Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Classic" Recap: How I Met Your Mother "Okay Awesome"

"It’s not awkward unless we let it BE awkward.”

Most HIMYM fans tend to regard season two’s “Slap Bet” as the series’ best episode. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy “Slap Bet.” The “Let’s Go to the Mall!” Robin Sparkles video is hilarious, and Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel do great physical comedy when portraying the actual slap bet, but my very favorite episode of HIMYM is season one’s “Okay Awesome.”

Before I rewatched “Okay Awesome,” I thought I would be spending most of this blog post talking about how I love the way this episode depicts the club scene so realistically (captioning all the characters’ dialogue within the club was comedic genius), or the episode’s nod to those of us who don’t like the club scene. Speaking of HIMYM characters that didn’t like the club scene in “Okay Awesome,” if you liked Jayma Mays as the Emo coat check girl here, check her out in “Pigeon,” one of my favorite episodes of Pushing Daisies. Also intriguing about this episode was the dichotomy between Ted, who didn’t want to go to the club, feeling obligated to go, and Marshall and Lily, who actually really enjoy the club scene, not even being invited because their friends thought Marshall and Lily were trying to be “grown up.” What struck me the most upon rewatch, however, was just how much this episode shows the evolution of Barney Stinson.

When I say that this episode shows Barney’s evolution, I mean that when going back and watching this episode after getting through the next 3.5 seasons, it really makes you stop and think about just how far Barney has come since he uttered the episode’s title, “Okay? Awesome!” In fact, that early scene is a great place to start our comparison. The scene is one of the first occasions where we see Barney’s attraction to Robin. When Robin invites Ted and Barney to the exclusive club “Okay,” Barney starts to have a little respect for her in his own, kind of twisted, way. Occasions like this are probably what led to Barney thinking Robin would make an acceptable substitute “bro” when Ted was preoccupied with Victoria later that season in “Zip Zip Zip.” She can, after all, get him into exclusive clubs! Barney is, clearly, still far from processing what he feels for Robin at this early point in the series. Even though he is intrigued by Robin, he spends his time at Okay looking for new “cutlets” and doesn’t interact with Robin at all. Come to think of it, although by season four’s finale, “The Leap,” Barney and Robin have admitted their feelings to each other, they still haven’t processed what it all means.

Barney is still a bit of a two dimensional character in “Okay Awesome.” This episode takes place before “Game Night,” where we discover that before Barney became the suiting up, catch phrase saying player we now know, he was a granola-eating coffee shop musician who got dumped by his college girlfriend right before they were supposed to leave for the Peace Corps. It seems like Carter and Craig (HIMYM’s creators and showrunners) almost intended for Barney to be a Kramer-like character in these early episodes. They tried, for instance, to give him a signature, goofy entrance like Kramer had in Seinfeld. In this particular episode, it was Barney breezing through the door of Ted and Marshall’s apartment while saying “And his hair was perfect!” The other episode that comes to mind for this type of entrance is “Slutty Pumpkin,” where he does his best Tom Cruise in Top Gun entrance into the apartment, only to say “Flightsuit up!” Sure, in season 4’s “Little Minnesota,” we have Barney’s “I’ve been…waiting for you” complete with rented swivel chair, but that scene has a different feel entirely from these early, contrived (although funny) entrances. First, it’s Ted and his sister entering the apartment to find Barney already there. Second, Barney actually has a goal in mind behind his antics in that case- meeting Ted’s sister.

Barney also tends to use his catch phrases and exaggerated way of speaking a little less these days. There is one line in particular from “Okay Awesome” that stood out to me as being more exaggerated than the Barney of season 4. After Barney admits to Ted that he mistakenly danced with his own cousin at the club, Barney says, “Because, italics, this night did not happen,” complete with hand gesture to reinforce that he was speaking in italics. Is it a funny line? Sure it is- it gets me laughing every time. It is just more deliberately quirky than anything Barney has said in more recent episodes.

Finally, no Barney-centric analysis of “Okay Awesome” can be complete without a mention of…the shiny shirt! The shiny, silver shirt Barney wears to the club. The one that Lily says she can see her reflection in. That shirt is nothing that the Barney Stinson of season 4 (or even any episode after “Okay Awesome”) would ever wear. We’re talking about a guy who wears a “sleep suit” complete with “sleeping cravat,” after all! For all the fussing over “suiting up” Barney does in the first few episodes of HIMYM, especially the pilot, it is a bit jarring to see him not in a suit when they’re actually going out somewhere. Barney still adheres to the “suit up” philosophy in recent episodes, by the way, he’s just not as vocal about it!

After all this analysis of “Okay Awesome” and Barney’s role in it, some complimentary, some more critical, it is still my favorite episode of HIMYM and Barney is still my favorite character on the show. Thinking about how far Barney has come as a character since this episode makes the series, this episode in particular, and the character of Barney, even more compelling to me than they were before.

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