Earlier this week on another site, in the comments of a review of the recent Carrie remake, someone finally asked a question I’ve been wondering about all my life: Was my high school weird for not having us all shower (in a group or separately) after phys ed? The trope is so universal in popular culture that I always assumed my experience was the outlier—that everyone else in America endured the potentially scarring experience of having to strip down and soap up in the company of other awkward teenagers. Sure, I was occasionally bothered by the logistics of it all (whose high school is so loosely scheduled that they can spare half an hour for a full personal grooming regimen in the middle of the day?), but it never occurred to me to wonder if popular culture might be lying to me for its own convenience.
Emboldened by this revelation, I have a question for you readers. Do members of the wedding party always set their sights on random hookups with each other and guests during the nuptial weekend? Granted, I had a sheltered upbringing; most of the weddings I attended, until I was well past my prime, had non-drinking, non-dancing receptions in church basements. But even so, I’ve never personally witnessed best men and maids of honor who consider themselves failures if they don’t end up naked in a broom closet, as is the scenario in every wedding on TV and in the movies. And that includes this season-long wedding on HIMYM, in which we have reached the point at which Ted has make a connection with an eligible single female over Friday night drinks or resign himself to using his bed for sleeping. (Or to performing the “self high five,” as Barney puts it, and not the cool kind either.)
Thankfully, as with the first couple of episodes of this season, the HIMYM creative team transforms this standard plot by adding its own pop-culture twist: the ghostly Knight Templar from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, intoning “You chose … poorly” after each Mosby decision. Josh Radnor really turns this gimmick into comedy gold, glancing over at the spectral knight hopefully every time he chooses, then contorting himself in pain every time it turns out badly. Barney and Robin pick out three potential partners for Ted, but his head is immediately turned by the flirtatious Cassie (Anna Camp from Pitch Perfect), whose promise of meaningless sex is forgotten when she loses her dream job and runs into her ex-boyfriend. (Ted, comforting her: “So what were we about to do? Meaningless something… meaningless socks?”)
Radnor’s poor choices and reactions to their increasingly disastrous consequences would be enough to make “Knight Vision” an excellent sitcom episode. But there’s more, in the form of a B-story about Robin and Barney misrepresenting themselves as a sweet, virtuous couple in order to stay in the good graces of their officiant (Edward Hermann). I’m always happy when we get a chance to see the bride and groom working closely together, illustrating their chemistry, and while there’s nothing much here beyond setting up yet another obstacle to the wedding (their belated honest recital of debauchery literally kills him), Harris and Smulders have some delightful moments. There’s almost nobody better currently on television at doing that thing where two people talk at the same time and say opposite things; here, for example, they answer the minister’s question about Lily’s horrific character flaws simultaneously contradicting each other, and then immediately settle on a unison: “She’s been drinking drugs.”
But the best supporting storyline award goes to Marshall and Daphne rehearsing how Marshall’s going to tell Lily about the judgeship. Alyson Hannigan has some terrific comedic moments tonight in the Barney-Robin storyline (I love Lily’s quick recasting of their meet-cute story, including Ted being secretly in love with her, as her and Marshall’s own), but she matches Jason Segel beat for beat in the repeated rehearsals, lipsyncing to Sherri Shepherd’s voice: “I missed you too, baby. I can’t wait to show you how much in bed tonight.” And Marshall’s exasperated turns to the camera every time Daphne demands he start over, culminating in the moment when she doesn’t yell “cut” when he lets slip that he’s already accepted the judgeship (“What the damn hell?!”), are a classic gag structure for this show executed with perfect precision and not a shred of pretension or self-congratulation.
For the romantics among us, waiting impatiently for more of the Mother, there’s even a final scene reminding us that Ted’s failure to find a wedding hookup leaves him unattached when they finally meet at that train station. It’s a solid mix of the elements that make this show special, and a satisfying way to mark the hours until the next transcendent moment. It’s coming soon; I just know it. Television wouldn’t lie to me.
- Poor Ted, relegated to the Julian Glover role as the Nazi collaborator while Barney gets the cool Indy hat and whip in their fantasy sequence, even though he doesn’t know what the cup thing is called (except that it’s “the holy grail of cups”).
- Best Ted moment in an episode filled with Ted awesomeness: stretching, gritting his teeth, pounding the table, then inviting Cassie to tell him all about her breakup with Wesley.
- Barney and Robin adopt Marshall and Lily’s how-we-met story, right down to the nonsensical details of their nicknames for each other (Barnmallow and Robinpad).
- Lily (adopting Robin’s persona): “And I’m a slut who let my boss feel me up!” Robin: “I felt him up!”
- Barney’s brief inspiration of how to deal with the dead minister (“Unless—Wedding at Bernie’s!”) may be the shortest fully-staged fantasy gag of the season so far.
- Ted, not learning his lesson: “Should I make a toast in his honor? Of course I should!”