‘How I Met Your Mother’ – ‘Oh Honey’: I kissed a girl

Senior Television Writer
02.07.11 90 Comments

A review of tonight’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I mouthwash after coffee…

There are micro and macro questions with tonight’s “Oh Honey.” On the micro level, was this an entertaining episode, and did I like how Bays and Thomas brought Zoey and Ted together? And on the macro level, is Ted/Zoey a good idea?

My answer to both micro questions: yes. With the two creators on script, with a well-crafted character for guest star Katy Perry(*) and a classic “HIMYM” structure, “Oh Honey” was a fun, funny episode that was a highlight of this up-and-down season.

(*) Perry, like Britney Spears (first episode only) and Carrie Underwood before her, did exactly what the script required of her – and the script asked more of her than it did the others. So good on her, even if she still creeps me out by styling herself like a Real Doll come to life.

In terms of the macro, though, I’m not sure.

As we talked about the last time Zoey was prominent this season, we know she’s not the Mother. We know this. We know that the Mother was Rachel Bilson’s roommate, and we also know that the Mother attended the disastrous Econ lecture that Ted mistakenly tried to teach. Either or both of those things would have come up by now in their friendship – the Econ lecture would have come up in her first episode – so we know she’s not the Mother.

So the question becomes whether there’s value in devoting so much time to yet another romance that we know isn’t going to have a future. And, again, I don’t know. Technically, the only other relationship Ted had that we knew for certain would end up Mother-less was Ted and Robin, and the season where they dated remains the show’s creative peak. So Ted having a girlfriend who won’t be his wife isn’t inherently a bad thing. But on the other hand, that was much earlier in the series’ run, and Robin was a regular character whom we already knew and liked; this was just another way of utilizing both of them, as opposed to adding an outsider to the mix.

I’m not one of those who believes the show needs to introduce the Mother now now now now now (nor the converse: those who take the title extremely literally and don’t want her to turn up until the last scene of the last episode), but think much of what’s hurt the show the last couple of years has been a lack of direction. If it finds direction in introducing Ted to the Mother, great. If that direction instead is going to come from Barney’s search for his father, or Marshall coping with his dad’s death, or Robin’s new career, or what have you, that’s fine, too.

But “HIMYM” is always stronger when the stories are going somewhere, and my concern about Zoey is that the story can only go so far and no farther, unless Bays, Thomas and company are prepared to do some fast dancing about Future Ted being an even more unreliable narrator than we’d previously believed. So it’s wheel-spinning, and prior to this episode it was wheel-spinning in service of a not very likable guest character. Even the idea that Zoey might one day lead Ted one step closer to the Mother doesn’t excite me all that much, simply because we’ve spent so much time on previous stepping-stone characters like Stella.

And yet… “Oh Honey” on its own was awfully good – and not just because of several jokes (Barney’s use of burners, Marshall using the cork board to explain things to his mom and brother) that I took as random homages to “The Wire.”

Again, Bays and Thomas are the guys who invented the show and its rhythms, so while episodes by other staffers can sometimes feel like trying-too-hard approximations of classic “HIMYM,” this one was the real deal, with the different layers of the story each adding to both the comedy and the emotional complexity. By the time Zoey was showing off the ketchup bottles in Ted’s fridge, I actually find myself not just tolerating her, but actually enjoying her presence (it’s one of the few times I’ve gotten to see Jennifer Morrison play a character who’s not being a wet blanket). And the use of the Eriksen relatives not only tied this one back to the recent arc about Marvin’s death, but added some good humor (first Marshall acting like a kid again, then him falling for his brother’s ancient “Hertz Donuts” prank).

I’ll reserve final judgment on Zoey until we get into her end game, but whatever comes of it, I applaud “Oh Honey.” Good stuff.

What did everybody else think?

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