Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How I Met Your Mother, "Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap": Slap your hands, everybody, and everybody slap your hands

Spoilers for last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I get crow's feet...

"Slapsgiving 2" was a fun episode, and in some ways a sequel that improved on the original. Where the first "Slapsgiving" had one story that was a lot of fun (Slapsgiving), it also had one that was a big downer (Ted is still angry about the break-up with Robin). "Slapsgiving 2" certainly had its emotional moments with the story about Lily and her dad, but was more successful in draping jokes (the awful board games, Lily's increasingly silly reasons for the You're Dead To Me face) around the pathos.

And watching Barney try to manipulate his way out of being tied to a chair and slapped was a great showcase for Neil Patrick Harris. (As James Poniewozik puts it, it was like watching NPH get to play Ben Linus for an episode.)

Mostly what I want to talk about, though, is the distribution of the four slaps so far, which the show neatly reminded us of in flashback. (Along with reminding us that guys being slapped hard across the face is always funny. Always.) To date, it's broken down like this:

Slap #1: Marshall does it within minutes of Barney foolishly agreeing to the five slaps over all eternity (rather than 10 slaps right now). On the one hand, an episode called "Slap Bet" kind of needs to end with a slap, but given that Marshall had already struck Barney several times in that episode, perhaps he could have saved this one.

Slap #2: Marshall does it to punish Barney for his awful one-man show, which was itself conceived to taunt Marshall's wife. Easily the best, purest use of the slap bet so far, in that it was both unexpected and totally appropriate.

Slap #3: The first Slapsgiving. Making Barney spend several days living in fear of the next slap was a good way to exploit its power, and it did give us The Slapsgiving Song. But before Barney started taunting Marshall at the dinner table, he hadn't done anything particularly slap-worthy in the episode.

Slap #4: As seen last night, a slap that was bequeathed to Robin and Ted, but only because Marshall knew they would pass it back and forth, and then around the table, until the power of the slap brought everyone together. This time, Marshall mainly slapped Barney as a surprise, and not because he had necessarily done anything to merit it.

With only one slap to go - and my hope that the writers save it for a flash-forward to Combover Marshall holding it over Old Man Barney's head until they're in a retirement home together - I do look at that list and wonder if Marshall and/or the writers couldn't have used the slaps more efficiently. I'd have liked to see at least one more slap along the lines of #2, where it was both unexpected and deserved, rather than giving us a second Slapsgiving, even though the episode overall was just fine.

Some other thoughts:

• Yet another "HIMYM as the next Friends" bit: Christina Pickles, who played Ross and Monica's mom, is here cast as Lily's grandma. But if IMDb ages are accurate (always a questionable assumption), then Pickles (74) is age-appropriate to be the mother of Courteney Cox (45), but much less so to be the grandmother of Alyson Hannigan (35). She could have had at 20, who in turn had Alyson at 20, but... Won't someone please think of the underemployed octogenarian actresses?

• For that matter, Chris Elliott (49) is even iffier as Lily's dad, but I can't object too much when he gets to complete his Guy Living in Parent's Basement trilogy, which began with "Get a Life" and continued through "Everybody Loves Raymond."

• Did Lily ever do the "You sonuvabitch!" thing before last week's episode? I'm assuming it's a random homage to Eli Wallach as Tuco in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," and if so, I'd like to think I'd noticed it had they done it earlier.

• Carter Bays did an interview with Ausiello last week where he said that, yep, they split Barney and Robin up because he and Craig Thomas and the others missed writing about single Barney. Now, it's entirely possible he's dissembling - Craig and Carter have made an art of misleading interviewers about long-term story arcs - and that this is all setting us up for an unexpected, much more awesome Barn-Man & Robin 2.0, but if he's being sincere and doesn't think the idea was a good one, then I'm disappointed.

• Getting back to the subject of Jason Segel songs, if you haven't seen his performance of an original tune at a Swell Season concert, you need to.

What did everybody else think?

50 comments:

JasonR said...

The "You sonuvabitch!" line stuck in my head too. I really feel it was used before (on the show), but can't place it. . .

And I totally agree that another of the slaps should have been completely unexpected but deserved. Very funny nonetheless.

Hal Incandenza said...

Alan, didn't you think that the "I'm just about to slap Barney, but at the last second I've had a change of heart" thing was totally drawn out? I was irritated after the 2nd time...by #4 my wife and I were actually shouting at the TV "oh, COME ON!!"

+1 though, for: "it's not like it's actual. It's just lead-based paint from China...and horse bile." Chris Elliott always brings it (and let's not forget his excellent turn on The Larry Sanders Show).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hal, it was funny to me because it was so obviously torturing Barney - and so obviously part of Marshall's plan (to both bring his friends and family together, and to torture Barney).

septembergrrl said...

Christina Pickles also played Caroline Montague in the '96 Romeo + Juliet. Leonardo DiCaprio is about the same age as Alyson Hannigan, so in meta terms that makes her a mom and a grandma at the same age.

And yeah, I liked the episode :-).

Steve said...

Maybe I need to rewatch the episode, but I thought that it was a horrible episode. what a let down after last week. I was very excited for a Slapsgiving sequel, but it compeletely fell flat.

The Lily death-stare montage was entirely too long, and Jason Segel and NPH both overacted. I was disappointed.

Suz said...

Allison Hannigan is 35, but Lily is only 31. A 31 year old with a 74-year old grandma is really not a stretch. It just feels weird because for us Pickles went from the Mom to the Grandma in less than 10 years.

That said, I was totally weirded out by Stephen Collins as Addison's dad on Private Practice. And that was just going from a Dad of younger kids to a dad of a 40-something (although that episode seemed to de-age Addison back to being 39).

Amy said...

I thought that Ted being upset about Robin was just a joke to get her to give him the slap. In our house we both dropped our forks in disappointment when he said I love you, but then laughed and sighed with relief when she called it a joke.

Anonymous said...

I really don't like Chris Elliott and don't find him funny, so all the bits with him ruined the episode for me. The contrived games, etc. ... ugh. I really feel like it cheapened the whole episode. HIMYM is better than that.

Sorry, I'm just soooo not a fan of him.

Bryan said...

Found it very funny overall. I thought the death look stuff though was very lame. I used to really like Lilly but haven't really found her funny since she left for the pregnancy.

I know it's pretty generic but wasn't the basement the same basement as Jerry Stillers in King of Queens?

Jefferson Burns said...

Anybody else get an "Evil Willow" vibe everytime Lily did the "You're Dead to be stare?"

Figgsrock2 said...

I would love a full length recording of the "You Just Got Slapped" song featured in the Slap Bet ad. Great power pop.

jcpbmg said...

Am I the only one that thought the Lilly and her father storyline was a complete miss.

Idk if it was the actor himself (I've never seen him in anything else) or how he played the character- but he came off as a borderline pedophile.

Also it made ABSOLUTELY no sense based on what we saw from Lilly's family a few seasons ago at her bridal shower. Major continuity mishap there

Moe said...

Jefferson, you were not the only one eh!

Anonymous said...

Lily's catch phrase has been you son of a bitch for awhile, but its only recently that they changed the inflection and made it really noticeable.

However, if you watch episodes like Sorry Bro she says it after Ted brings up the lingering or in Happily Ever after when Ted brings up her high school torture of Gasser.

Anonymous said...

"For that matter, Chris Elliott (49) is even iffier as Lily's dad, but I can't object too much when he gets to complete his Guy Living in Parent's Basement trilogy, which began with "Get a Life" and continued through "Everybody Loves Raymond."

I noticed this too, Alan. I even looked at YouTube to prove it. Most of what Elliott has on YouTube are 1990s Doritos and Tostitos commercials. What a career.

jlf said...

"Anybody else get an "Evil Willow" vibe everytime Lily did the "You're Dead to be stare?"

I totally got that vibe from the Dead to Me stare. I turned to the bf and said, now her hair needs to turn black. Ha!

Dan said...

Lily has definitely used the "you sonofabitch" line at least once before. It was in the episode "Sorry, Bro," where Ted tells Lily that she didn't like Karen because she "lingered" when she came into the room while Marshall was posing nude.

And Jefferson, I definitely enjoyed the indirect reference to Evil Willow with the "you're dead to me" look. Alyson Hannigan even seemed to try to pose herself the same way. I was waiting for her hair to turn black.

TL said...

Did I miss something (and I very well may have, as our Directv has been on the fritz), or did they never explain exactly what happened to Marshall's turkey to make it end up at the port authority?

mrsb said...

Loved the "Evil Willow" look on Lilly. Made me want to break out the Buffy DVDs.

I have never been able to stand Chris Elliot and really, really hope that he does NOT become a regular visitor on the show.

Dan said...

"Did I miss something (and I very well may have, as our Directv has been on the fritz), or did they never explain exactly what happened to Marshall's turkey to make it end up at the port authority?"

TL, he accidentally left it in the taxi in the opening scene.

mrsb said...

And didn't Lily just use "yousonofabitch" in the Scuba Diver show??

Heather said...

"Allison Hannigan is 35, but Lily is only 31. A 31 year old with a 74-year old grandma is really not a stretch. It just feels weird because for us Pickles went from the Mom to the Grandma in less than 10 years."

Exactly what I was going to say, Alyson's not playing her own age. Plus, I'm 26 and my grandmother is 70, so this was totally fine for me.

dez said...

I also got the Evil Willow vibe. Hello, fellow Buffy fans! :-)

I also liked the parody of sappy holiday show endings with the extended passing around of the slap. Plus, it's fun to watch Barney squirm. NPH kills me.

I hope Bays was dissembling about Barn-man & Robin because I'll be more than disappointed if he's not.

kennyevil said...

NPH was clearly channeling Hannibal Lecter in this episode. You can hear it in his vocal inflections.

I've got to admit, they got me when Ted told Robin he still loved her. I was staring in disbelief until Robin figured it out.

Chris

Dan said...

"And didn't Lily just use "yousonofabitch" in the Scuba Diver show??"

Yup, that's another one. I want to say she used it a third time previously, but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's just because Barney has used it several times as well. Has Robin, Ted (unlikely), or Marshall (probably less likely than Ted) ever used it?

Tom Sanford said...

jcpbmg said: "Idk if it was the actor himself (I've never seen him in anything else) or how he played the character- but he came off as a borderline pedophile."

Wow, has Chris Elliot ever played someone who wasn't a smarmy, creepy jerk? Who can forget "There's Something About Mary"? He does a-hole so well.

Great ep. Even Ted was tolerable.

srpad said...

I didn't find the phoney board games as funny as the writers apparently did (but I did like the fake commercial at the end). I also liked Barney's attempts to weasel out of his slap but like others, the Lily's Dad stuff left me cold. I like Chris Elliot but he seemed wrong here which kind of threw off the rest of the episode.

Chalk this one up to too high expectations I guess.

floretbroccoli said...

Wouldn't it have been wonderful if Grandpa had been played by Bob Elliott? I believe he has retired, but don't know anything more than that.

Mr. Peel said...

In eternal defense of Chris Elliott...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56g2gNdWxxw

David Thiel said...

I was a bit disappointed in this one, in large part because it seemed a waste of a slap. The joy of Slap #2 was that it was 1) totally unexpected, and 2) totally deserved. The Slapsgiving slaps seemed mean-spirited, more about torturing Barney than giving him comeuppance for his typically abhorrent behavior.

My vision of the final scene of HIMYM was of Marshall slapping Barney out of the blue and saying "That's FOUR." I found appealing the thought that Marshall would save his remaining slaps for decades, and that Slap #5 would be left hanging out there. Deathbed Slap?

The boardgames weren't all that funny either, because most of them were obviously too ridiculous to be marketable.

That said, "Diseases!" largely worked because it's not all that far removed from the likes of "Operation," and also because of the ticking gall bladder. (And it should be noted that one of the biggest hits in the adult board gaming community last year was "Pandemic," in which the players work together to check the spread of several global diseases.) But even there, the lead-based paint and horse bile joke was too far removed from reality.

Rob S. said...

My favorite of the boardgame gags was one in the background of a basement scene: Landmine Lunge.

jasctt said...

Done with this show. Strike 3. Another wasted, dumb episode. the slap thing is tired and this show is just dumbing down before our eyes. Let me know how ted met the mother. oh wait, he's a D-bag. well, let me know when B&R get back together and maybe I'll watch an ep. Later.

Matt said...

The board game joke paid off in the tag scene, a fake commercial for Aldrin's first successful board game--"Slap Bet"--with the TV jingle-fied remix of "You Just Got Slapped."

Henry said...

Every time Lily put in her "You're Dead to Me" face, I kept thinking, "That's 'Evil Willow in Buffy' Face, not 'You're Dead to Me." Actually kinda killed the funny for me on those jokes. But I love the "Slaps" episodes from the show.

Elizabeth said...

So happy that you included the link to Jason singing with Swell Season. That's been on repeat on my computer all week.
And yes the jokes with the inappropriate board games got a little tired, but the Bile pay off was worth it.

jenmoon said...

Huh. I really enjoyed the episode. I was amused that "torture Barney, just in a different way" (hence the extended slap delay) was brought back, followed by "Slap Bet, The Board Game." That was freaking awesome.

I can't stand Chris Elliot (yes, he does come off as a pedophile in everything I've seen), but at least I didn't want to punch him in this episode. I hope he isn't seen again on the show, though. I wasn't as into the Lily's rage plot, but probably because if I had Chris Elliot as a sperm donor I wouldn't want him in my house either. (But let's face it, I appreciate the Buffy shoutout.)

Canuck148 said...

The 'yousonovabeeetch' line was used all over "The Playbook"(?) episode. Lily and Barney both used it, several times.

I thought it was interesting/telling that Ted would blab to Robyn, "you and Barney broke up -- but you're still on good terms." It was info Robyn already knew but it was as if he was reminding the audience. I smell a reconciliation down the line!

Ginny said...

My teenage son yelled at me after he watched it on the DVR today, "That HIMYM was NOT funny! It sucked!" ...like it was my fault, but I digress. I kinda had to agree. I haven't really like Chris Elliott since he was The Guy Living Under the Seats on Letterman way back when. I think the problem with Christina Pickles is that she doesn't look anywhere near 74...although the actor playing her husband did. And, jcpbmg, I don't remember Lily's family from the shower episode but I'm sure you're right. They know they have diehard fans so why don't they pay more attention to continuity? Just to have Chris Elliott guest star? Yeesh.

George said...

I agree the best slap by far was after "Suck It, Lily!".

A straight up bad episode, I laughed at Barney trying to worm his way out of the slap and Lily's dad saying he was on the losing end of a battle with hemorrhoids. That's it!

Marshall being in control of the whole situation wasn't right; it didn't suit him and he definitely isn't smart enough for such a perfect scheme. He may be the world's most naive lawyer.

We surely would have heard about Lily's dad by now. Seemed like they just remembered him after making a show for 5 years. What about Robin's parents? Have they ever been in it? I know they are in Canada but you'd think they'd be mentioned.

I'm not a big Lily fan most of the time, so I was never going to like it, but I didn't find the "You're dead to me" scenes funny. I like that Dr. Wen showed up, always good to see Scrubs alums getting work.

Melanie said...

For those worried we'll see Chris Elliott again, I hold up Ted's sister as an example of an actual likable character who could plausibly hang out with the gang and who the writers made a big point of moving to New York... who we never saw again.

I'm still disappointed over that. But if Chris Elliott takes the route, I wouldn't be too bummed.

Josh said...

BRYAN...you are totally correct. My wife and I are huge king of queen fans and we noticed the same basement. CBS must be a bit short on cash.

J.J. said...

I don't mind them being a little loose with the doling out of the slaps, mainly because I fully expect eventually another Slap Bet will be made to extend the gag (and perhaps put Barney in the position to give them this time).

LA said...

I'm not a big Lily fan most of the time, so I was never going to like it, but I didn't find the "You're dead to me" scenes funny. I like that Dr. Wen showed up, always good to see Scrubs alums getting work.

Cosign.

Between this being a Lily-centric episode and the super-annoying Chris Elliot, I cringed more than I laughed.

Toby O'B said...

Marhall lost the turkey in a taxi, so it wouldn't have ended up at the Port Authority Lost & Found. There are two precincts in Manhattan that take in the L&F from taxis and that's where the turkey should have ended up - if the driver was honest enough to turn it in.

But then again, that's TV Land, and the rules are different there....

Toby O'B said...

Oh! Forgot one other thing:

"There's A Clown Demon Under The Bed" is still making me chuckle. My sister would kill me if I got that for ny five year old nephew this Christmas....

thereporter said...

I didn't like how Lilly didn't take her role as slap bet commissioner seriously anymore. She was originally chosen because she would be fair and impartial and she seemed to take it seriously in the episode with the origin of the slapbet. Letting the slap be transferable and the whole having to consent to being tied in a chair just seemed like ridiculous additions. I wished for more consistency in that regard. It really took me out of the episode.

Girl Detective said...

Wasn't that also the same basement from Stella's house?

LA said...

Girl Detective - I thought the same thing.

Mike said...

Seemed like they just remembered him after making a show for 5 years. What about Robin's parents? Have they ever been in it? I know they are in Canada but you'd think they'd be mentioned.

I don't remember if Robin's mother was ever discussed, but her father was. In the fourth season episode where the five of them are hiding underneath a table in a restaurant to avoid Stella (who had left Ted the previous episode, I think), everyone talks about whom they'd never want to see again. Robin's was her father, who raised her as a boy for most of her childhood.

David said...

Being a Chris Elliot fan, I appreciated the episode. I cannot think of anyone else who could have gotten away with promoting those games. Living in the parents basement was just icing on the cake.

I seem to be in the minority here on Chris Elliot (something I'm used to). For anyone interested, there is a great article in todays NY Times magazine about him & his family.