‘How I Met Your Mother’ – ‘Mystery vs. History’: I gots ta know!

Senior Television Writer
10.17.11 68 Comments


 A quick review of tonight’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I compare my baby to the chupacabra…

“Mystery vs. History” had a couple of promising ideas at its core, one of which wasn’t executed terribly well, the other a bit better but in familiar fashion.

The big idea is the one that provided the episode with its title, with Ted trying to swim against the sea of information available to him about every woman he tries to date and drowning anyway. I’ve been lucky enough not to have to date in the Facebook age(*), but the downside of all this information is very real (trivia arguments are less fun), and the idea of Ted trying to date blind seemed interesting. But I didn’t like the idea of Barney and Robin as Ted’s relationship cops – even if their slow transition from themselves into gum-chewing investigators with Noo Yawk accents was funny – because Lily’s the nosy, manipulative one and Robin doesn’t usually get this invested in Ted’s love life. (We’ll get back to that in a minute.) More importantly, though, it had to force the resolution with the twist about Janet being awesome rather than creepy. I don’t buy everyone’s stunned, simultaneous spit-take reaction, and I especially don’t buy that everyone would demand that Ted go to the website(**) in the middle of the date. She wasn’t a dude, or a black widow, or even someone who hates “Annie Hall,” and even if Barney wanted to cause trouble, the other three (Marshall and Lily especially) wouldn’t have. Classic case of sacrificing character for the sake of a joke that wasn’t remotely worth it.

(*) My wife and I met when Alta Vista was still the hot search engine, which I guess means I need to move to Pawnee.

(**) Which, in rare “HIMYM” fashion, doesn’t seem to work. (That, or the domain was overwhelmed all night by curious nerds like me.)

Kevin being unable to resist psychoanalyzing the group’s dysfunctional qualities, on the other hand, was mostly well-done. It did what I’ve been asking the show to do for a while in making an outside boyfriend or girlfriend just hang out with the group in a story not really about the relationship, and this was the first of Kal Penn’s episodes where he actually seemed comfortable working with the other actors. (It helped, I’m sure, that he got to work a lot with Neil Patrick Harris, something John Cho never got to do.) And the show has been on long enough, and the group has developed enough tics, that it seems fair for an outsider to be able to point out how unhealthy a lot of what they do is. (The montage of violence, complete with all the slaps to date, was a nice touch.) Victoria already pointed out the problem of Ted, Robin and Barney all being close, and I suppose the whole relationship cop thing could be part of a longer game about each member of the trio subconsciously undermining each other’s love lives.

On the other hand, it was exactly like “Friends” episode where Phoebe dated Fisher Stevens and he eventually analyzed every member of the group and their messed-up dynamics. Well, not exactly – Kevin never compared a coffee mug to a woman’s breast – but pretty damn close.

But any episode that brings back Ray Wise as Robin’s dad, and provides us with a flashback to her forced tomboy upbringing (that, a couple of years later, would lead to an extreme gender backlash with her transformation into Robin Sparkles), has something going for it.

What did everybody else think?

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