Monday, April 29, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "The Bro Mitzvah"

Quick Review: One of the best payoffs in this show's history.

Episode Synopsis: Barney's bachelor party has the gang pulling out all the stops in an effort to make it legendary.  -tvguide

Spoiler alert. Now, there are times when I'm not going to try as hard to prevent you from proceeding on ahead. This is not one of those times. If you were a child of the 80's, you especially do not want to be spoiled. In fact, I won't even make a vague reference to what will most definitely get spoiled. Do you see what I'm doing here? I am so committed to you remaining unspoiled that I am eschewing an opportunity to make what is, in my mind at least, a clever reference of the episode. If you don't know how big a deal that is, let me assure you, it's not a big deal. Not really.  But let's act like it is a big deal so I can totally milk it for sympathy. Anyway, I'm spoiling everything from this point on.

Full Review: I was prepared to hate this episode. The idea of a bachelor party from Hell is nothing new, in fact it's a pretty standard trope. However, the twist that it's all a hoax brought this episode into "not bad" territory. The final reveal, that the clown was Barney's childhood hero, William Zabka, elevated this episode into greatness.

Let's talk about that final reveal. I didn't see it coming, and for that I am impressed. The bachelor party being a setup was a twist a lot of viewers probably figured out, and had that been all there was, the episode would have been tolerable with a few inspired moments, namely Ralph Macchio being a perfect Barney clone. Instead, the episode's true surprise was hidden in plain sight the entire time, a slightly scary clown who never spoke a word. He made balloon animals and provided the clown version of a snare drum rim shot, so I never suspected who he really was.

The show had to walk a pretty fine line of setting up who he was without overplaying its hand. In fact, the show handled all the twists with a deft hand this week, be it Quinn's return, Ralph Macchio, or the entire party disaster being a fake. Lost in that shuffle, though, is the re-establishment of William Zabka as Barney's true Karate Kid, something Barney's talked about before on the show. All through the episode, Barney rags on Macchio about not being the real Karate Kid, and the clown even takes part in the taunting. However, because we're distracted by all the other more obvious twists, we don't see this last one.

That's what made it work for me, and if any episode this season has restored my hope in the show's ultimate payoff, Ted meeting his future wife, this is it. If they can pull out a fantastic payoff for an episode about Barney's bachelor party, then perhaps the final reveal of The Mother not only isn't terrible, but actually brilliant. We'll know in a few weeks.

I also really appreciated the turnabout is fair play angle. After all, Barney's engagement was made possible through "The Robin," Barney's overly and unnecessarily complicated plan for proposing to Robin. This time, Robin runs "The Barney," designed to psychologically torture and manipulate her fiance. And really, if anyone deserves that, it's Barney.

The fact that Robin not only came up with the idea, but executed it perfectly, shows that she is not just a match for Barney, she's his equal. I liked how Barney was overjoyed with this prank, getting that he had one of the most memorable nights of his life, and loving Robin even more for doing it. Seeing Barney and Robin together this time is far better than their season 5 pairing, as we see a real relationship forming.

Lily and Marshall didn't have much to do this episode except serve the plot. (And get uncomfortably close to Ralph Macchio.)  However, this isn't a bad thing, as it didn't distract focus from the overall story. Ted was pretty fun this week, except for when he and Marshall were jockeying for hostagehood. Limiting his involvement to co-conspirator was exactly what this episode needed. It's nice to see HIMYM take on a single story for an episode, rather than cram in two or three stories that aren't fully realized. I liked this week's focus.

Of course, this episode was simply the opening act. We have two episodes left before Ted meets The Mother, and if we see more of this kind of thing, a focused story with a brilliant payoff, then we're in for a treat. We've got just two more weeks, folks. I can't wait.

Episode Breakdown

Best Episode Moment: The clown reveals himself to be the "real" Karate Kid. 

Second Best Episode Moment: Any scene involving Ralph Macchio.

Worst Episode Moment: Ted and Marshall argue over who should be the hostage.

Best Prognostication: "There's a good chance our engagement doesn't work out, isn't there?" 

Best Running Gag: Hiyo!

Worst Conversational Props: Bread sticks and napkin rings.

Best Sagat Narration: "Like I said, it was a complicated game, although your old man did pick it up pretty quickly."

Best Callback: Barney's unique perspective on all things to do with Karate and Kids.

Any hint about The Mother? Not this week, but the wait is almost over.

Any hint about The Wedding? Ralph Macchio is not on the guest list.

Do we like Ted this episode? Aside from the petty bickering with Marshall, Ted's in good form this week.


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