Tuesday, November 30, 2010

HIMYM 6.08: "Natural History

“That was a great dream, but we have a mortgage, and we’re trying to have kids. We’re grown-ups now, Lily.”

So I’ve been a bit spoiled with my blog writing recently. I’ve actually had the chance to write about some great episodes of television. “Amber 31422” was the first, and now HIMYM’s “Natural History.” This episode had a lot of wonderful elements. There was great Barney/Robin chemistry, a doozy of a humanizing moment for Barney, and Marshall and Lily dealing with an issue that’s very close to my own life at the moment- changing your life plan after you've experienced a bit of the "real world." All of this takes place at New York’s Museum of Natural History, the perfect place to tackle stories about collisions between childhood and adulthood.

The event that brings the gang to the museum, the “Autumn Spectacular,” is GNB related, of course, and even Robin gets to tag along. During the cab ride to the museum, Lily, Marshall, and Ted talk about how anti-establishment they used to be back in college and how strange it is for them to be all dressed up going to a swanky corporate event now. Marshall protests a little, saying their college selves were rather pretentious. We’re treated to a flashback to their sandwich-smoking selves acting douchey to a student dressed in a suit at Wesleyan on his way to his mother’s funeral. Back in the cab, Lily prattles on about how Marshall will still work for the NRDC one day. Marshall just looks uncomfortable.

The gang enters the museum, and Barney starts telling this fantastical story from when he was a kid about how he managed to knock down the blue whale exhibit and destroy a dinosaur skeleton at the museum. Nobody believes him because the story is so out there. Marshall and Barney’s boss, Arthur, then introduces them to “The Captain” van Smoot, played by Kyle MacLachlan, most recently of “Desperate Housewives.” Arthur calls Marshall and Barney the “future of GNB,” and the Captain jokingly tells them not to touch anything at the museum. Barney, of course, responds with a “Challenge accepted!”

Barney and Robin spend most of the rest of the episode racing around the museum touching all the exhibits they can. They start with an Ancient Egyptian outfit and go on from there. Eventually, Barney ends up wearing the Egyptian outfit and yelling out “Niled it!” The plot is rather childish, but it’s nice to see Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders’ comedic chemistry again. It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen Barney and Robin just have fun with each other. A security guard catches Barney and Robin in their antics, and they wind up in his office. The security guard starts ranting about a six-year-old who once knocked down the museum’s blue whale, and eyes gleaming because he knows he’s just been vindicated, Barney asks the security guard to check his files for the name of the kid.

This is when the plot goes from silly to something deeper, which I think is part of what makes the best HIMYM so great. You can be laughing one minute and close to tears the next. The guard checks the file and confirms that the story Barney told was indeed the truth. But there’s more. “Uncle Jerry,” who took Barney to the museum that day, is actually Barney’s father. He checked the box “father” on the form that was filed with the security office. Barney is shocked. Later, he tells Robin that the day at the museum was the last time he ever saw Uncle Jerry. He is very contemplative, and Robin is supportive. Barney asks her not to tell the rest of the gang what they’ve learned. The scene is Neil Patrick Harris’ best work on the show this season by far.

Meanwhile, Ted is very surprised to see Zoey at the event. He’s not especially happy about this development, because Zoey recently wrote a very nasty op-ed about Ted and the GNB Headquarters project that ran on the crossword page of the newspaper. It ruined Ted’s “Crossword Day.” It turns out that the Captain is Zoey’s husband. The Captin is pretty cool, and agrees to call Ted “Galactic President Superstar McAwesomeville.” It’s nice to see Kyle MacLachlan in a role where he can be a bit more laid back, as opposed to the very proper Orson Hodge. When the Captain leaves to go “check on the boat,” Ted starts having fun with the fact that Zoey’s campaign to save the Arcadian is most likely the result of being a bored trophy wife. Zoey starts to cry.

Ted always gets stupid when a crying woman is in play, so he starts babbling about how GNB is evil and he doesn’t really want to tear down the Arcadian. As soon as he’s made a proper fool of himself, Zoey’s expression changes. She’s been tape recording the whole conversation. Nevermind that this could possibly be illegal- I’ll just go with it because the episode is good overall. And it’s not like Zoey has ever shied away from jail time, anyway. The Captain hears about what happened, and being a decent guy, offers to get the tape and erase it. Then he starts going on about Zoey and her little hobbies in a very patronizing way, and that’s when Ted’s opinion starts to change. He tells the Captain not to bother erasing the tape. He respects Zoey and what she’s trying to do, and he was caught fair and square. Zoey hears him from the other side of the room thanks to the unique acoustics of the museum. Zoey and Ted later share a dance, and Zoey tells Ted she erased the tape. I really, really hope they aren’t going to have Ted have an affair with a married woman, but it appears that’s where this is all heading.

More interesting (at least to me) than Ted’s plot is Marshall and Lily’s plot. Marshall reveals that he’s been offered a five year contract at GNB. Lily is really upset, because she still wants College Marshall who wanted to be an environmental lawyer. Marshall tells her his plans changed. They want to have a family, and he needs to be able to provide for them. What really upsets Lily is that Marshall’s been thinking for a while that he wants to stay at GNB. She thinks he lied to her. Marshall says that, in fact, every time Lily asked him about his career plans, he would answer in made up words. He follows that up with a “lawyered.” Lily points out that “lawyered” is a made-up word. On behalf of lawyers everywhere, I must say “Hush, Lily. It’s a real word now!” Lily is really upset by the whole argument and walks away.

Lily finds herself in front of an exhibit of College Marshall. Lily tells him all the things that Corporate Marshall does better. College Marshall can’t understand why Lily wants her current Marshall to revert to who he used to be, when he’s pretty great now. College Marshall tells Lily she can’t have him back. There’s an “extinct” sign on the exhibit. Marshall comes up behind Lily and asks if she can be okay with who he is now. Lily says they can make it work. In the episode’s tag, we see Corporate Marshall looking harried at GNB. His boss is telling him he’s going to need to work overtime again. The camera pulls out, and we see that we’re looking at another exhibit. Corporate Marshall will also one day be extinct. But Saget!Ted tells us that’s another story.

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