Monday, December 14, 2009

How I Met Your Mother, "Last Cigarette Ever": Smoke up, Johnny!

I'm on a light schedule this week, but I'll have a few thoughts on tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I'm with Germans...

If not as emotionally rich or romantic as last week's "The Window," "Last Cigarette Ever" was a fine example of a different type of "HIMYM": one that puts the whole gang together in the same plot, that takes advantage of Future Ted's role as unreliable narrator, that deal with life as a (relatively) young, (relatively) unencumbered person in the city. And it's one that drops a lot of hints about future stories, both Mother and non-Mother-related.

The idea that the gang had been smoking all these years without us seeing it nicely played into the idea that so much of what we see in the series is either shaped by Future Ted's perception of events, or of how he's framing the story for the sake of his kids. (And speaking of the kids, does anyone remember the "WHAT?!?!?!" clip from an earlier season, or do you reckon that's one of those things that Bays and Thomas have been sitting on all these years, like the pieces of footage they allegedly shot of the kids reacting to the news of the Mother's identity?)

Bob Odenkirk's appearance wasn't as memorable as in season three's "The Chain of Screaming" (the episode which gave us Lily's crotch grab, pictured on the left). But the episode had plenty of nice, distinctly "HIMYM" touches, like Marshall traveling through time to beat up 13-Year-Old Marshall (not to be confused with 15-Year-Old Marshall), Lily's voice turning into Harvey Fierstein's under the influence of too much smoking, and Don's love of his jockey shorts becoming infectious for the staff.

And speaking of Don, the episode told us that he and Robin will be dating within three months (around February sweeps?), and that Lily and Marshall will have a son at a date to be determined (which gives the writers some wiggle room on if/when they want the characters to have a kid during the run of the series), and that Barney will still be alive in 2017. (This is noteworthy only because I believe we still haven't seen a glimpse of Future Barney, so you never know.)

But the continuity hints were only one small part of a funny episode, and a nice note for the series to end 2009 on.

What did everybody else think?

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me, but I love this Don guy, and I love how he tweaks Robin.

Carmichael Harold said...

I thought it was enjoyable, and I liked Don giving his version of Crash's speed about his cup of coffee in The Show from Bull Durham (". . .the ballparks are like cathedrals. . .).

Anonymous said...

The "What?" Clip is actually from the Thankgiving episode in season 1 where Ted meets a stripper and Future Ted says "And that, Kids, is how I met your mother."

stepliana said...

The 'What?!' reaction shots are from the Pilot - you can tell by the clothes the kids are wearing. They change clothes starting with Episode 2, and from then on.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we really could not disagree more about this episode. Not only did I think it was one of the worst episodes of HIMYM ever but I thought it was maybe one of the worst episodes of any show ever. An occassional gag about Ted being an unreliable narrator or sanitizing things for his kids is one thing, but an entire episode based around it just seems cheap and gimmicky. And, in particular, having the gimmick be about smoking felt oddly preachy. And while I know you often praise the show for rising above sitcom conventions, I thought this episode was full of pretty much every comedy cliche in the book. Seriously awful.

jared said...

"you know who's working the camera right now? a chair." made me laugh.

and when Robin tossed her cig in Don's coffee cup and flames shot up. laughed again.

Stephen said...

So are we led to believe that Don is supposed to become Robin's husband or just a boyfriend based on what we learned in "The Playbook" episode?

David Sims said...

Yeah, the "WHAT?" is the reaction to Ted saying "I love you" to Robin on their first date, all those many moons ago.

SavingRyan said...

Agree w Anon, above. Worst HIMYM ever. Just not funny. That was a horeshit sweater Robin was wearing, too.

belinda said...

Marshall's storyline with his boss reminds me of the Friends episode when Rachel picks up smoking to interact more with her boss.

Other than that, I liked how they handled smoking - not preachy much (and much less preachier than a lot of other shows on tv on the same matter) about smokers being marked as evil bad people, considering they're all still smokers by the end of the episode, and are still the same likeable people.

I loved Lily's voice. Hee hee!

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Can't see it on the West Coast (well here in the SF - they're showing the simulcast of MNF). Too bad - I get it on ESPN, would have liked to TIVO HIMYM!

christy said...

I found the smoking story to be so believable that it actually took me by surprise. I've never seen a show really capture that late-20s thing where each of one's friends, at any given time, is a smoker, a former smoker, trying to quit, about to quit, about to fall off the wagon, falling off the wagon in front of your eyes, or a "casual" smoker just coming to terms with the fact that they're actually addicted to smoking. It can get hard to keep track of who is currently a smoker and who is not. Who is going to step outside and when becomes such an unavoidable part of any kind of social life, especially in the city, that I'm kind of amazed that I've never seen a show treat it that way before. Usually on sitcoms it's like one character suddenly becomes a closet smoker for the purposes of the plot, tries to hide it from someone, then quits. And there was some of that here, of course, but because of the Future Ted framing device, there's a real excuse as to why it's never been shown before.

Ryan said...

@ Anonymous (10:42)

I completely agree with you on this! This was one of the most dizzying and unfunny episodes of the show.

This season has contained more misses than hits. I think the writers have taken the whole "exaggerating narrator Ted" approach waaaaayyyyy too far, starting with season 4.

The first & second seasons (which still contain the best episodes of the series) were believable in their stories and were also very funny.

I blame The Goat - I'm pretty sure that's where it all started going downhill, into the realm of fantasy!

Brandy said...

Maybe it's because I was never a smoker but this one didn't speak to me at all.

Robin's costar is annoying and we have to watch her date this jerk?

Marshall's work stories are never my favorites.

The smoke filled bar, however, was made of win!

Billiam said...

Wow. While it wasn't a classic, I didn't see anything that would lead me to calling this "the worst episode ever."
Don had funny moments, but also came off as a big jerk. I don't know that I want Robin to get with him.

GBO said...

I think this episode is probably funnier to people who smoke or have smoked in the past. as a former smoker I can say I used to do all those things Marshall did to hide my smoking from my girlfriend/parents. taking off my clean shirt while smoking, bathing in the McDonald's bathroom sink before going home, hanging out the car window while driving, even in the middle of winter. not to mention the thousands of "last cigarette" promises made to be broken. ahh, smoking. good times.

Nicole said...

I'm not a smoker, but many of my friends are, or were, so a lot of that stuff seemed pretty accurate.

I also noticed an empty Tim Hortons tin as the ashtray, which is definitely a familiar scene.

Tom Galloway said...

While there were some good bits (the flaming coffee cup, Marshall beating up Marshall, etc.), the whole episode left me very cold.

Maybe it's because I grew up in NC, tobacco capital of the world, and spent years trying to get my mother to quit (which she finally did), but I really hated that every single lead suddenly turns out to be and have been a smoker for years and we've not known it...and every one of them will still be smoking for a fair amount of time to come, even if it's not shown.

Personally, I think anyone who started smoking after the mid-60s is either being very stupid or very self-destructive. It's known to be bad for you in numerous ways, it's known to be very addictive and hard to quit, etc. Currently, per the CDC, the percentage of smokers in the 18-44 age group is down around 24%. While I've not quickly found any similar stats correlated with education, my personal impression is that the more education you have, the less likely you are to smoke, and all the HIMYM are pretty well educated.

Yeah, maybe I'm taking a comedy and the unreliable narrator bit too seriously. But to me, this hurt how I view the characters and the resulting humor wasn't anywhere near fantastic enough (OK, Lily's voice was good) to justify it, particularly since it was established that all the characters smoke for a decade or more.

CEK said...

Alan, while we may not have seen future Barney, we know he lives past 2017 as SagetTed continuously refers to him as Uncle Barney to his kids in 2030. Now, the daughter looks older than 12, so if Barney died in 2018, she might remember him, but the son would definitely be too
young to remember Barney if he died early. Plus SagetTed speaks so familiarly of Uncle Barney, I've no doubt he's alive in 2030

J said...

I'm not one to condone fratricide, but if I were on the jury, those kids would never see a lick of jail time. Guy's been telling this story for, what, seventeen years now? By the time the narrator gets to his point he'll be as old as Commander McBragg.

renton said...

Reaction to this seems to really depend on your overall opinion of smoking.
I thought it was just OK. I don't smoke, I wouldn't date someone who does and I don't like the idea that all five of these reasonably intelligent and likeable characters would be doing it. Besides, nothing makes a beautiful woman ugly faster than a cigarette.

(I'm not saying smoking makes you evil, but just less pleasant to be around. Losing a family member to lung cancer will do that)

The TV stuff wasn't bad, but there's tons of real-world local morning TV news material out there to be mined that no show has really touched yet.

Anonymous said...

Basically, they used the unreliable narrator to justify their retcon of the gang smoking. Characters had smoked before. Barney and Robin smoke cigars. But, more significantly, Robin's giving up her smoking was a sticking point of Ted moving in with her. And Lily smoked on her wedding day (Robin provided the cigs), which she lied to Marshall about.

Next, Ted will turn out to own several handguns.

It is an interesting commentary on our society's mores that the smoking is taboo even as a subject, but Barney's promiscuity is one of the narrative drives of the show. The kids are shocked to find out that Aunt Lily and Uncle Marshall smoked, but not that Aunt Robin once slept with a walking STD incubator. They showed the negative sides of smoking in this episode; next week they should show Barney head down to the clinic.

Speaking of Barney and Robin, I actually liked the pairing and am somewhat dismayed that they ended it so quickly only to set Robin up with Don.

Anonymous said...

The main plot seems inspired by the real-life smoking of Jason Segel. I remember a story, something about him trying to quit and falling off the wagon with the pressure of the job.

Birju said...

Don't go to the bathroom with your lapel mic on...a reference to NPH doing that during a panel discussion?

Grunt said...

Perhaps it's because we had our last cigarettes before I became pregnant with my sons (10 weeks old on Thursday) but this episode resonated with my husband and I (and made us REALLY want to smoke).

I can understand that, were you telling a story, how it wouldn't come up.

Also, this was the second episode in a row where future Marshall interacted with past Marshall in some fashion in the tag.

Anyway, really enjoyed the episode, thought it was very funny as did my husband.

On an unrelated note, it's clear Cobie hasn't taken off the baby weight, and maybe I more sensitive to this than most, (again, 2 boys, ten weeks ago) but they have truly been dressing her in the fugliest and most unflattering outfits the past few weeks.

bmfc1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bmfc1 said...

We learned that Barney is a Mets fan... hooray!

Ben said...

t's clear Cobie hasn't taken off the baby weight, and maybe I more sensitive to this than most, (again, 2 boys, ten weeks ago) but they have truly been dressing her in the fugliest and most unflattering outfits the past few weeks.

I disagree. She definitely looks thin. And, frankly, she looks better with a little baby weight than she did last year. She's a beautiful woman, but she can get too skinny sometimes.

mrsb said...

@Birju: Nice catch! I was reading through the comments to see if anyone got it before I made the comment about it :O)

I found this episode sort of meh. Not the best, not the worst. A few really funny parts, but it's an episode I won't remember in a week, or ever refer back to.

Anonymous said...

I liked the episode but it felt contradictory to "Life Among the Gorillas" in season 1. Marshall trying to fit in, Lily asking him what to do if they pressure him to smoke, and Marshall says only when I'm drinking. But, now we are supposed to believe that Marshall was smoking the whole time. Future Ted really is unreliable. Next thing you know, they'll have Barney and Robin act like they never dated.

Karen said...

I find smoking disgusting, and never smoked besides an abortive attempt in 7th grade, but I found the smoking storyline both believable and well-done. I'm in my 50s and I'm still finding out that I have friends who enjoy the occasional cigarette--never enough to buy a pack for themselves, which made Robin's line about "Maybe now you'll stop bumming from me" so funny.

And, as another commenter noted, it was not a particularly preachy episode. Given the rabidness with which activist groups protest depictions of smoking in film and television, I was glad to see that smoking was presented without too much ideological weight. (You know, I grew up hooked on old movies, in which smoking is CONSTANT, but it never made me want to smoke--wanting to fit in with peers who smoked made me want to smoke.)

I don't have a huge problem with Robin dating Don three months from now, either. Clearly she's going to redeem him from his self-indulgent shame spiral and his gratitude will blah blah blah blah...yeah, I'd prefer she wind up with someone who hadn't sunk quite so low, but that guy standing there in his tighty-whities without a care in the world was still pretty damn funny.

Anonymous said...

@bmfc1 - i didn't see it as barney is a mets fan but a yankees fan. i thought him smoking when they were mathematically eliminated was for happiness not for sadness.

Kevin said...


We learned that Barney is a Mets fan... hooray!


Or is he a Yankees fan who celebrates the death of the Mets with a smoke?

srpad said...

My review of this would mirror Alan's exactly: very solid, very HIMYM. I don't smoke and have never smoked so make of that what you will.

I *am* curious if now that the cat is out of the bag, we will see smoking from now on or will this all just disappear. My guess is it will just disappear.

Grunt said...

let me fan-wank for a moment. The Mets won the series in 1986. Barney is about 34. So he was a 12 year old living on Staten Island when they won.

He's a Mets fan.

Anonymous said...

I hated the Lily voice change. Killed the episode for me.

Don standing there in his tighty-whities wasn't just funny, it was pretty hot!

Chazz Goodtimes said...

The episode was a little light on 'laugh out loud' moments but the reveal that each main character was, at times, a smoker didn't bother me. The Marshall story-line did feel like a rip-off of the friends episode, only less funny.

I enjoyed the ending, instead of going with the cheesy 'we never smoked again' line I thought it was much more realistic. Lily's voice was over the top but funny and I'm glad they stuck with it. Tone loc would have been even funnier though.

Overall I think this episode was a good example of how shows like HMYM and The Office can still be enjoyable, without having to be hysterical all the way through.

dez said...

I liked it, especially Lily's voice after she smoked. Of course, it's hard for me to not like anything with Bob Odenkirk. I want to pet his shirt!

Matt said...

Loved the smoke-filled bar scene.

"Hey, is that blonde over there looking at me?"

"No, Ted, that's a chair. But yeah, you should definitely hit that!"

Dave said...

As a former smoker prone to the occasional relapse, I loved this episode. It resonated, and I loved the casual smoker side of things. Most of my friends smoked in college, at least casually or while drinking, and the relapse is a real, wonderful, terribly destructive time of a post-college-20-somethings life.

Todd Doyle said...

I thought the writing in this episode was misplaced and potentially affected my opinion of the characters who I had seen connections with, but if they're all a bunch of black-lunged fools then that connection is certainly broken.

I mean I loved following a story about people I can respect and I simply cannot respect the fact that these were all a bunch of smokers (even if that is realistic to living in NYC in your late 20's) and if this episode happened in season 1, we would have stopped watching right there and then. . .

rich said...

Wow, really, really wretched episode. Probably the worst HIMYM of all time.

Just such a hacky sitcom trope. And worse? It wasn't funny at all.

aaron said...

a few notes:
-first of I love the ongoing mentions of the mother. Even though we don't see a lot of perusing, it's nice to hear how some of the one off stories tie back in to the future mom.
- The "What" scene seemed different. Maybe it's something about their surroundings, but it seems like this was a new piece of footage they have been sitting on...much like reveal which I've read is already shot.
- why so much hate for this episode. I mean it wasn't the greatest but it was still funny. The nicotine anger, Marshall was awesome... the dog thing with Arthur was kinda lame, but still comical. Just saying I still laughed a lot.

Katie said...

How does Marshall still work with Arthur? I thought he quit that law firm and now works with Barney at GNB...? The two places are not interchangeable.

dez said...

Arthur is at GNB as the hatchet man, firing all the people GNB wants to let go.

erin said...

What a great show! I laughed more at the two smoking montages than I did throughout Big Bang Theory. Everyone was just hitting it (although Lily's voice got a little old after a while).

But Lily's right...Don DID look good in those tightey whiteys.

7s Tim said...

I thought the retcon of them having been smokers worked pretty well. Often, when a smoker quits, they become somewhat fanatical about not having smokers around them (bloomberg is a very notable example). So even past instances of Ted or Marshall being against smoking or reluctant make sense. If I had given up heroin, moving in with my smackhead girlfriend wouldn't help, would it? Luckily I haven't.


I liked the dog bits with Arthur and the briefs bit with Don. Robin smoing while brushing her teeth and Marshall using colonge and a scrub brush on his tongue were great. Does it seem like the show brings ip suicide a lot though?

Toby O'B said...

Not sure if they thought of this themselves, but that was a nice riff on "Pictures Of Lily" at the end when 13 year old Marshall headed for the tent.

I just wish it was Combover Marshall who had gone back in Time to thump his younger version....

The use of Harvey Fierstein for Lily's smoking voice fit in perfectly with the overall nature of Ted's narration - like Orson Bean as Old Bob or the old boyfriends as Robin's dogs....

Anonymous said...

Compare this with the Friends episode in 2002 that had Chandler relapsing back into smoking. Regardless of one's position on smoking, HIMYM's episode was truthful, funny, and not preachy.

KB said...

Is anyone else ready to actually get into the story of how Ted meets the mother? I'm nearly ready to give up the show, because it just seems to be killing time... at this rate it will get cancelled before we see what the writers planned for how he met the mother!

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a long-suffering Mets fan, there's no way that someone who works for Goliath National Bank and roots for the authorities in Footloose could be a Mets fan. Barney has to be a Yankees fan.

Cee said...

I'm a twentysomething living in a big city and none of my friends smoke, nor do we think smoking is cool. I didn't find this episode very funny at all. I guess smoking is one of my dealbreakers.

Jennifer said...

Look, I'm not a smoking fan either (if you grew up with my mother having a shit fit every time she smelled smoke, you wouldn't either), but we all know people who have done it, tried to kick the habit, failed, went back and forth. All of these folks have been smokers in the past (proven in a post here, in fact), if in a more casual way than "smoked every day for 20 years." Heck, I had a friend come visit me recently. I've known her since 2003, but this was the first time I EVER found out that she had smoked...why? Because she had a 2-week relapse at my house before going back off the wagon when she went home. These things happen, whether we like it or not. People do stoopid things, and this show handled it realistically. Most people I know around my age (same as Ted) have tried it at some point, even if I didn't. It's fair.

Back to the ACTUAL show commentary...
(a) So, Marshall time travels now? Front and back? HMMMMMM. I gotta wonder about that.
(b) I really hope they improve Don between now and when Robin dates him, because right now he's an amusing loser, but I don't root for them to date at all. Was not happy to have that confirmed.
I am starting to wonder if they're gonna go all "A Star Is Born", though.

Joseph Thomson said...

Wouldn't it be cool to see future Barney? I love the idea of him being the mentor of Future Ted's son.

DWood said...

Don't know if anyone else caught it, but liked the "Canadian content" again, as the coffee can they were using for their cigarette butts was a Tim Horton's can (with the logo blocked)...

Squab said...

I'm a little disturbed by the I FIND SMOKING DISGUSTING AND SO THIS EPISODE IS UNFUNNY comments -- I thought it was pretty refreshing in how it dealt with the fact that a lot of people smoke, or, more accurately, dabble in smoking when they're young. And then stop! It doesn't always lead to a lifetime of two packs a day and then death by lung cancer. In the same way, if we're to believe the gym episode, the characters apparently don't exercise, and they apparently drink just about every night. They're supposed to be young(ish) and semi-irresponsible, and they're growing into more adult behavior as the show progresses. Sheesh.

TMC said...

It's really kind of bizarre how so many people are (apparently) so fundamentally and morally opposed to smoking that a) they're unable to enjoy a TV show that includes smoking and b) they find themselves disliking the characters who do smoke.

Really, really weird.

Melanie said...

Now I'm wondering if we'll ever see them see smoke. I mean, it is confirmed that the characters continue occasionally smoking, and HIMYM, in its best moments, calls back to stuff like that. I would hate if this were stand-alone episode fodder, you know?

And yes, the Marshall storyline was uncomfortably close to the Rachel storyline on "Friends".

Pamela Jaye said...

Personally, I think anyone who started smoking after the mid-60s is either being very stupid or very self-destructive.

The first time I noticed people my age smoking was at the bus stop for Jr High. It was 1970. By high school, they had two places *in the shcool* where they were allowed to smoke.
The school bus was so bad, I got a doctor's note and got to "ride the small bus to school."

All after the mid-60's.

I hate smoking with a passion. In the 80's everyone smoked at work - they didn't even segregrate them into one area. On airplanes, one area didn't help anyway.
Both my parents smoked when I was a kid. My father quit around 78 and mother in 85. My brother and I never started.

as has been said, it hurt the way I view the characters.

Gotta run. Men of a Certain Age is coming on.

One note: movies from the 80's - everyone's smoking. I find it gross. Noticed it in St Elmo's fire.

Pamela Jaye said...

I don't smoke, I wouldn't date someone who does

I wouldn't date someone who ever did - I've seen people who have quit for 20 years, something upsets them and they start again.

Did you ever notice, on ER, everytime some character turned "evil" and rebellious, they started smoking? I don't think a lot of people start smoking when they are 25 or 32 (except my mother, who was 24, but that was in the 50's).
And of course, Jon Gosselin, the latest example I can think of.

My apologies to those of you who are addicted, but it totally grosses me out.

And wasn't there a thing when the show started where Aly told Jason that he had to quit cause she was going to be kissing him a lot?

Liked the previous ep btw

Anonymous said...

Considering I'm a smoker in my late 20's going through a lot of the same things that were mentioned in the episode. They actually show it in a way that is entirely true and comical for people who smoke or have smoked. You always say it will be your last one, but then you get stressed, or your friends start smoking around you again. One of the most relateable things on the show for me in a while was when they declare it to be their last cigarettes, and then it's revealed that it wasn't even close.