Last week, "HIMYM" did a very good job of making a predictable sitcom situation (the wedding disaster) feel somewhat fresh and very funny. Last night, they tried to create some suspense about an outcome we all already knew -- if not when, then definitely what -- and it wasn't quite as successful. It was still a funny episode, thanks largely to Marshall and Lily's hunger pains (back to that in a minute) and Barney's reaction to the twists and turns of Ted's story, but the whole "The story's not over yet" device didn't work. Even people who hadn't figured out that the spaghetti stains from two weeks ago symbolized something big knew that Ted and Robin were destined to break up, and much of this season had been building towards that.
Still, given the corner Bays and Thomas painted themselves into in the pilot, I admire the way they handled the whole relationship. They recognized the obvious chemistry between Josh and Cobie, put them together for a season without having the show drown in their coupling the way "Friends" did with Ross 'n Rachel, while occasionally reminding us why it wouldn't work out. And in the end they broke them up without a lot of stupid tears and fireworks, and in a way that allows Robin to stay a part of the group if the show continues. And in the event that it doesn't, they gave us something of an ending, the "Casablanca" resolution where our hero loses the girl and finds happiness in a male friendship. The spoof of traditional wedding vows, followed by one last "wait for it" from Barney was a good note to go out on in the event things go horribly wrong with renewal.
(Speaking of which, everything I'm hearing on that score is positive, but I won't know for sure until Lox With Les tomorrow morning. I'll have a spoonful of scrambled eggs at the ready in the event my worst nightmare is revealed on the schedule board.)
Some other thoughts:
- It was important that several episodes this season established how much Barney cared about Marshall and Lily getting married, because it made his negative opinion of Ted and Robin feel much less biased. He's not opposed to all couples, just this couple. (Then again, maybe he just doesn't want his wingman attached, no matter to who.)
- I felt for Marshall and Lily in their hunger, but they have no one to blame but themselves. When Marian and I got hitched, I had a private discussion with the caterer to make sure I would get an opportunity to sample the food -- and sure enough, moments after we made our triumphant entrance into the cocktail room as Man And Wife, the caterer sidled up to me with a sundae from the mashed potato station. The best advice I can give any couple who are getting married is to make sure they carve out five minutes in the reception to eat.
- A few weeks ago, my buddy Rich Heldenfels waxed rhapsodic about the way the "HIMYM" writers like to play with time, and they were at it again here, not just jumping back to explain the spaghetti stains, but to show Lily compiling her list of bad wedding cliches to avoid. Most shows would have done that scene weeks ago in the build-up to the main event, but because "HIMYM" has established this Billy Pilgrim narrative style, they could put it in right next to the appropriate follow-up joke.