Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Fortress"

Quick Review: It begins with promise and ends with me being severely cross.

Episode Synopsis: Robin would like Barney to sell his bachelor pad so they can get a place of their own, but he is somewhat reluctant and goes to great lengths to sabotage any potential sale. Meanwhile, Lily's art-consultant position with the Captain impacts her relationship her husband. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so you might want to wait until you watch the episode before proceeding. Otherwise you will share the same bitter disappointment you felt when you discovered who had framed the chimney sweep or deliberately over-watered the plants. Things like that can only be learned once, and then it's stuck in your brain forever. You can try to get them out, but you won't like the side-effects.

Best Episode Moment: Ted and Marshall are out and proud.

Worst Episode Moment: The show forgets that Ted decided to give up random/crazy hook-ups and settle down...in the previous episode!

Best Offer: Six cartons of cigarettes and a jug of toilet wine. 

Worst Art Acquisition: The seven foot tall cross-dressing Cambodian throwing glitter and fish guts on a billboard.

Best Barney Customization: Voice activated sprinklers

Creepiest Barney Customization: The bed on tracks

Best Double-Entente: Woodworthy Manor

Worst Cricket Player: Emsbry Postlethwaite

Best Drinking Game: "The Dowager will be less than pleased."

Best Callback: Ted fills in for Marvin's lullaby

Any hint about The Mother? She's probably a fan of shows about upper-class English estates set at the turn of the 20th Century.

Any hint about The Wedding? I wonder if Barney installed an escape hatch at the church.

Do we like Ted this episode? I thought Ted was going to finally get his act together. Apparently not.

Overall Opinion of the Episode: This week's episode had two great premises: Robin and Barney's argument about his apartment and Marshall and Lily's struggles because of Lily's new job. Both plots could have dovetailed nicely into an epic conclusion, but instead they just fizzled out without any comic payoff.

The Barney apartment plot held the most promise. We got to see all the fun and creepy customizations Barney added to his "Fortress of Barnitude" through the years. While some were disturbing (seriously, where do those beds go) others were pretty amusing. (The Jor-El head was a nice touch and a good fit for the Superman theme.) At first this was set up as Barney wanting to keep his place while at the same time having to accept that marrying Robin means giving up his bachelor pad. I liked that part of the episode, and I was expecting some clever twist for the resolution.

Instead, Robin just changed her mind, and we see her do it AFTER being told about it. No build-up or payoff, no suspense. I can understand her sentiment of not wanting to change Barney so much that he's no longer the man she fell in love with, but it's not an either-or kind of situation. A better resolution would be to keep the apartment and then make the gadgets perfect for being married. We see all the gadgets turned into things that Robin would appreciate. Thus we have growth, but Barney is still clever as ever.

Or, instead of selling to a couple determined to destroy Barney's creations, they sell it to The Captain as a modern art installation. Throughout the episode The Captain was shown to be crazy about weird and eccentric art, why not have him save the day and merge both stories? Lily could have even used the acquisition as a bargaining chip to get some time off to spend with Marshall.

That's the problem with this episode, and really, the series right now. We have all these great setups but the payoff is lousy. All the elements are there, but no one is putting much thought into making them work together. A large part of comedy is setup and payoff, and this episode had one but not the other.

It's not like the show doesn't know how to do it. One of the best gags of the evening was when Barney explained what would set off his voice activated sprinklers. It wasn't long before Marshall set them off again with "We have a baby together." It's a perfect payoff, and if they can do that for a scene, why can't they get it together for the episode? It's the kind of thing that makes me worried about Ted meeting The Mother. We've had eight years of setup. Are we getting a good payoff?

Speaking of Ted, didn't we spend three episodes watching Ted have his final disastrous relationship before he figures everything out and meets his wife? Didn't he take stock of his life, watch the burning embers of his foolishness, and decide that he was ready to settle down? He did? Well apparently that didn't mean anything because it's like those three episodes never happened and Ted is back again making questionable hook-ups. Is that what he meant when he said he was ready to settle down?

Once more the series is treading water. Where we could have seen real growth and progress, instead we are mired in the status-quo. This should be when Ted grows, matures, and becomes a man worthy of the Mother. At the very least, he should have turned down the women he just met because he's now looking for someone more serious. That would have been real growth and a sign that this show is moving in the right direction. Instead, we get this episode, and it makes me worry once more about how it's all going to end.

Speaking of Superman themed episodes, let's hope they don't take their cues from Smallville. I know this show can do better. I just hope they know it as well.


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