gone. I’m broken” speech should have felt jarring coming a week after the awful exploding sub storyline which we should all pretend never, ever happened, but Harris sold it, as well as the delight on Barney’s face when Jerry used sleight of hand to produce the button he had given him 28 years before.
Or maybe I’m just in a forgiving mood because I’m letting the episode sucker me back into thinking the show is heading for some kind of Robin/Barney reconciliation. Nora’s the more recent woman for Barney to have been referring to in the car, and Robin not only spends the whole episode mooning over Michael Trucco from “Battlestar Galactica,” but Future Ted warns us we haven’t seen the last of the guy. But an episode that spends so much time reminding us of the power of misdirection wouldn’t be that obvious, would it? And there was that seemingly unnecessary throwaway gag where Barney imagines what Jerry would tell him about how he was never happier than when he was dating Robin that I really, really want to believe is a hint of where all of this is actually going. It’s probably me reading too much into things, but the exchange was so out of nowhere, and Lithgow and NPH spent so much time swapping magic advice, that… yup, I’m still a sucker for some things this show does.
So on the laugh side, we had the opening credits and the elaborate “Who’s On First?” riff about Manhattan club names to carry an otherwise not very funny episode. But on the heart side, we had some strong concrete stuff, and either a hint of something good or an excuse for me to grasp at straws again. Not a fantastic episode, but simply for being much better than last week… Dayenu.
What did everybody else think?