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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How I Met Your Mother: “46 Minutes”

Illustration for article titled How I Met Your Mother: “46 Minutes”
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Over the years, the members of our gang have tried a lot of new combinations. They’ve dated each other, they’ve dated other people, they’ve left and come back. And honestly, that booth has never felt entirely right when somebody else has been shoehorned in there, hasn’t it?  That’s why it’s so satisfying that “46 Minutes” found a way to ditch Kevin just in time to have a booth reunion, not at McLaren’s, but at Marshall and Lily’s Long Island home. I smiled at that lovely little crane up at the empty bar booth and the matching downward motion settling into the Erickson kitchen. It was an acknowledgement that this show isn’t about how Ted left the friends of his youth and became an adult, but about how they all stayed together.

And that’s also the message of the most brilliant bits of “46 Minutes” — the two reimagined title sequences, one with Barney humming over the theme and asserting himself the new leader of the gang, and one with the Russian stripped and her massive boyfriend-pimp as New Lily and New Marshall.  (Especially good is the image of Stripper Lily diving toward Robin’s face with her tongue out; Robin’s look of sheer disgust references both the internal logic of the fantasy, and Original Lily’s ongoing sexual attraction to Robin.)

If I wanted to get all lit-crit about HIMYM, I’d say that this show is about the way Ted constructs and frames his own story to his kids, with the format allowing other characters to hijack the narrative on a regular basis. In this case, it’s Barney who sees a chance to break free from the character of the guy who says every night (since 2005) “Let’s go to a strip club!” only to be immediately shot down by Lily’s reflexive “no.” He can be the guy who proposes the wacky adventures, and thanks to “New Relationship Chicken” (a catchphrase Future Ted mentions and thankfully does not repeat), Robin and Kevin go along with them for fear of appearing unadventurous and uncool in front of each other. Ted goes along with it because he’s mad at Marshall and Lily for putting him in a funk “like they cancelled Party of Five for the second time … I mean, like they cancelled sports.”

It’s hard to beat the increasingly skeevy entertainment prospects to which Barney’s quest for fun brings the diminished group. First lap dances at Russian Stripper Lily’s club (during which Kevin and Robin yell forced gangsta lingo at each other, and Kevin regrets making it rain because “there was a twenty in there!” Then underground poker at “mostly abandoned insane asylum,” during which drunk Ted has the bad taste to win repeatedly, building the New York city skyline with his chip stack and bragging about his bluffs (“I didn’t even have enough cards!”), while giving nicknames to the scary characters at the table (except for Larry, who has “too many things” — mohawk, eyepatch, ferret, and handlebar mustache). Then to a party at a slaughterhouse at which Lily’s boyfriend steals $200 from each of them for “cover” (Ted thinks it’s worth it for a Yankees Coca-Cola party, which “sounds like a real thing”) and leaves them out in the cold.

That downward spiral has a lot more energy than the storyline at Marshall and Lily’s house, where Lily’s dad Mickey has camped out indefinitely while critiquing all their decorating choices based on his intimate knowledge of the house where he was raised. Marshall blows a fuse at Mickey and demands he leave, right before blowing a fuse in the literal, electrical sense and having to make his way down to the basement in the dark with a Steadicam rig on his chest in fake nightvision green, coached/taunted by Mickey over the battery-powered intercom. I enjoyed the idea of Mickey’s domino setup on the ping-pong table in the shape of Barbara Eden, and enjoyed even more the abrupt end of the domino tumbling sound when Mickey hit the intercom switch (“That’s the sound of Barbara Eden never banging me!”) only to resume when he turns it back half a minute later. But there weren’t enough absurdities in Mickey’s little game to make the cruelty funny, and his eventual transformation to Marshall’s sensei in the ways of the basement didn’t have enough invention to overcome its predictability.

It is nice to know that Adrin Games did have one hit, inspired by this incident (Lites Out!, featuring a jingle that urges kids to try not to get impaled). But it felt less like Barney, Robin, and Ted’s storyline was missing Lily and Marshall, than the other way around. I don’t know how they’re going to get this gang together on a regular basis now, forty-six minutes or no forty-six minutes. But Lily and Marshall need the pull of their old life to make their choices as prospective parents and homeowners meaningful. Not knowing how to work a fuse box ain’t gonna do it … especially since it turned out to be a circuit breaker box all along.

Stray observations:

  • When Marshall started reading the notes Mickey was leaving around the house and the first one was “I need absolute silence when practicing the drums,” I thought we were about to learn that Marshall was the one leaving the notes. Chalk it up to lingering Freaks And Geeks nostalgia.
  • Best joke of the night: “Let’s declare our independence with an on da peen dance.”
  • Kevin finally admits to Robin that “I hate doing things and going anywhere!” I’ve never felt more in tune with Kevin.
  • “I’m your two best friends!”