Sunday, February 27, 2011

HIMYM 6.17: "Garbage Island"

“She was a really great laser tag partner. She’s tiny, so she’s allowed to push kids.”

“Garbage Island” definitely had some cute moments, and it set up some interesting arcs for the final stretch of the season. Obviously, if you’ve ever read any of my other writing about HIMYM, I wasn’t happy with some of the plot developments, well, one plot development in particular. I wish I could say I had faith in Carter and Craig and the rest of the HIMYM team that even though I don’t like the detour that is Nora/Barney, everything will turn out well, but after the disaster that was Barney and Robin’s break-up last year and Robin’s relationship with Don, I’m not so sure. I chose to enjoy the many funny little moments in this episode and not dwell with my major problems with how Barney and Robin have been handled, though. On that level, it was a good viewing experience.

This episode used more extreme in media res than I’m used to seeing. We start with Ted stuck in the Hong Kong airport in 2021. He runs into Wendy the Waitress for the first time in the very long time, and Saget!Ted tells us (and the kids) that this is the story of what happened 10 years earlier to lead up to that meeting. The story starts in MacLaren’s of course, where the gang are sitting in their usual booth having dinner and drinks. Robin mentions to Barney that she heard laser tag was a good time. Barney tries to convince her that it wasn’t. Nora didn’t accept Barney’s offer for drinks, so he kind of tuned out to everything she said after that. Apparently Barney is incapable of listening to a woman if he doesn’t think she wants to sleep with him. This is a new one to me. He’s always listened to Robin and Lily just fine. Robin thinks Barney should give Nora a call, but Barney says he “don’t chase.” Meanwhile, Ted is happily telling Wendy the Waitress the “fairly tale” version of the story about how he and Zoey got together. The one where Zoey and the Captain had a huge fight, Zoey left, and Ted picked up the pieces.

Zoey wants Ted to pick up a box of things from her old apartment building (the box has been left with the doorman), and this starts Ted on a journey of finding out that maybe he wasn’t the good guy in this situation after all. When he goes to pick up the box, Ted runs into the Captain, who asks him to come with him to “the study.” The Captain is actually really friendly to Ted. You see, he needs a friend because he’s feeling really hurt over the divorce. He tells Ted a different story about what happened. In his version, he and Zoey were very happy, Zoey left him for another man, but he doesn’t know who that man is. Ted, for one, hopes it stays that way.

In the final plot of the episode, work has really been grating at Marshall ever since he got back from Minnesota. It’s all drudgery and paperwork. Lily’s frustrated because an upset Marshall means she’s not getting much of anything in the bedroom. One evening Marshall is up late at night watching a documentary about “Garbage Island.” Lily is desperately trying to get him into the bedroom, but Marshall isn’t interested. He says he has to save the planet. Marshall then starts a multi-phase plan to achieve his goal. First was a green initiative at MacLaren’s. Poor Wendy the Waitress now has to lug trash bags full of bottles to the recycling center every night. Phase 2 is a new green initiative for GNB. Barney doesn’t think this is a good idea. In fact, he thinks it could get Marshall fired. Barney turns out to be sort of right. Marshall’s presentation doesn’t go well at all. His boss wonders why Marshall wants to spend another $12 million when GNB already has a rather illusory green initiative for a lot less money. Only one of the other GNB employees at the meeting voices his agreement with Marshall, and he’s promptly fired. Marshall’s job is only saved because his boss feels kind of bad that Marshall’s father just died.

Throughout the episode, Barney and Robin continue to deal with Barney’s possible feelings for Nora. Kind of out of the blue, Barney propositions Robin. It’s at this moment, even more than when he earlier couldn’t not smile when he said Nora’s name, that Robin realizes that Barney really truly does have feelings for Nora. She tells Barney that she thinks he just propositioned her because he’s upset he missed his shot with Nora. There’s some wonderfully hilarious comedic acting on the part of Neil Patrick Harris as Barney flips back and forth repeatedly between revealing his feelings for Nora and trying to hide those feelings. As a final effort to get him to confront his feelings, Robin tells Barney he’s too late. Nora has started seeing somebody else, and she’s meeting him at “Café L’Amour.” Can you get any more obvious that it’s a set-up, Robin? Luckily (sort of) for Robin, Barney’s so far gone that he actually believes her.

After a long, unsuccessful stakeout, Barney confronts Robin about the lie she told. Robin then confronts Barney about really having feelings for Nora. Robin keeps trying to give Barney Nora’s phone number, and Barney keeps ripping it up. The final straw happens when Robin just says she put the number in Barney’s phone and Barney smashes the phone. Barney admits he likes Nora, but he doesn’t believe he can be anyone’s boyfriend. This is obviously complete bunk- we saw him go through these same issues when he dated Robin. He learned a great deal from that experience. This whole thing is retreading territory we don’t need to retread and with the “Robin lite” that is Nora. Robin gets frustrated and says if Barney is so unattached to Nora, he should stop by Robin’s apartment that night and she’ll provide the unattached sex he asked her for earlier. This storyline needs to be wrapped up pronto and Robin and Barney need to get back together in a relationship that works for them, not for Lily and Marshall or Ted and the Mother.

Barney does indeed show up at Robin’s later that evening. Robin starts going on a tirade, berating Barney for being able to commit, because she thinks he’s taking her up on her offer to have meaningless sex. That’s not what Barney was after, though. He wants Nora’s phone number finally. Robin complies, outwardly looking happy as long as she knows Barney’s watching. When he leaves to go call Nora, though, she looks a bit wistful. This scene was like a mini lecture on the amazing chemistry Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders have together. I hope that even if Barney and Robin don’t get back together right away, these two still have scenes together- they’re too good to ignore.

Meanwhile, Ted was so thrown by the Captain’s reveal that he forgot to get Zoey’s box. He goes back a second time to finally complete his mission, and the Captain calls him up to the study yet again. The Captain reveals that he thinks Zoey left him for the doorman. Whoever the mystery man is, the Captain thinks he must have a moustache. Because all evil guys have moustaches, of course. Ted starts trying to soften the Captain up, reminding him about how little he and Zoey had in common. The Captain reluctantly agrees, wondering if maybe he should thank the doorman. Ted chooses that minute to quickly blurt out that he’s the one Zoey’s dating and hightails it out of the study as fast as he can. He grabs the box on his way out.

Lily plans a romantic night for Marshall which is quickly scrapped when Marshall finds out she threw out six pack rings. Lily finds him in the dumpster, looking for the plastic rings, concerned that the rings might kill some defenseless birds. There’s more going on under the surface, though. Marshall reveals that he’s upset that his dad didn’t get to see him practice environmental law like he always planned. All his dad saw was Marshall being a corporate stooge. Marshall really wants to make the move to environmental law before they have a family, and Lily agrees that if Marshall is going to make the move, it has to be now. They agree to put off trying for a baby for a little while so Marshall can refocus his career.

In a little twist of fate, the likes of which HIMYM doe so well, the guy Marshall got fired from GNB meets Wendy the Waitress as she drags a bag of recycling outside of MacLarens. We then zoom back ahead to 2021 and learn several important things. Wendy the Waitress and the guy who got fired ended up getting married. Ted met the mother when he was best man at a wedding (the one we saw at the beginning of the season). Most importantly, Zoey is not the Mother. Apparently their relationship flamed out rather spectacularly. I’m not especially upset about that.

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