Monday, February 6, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Burning Beekeeper"

Quick Review: A welcome return to form, evoking the narrative style of the classic episode 'Brunch.'

Episode Synopsis: Lily asks for her father's help when she and Marshall decide to throw a housewarming party; Marshall's boss gets under Ted's skin and the two nearly come to blows; and Barney puts the moves on a wacky divorcée.

Spoilers ahead, so watch the episode before you proceed. Of course, you are free to proceed without viewing the episode, but then don't whine to me about spoilers. I'll just point and laugh at you.

Best Episode Moment: The realization that you need to watch the episode twice, and moreso, you actually want to. 

Best Sign I'm Going to Like the Episode: "Did he say bees?" 

Best Narrative Device: Taking the story room by room.

Best Character Moment: Marshall standing up to his boss yet again.

Best Character Interaction: Ted and Cootes facing off.

Best Line: "Your breath reeks of shredded carrots and deceit!"

Best Sagat Narration: "What you should worry about is everything going wrong." 

Best Musical Cues: 'Flight of the Bumblebee,' and 'Burning for You.' A bit on the nose, but I laughed.

Most Obvious Spoiler: From the episode title, it's a pretty sure bet that there's going to be a beekeeper, and said beekeeper will be burning.

Any hint about The Mother? No, but she must love Ted given what she'll be putting up with.

Any hint about The Wedding? No, but it looks like Barney arrives completely intact.

Do we like Ted this episode?
He was funny this week, back to the lovably goofy Ted of old. Plus, points for recognizing the "Galaxy Quest" quote. I liked him this week.

Overall Opinion of the Episode: This is the kind of episode that I've been missing, and it's a welcome return to form for a show known for its unique storytelling. One of this show's strengths has always been the future narrator, and it's a shame they don't take advantage of that premise more, particularly after tonight's installment.

Most of the story takes place in the span of five minutes, told over three concurrent parts. I loved getting each piece of the puzzle, slowly understanding what was going on and why it was happening. This is definitely an episode worth watching twice, because the second time is when you catch those little details you missed the first time, and the non-sequitors now make sense. Each piece is critical to understanding the episode's mystery: who is the beekeeper and why is he burning?

The party-disaster plot is nothing new, ground trod heavily by Frasier among other shows. It's a classic trope because it works, which is why they used it in the wedding episode "Something Borrowed." Who hasn't meticulously planned an event only to have it go up in flames. The key for each new telling is to add something new, and ten-thousand bees will do that. From the opening conversation, with Marshall being the only one concerned about the bees, it was clear disaster was coming.

I also liked every character having something to contribute to the plot, and for the first time in a long while none of them annoyed me. Everyone was acting entirely within character and the better for it. Lily was worried about hosting a party and seeing the parallels with parenting, a giant improvement over that "pregnancy brain" episode. Even Robin was getting back to her ball-busting basics of the first few seasons. (And that's a Robin I think we've all missed.)

It does seem that Barney, once more, is back to his womanizing ways. I understand that Barney's bad behavior is this show's bread and butter, but we should be seeing some personal growth that establishes why he's going to be getting married not to far down the road. he should at least be somewhat conflicted by a potential casual encounter, and not just because of what some crazy cat-lady might do to him. On the other hand, his deciding to brave the bees rather than spend another moment with her was pretty funny, so I'm not to unhappy with him this episode.

We hadn't seen Cootes in a while, and thankfully he's still insane. Martin Short is always a great foil, it's what he does best, and having him bounce off almost everyone made it that much more engaging. Chris Elliot, as usual, brings the comedy, especially with his casual announcements of calamitous disaster. He's been one of the better aspects of this season, and that it was him in the beekeeper suit didn't surprise me. Really, he's the only character who could have pulled off that scene.

I found "The Burning Beekeeper" to be a fun episode, and a reminder of why I still watch this show. It was clever, funny, and let our characters be themselves. The second viewing was just as fun as the first, and I predict many more in my future. Overall a great return to form that I hope continues for the rest of the season.

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