Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: Gary Blauman

Quick Review: A cute premise with great fan service

Episode Synopsis: The wedding-day arrival of enigmatic Gary Blauman throws the gang into an uproar as they all recall their various encounters with him. -tvguide

Spoiler Alert. I know, I do this every time and it probably was never neccesary. But I remain committed to warning you about the spoilers that lurk below. I will not shirk that duty, not even in my antepenultimate spoiler warning. You like that word? I like it. I'm also a fan of penultimate, and I might even use it next week. Honestly, both of those words are far too underutilized in today's society. That's not to say I haven't seen them pop up from time to time, but those instances are few and far between. I think it's time for a revival of these words. Of course, that might take some time. What will take less time is watching the episode before continuing on, in case you want to avoid being spoiled.

Full Review: This is the story of Ted's first date with The Mother. It's also the story of how easy it is to lose touch with the people in your lives. It's also a flashback nestled in a flashback wrapped in an even bigger flashback, with a flashforward thrown in at the end.

For most of this season, we've been going further and further into Ted and The Mother's future. However, every previous scene between them showed us a couple very much in love. Now we go back (forward?) to a mere three days into the future. Ted and The Mother are on their very first, awkward date. And it might just be their last.

After all, The Mother just broke up with her boyfriend, who had proposed to her, that Saturday. Three days isn't really long enough to get over something like that and start over, and yet there she is with Ted. Ted, of course, has his own issues, having finally let go of Robin that weekend as well. (Not to mention his long strong of failed relationships.) So now these two damaged and fragile people, having already met, are trying to figure out whether dating is a good idea.

I really enjoyed seeing these two on that date.For one thing, I was wondering if we were going to see what happened soon after their meeting. I like that we get to see what happened next and that these two have to struggle and work at this relationship to make it work. Too often, romantic comedies like to stop at the romantic high point, and we don't get to see what happens next. While the show will end at that high point, we'll be satisfied in knowing how it continues.

I like the awkwardness between them on this date. Ted really likes her, and she him, but they've both been through so much that they aren't throwing themselves at each other with wild abandon. Instead, they decide to go to a restaurant, a Mexican/Scottish fusion place that turns out to be a bad idea. So plan B, they walk while Ted tells her the first of many, many stories.

It makes sense that their first date involved a story, because that's who Ted is. He tells stories, and the fact that The Mother wants him to finish says a lot about how she feels about him. It's a subtle, but clear sign that they are right for each other. It's also a clear sign of growth on Ted's part that while he wanted to make a big, romantic spectacle of himself, he did not, instead allowing her to call him back. Their first kiss was tentative, but there's a spark there. This time, Ted doesn't miss "the signal." Ultimately, it's a sweet first date, and I'm glad we got to see it.

Flashing back three days, Ted tells The Mother about this week's plot device,  Gary Blauman, an unexpected guest at Barney and Robin's wedding. Blauman has a history with most of the gang, some good, some bad, and everyone is at odds about whether he stays or goes. While it was a bit out of left field that he's also the person Barney's brother James cheated with, it did make sense given that he seemed to be a part of everyone's life. I did enjoy the fact that Ted realizes that Blauman wasn't after the girl at the party, he was after Ted.

Why haven't we heard much about him before? Because that's the point. Sometimes these integral people back then are just blips in our memory now. Blauman was in the gang's orbit, even appearing in a handful of episodes several seasons ago as a GNB employee, but he was never a big feature in one of Ted's stories before then. It didn't mean he was important, especially since he saved Lily from an unfortunate tattoo decision back in 2006. (And yes, I buy that Lily was able to keep it hidden for so long.) However, he was not one of the core group and so he was easy to miss and even forget he was ever there.

The Gary plot is a perfect segue to an impressive moment that rivals Season 3's two-minute date and season 5's "Superdate" for technical execution. As the camera panned the parking lot in one take, we got an incredible flash-forward about the future of many of our favorite (and even least favorite) supporting characters. I had hoped we'd get a glimpse of the folk's futures, and I like how it all took place in a parking lot with minimal backdrops. It let us focus on the story rather than the trappings. Plus, it's a very well-executed shot, and when the show wants to be technically impressive, it can pull it off.

Since this is probably the last time we'll see these characters, it's nice to get a peek at their future. Whether it was Kevin dating yet another patient, Blitz having yet another "Aw, man!" moment, or Ted finally remembering Blah-Blah's name (Carol) these futures were both funny and heartwarming. Of course, seeing Ranjeet living the high life, and Sandy Rivers being a lowlife was also a treat. And who doesn't love Patrice as a beloved radio host. (Which gave us one more opportunity for Robin to scream at her.)

Interesting trivia note, that final show contained three of the cast member's significant others. Sandy Rivers, played by Alexis Denisof, is married to Alyson Hannigan. Scooter, played by David Burtka, is Neil Patrick Harris' partner. And Gary Blauman, played by Taran Killam, is married to Colby Smulders. (So its fitting that he got to come back, given that this show is where they met int he first place.) While casting real-life spouses/partners can be cheesy and trite, this series managed to pull it off quite well. I think Sandy Rivers being awesome had a big part in that.

While I've been critical of this show in the past for wasting potential, this episode used its time well. With only three episodes left, we got a great flashforward and a lovely scene between Ted and The Mother. This is the kind of fanservice payoff longtime viewers will appreciate, and it's one less thing to clutter up the final episode. That's a big peeve of mine, shows that try to pack everything into that final episode, resulting in a lot of pointless filler leading up to that episode. Thankfully, that's not the case.

Next week we'll see Robin and Barney try to get married. And in two weeks, we finally get that moment we've been waiting for since the fall of 2005.

Episode Breakdown

Best Teddy Roosevelt Fact: He was shot while giving a speech, and then finished the speech. (Thanks to his long speech.)

Worst Insult: "Go sign the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act, Taft!”

Best Poet: William Zabka.

Best Unspoken Rule: You don't take a man's accidental curly fry. You just don't.

Best Meta Conversation: "Have I ever told you how I met your father? It was at a party."

Best Callback: The three day rule of not calling. After all, we learned back in season 4 that when Ted got The Mother's number, he called her right away.

Best Sagat Narration: "You will be shocked, kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That's why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it."

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