Tuesday, September 29, 2009

HIMYM 5.02: "Double Date"

“Do you think they’ll have Wookie to English dictionaries there? I mean, even just an everyday phrase book would be helpful.”


I have serious mixed feelings about last night’s episode of HIMYM. The episode’s title, “Double Date” actually takes on two meanings, one for a plot involving just Ted, and one for a plot involving the rest of the gang. The concept is actually pretty clever, and I like that. I liked Ted’s plot as well- it felt like vintage HIMYM- but I have some serious issues with the rest of the gang’s story. I think that story was a serious example of character being sacrificed for a (kind of lame) joke.

The first meaning of “Double Date” is the more creative one. Ted finds himself on a blind date with Jen, a woman he had already been on a blind date with seven years before. They realize this while in the middle of eating dinner. After the realization, Ted and Jen decide to go through the rest of the date so they can figure out where they went wrong and be more successful dating in the future. They go to MacLaren’s, where Lily and Robin grill Jen about all the potential mistakes Ted might have made on the date. They end up, of course, on the roof. I think ending on the roof is part of what made this particular plot feel more like classic HIMYM. Ted tends to wax poetic on the roof and be at his goofy, sometimes pretentious, romantic-at-heart best.

On the roof, Ted and Jen realize that their first date wasn’t that bad after all. Ted had, in fact, said that he would give Jen a call. He never did. After some back and forth, they’re about to give the relationship a second chance when Ted remembers why he didn’t make that call. He wants to be with someone who finds his quirks endearing. Jen had clearly been annoyed by some of his quirks (like pointing out incorrect spelling on a menu), and he had been annoyed by some of her quirks (extreme attachment to her cats), so they weren’t right for each other. It felt like Season 1 because Ted played the hopeless romantic, thinking he could have a second chance with this girl he first met seven years ago. While calling back to elements of Season 1, this episode also nicely showed Ted’s growth. We see him willing to learn about how to better relate to other people. Pretentious Ted of years past wouldn’t have thought anybody could possibly have a problem with anything he did.

Meanwhile, Barney pretends to have tickets to an “Origins of Chewbacca” exhibit to steal Marshall away from Lily (and hide the truth from Robin) so they could have a guys night at the Lusty Leopard, Barney’s favorite strip club. Marshall reveals that he feels guilty even fantasizing about women other than Lily. The problem is so bad that in his fantasies, he has to kill Lily off first by a hiccup disorder. Marshall’s description of this “fantasy” goes on so long that I didn’t even really find it funny- just kind of stupid. Barney decides it’s his new mission to help Marshall get over this hang-up, but before the guys know it, there’s a stripper who looks just like Lily.

“Stripper Lily” is apparently the third doppelganger the gang has encountered. There is also Lesbian Robin and Moustache Marshall. Narrator!Ted promises that meeting doppelganger Ted and Barney will be a story for another time. The doppelganger concept was probably my favorite part of the episode. I love running gags on HIMYM because I know that they will pay off. We’ve seen three of Marshall’s five slaps he earned in “Slap Bet,” and we’ve seen Ted’s birthday fight with a goat that was teased in several episodes.

When Barney and Marshall tell their ladies about the discovery of Stripper Lily, Lily actually is pretty enthusiastic about it and wants to meet her doppelganger. Robin is upset that Barney went to the strip club and lied about it. Barney keeps ignoring Robin whenever she says she is upset. It gets to the point where, at the end of the episode, Robin says they need to have a serious talk. The major thing I didn’t like about the episode, so much so that it’s kind of soured it for me, was the handling of Barney and Robin’s relationship. Robin was not the same Robin from “Zip, Zip, Zip.,” “Belly Full of Turkey,” and “Little Minnesota.” You can argue that maybe Robin’s feelings about Barney’s strip club habits have changed because he’s her boyfriend, but that even runs counter to last week. Last week, Robin was only going to “pretend” to call Barney her boyfriend, and she was furiously trying to avoid any serious talks like the one she proposes at the end of the episode. It seems like it was only done for the sake of plot- because it would be funny that Lily was the one of the two women who was actually okay with it. That’s just lazy writing. I’d feel better about it if some resolution had happened in this episode, but there was none.

I enjoyed this episode well enough when I wasn’t stewing over Barney and Robin. It definitely had plenty of laughs. Was it the best episode of HIMYM ever? No, but if you compare it to Season 4’s second episode, “The Best Burger in New York,” it stands up well. Now I personally like “Best Burger,” mostly because of the montage of Marshall’s pre job-interview get psyched speeches that get more and more dejected before each interview. He basically goes from telling himself how great he is before the first interview to telling himself it’s going to be great to get back home and watch TV before the last. That is incredibly true to life. Most of the HIMYM fandom doesn’t agree with me, however, and pretty much pans “Best Burger” as the worst HIMYM episode ever, except maybe for “The Stinsons” (where I’d agree with them). After this episode, I’m mostly left really looking forward to seeing Ted and Barney’s doppelgangers.

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