The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 22

Slate's Culture Blog
May 11 2010 7:05 AM

The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 22

It's sad but true: There have been times this season when the Shame Index has been on the verge of abandoning all hope. (That's a reference, by the way, to the inscription over the gates of hell in Dante's Inferno "lasciate ogne speranza," in the original.) But the image of Peter Bogdanovich, alone in an elevator, trying out Marshall's Willem Dafoe frog/parrot theory just might make up for all of How I Met Your Mother 's stumbles this season. An utterly bizarre and truly hilarious moment. The Index has no idea how HIMYM convinced Bogdanovich to do it, but kudos to them for asking and him for saying yes.
 
Shameful :

Robin's back? After all that , her separation period consisted of sitting out Robots vs. Wrestlers? The Index realizes that it's not entirely clear how much time has elapsed in HIMYM time since the previous episode, but still, her exile was hardly Dantesque in its duration. Not that the Index wasn't happy to see her, it's just that once again the show built up some serious drama, then didn't seem to have the courage to really deliver on it.

No sight of Don. Alan Sepinwall made a good point in his recap of last week's episode, pointing out that "when Ted or Robin are in an ongoing relationship with someone outside the group of late, we tend to only see their girlfriend/boyfriend at crucial moments in the relationship." As Sepinwall notes, this may simply be a budget or scheduling issue. But if HIMYM wants us to take Don seriously, it'd be good to see more of him and Robin together. All we learned this episode is that in addition to making a mean hand roll, Don can apparently also do Chinese.

Marshall and Lily's baby talk. The Index gets it, this is an impending storyline. It could well be an interesting one. But last night's episode labored to establish it. (That said, Marshall and Lily's rat-a-tat-tat discussion of how far down the road a baby might be was quite funny, and expertly delivered: "might want to get in the right lane.")

The overuse of "douche." It was as if the HIMYM writers read this New York Times article and decided to see just how far the network would let them push their new liberties.

Awesome :

The Shame Index has his own Marisa Heller he just got her Crate and Barrel catalog yesterday and thus he appreciated this plot strand. Also, as a Mad Men obsessive in good standing, the Index was tickled to see Helen Bishop (Darby Stanchfield) in town from Ossining.

HIMYM fanatics love a good callback. The Index does too, though he feels the series occasionally leans too heavily on the practice. But the return of the doppelgangers last night was surprising and well-integrated into the plot.
 
The gang's habit of interrupting Ted's erudite asides. (But first, one question: How is it that we've never seen this behavior before? We haven't, have we? This was hardly the first time we've seen Prof. Mosby wax pretentious.) This quibble aside, the Index loved this plot. It was interesting for the show to explore the ways in which the gang does not satisfy Ted's intellectual streak. And the episode made a keen observation about friendship different friends bring out different sides of our personalities, and our closest friends don't always appreciate the enthusiasms we hold dear. For all their qualities, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney aren't really in the habit of engaging Ted's more refined side; mostly they roll their eyes when he starts nattering on about a portico or the Prairie style. It felt entirely believable that he would fall for a crowd that would listen raptly as he recited the opening lines of Inferno in the original Italian. (It was legendary, by the way, how much Dante HIMYM slipped into last night's episode has that much terza rima ever made its way into primetime television? The Index doubts it.) And as a matter of composition, the HIMYM writers did a great job of establishing Ted's rarified interests in the first half of the episode (wine, crosswords, lyric baritones, Emerson, Dante) and then having the party, hilariously, provide him with an opportunity to flex all of those muscles. "Thank you, Will Shortz!"

Relatedly, the Index enjoyed Barney's creeping dread that he will be left behind when Marshall and Lily have a kid (and Ted either gets married or eaten by his cats). Though Barney played it in his typically over-the-top fashion, this, too, felt like a real concern that would crop up among friends of this age. The Index liked that that 2030 Ted admitted in the closing voiceover that the gang did occasionally drift apart over the years, as gangs of friends tend to when careers, spouses, and children intervene. But it was also sweet to learn that Barney's prophecy that Robots vs. Wrestlers would become a sacred tradition came true.

—The reveal that Robin has taken Lily's call while on-air.  

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Lily wanting to do Marisa Heller in her terrible British accent.

"That's my favorite book of madrigals!"

Pretty much all of Marshall's fish out of water behavior at van Smoot's party: His request for mini-cheeseburgers, or really "any food at all that would make me feel like a giant"; his striking of the gong to get Ted's attention ("Gongs: They're louder than you think"); and the aforementioned theory of Dafoe.
 
Oh, and: "His wife's a 500 year old relic who hasn't been struck since the premiere of the Mikado in 1885."

All in all, one of the strongest episodes of the season and the Index didn't even get to the part where Barney hit on Arianna Huffington. Share your thoughts, and favorite passages from the Commedia , in the comments.

Previous Shame Indices: Episode  1 2 3 4 5 ,   6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 ,   14 ,   15 ,   16 ,   17 ,   18 , 19 ,   20 , 21         

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