Saturday, April 17, 2010

HIMYM 5.19: "Zoo or False"

“Not a scary one. Just a cute, little pink Beretta that matches these adorable strappy sandals I just bought. By the way, our new credit card works.”


“Zoo or False” is all about the sometimes difficult to detect line between the truth and a lie. Which is right in Barney’s wheelhouse, naturally. Surprisingly, though, Barney is not the main focus of this episode, although he does have a decent part to play on it. The focus of the episode is, instead, Marshall, as the gang tries to figure out which version of a story he told is actually true. It’s a pretty silly episode that doesn’t really try to illuminate what life is like for the mid-20-early-30-something. It made me laugh, though, so I can’t say I disliked it. What can I say- other than disliking gross out humor, it doesn’t take a whole lot to make me laugh!

Although the episode is Marshall-centric, the writers just couldn’t resist opening the show with one of Barney’s classic lies to get a woman to sleep with him. This time he tells a woman he’s Neil Armstrong, and he’s just about to go up on a Space Shuttle mission. He half-heartedly tries to use some classic sci-fi technobabble to explain why, if he’s Neil Armstrong, he isn’t much older. This whole “Neil Armstrong” schtick will get blown to larger proportions later in the episode, and that’s really not a good thing.

Barney is telling the “Neil Armstrong” story to the rest of the gang (minus Robin- throughout the episode he’s careful not to go on about his sexual exploits when she’s around- I guess he learned something from the events of “Of Course”) when the pizza delivery guy arrives at what I believe is Dowisetrepla. Lily asks Marshall for cash to pay for the pizza, but Marshall says he doesn’t like pizza. This gets gasps from the rest of the gang and increasingly ridiculous stories about how much Marshall loves pizza. Marshall then fesses up. He can’t pay for the pizza because he was mugged that afternoon in Central Park and has no cash.

Lily tries to keep her cool about this, but she ends up freaking out and joining Robin at the shooting range for lessons. I thought it was hilarious when Robin brought out the gun while they were still all at the apartment as an idea on what they all should do to protect themselves. Barney pretty much crawled right up the back of the couch in fear. Neil Patrick Harris is most definitely the master of physical comedy among the HIMYM cast- although I must say that Josh Radnor’s fight with a goat last season was pretty darn hilarious, too.

Marshall is, understandably, not at all happy that Lily wants a gun. He already accidentally injures her on a regular basis. Adding a gun to that equation would just not be at all smart. As the gang sits around the usual table at MacLaren’s, Marshall says he wasn’t actually mugged by a guy with a gun, he was mugged by a monkey. In other words, he got a little too close to the monkey cage at the Central Park Zoo, and the monkey took his wallet. Everybody thinks this is absolutely hilarious, and Lily isn’t scared and wanting a gun anymore.

When Robin joins the group at the table, Barney has a lot of fun telling her the story of the monkey mugging with some embellishments (mostly involving a banana). Barney has been trying to adapt the mugging story in all its forms, monkey and otherwise, to fit his picking up chicks arsenal. Robin thinks Marshall’s story might be just what she needs to get out of a rut at work. Her producer thinks it’s a great idea and says the story might even go national. Marshall is not happy about this at all. He tells Ted and Barney that he wasn’t actually mugged by a monkey. He was mugged by a human with a gun. He just changed his story so Lily wouldn’t feel like she had to buy a gun anymore. Ted is jealous- he wishes Robin was going to interview him on her show. He made a model of the Empire State Building for a conference, and we all know how nerdy Ted gets about the Empire State Building. Robin thinks the model is lame, though, especially since she caught Ted using it to reenact scenes from “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Meanwhile, lying isn’t going so well for Barney, either. He’s trying to use the mugging story on one woman at MacLaren’s when the woman he used the “Neal Armstrong” story on sees him and approaches him. She keeps saying “Neil” louder and louder to get his attention, since she still thinks that’s his name. I guess somebody thought that was funny considering that Neil Patrick Harris plays Barney, but I thought that was a pretty lame, cheap joke. Barney tries to come up with a story to reconcile what he told both women, but he just ends up getting two drinks thrown in his face when he asks them for a threesome. When he tells the story to the gang, though, he says he actually got the threesome. Because Barney always feels like “a lie is just a great story that someone ruined with the truth.” The rest of the gang pretty much figures out the truth, but they indulge Barney.

Everything comes to a head on the set of Robin’s show. The monkey and his zookeeper are there, because Robin and her producer thought it would be exciting for Marshall to “confront his attacker.” Marshall gets increasingly more and more skeptical. The final straw is when the zookeeper tells Marshall that the zoo is sending the monkey to a wildlife preserve where he’ll be permanently separated from his long-time mate. This hits Marshall right in his romantic soft-spot, so he partially retracts his story about the monkey mugging. He doesn’t want Lily to go back to wanting a gun, either, so he doesn’t really confirm or deny either story. He just says he’s going home and going to bed.

Ted brought his Empire State Building model as back-up, but even that plan is going to have its problems. The monkey escapes its zookeeper, grabs a doll that belongs to another guest of Robin’s show, and climbs up the model all King Kong style. It almost feels like the writers wanted this King Kong homage at the end of the episode and wrote all the preceding silliness to get to this point. I don’t think that’s the best way to approach an episode of a usually thoughtful show like HIMYM. I used to praise this show up and down for getting the experience of people my age almost perfectly, but as it descends more and more into the absurd, I’m not sure if I can really recommend it anymore.

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