Sunday, January 9, 2011

HIMYM 6.11: "The Mermaid Theory"

“Well if I can’t share her lipstick, there’s really no point in even going.”

At first, I was mildly entertained by “The Mermaid Theory.” It definitely had its funny moments. Then I noticed a rather unfortunate similarity to “Rabbit or Duck,” arguably one of HIMYM’s worst episodes. This time around, instead of Rabbit or Duck, we had Manatee or Mermaid, complete with stupid visual gags. It was another one of those recent episodes of HIMYM that tries really hard and, unlike “Blitzgiving,” for instance, fails utterly. There was a “Barney has a wacky theory about women” bit, and there was another bit that was more dependent on the fallibility of memory than anything I can recall on the show previously. Like I’ve noticed at least one other time this season, it felt like an attempt to just throw in all the elements that are “supposed” to be in a good episode of HIMYM.

The episode opens with Saget!Ted telling his kids how the gang liked Zoey but found her husband, the Captain, to be more than a little creepy. In a lovely bit of continuity, Marshall has a big poster made to illustrate why. I believe it was the season 3 episode “Intervention” where we first saw Marshall’s love of using big posters to illustrate his point. The Captain can be smiley and have murderous looking eyes all at the same time. While the gang is rather gleefully discussing this phenomenon, Ted gets a phone call from Zoey. She’s going to a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, and she wants to know if any of the group wants to join her. Ted, always the architecture nerd, is the only one interested. He agrees to go, but Lily cautions him that there are rules to be followed when a single guy is alone with a married woman. This conversation leads Marshall and Robin to realize they don’t hang out much (apparently we’re supposed to forget season 4’s “Little Minnesota”), so they decide they’re going to have dinner.

There’s also a C plot running through the story that I’ll just quickly recap here so we can move on. This would be the plot that is pretty much only about the fallibility of memory. First Saget!Ted says Lily made Barney upset by refusing to hang out. He then realizes this doesn’t make much sense. It makes even less sense when Lily accuses Barney of being over-sensitive, then saves his life by pushing him out of the way of a car. They briefly make up, then resume figting. Saget!Ted really realizes his memory is faulty when he has Barney telling Lily that you don’t call a woman fat. He remembers that it’s Barney who hurt Lily, but the whole picture still doesn’t make sense. After pondering this from time-to-time for the rest of the episode, it turns out that Barney hurt Lily by explaining that she turned into a manatee (an explanation for what that means will come later in this recap) by becoming pregnant. Lily was pregnant when this part of the story went down, but Saget!Ted tells us that was in “a different year.” We also get Ted in a dress- something for which Saget!Ted promises we’ll get an explanation some day. What I didn’t like about this was that it felt so generic. As if the writer said, “Okay, it’s HIMYM, I’ve got to have some faulty memory and a gag we can come back to eventually. Check!”

Back to the more prominent plots of this episode, Zoey and Ted are enjoying the museum exhibit when Zoey gets a phone call from the Captain. The Captain asks what Zoey is up to, and she says she’s out “with friends.” The fact that Zoey felt she had to lie makes Ted realize there could be a problem. He consults with Lily, who says that the problem will be solved if Ted hangs out with both Zoey and the Captain in the future. Ted decides to accept the Captain’s recent invitation to go out on his boat. When Ted arrives at the boat, he’s disturbed to see that Zoey isn’t there. It’s just going to be Ted and the Captain. At sea. Where, apparently, like in outer space, no one can hear you scream. Understandably, Ted thinks he’s gonna die.

Meanwhile, further throwing away “Little Minnesota,” Robin and Marshall’s dinner is seriously awkward. Apparently they are only capable of discussing three topics. Wonder what they discussed all those times at the Hoser Hut and Marshall’s Minnesotan bar, then. Anyway, Marshall says he hasn’t hung out with Robin much because of what Barney taught him was called the “Mermaid Theory.” Basically, the theory is that whenever a guy spends time one-on-one with a woman, a clock starts ticking. Even if the guy finds her completely unattractive (a “Manatee”) at first, she’ll eventually turn into a “Mermaid,” and he won’t be able to stop thinking about her. This is what happens when guys get desperate, apparently. I found this theory to be very immature and paranoid, although I guess it makes sense in that case that it would originally come from Barney!

On the boat, the Captain is being extra creepy, talking about death and isolation at sea. Ted is more convinced than ever that he’s going to die, especially when the Captain mentions Zoey. The Captain goes into the cabin to fetch something, and Ted climbs up on the side of the boat, seriously considering jumping to get away from him. Ted loosens up when the Captain returns simply with some Scotch, but unfortunately, he loosens up a bit too much and accidentally falls into the very cold water anyway when the boat hits a bump. After the Captain gets Ted back on the boat and wrapped up in a blanket, they have a little heart-to-heart. At the end of the episode, Zoey tells Ted that she specifically arranged the boat trip so Ted could spend time with the Captain, and her guilt could be eased. The mermaid clock starts ticking, which definitely earned an eye roll from me.

At the restaurant, Robin asks if there’s any way to stop the clock or “unmermaid.” In a flashback, we see Barney tell Marshall that the way a woman stops being a mermaid is pregnancy. Back at Robin and Ted’s apartment, Marshall’s beer goggles kick in, and in his eyes, Robin begins the transformation to mermaid. It turns out Robin drank quite a lot to get through the super awkward evening, though, and she throws up on the floor. Apparently that’s another way to unmermaid. Luckily for Marshall. I still think the whole thing seemed like way too much of a Rabbit/Duck rehash. I wasn’t impressed.

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