Thursday, January 21, 2010

HIMYM 5.13: "Jenkins"

“My grandpa lives in Pelican Rapids! Well, I mean, he’s dead now, but he haunts a barn off Route 108.”


“Jenkins” was an admirable directorial debut for one of my favorite entertainers, Neil Patrick Harris. While the fact that Harris was directing meant the episode was pretty light on Barney (although Barney was, in fact, in my favorite scene of the episode), Harris’ comedic sensibilities were absolutely still present in full force. “Jenkins” was definitely one of the most laugh-out-loud funny episodes of HIMYM this season. The episode was also impressive from a technical standpoint. It was fun to see how two pretty unrelated plots tied together at the end…through a drinking game.

Jenkins (played by the lovely Amanda Peet from “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) is a new co-worker of Marshall’s in the legal department at GNB. Marshall seems to think Jenkins is, like, the funniest person ever, and the rest of the gang seems to agree whenever Marshall tells one of his Jenkins stories. There’s only one small problem. Jenkins is a woman. The contrast between the scenes where Ted pictured Marshall’s Jenkins stories with an overweight man, and the scenes where Ted pictures the stories with the real Jenkins is hilarious. Jenkins’ gender wouldn’t have been a problem, however, if Marshall hadn’t given Lily the impression that Jenkins was a man. Marshall is worried that if Lily finds out the truth, she’ll be horribly jealous.

This confusion results in some excellent comedy. Ted, Barney, and Robin learn the truth about Jenkins’ identity when they meet Marshall and Jenkins at a college bar. This was one of the few scenes that Barney was in, and Neil Patrick Harris made the most of it. He’s met and figured out the identity of Jenkins before joining the other guys at the table, so he starts going on and on about how he’d like to have sex with her. Ted’s reaction is priceless. He’s shocked and trying to be supportive, and then you can see the light bulb click on in his head once he actually meets Jenkins and realizes Jenkins is a woman.

Ted isn’t thrilled at the idea of being at a college bar because he might run into some of his students, but Marshall needs to keep up his high score on the Skee-Ball machine they have there. Ted does indeed run into Scotty, one of his students, while he’s at the bar, but to Ted’s chagrin, Scotty is more excited about meeting Robin. Apparently he actually watches her show. Ted is flabbergasted that anybody, let alone a college student, watches Robin’s show, but Robin is extremely pleased with the idea that she’s becoming a local celebrity. I don’t quite know why Robin has been turned into such an extremely vain character in recent episodes. She’s so taken with Scotty’s attention that she purposely visits Ted’s class one night to find out just how many of his students are fans. It’s practically the whole class, and Robin is thrilled.

After Robin leaves, the class tells Ted the truth. Robin is the subject of a very late-night/early-morning drinking game that they like to play. Every time she says “but, um” on the broadcast, they take a drink. Ted is pretty gleeful about this revelation. When Barney finds out about it, he starts to tell Ted about a “drinking game” he used to play with Robin, until Ted reminds him that they agreed to not talk about that sort of thing. I love that the writers acknowledged here that it might be awkward for two friends to have an ex-girlfriend in common and that they showed us that Ted and Barney have talked about the issue. They follow up that abbreviated conversation by actually playing the drinking game, which is by far my favorite scene in the episode. They both get completely wasted, and they’re laughing hysterically the whole time. It’s yet another example of one of the things I love about HIMYM- it’s readily apparent that these characters are close friends and truly enjoy spending time together.

In other news, Marshall’s plan to keep Lily from ever knowing the true identity of Jenkins goes awry when Lily unexpectedly shows up at GNB one day to have lunch with Marshall. Jenkins tries to hide the truth from Lily, relying on some old improv training, but Marshall is incapable of lying. He immediately tells Lily that this woman is Jenkins. Lily isn’t at all phased and just wants to go to lunch. This actually makes Marshall even more upset. He can’t understand why Lily isn’t at all jealous.

Later at MacLaren’s Robin and Ted have an explanation for Marshall, explaining to him that every relationship has a “reacher” and a “settler,” and Marshall is most definitely the “reacher.” This type of “theory” is usually imparted by Barney, and it kind of amused me that it took both Ted and Robin to articulate the type of thing that Barney can usually deliver on his own. Robin is the one who started the whole conversation, and I like to think that the reason she has this theory (the style in which she delivers it, not the content) is because she’s spent a little too much time around Barney.

The “reacher” and “settler” theory only magnifies Marshall’s insecurities. He demands to know from Lily whether she thinks she’s the reacher or the settler. Lily is adamant that neither of them settled, but Marshall keeps constructing more and more ridiculous scenarios (some of which involve the death of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and Oprah) to force Lily to choose who is the reacher and who is the settler. After several rounds of this, Lily finally says that she supposes she is the settler.

Marshall gets the idea to use Jenkins to make Lily jealous. He’s trying to arrange a big group Skee-Ball outing (Ted gave Marshall the idea that Jenkins found Marshall’s mad Skee-Ball skills pretty hot) when he gets an unpleasant surprise from Jenkins. She kisses him. Marshall’s reaction was hilarious and completely true to the character. He throws his hands up, screams like a little girl, and runs all the way home to Lily. Much to Marshall’s chagrin (he still wants to make her jealous), Lily doesn’t believe Marshall when he tells her what happened.

Meanwhile, Robin is not at all thrilled to find out about the “but, um” drinking game. She concocts an evil scheme to get back at Ted and his students. Ted and his students are at the college bar playing the drinking game when Ted realizes they’ve been led into a trap. Robin keeps saying “but, um” over and over and over. Scotty tells Ted that they can’t stop drinking just because of the trap, though…it’s the rules of the game.

The next day at work, Jenkins apologizes to Marshall. She had come to work completely wasted from playing the “but, um” game (see how the drinking game nicely knits the two plots together?), and she feels bad about what she did. Now that he’s had some distance from the incident, Marshall wants to use it to its full potential. He wants Jenkins to confess what happened to Lily so Lily will see that other women just might find him desirable. Lily’s reaction to Jenkins’ confession is both more violent that what we usually see on HIMYM and completely hilarious. Actually, what I found most hilarious was the preparation; when she starts handing her jewelry to Barney, we viewers know a beat-down is about to be delivered.

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