Saturday, January 22, 2011

HIMYM 6.12: "False Positive"

“Robin, you better check yourself before you Trebek yourself.”

I found “False Positive” to be a rather enjoyable episode of HIMYM. It didn’t rely on any silly gimmicks like rabbits and ducks and manatees and mermaids to get its point across. Instead, it made its point by examining how every character reacted to a specific series of events. The episode was also a thoughtful look at the role Ted plays in his group of friends. I’ve never been a huge Ted fan, although I do occasionally enjoy his dopey romantic antics, but I definitely appreciated his role in this episode. The rest of the group all needed a real kick in the pants, and Ted was there to provide that. I’m not sure if this is really a role we’ve ever seen Ted take before, but it was sorely needed, so I didn’t especially care.

The episode employs a sort of fractured in media res structure. We start with Ted arriving at a movie theater because the group is going to see a special showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Ted is carrying a gingerbread house as a “seasonally appropriate snack,” which was so very Ted, even if it’s the more recent, douchey flavor of Ted as opposed to the “do stupid things for romance” Ted of the beginning of the series. We then flash back to two days earlier. Marshall and Lily are about to check a pregnancy test. It’s positive. Never ones to really follow tradition, they tell the rest of the gang almost right away instead of waiting twelve weeks. We pan to each of the major characters to hear their thoughts. Everybody is freaking out except for Ted, who is just thinking about getting a seasonally appropriate snack for the upcoming movie outing. We also take another trip in time to see a doctor telling Marshall and Lily that they aren’t pregnant after all.

After the title sequence, we flash back in time yet again, to a day or so before Lily takes the pregnancy test. Ted is talking on the phone to Punchy about Punchy’s upcoming wedding. Ted is, as he puts it, “crushing the floral arrangements.” Robin takes the opportunity to take a verbal swipe at Ted, saying the best man’s job isn’t to help plan floral arrangements. It’s to get the groom down the aisle. Ted doesn’t have a very good best man track record when you put it that way. We see a convenient flashback to Marshall freaking out and shaving his head before his wedding to Lily as Ted just looks on in horror. Robin’s got a point, no matter what Ted does later in this episode.

After mocking Ted, Robin has a little job-related conversation with him. She’s seriously considering accepting a job as a coin flip girl on the show “Million Dollar Heads or Tails.” I like the little dig at mindless game shows, even if it is a little outdated. Ted wonders what happened to Robin’s dream of working for World Wide News. Robin had made a New Years resolution to herself back in January that she would be wearing a World Wide News employee badge by the end of the year. Despite Ted’s disapproval, Robin turns down a job offer to be a researcher for World Wide News in favor of being a coin flip girl. When Lily makes her big announcement, it changes Robin’s mind. She starts thinking that she needs to do something substantial with her life and decides to take the researcher job. When she finds out that Lily’s news was a false alarm, she changes her mind yet again. Honestly, I’m surprised she still has offers from either employer after all this dithering. Beyond that, I thought the decision was very uncharacteristic for Robin, even though the idea of this episode was that by the end, everyone is doing something inadvisable. This one was really beyond anything I’d expect of Robin. “It’s hard and I’m pretty” is never an excuse I’d ever thought I’d hear out of Robin Scherbatsky’s mouth.

Next, we switch to how Barney experienced these events. Barney has gotten a huge bonus at work (which kind of pisses Marshall off because Marshall got a lame gift card for his bonus), and he’s trying to figure out how to spend it. He wants to buy the DeBiasi suit, which has pinstripes made of diamonds. Ted suggests that Barney might want to give the money to charity, but Barney’s not interested. He’s the “Bill and Melinda Gates of the sympathy bang,” and that’s good enough for him. Finding out that Lily is pregnant makes Barney less happy about his bonus. At MacLaren’s he decides to do “Barney’s Favorite Things,” and Neil Patrick Harris got to bust out a pretty funny Oprah impression. Everybody at the bar gets a lap dance, for instance. Then Barney goes to Sam’s father for advice about giving to charity. Just as he’s about to write a check to Sam’s father’s church, Barney gets a text that Lily’s news was just a false alarm. He only gives the church $100. He also shows up to “It’s a Wonderful Life” “diamond suited up.”

Finally, we see the event’s from Marshall and Lily’s perspective. They start completely freaking out. First, they decide to do everything on their “get ready” list in one night. They’re an absolute mess, but somehow they get it together and appear calm for an evening at MacLaren’s. In reality, they’re tired, fighting, and stressing. When the doctor gives them the false positive news, Marshall and Lily are really not all that disappointed. They show up for “It’s a Wonderful Life” looking rather cheery. Lily mentions that they’ve decided that maybe they aren’t ready for a baby yet after all, and they’re considering getting a puppy instead.

When Ted hears that Marshall and Lily don’t want a baby anymore, he’s had it. He throws the gingerbread house down on the ground to get everyone’s attention, then he starts correcting all of them. First he yells at Marshall and Lily about how they’ve wanted a baby for a while. Then he yells out to the general criminal population of New York that Barney is wearing a diamond suit. Finally, he pulls out a coin, flips it, and tells Robin to take the World Wide News job already. Finally, Ted answers a call from Punchy and gets Punchy back on track for the wedding. Everybody rushes off to do what they’re supposed to do (Barney even donates a bunch of his suits to Sam’s church), and Ted is left to watch the movie on his own.

When Robin starts work at World Wide News, her ID badge picture looks horrible, which I thought was an amusing little touch of continuity. After her first day of work, Robin asks Ted to be her best man if she ever gets married. I thought that was a very sweet, fitting conclusion to this exploration of what Ted truly means to the group. I also hope it takes us another step closer to the wedding scene we saw at the beginning of the season. I also hope it’s Robin and Barney’s wedding, of course. Hey! What else did you expect from me?

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