The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 9

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 24 2009 8:36 AM

The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 9

Every family has its Thanksgiving traditions. This year, How I Met Your Mother officially made the slap bet the centerpiece of its annual celebration.

Shameful:


—The notion that a turkey left behind in a cab would end up in the lost and found at Port Authority. HIMYM occasionally makes keen observations about life in New York. This was not such an occasion.

—The "you're dead to me" look. The Shame Index has previously noted that HIMYM would do well to avoid special effects, but this episode yet again leaned heavily on effects for comedy. The reasons Lily had for disavowing characters like her bridesmaid—"I'm just not a fan of strapless"—and Mr. Park were funny, but the glowing eyes routine got old quick. And Mr. Park's actual death at the end of the episode was a contrived, maudlin twist.

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—The attempt to recapture the magic of the original Slapsgiving episode . The Shame Index doesn't necessarily think this sequel was doomed to fail—the long shelf life of the slap bet is part of what makes it so funny—but fail it did. The transferability of slaps was a clever idea, and an apt one coming from lawyer Marshall. But the bickering over whether Robin or Ted would get to bestow the slap grew tiresome, as did the slap puns, which failed to capture the spirit of one-upsmanship of the previous Slapsgiving.

—Related: As Amos Barshad has noted on Vulture , one of the strangest aspects of the Robin-Barney arc was how unfazed Ted was by the relationship. Last night, during the argument over who would get to slap Barney, Ted announces that he's angry that Robin slept with one of his best friends. Was some repressed issue with Swarkles finally rearing its ugly but understandable and potentially dramatic head? Nope! It was merely slap-bet brinksmanship.

—Also related: Is the Shame Index alone in feeling upset on Barney's behalf vis-a-vis the slap? That the slap-bet commissioner could herself become a slapper via a transfer of slapping rights seems to the Shame Index a prima facie conflict of interest. And while a slap bet is inherently rough justice, was it not cruel and unusual of Marshall to bestow on Barney a fake pardon the moment before delivering the brutal fourth slap? The slap bet must be governed by the rule of law. The Shame Index would like his objection noted for the record.

Awesome:

—Guest star Christina Pickles . Yes, sitcom fans: Pickles, who played Judy Geller on Friends , showed up last night as Lily's grandmother. A conscious nod to the debt HIMYM owes Friends ? Or just casting happenstance? The Index likes to think it's the former.

—Mickey's board games. They weren't all funny, and some were funnier than others, but the Index did enjoy Tijuana Slumlord, Dog Fight Promoter, and, especially, There's a Clown Demon Under the Bed. Donna Bowman of the AV Club spied in the background of Mickey's apartment a prototype for a game called Landmine Lunge, which is also inspired. The episode pushed the joke too far in the end, however, with the exploding gallbladder filled with lead paint and horse bile. The final bit—a fake '80s-style ad for a slap-based board game—was likewise just silly.

—Marshall's appearance via video link at the weekly Eriksen family dinner. (Does the fact that Marshall's dad is played by Bill Fagerbakke of Coach bolster the argument that HIMYM pays homage to sitcoms of yore through its casting? Was Carter Bays also a big fan of Get a Life ?)

—"Well then we'll just give him some dark meat."

In other news, the Index was pleased to see Carter Bays forced to account for HIMYM 's poor handling of the Barney and Robin relationship, even if his response was far from satisfactory . The Index was also happy to see that he is not alone in finding the treatment of Swarkles problematic. Time 's James Poniewozik, in a response to last week's episode, put his finger on what's so odd about the abrupt breakup: Last season, HIMYM convinced us that even Barney—promiscuous, solipsistic Barney—has a real emotional life. Now the series wants us to forget about it. Ain't that a slap in the face.

Previous Shame Indices: Episode 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8

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John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.