Monday, March 29, 2010

HIMYM 5.18: "Say Cheese"

“Do I get a vote? Skank Lane! Skank Lane!”


This episode didn’t make me cry like “Of Course,” but I still really enjoyed it. I found it really funny and just good fun in general. There was a touch of heart as well, which I think every episode of HIMYM needs to truly be its best. This was a Lily-focused episode, which usually spells disaster. Lily doesn’t have as strong a voice as most of the other HIMYM characters- really her only distinctive trait is being annoyingly meddlesome. But I think this episode really worked because Lily was actually wrong for once, and there was a really funny (platonic) Barney and Robin side plot.

Lily is not surprisingly, as Ted puts it, a “Birthday Brat.” Lily absolutely loves her birthday. She loves it so much that she wakes up at midnight just to yell “It’s my birthday!” And Marshall, of course, indulges it completely. He makes her a themed birthday breakfast in bed each year (this year’s theme is “Spanish Interlude,” complete with guitarist and fake Spanish scene pasted up on the window). He also plans a birthday, or should I say “Lilyday,” party. This year’s is supposed to be a “black tie” affair with just the core HIMYM gang, complete with Lily’s favorite pumpkin cheesecake. Lily is, of course, extremely excited about all the fuss.

Lily’s not so happy, however, when Ted arrives at the party. He was supposed to bring the cheesecake, but instead he brings his newest girlfriend (Amanda) and the ingredients needed for her to bake a cheesecake. She’s a chef, you see. Lily is pretty pissed that there’s an interloper, although she doesn’t blatantly say anything about it at first. Marshall has come up with some Lily-centric games for everyone to play, like “Lilial Pursuit” and “Gilding the Lily,” and it’s obviously apparent from her performance in the games that Amanda is the odd person out.

The conflict comes to a head when Amanda goes into the kitchen to check on the cake, and Lily tries to quick gather the gang together for a group picture while Amanda is gone. Ted immediately figures out what Lily is up to, and he’s pretty upset about it. Lily has a history of trying to re-write history and make everything seem more perfect in her photo albums. The first example given is the group picture taken after Robin became a U.S. citizen. Lily specifically asked Marshall to sit in between Barney and Robin, because Lily was beginning to suspect that Barney and Robin would break up soon, so she didn’t want them looking like a couple in the picture. I suppose this fits with the super manipulative side of Lily we’ve seen many a time.

Lily doesn’t take Ted’s criticism lying down. She drags out a photo album and shows Ted how his tendency to bring along “random skanks” has a history of ruining her group photos and the events they depict. My favorite story of the bunch took place when Ted, Marshall, and Lily were all in college. Lily was studying abroad in Paris, and Marshall was supposed to visit her. Ted came along on the trip too, and of course he invited newly on-again über-prententious girlfriend Karen (Laura Prepon). They break up, yet again, on the plane when Karen admits that she just cheated on Ted, yet again. Karen then demands to room with Lily once they get to Paris, which makes a horny college Marshall very upset. To top it all off, Lily got a romantic picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, but it’s of Karen kissing their waiter. Everybody else looks quite irritated.

Marshall just keeps trying to keep the peace and give Lily the best birthday possible. He’s composed a song called “Happy Lilyday” that he keeps trying to start singing while playing his guitar. One of the funniest scenes of the episode is when he’s trying to teach everyone their individual parts for the song. He sings Robin’s part in a falsetto, and an observant viewer can see Neil Patrick Harris completely crack up at Jason Segel’s antics. Moments like that are one of the big reasons I love HIMYM when it’s firing on all cylinders. Even Marshall can’t keep his cool anymore when Amanda presents the finished birthday cake. It says “Happy 42nd Birthday Lori.” Marshall is offended that Amanda thought Lily was 42, and he’s even more offended she thought Lily seemed like a “Lori.” Amanda storms out, Ted runs after her, and Barney tries to break the tension by singing “Happy Lilyday” in falsetto. Which had me laughing hysterically, of course.

Ted finally makes Lily see the error of her ways by pointing out the very first picture in Lily’s photo album. It’s a picture of Marshall, Lily, and Ted near the beginning of their freshman year in college. The photo was originally supposed to be Ted and Marshall’s roommate photo, but when Lily stopped by the room because she and Marshall were going on a date that night, Ted invited Lily into the photo. Lily then realized that just like Ted took a chance on Lily, she ought to take a chance on the women Ted chooses to introduce to the group.

Sure this episode had its flaws. There’s a bit about Marshall being the clean-up crew after Ted breaks up with his many girlfriends that just didn’t work for me on many levels. The scene began with Marshall comforting Natalie, the woman who was the subject of the early first season episode “Return of the Shirt.” It was a pretty big continuity blunder, though, as much as the producers probably thought they were including a fun callback. Ted broke up with Natalie (for the second time) at her birthday dinner, so there was no reason for her to be at the apartment for Marshall to comfort her. Also, Natalie generally used krav magaw on the occasions (yes, plural) when Ted broke up with her on her birthday, so she should be angry, not sad. Second, Robin was chiming in and being pretty judgmental of Ted when she herself brought “old man” Bob to the original Slapsgiving.

Anyway, to finish on a positive note, the other thing about this episode that got a lot of laughs from me (other than the “Happy Lilyday” sillyness) was a Barney and Robin-centric sub plot. It turns out that it is impossible for a bad photo to be taken of Barney. Ever. Robin keeps trying to catch Barney in embarrassing positions, like in the middle of eating a potato chip, but every photo comes out with Barney looking right at the camera and adjusting his tie. Conversely, Marshall is about as unphotogenic as you can get. His eyes are always closed in every picture. A “one year later” scene serves as the episode’s tag, and Robin finally gets Barney to take a bad picture by feeding him cilantro dip. Cilantro makes him sneeze. The other notable thing about “one year later” is that Don isn’t there!

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