Monday, December 14, 2009

HIMYM 5.10: "The Window"

“Oh, hell yeah! It’s my overalls! I wore these babies all throughout high school. These were my jam!”


Although not my favorite episode of this season of HIMYM (I believe “Duel Citizenship” takes that title), “The Window” was definitely one of the better episodes of the season. And thanks to an ill-timed Ravens/Packers game, I still haven’t actually seen it on television- luckily the episode was uploaded to in time for me to write this blog post. I think what I liked about this episode is that it has heart, which is something HIMYM has sometimes lacked in its later seasons. In this episode, Ted, Marshall, and Lily all confront their pasts in a way, and Barney and Robin supply some comic relief.

The episode opens in Ted and Robin’s apartment, where Marshall brings in a box sent to him by his mom. This doesn’t really make sense considering Marshall and Lily live in another neighborhood now, and I would imagine Marshall’s mom would know his new address, considering Marshall participates in the weekly family dinners via web cam. Anyway, Marshall’s mom has been trying to clean Marshall’s stuff out of the family’s Minnesota home, and she sends him these “care packages” of random stuff from his childhood/teen years now and then. Marshall’s walk down memory lane is suspended when Ted gets an important phone call from an elderly woman informing him that “the window is open.”

Ted rushes out the door, and cheered on by Lily along the way, winds up at the apartment of a woman named Maggie. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend, and she agrees to spend the evening hanging out with Ted at MacLaren’s. Saget!Ted fills us in on the details. Ted met Maggie in college, and apparently she’s a “man magnet.” Ted has only had three “windows” of opportunity with Maggie since she and her college boyfriend broke up. Every time he heard about a break-up, he went to ask her out sooner and sooner, but it was never quick enough. And when she was with a new guy, she’d be with him for several years before another window presented itself.

Back at MacLaren’s, after Ted brings Robin and Barney up to speed on the whole “Maggie is perfect” thing, Marshall continues opening up his care package box. In it is a pair of overalls. Barney thinks this is ridiculous, and before you know it, there’s another “challenge accepted!” Barney will wear the overalls and not take them off until he gets laid. Later on, Robin creates her own challenge: to make as many farmer jokes as possible at Barney’s expense.

I must admit I’m more than a bit peeved at what the HIMYM team has done to Barney and Robin- and it’s not just the break up. It feels like they did a huge reset and the characters regressed. Barney seems to be the kind of lame comic sidekick he was in Season 1 (and really, we learned even during Season 1 that he could be so much more than that). To underscore my point, two of Barney’s catch phrases were used in just the first five minutes of the episode alone. There was a “What? Up!” and as I already mentioned, a “Challenge accepted!” What really twisted the knife for me was when Barney was in the middle of his overall silliness and Robin expressed her disbelief that she ever dated a guy like him. Honestly, I don’t think this show would have survived as long as it had without the major character development Barney experienced through Seasons 3-4, and to throw all that away because writing Barney as a more well-rounded person who is still funny is a bit difficult is quite a shame.

Josh Radnor’s performance somewhat overcame my general irritation. After Ted sets up the date with Maggie, Robin reminds him that he has to teach a night class that evening. Maggie isn’t interested in observing the class, so he leaves her in the care of Marshall and Lily, instructing them to keep her from having contact with any men. Although I find it lame and stretching credibility that Ted would have just up and forgot that he had to teach, I cracked up as Ted said very seriously, “I left my tab open. Don’t abuse it.” It also amused me when Ted’s class would rather hear him lecture about bridges than blow class off for the night, mostly because of Ted’s reaction. He gets this big, stupid grin on his face and says “Really?” in a tone of elated surprise. Never underestimate Ted Moseby’s love of talking about architecture.

Maggie ends up with a sort of revolving door of handlers as she waits for Ted to return to MacLaren’s. One of the items in Marshall’s box was a letter he wrote when he was 15 to his thirty-year-old self. Marshall has not done anything his fifteen-year-old self was hoping he’d do. The thing that stings the most is that Marshall has become a corporate sell-out instead of trying to “save the world.” He tells Lily he needs to do something at work and runs off. Lily is afraid he’s going to quit his job, so she runs after him, leaving Maggie in the care of Robin. When Maggie starts talking to her co-worker, Jim, Robin tries to save the day by distracting Jim with her own “man-magnet” qualities. Jim only has eyes for Maggie, though, which irritates Robin to no end. Robin ends up going to an art exhibition with Jim, just to prove she can win him over, and she leaves Maggie in the care of Barney. What was she thinking!

It actually turns out not to be such a bad thing. Barney says that Ted has ten minutes to get back to MacLaren’s before he makes a move. He really wants to get out of those overalls, and Maggie is kind of digging them. After a pep talk from his class (which is kind of adorable), Ted is on his way. One of the best moments of the episode was when Ted ran down the street yelling “I hate Barney Stinson!” and a random woman off camera yelled “Me too!”

Robin (who has returned from a failed attempt to seduce Jim at the art exhibit) ends up sending Maggie home because Ted, Jim, and Barney are circling around her like vultures. Instead of being dignified about it, the three guys make a mad dash for Maggie’s apartment. I love how through this whole sequence, Barney is trying to help Ted out more than he’s trying to advance his own agenda. He trips Jim up at every point possible during the race to Maggie’s. It turns out the guys were too late, though. Maggie has found somebody else- her childhood sweetheart. Saget!Ted describes it as the “second greatest love story” he’s ever heard. Ted realizes he’s ready for a relationship like that himself- he doesn’t want to be Barney’s wing man anymore.

I also liked the resolution to the Marshall/Lily plot, because it was very in character. Lily discovers that Marshall wasn’t going to GNB to quit his job, he was going to the employee basketball court to try and dunk again. Lily tells him that what he’s accomplished in his life has earned him a basket that’s one foot lower, but Marshall still can’t make the dunk. Lily offers to have sex with him right there on the court, and Marshall instantly feels better. The tag of the episode was silly, but very true to HIMYM. Marshall writes a letter to his 60-year-old self and assures him that if he’s still with Lily, he’s doing just fine. He also asks for a sign if time travel is possible. At that moment, Lily comes back to the table with a plate of wings that somebody had returned for being two spicy. It turns out they were from 60-year-old Marshall, who was observing from across the bar.

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