Monday, October 17, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: 'Mystery Vs. History'

Quick Review: A funny episode that plays to the show's strengths.

Best Episode Moment: The research montage. It's a great analysis of the dating scene in the age of Facebook.

Best Running Gag: The spit-takes after finding out about Janet's secret. It was a lovely triad, and I'm a sucker for both triads and spit-takes.

Worst Running Gag: "I gotsta know!"

Least Effective Joke: Robin breaking the fourth wall. Has no one on the show seen a Woody Allen movie? Or 'Saved by the Bell?'

Best Return to Form: The diagnosis dings when Kevin kept pointing out all the gangs issues. I haven't enjoyed a character analysis this much since 'Spoiler Alert'

Did the theme work? Yes, I liked the debate between mystery and history. When do you want to know, and when do you want to be surprised? It's what the show does best, and it hits upon an aspect of the dating scene that I'm sure many can relate to. I especially liked seeing everyone and their dog's information wall. It's a great visual gag that's quite profound.

Most Annoying Moment: Ted on his date unable to interact without the internet, and getting even worse when he finds out about his date. Given the amount of talking Ted can do on short notice, he's really unable to come up with anything to say? I just didn't buy it. The premise felt forced, and like Robin's fourth wall misfire, the idea of being adversely affected by an internet blackout could be done so much better.

Best Character Interaction: I liked Kevin calling everyone out on their issues. It's about time, and I wonder if this is the writers finally waking up to what they're doing to our beloved characters.

Worst Character Interaction: The gang at their most codependent. See below.

Best Character Progression: I don't know if anyone progressed this episode. Keep going.

Worst Character Regression: The gang is close, and they do have their dysfunctions, but I think the writers went overboard piling on some of the issues, including Marshall and Ted's sickening phone conversation.They have a wealth of dysfunction to look at, but they give us the toilet texts? The gang really does spend too much time together.

Best Callback: 'Murder Train' pops up once again during the violence flashback.

Any hint about The Mother? No, though I wonder whether Ted looked her up before they went out.

Any hint about The Wedding? Not a peep.

Do we like Ted this episode? What is wrong with this man? You can tell a lot about a person by the people he dates, and this episode establishes that he is really bad at picking sane women. Really bad, and part of the problem is that he puts Annie Hall at a higher priority than meth-head. Ted has issues, and I really want to know why someone as supposedly awesome as The Mother would date him. What are her issues?

Overall Opinion of the Episode: This is the How I Met Your Mother that I've missed. From Canada jokes to the running psychological analysis of our characters, this episode reminded me why I watch this show in the first place. Even with Ted being Ted, which is often the lowest point in any episode, this is one I'll gladly watch again.

So far I think Kevin the therapist is a great addition to the show. He's that voice of reason that points out what is blindingly obvious to everyone except the characters, and I like the tension that his hard truths create. It gives him something to do and a much better tension than when Robin dated Don. Plus, he's just plain funny. (Kal Penn ought to look into doing comedy movies.)

The one mystery that I haven't touched on yet is the gender of Lily and Marshall's baby, and it was a nice counterpoint to the argument of how much do you want to know about someone you're dating. While those two are still in irritating expectant parents mode (IEPM) Marshall's reaction to seeing the note on Ted's shoe was pitch perfect.

If this is the direction of this season, then I'm on board and will not be nearly as upset with having them drag out the stories of The Wedding and The Mother.

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