Saturday, February 19, 2011

HIMYM 6.16: "Desperation Day"

“And I thought Pompeii was smokin’”

As much as I was trying to resist, because this episode marked the introduction of Barney’s new love interest Nora, I found myself enjoying “Desperation Day” quite a bit. The episode had a lightheartedness to it that was definitely welcome. It also took some time to deal further with the very serious subject of the death of Marshall’s dad. I thought the way that was handled was really the best part of the episode, and I’m not generally a big Marshall fan. I mean, I don’t dislike Marshall, he’s a big teddy bear and is responsible for the phrase “lawyered” (which, naturally, I use quite a bit), but he’s never really been the focus of my attention when I watch HIMYM. I thought this episode provided a wonderful showcase for Jason Segel, and he rose to the occasion.

Marshall is still in Minnesota, but the rest of the gang still in New York seems to be experiencing various romance-related frustrations as Valentine’s Day approaches. Since Zoey is going through a divorce, she and Ted are taking things very slowly. Which makes perfect sense to me. That frustrates Ted a bit though. I suppose that’s in character, considering Ted is the guy who told Robin he loved her on their first date. Which is why what happens later in the episode doesn’t make quite as much sense. Zoey has invited Ted over for Valentine’s Day to “bake cookies,” and Lily and Robin convince him this is a lady’s classy way of making a booty cal. Lily is getting frustrated that she doesn’t have Marshall with her. She’s taken to dressing up her body pillow in Marshall’s clothes and calling it her “Marshpillow.” She’s upset that Marshall won’t be there to take part in their Valentine’s Day tradition of watching Predator (the college flashback explanation of the tradition was highly amusing).

Another great thing about this episode was that we got another crazy Barney dating theory, complete with historical lecture. Barney has decided that calling February 13 Desperation Day is going to be “a thing.” The historical lecture takes place in Ancient Rome because it’s (very loosely) based on the real story of Saint Valentine. With the addition of “Saint Desperatious,” Saint Valentines best bro who hangs around to pick up bridesmaids. The bridesmaid in this little fantasy of Barney’s just happens to be Robin, and Barney is Saint Desperatious, of course. Robin says that this year, she is absolutely not going to be desperate. She’s planning on going out with some single lady friends from work to celebrate their singleness.

The next day, Barney and Robin are sitting around Ted and Robin’s apartment eating popcorn, and the rest of the group starts making strange confessions to them. First there’s Lily, who tells them about the Marshpillow. She then says she’s going to Minnesota, because she doesn’t want to be without Marshall on Valentine’s Day. Ted then announces that he seriously screwed up with Zoey. He brought an overnight bag to the cookie baking date, and Zoey said that was inappropriate. She kicked him out. Neither of these situations resolve as you might expect. Lily arrives at the Eriksen family home in Minnesota to find that Marshall has regressed. The cool thing about that is that he has a Gameboy. The not so cool thing is that he’s not taking care of his mom, his mom is taking care of him. Judy silently begs Lily to get Marshall out of her house.

Back in New York, Barney is hilariously acting like Predator as he prowls MacLaren’s for Desperation Day lays. Robin and two of her coworkers arrive for their solidarity drinks. One of them had the idea that instead of typical Valentine’s colors, they should all dress in purple. As much as I’m a fan of Barney, I have to admit that he kind of makes an ass of himself in front of Robin’s friends with all his boasting about Desperation Day. Another friend of Robin’s, Nora, arrives, but she’s not dressed in purple like the rest of them. She tells Barney that she’s dressed in yellow as a rebellion against the rebellion. She doesn’t hate Valentine’s Day. She also sees right through Barney when he tries to pretend that he’s a romantic who likes Valentine’s Day and chocolates, too. They also talk about Barney’s love for laser tag. Nora, who is British, has never heard of laser tag before, but she thinks it sounds like fun.

In other relationship news, Zoey shows up at Ted’s apartment to apologize. She’s ready to move forward with their relationship, and she’s looking forward to spending the first of what she hopes is many Valentine’s Days together. When Ted tells this to Robin, she questions the speed at which Ted and Zoey are moving forward in their relationship. Ted starts freaking out and ends up running to Minnesota to spend some time with Marshall. Ted ends up regressing too, and Lily finds the two of them up in Marshall’s bedroom playing with more of Marshall’s old school video games. Lily, at Judy’s request, tries one last time to convince Marshall to come home. She says she’s leaving for New York immediately, and she wants Marshall to come with her. He says he can’t, and it soon becomes even more apparent that Marshall’s overstaying his welcome in Minnesota is about his having trouble getting over his dad’s death, not his desire to take care of his mother.

After Lily leaves, Marshall admits to Ted how much he misses his dad. He gives this really moving speech about how when he was a kid and the family was going on vacation, his dad would drive the car through the dark and Marshall wouldn’t be scared. He thought of his dad like a superhero. I thought this was a wonderful bit of characterization for Marshall, and it provided the heart that so many newer episodes of HIMYM lack. The death of Marvin did not have me near tears like it has apparently for so many other people (I think I was desensitized because I knew what was coming), but this moment was definitely the closest I’ve come. Marshall confronts Ted about why he came out to Minnesota, and he realizes that both of them were running away from things. Marshall was running away from tackling real life without his dad, and Ted was running away from committing to Zoey. It was a lovely moment, but like I said earlier, since when has Ted ever been a commitment phobe? He’s the opposite of a commitment phobe.

Anyway, Marshall decrees that they will go back to New York immediately. A coming snowstorm has grounded all flights, so they’re going to drive. While driving through the dark, Marshall has a lovely imagined conversation with his dad. They talk about how Marvin didn’t really know what he was doing any more than Marshall does now, but he just kept driving straight ahead. It wasn’t quite as moving a scene as Marshall’s story about the car rides, but it was still a touching scene. Zoey comes over to Ted’s apartment on Valentine’s Day as planned, and this time she brings the overnight bag.

To wrap up the final story of the episode, Robin notices how well Barney and Nora are getting along, and after Nora leaves to go home, Robin points out that it’s past midnight. Desperation Day has come and gone without Barney sleeping with any desperate women. The next day, Barney is at the laser tag championships, wondering where Robin is. She was supposed to be his partner, even though she didn’t want to be. Which doesn’t make sense to me. We can see in “Zip Zip Zip” that they make an awesome laser tag team. Instead, Nora shows up. Barney figures out that Robin set them up. Nora gets really into the laser tag, yelling that Barney “will be avenged” after a kid shoots him. Nora’s a lot of fun, and I especially loved what I saw of her at laser tag, but I don’t want to see her and Barney together. She seems a bit like a Robin clone, down to the having fun at laser tag, for one thing. For another thing, I just don’t see the chemistry. Neil Patrick Harris has great chemistry with Cobie Smulders, but I’m just not seeing it here.

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