Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: "Unpause"

Quick Review: A lot happens in this episode. A lot.

Episode Synopsis: After imbibing a bit too much, a woozy Barney spills some long-held secrets to the opportunistic Ted and Robin, while Marshall goes to extreme lengths to dodge a fight with Lily. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, and seriously, seriously, there are some major things happening in this episode. You might have disregarded all my other warnings, much like you might disregard a sign reading "Beware of Ring-Bear." I understand that you might have thought all the other "spoilers" were no big deal. Trust me, tonight's different. Of course, I can't stop you. You are free to traipse along your merry way and get good and spoiled. Just remember, you can't pause your eyeballs. All right, you can pause them. You can close them, and that's pretty much like a pause. But then people will ask you why you're reading a website with your eyes closed, and won't you look silly.

Full Review: The classic 90's series The X-Files had two types of episodes: one-offs and mythology episodes. The one-offs were usually the mystery/monster of the week, while the mythology episodes explored the larger story, the series arc. How I Met Your Mother has the same kind of episodes. Most of them are Ted and the gang's wacky adventures. However, every once in a while we'd get an episode that connected to the show's mythology. This was a big mythology episode, perhaps the biggest so far in the series.

This episode is momentous for resolving not one, but two of the show's big mysteries: what does Barney do for a living, and what are the names of Ted's kids. These kinds of reveals are often the purview of a final episode, but when a series knows it's coming to a close, it will often answer some of the big questions early so the finale isn't bogged down. Once more, the fact that we get some big resolution this episode bodes well for the remaining episodes of the season.

The first big mystery is, of course, what Barney does for a living. Thanks to Barney reaching an entirely new level of drunk, truth-serum drunk, Ted and Robin pepper him with questions. We learn answers to questions we probably don't want to know, not to mention finally having Barney set the record straight about what happened between him and Ted's mom. (OK, so three mysteries solved tonight.) I was afraid the show would tease us about Barney's job and fail to deliver (looking at you Lost, no I'm not over it) but thankfully we got a great answer.

I loved how his constant answer of "Please" wasn't just a deflection, but Barney's clever way of actually explaining his job. P.L.E.A.S.E. - "Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything." Barney is the person who lets the company get away with everything bad it's doing, and it makes perfect sense. After all, how could someone go from working in a coffee shop turn into such a powerful corporate executive overnight? It's a good answer.

What I also love is the reason for it. We meet Barney's old nemesis, the man who took his girlfriend and inspired him to cut the ponytail and "suit up." Apparently, this is also the man who originally hired Barney, and barney has not forgotten. Barney is a man with a plan, and who knows how to work the long con. I love how Barney's been working with the Feds all along, not because of a sense of moral outrage, but because revenge is sweet when it's handed down by the Feds as they arrest you.

In addition to finally understanding Barney's job, we get a great character moment between him and Ted. Ted asks his bro how he feels about getting married, and I like how Barney answered it. He talks about feeling "broken," a phrase he used when reconnecting with his father back in season 6, and how he no longer feels that way. The Barney of old is gone, and in his place we get a new, better Barney. He's still a schemer, and I have no doubt he will be able to succeed at whatever job he wants, but he will probably use his powers for good. Mostly. Even if it's just to get even.

I really liked that we got an answer to the second mystery during one of the rare flashfowards between Ted and The Mother. (I know, we're saving her name for the finale, and I'm all right with that.) Those two have very natural chemistry, and as this season is proving, The Mother was worth waiting for. Each time we see them together, they are a little bit farther along in their relationship: their first year together, Ted's proposal, the birth of their son. All of which, of course, happening at Far Hampton.

It is in the midst of this wonderful, perfect scene that we finally know the names of the poor teenagers Ted is torturing with takes of all the women he and Barney slept with before he met their mother. The daughter's name is Penny, the son is Luke. Penny is perhaps named after the lucky penny Ted found in season two that led to a chain of events that kept him off a flight to Chicago, thus keeping him in New York so he could meet The Mother. Luke, of course, is named after Luke Skywalker. I like these names, they fit perfectly with who Ted is. Of course, we still don't know that much about The Mother, so I could be way off.

While those two mysteries came to a close, Marshall and Lily's story is just getting started. We finally see the fight that's been brewing ever since Marshall took the judge position behind Lily's back. After trying unsuccessfully to delay the inevitable, Marshall has to face the music. We knew this wasn't going to be a happy moment between them, and I like how this show respects this relationship enough to let them have a very real argument.

The last time we saw this like this, Lily was calling off her engagement, packing her bags, and heading off to San Francisco. That's why it's no surprise that Marshall brings this up now. While he's always supported Lily's art, in the back of his mind, he knows that it was Lily's art that damaged their relationship and nearly destroyed it. It might seem unfair for him to bring it up after seven years, as it does reek of a low blow, but for him, it's relevant. Once again, Lily's art is between him and his dream.

I like how this raises the question of which job/dream is more important to them. Is it Marshall's dream, which has come after years of hard work in law school, slaving away as a lawyer until finally becoming a judge? Or is it Lily's dream, which hasn't been a prominent part of her life until recently but is still central to who she is. Marshall calls it a hobby, and that's a telling label. He supports it as long as it doesn't interfere wit his dreams. I can see why Lily would find that insensitivet, but for Marshall it does make sense.

We see why Marshall is defensive about Lily's art career by the question he asks about San Francisco. Would Lily have stayed if she was successful? Was the only reason she came back because she failed? Does Lily consider her life with him and Marvin a consolation prize? This is not a question Marshall just came up with - it's clear he's been thinking about it since Lily came back in season 2. So far, he's been able to pause that conversation because it's never been an issue. Now it is.

But let's not forget that Marshall is the one who made this decision without telling Lily. They had already committed to moving to Rome. He'd agreed to it, given his word. And now at the last minute he thinks he can just change plans and expect her to go along with it? He's supposed to be on her side always, but this is him actively working against her. He's never cheated, he never would, but this hurts just as much for her.

She's has every right to be upset. It's also completely understandable that she is hurt when Marshall brings up San Francisco. To her, that's over and done, buried in the past the moment she married Marshall. It's a low blow to bring up something she thought they'd moved past just to justify accepting the offer behind her back and not talking to her about it first. He couldn't have asked the committee to give him the weekend to think it over and talk about it with his wife? He couldn't wait a year or so until the next position became available?

Both of them have a point, and that's what makes this conflict compelling. While the setup to the argument was played for laughs, including Marshall stepping on Ted's "I wuv you" toy that wakes up Lily, the actual conflict was very serious. In fact, it's never been this serious since Lily left back in season one. This time, though, the roles are reversed. We don't get a chance to see them deal with it, because Lily can't handle the fact that Marshall is throwing San Francisco in her face and leaves.

Given the buildup of this fight all season, I really hope that it isn't solved by a quick deus ex machina. (Suddenly Marshall finds out he can put off being a judge for a year.) The issue isn't so much what they both decide, but how they get to that decision. It needs to be true to the characters. Of course, given the fact that Marshall brought up San Francisco, it's doubtful that a quick and easy fix would actually resolve the tension between them. What was said can't be unsaid, and now they have to deal with it.

I am on Lily's side in the argument. She and Marshall actually talked about her decision, and they both agreed to do it. Why should she have to give up her dream just because Marshall got his? I understand that being a judge is Marshall's dream, but this won't be the last opportunity for him. This might be the only opportunity for Lily to really make it in the art world. If, in the end, someone has to back down, I'd prefer it to be Marshall.

We know that these two stay together, we've seen enough flashforwards, but how they go from here to there remains to be seen. We also don't know who actually picked up Lily. It's probably Ranjeet, since she got into the back seat, but The Mother is a possibility. So while we solved two big mysteries, we've still got a few more.

Including just what Barney is planning with this "Trevor Hudson" character. The final tag teased us with the possibility that the ring-bearer really is a "ring-bear," and I really do hope the payoff to this gag is as good as the setup.

Next week is the series' 200th episode, and it promises to be big. Will Marshall and Lily settle their differences? Will we discover the genus of the "ring bear?" Will someone else meet The Mother before Ted? I can't wait to find out.

Episode Breakdown

Best Starting Salary: Sixteen craploads a year.

Best Drunk: Jabba-drunk

Best Callback: I'm sticking with the daughter's name, Penny, referring to that Lucky Penny.

Best Sagat Narration: "2 a.m. It's a good rule. But every rule has an exception. And for us, that exception was you, Luke."


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