Writing about these shows week after week, you tend to zero in on what you want out of them. And guys, for How I Met Your Mother? This is what I want. Acknowledgment of the premise. Tension about how that premise will play out. Great moments for all the characters. Skillful use of the flash-around style. And everybody looking like they are having the time of their lives being in the show. Let's take them in order, shall we?
1. Premise. This week the whole question of the mother was slyly raised throughout. First, Ted and Karen break up over her finding one of Robin's earrings in Ted's bed. Big sigh of relief, right? We can get Laura Prepon out of the picture and get on with it. But no — after Lily confesses to planting bombs in a number of Ted's relationships over the years, she writes Karen a note and gives them her blessing on getting back together. I confess my heart sank a little bit even though I knew Prepon didn't have an ongoing role in the show. And then, when Ted and Robin have a fantastic time over the romantic dinner Lily cooked for the Ted-Karen get-back-together party (beef pot pie, mac and cheese, homemade biscuits — quite the starch-fest, Lily!), and end up making a playful promise to marry if neither of them have found love at age 40, they seal it with a momentary we-really-shouldn't-kiss thing— a couple of seconds that again, made my heart drop into my shoes. Funny how when the idea of romance is planted, people who have right there for years with absolutely no sparks suddenly look different.
2. Tension. Ted and Robin? What, HIMYM, you're going to have Barney and Ted looking at Robin meaningfully? No no no! It's only the Barney looks that get me all fluttery! The Ted thing is just going to stress me out, you brilliant bastards.
3. Character moments. (a) Marshall: Clapping after Ted announces that he and Karen can't stay long. Five reasons to wear a nightshirt (#4: no elastic waistband leaving marks around your Thanksgiving belly). Standing over the heating vent in a nightshirt and telling Barney, "It's like your junk is on a tropical island." (b) Lily: Being the catalyst that made the plot go and making me forget to look at how they were hiding her preggers belly. Imagining how bridge is played ("I see your bridge, and I raise you three bridges"). Breaking up Ted and Angie in college by leaving a Creed CD on Angie's dresser — Marshall's Creed CD. (c) Barney: Sleeping cravat. Supply of jokes about Marshall's nightshirt ("Something about Scrooge!"). Backing out of the room while Ted tells his Karen breakup story. "I have to lie perfectly still so I won't wrinkle my suit pajamas." Watches Kim Jong Il ride a horse at 4 am. (d) Ted: Thinking about Team Awesome while the chef on Robin's morning show lights himself on fire. Luke Skywalker wig. "Will you be my backup wife?" And the agonizing non-kiss non-move. (e) Robin: Getting emotional while holding up a picture of the gang, who have muted her show. Giving the weatherman CPR. Saying "laid a deuce" as an elderly woman. Substituting Argentina for Lily's where-will-you-be-in-five-years suggestions, just to be original. Looking very uncomfortable during the non-kiss non-move. And yes, even (f) Karen: Reminding flash-forward Ted as they sit alone on their front porch about his college roommate. "God, I hated him. Anyway, here's his obituary."
4. Flash-arounds. Yes, we had flash-forwards (all the front porch scenes) and flashbacks (to Lily's sabotage, both overt and subtle). And all so well integrated that it barely even registered how clever they were. Ted even acknowledged their existence by noting that Marshall will die at age 67, according to the marrying-Karen flash-forward scenario.
5. Fun. Barney's happy little take as he works through the list after Marshall enumerates the people who touched Ted's weenie before Karen (himself, mom, pediatrician) elicited a delighted laugh from me. And when Robin and Lily go instantly into girlfriend mode after Lily suggests that without a Robin-Ted breakup, they wouldn't have become best friends — "Don't even say that!" protests a choked-up Robin — it feels like the actors are in on the writer's inventiveness.
We've got a show firing on all cylinders: comedic, dramatic, ensemble. And it feels like they made "The Front Porch" just for me. Thanks, guys.
- Noel can't get over the gang's failure to TiVo Robin's show. It bugs him the way that meals in movies and on TV that go uneaten bug him. Me, I can accept that the gang arranged to meet in their pajamas to watch the show live as a little social event, and that TiVoing wouldn't have occurred to them under those circumstances.
- Speaking of which, I love the slightly exasperated tone of Robin's show's title: "Come On, Get Up New York!"
- Worn out at 3:30 am while assembling to watch the show, Marshall mutters: "I hate Robin for not being more successful."
- "Deep down, you knew that none of those women were going to be the mother of your children!"