Is it a coincidence that the two storylines tonight featured a skyscraper and a small penis? Because pop psychology suggests that one is a direct consequence of the other. Or, on the theory that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, maybe the two plotlines are nothing but ways of moving the two big events of the season — Ted’s GNB headquarters, Marshall and Lily’s quest to conceive — incrementally forward.
And I do mean incrementally. Is Ted going to have crises of conscience over working for a big soulless corporation? Of course he is. Here’s one: His building requires the demolition of a charming, historic hotel which is now a rundown, snake-infested (rumor has it) SRO and transvestite hooker hangout. So he tells Barney he can’t do the design after all, and then has to admit that his scruples have more to do with the pretty activist (and part-time crazy person) who is trying to save the building. Crisis temporarily averted, ongoing guest star introduced, building one episode closer to being achieved.
Given that Lily and Marshall are going at it every night trying to make a baby, is Marshall going to freak out about his sexual performance being a topic of conversation between Lily and Robin? Of course he is. And he comes to terms with it through his discomfort with the girls’ frankness about Robin’s new squeeze Max and his small penis. Eventually he decides that if the ladies are going to talk, he’s going to give them something to talk about. Crisis averted, baby-making still on schedule.
While the trappings of these two baby steps toward midseason were reasonably entertaining, I think this episode is the first of the season to evince true wheel-spinning ordinariness. A lot of viewers have been itching to pin that label on the show since it came back in September. But until now, there have been ample flashes of the invention and verve I associate with HIMYM. Tonight there were humorous running jokes and nice pacing, but the plots were strictly by the numbers. When we reshuffled the deck at the start of the season, there was an opportunity to put nearly all the characters in new situations, even if in some cases it was an old situation to be inhabited by a presumably changed architect. Ringing the changes on will-he-or-won’t-he, and pitting principle against potential romance — well, it’s nothing worse than what most sitcoms would do. Which is why it’s disappointing from a sitcom that can do a lot better.
- But those running jokes were sharp as ever. Perhaps best, even though the two halves were quite close together: Barney’s “Legen — I’ll send you an interoffice memo with the rest because we friggin’ work together!” followed a scene later by his secretary barging into the office with “an urgent memo for Mr. Mosby.”
- And points for a wonderful Marshall episode, with the big lug unable to restrain himself from his sympathy for Max, the possessor of the small penis. (“I’m certainly not going to be able to call him Max!” he protests after Lily lets the genital dimension description slip.)
- There’s an argument to be made for Barney’s defense of his dictum “New is always better” with reference to the Star Wars prequels: “The first three barely mention the intricacies of intergalactic trade law.”
- That’s Jennifer Morrison, better known as Cameron on House, as Zoey the hot architecture nerd. We're not done with her and her stoner crew's fight to save the Arcadian. And I hope we're not done with her collection of slouchy knit berets, either.
- Sometimes changing your personality for someone you wanna get with is a bad idea (as with Ted’s “we’re adrenaline junkies!” and “we’re going to eat squirrel!” enthusiasms). Sometimes it’s a welcome expansion of one’s tastes, as with Lily introducing Marshall to the Indigo Girls (Lily: “you’ve got that backwards, there, chief”).
- Once again Barney rents a chair to do the spinning chair reveal (previously seen in “Little Minnesota”), and this time “the bunny was here already, that was a lucky break!”
- “For the love of God, boobs?!”