Monday, April 18, 2011

HIMYM 6.20: "The Exploding Meatball Sub"

“Marshall and I have been together fifteen years, and the only debate we’ve had about ‘Tommy Boy’ is whether it’s awesome or super-awesome. That’s love, bitch.”

“The Exploding Meatball Sub” had a lot of laughs, but it was definitely lacking in substance. I will say that because of the laughs, I didn’t dislike the episode as much as I thought I would. Yeah, I’ll admit that being a little behind in the blogging leads to me hearing things about episodes before I watch. What I didn’t like about the episode was that there was also only a little bit of heart, which happened to be provided by Marshall and Lily. Episodes of HIMYM are at their best when the mix big laughs with lots of heart. HIMYM is generally much more a character piece than most half-hour sitcoms. To further deepen the lack of heart in this episode, Barney, who is often very effective at providing heart for an episode, was a cartoon villain in the worst possible way, especially because it involved trivializing his relationship with Robin. I was happy that Robin was looking out for him during a difficult time, but it turned out that there was really nothing under the surface of his actions in this one.

Like many episodes of HIMYM, this one was all about relationships, specifically how partners do and don’t support each other. We open with Saget!Ted rehashing how Ted and Zoey disagree on just about everything, especially Ted’s work on building the new GNB headquarters at the site of the Arcadian. There’s a rather funny bit where Zoey’s protesting outside GNB, and when Ted looks out the window, she pauses the protest to ask Ted about their plans for a date later that night. The discussion about Ted and Zoey moves to MacLaren’s, and Marshall and Lily (especially Lily) are surprised the relationship still exists considering how much Ted and Zoey fight. Ted calls it “challenging each other.” We get a really funny flashback montage of them disagreeing on mundane things, including analysis of the movie “Tommy Boy” (they disagree about what classic story it’s based upon) and who will hang up the phone first. That second one is ended by an exasperated Robin (she is Ted’s roommate after all) calling both of them and telling them to hang up.

Lily claims that she and Marshall are extremely supportive of each other and hardly ever disagree on anything. We quickly see that bigger problems are brewing in the Eriksen-Aldrin marriage, though. Marshall has accepted the fact that he hates his job at GNB, despite what he said back in Natural History. There’s a job opening at the NRDC (his lifelong dream employer), and he wants to quit his job at GNB to take it. Barney is very upset about this, presumably because he liked working with his friend (and I’m going to stick with that story despite the rest of the plot of this episode!). Marshall doesn’t quit right away, though. On the day he planned to quit, he got a bit wistful. This leads into another classic HIMYM naming of a social phenomenon. This time, Robin provides us with the concept of “graduation goggles,” where on your last day some place or at the end of a relationship, you suddenly get wistful and see the world through a soft-focus lens montage set to Sarah McLaughlin’s “I Will Remember You.”

Marshall does end up quitting GNB, but by time he does, the paid position at NRDC has been filled. Marshall decides to volunteer at the NRDC instead, and Lily, with a tone of resignation in her voice, says she’ll be fully supportive of that. Barney is very upset about this turn of events, so upset that he burns a photo of Marshall in his office. Robin is concerned about how hard Barney is taking Marshall’s change in jobs, and she asks Barney if maybe it’s because his recent interaction with his father has brought up abandonment issues. Barney dismisses it with a long (and pretty funny) monologue about how Robin is worse than his shrink, and he doesn’t need her meddling. Then Barney throws a massive fit in his office when Marshall says he can’t join him for lunch, and Robin sees the whole thing. It turns out she had stopped by GNB to check on Barney (which made me happy), and when she suggested going to lunch, Barney asked if he could call Marshall to join them. Barney completely forgot Robin was there in his rage at Marshall for saying “no.”

Over drinks at MacLaren’s, Robin makes up this story about her father that sounds a lot like Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” to try to get Barney to open up about his own father. Barney figures out pretty quickly that the story wasn’t true, and he proceeds to tell Robin the real reason he was so upset about Marshall leaving GNB. It turns out that one day at lunch, it was meatball sub day, and Marshall pointed out that Barney got a spot of marinara on his tie. The other coworkers who had joined them laughed, and Barney was so embarrassed that he started to go all Dr. Horrible (complete with lab coat and goggles, albeit the wrong goggles). He wants revenge on Marshall, and he was planning on getting his revenge via serving Marshall an exploding meatball sub. I found this incredibly disappointing, because it was Barney as cartoon instead of human. The fact that there was no depth to this plot is even affirmed in the episode’s tag where we see a 10 years later flash forward of Barney pretending to be terminally ill in order to finally get Marshall with the exploding sandwich. Anybody who has read my HIMYM coverage here at MTVP for any length of time knows that all an episode of HIMYM has to do to make me happy is have Barney act like a human being.

Any depth that this episode had at all came from Marshall and Lily. Marshall is planning this big NRDC fundraiser at Dowisetrepla, and Ted goes with Lily to the airport to pick up a Spanish speaking environmentalist who is going to speak at the event. On the way to the airport, Ted finally admits to Lily that he would like a little support from Zoey. She has finally gotten the landmark preservation committee to hold a hearing about the Arcadian, and this could seriously jeopardize Ted’s dream of building a high rise in New York City. It turns out that Ted wasn’t even necessary on this trip. He tries using really bad Spanish with the environmentalist, and it turns out that the environmentalist speaks perfect English. The big news is that Lily grabs a suitcase from the car and says she’s got a flight leaving for Spain in 45 minutes. She’s really upset that Marshall has decided to put all their dreams like vacations to Europe and finally having a baby on hold.

At the NRDC fundraiser, Ted is about to break the bad news to Marshall that Lily has run off again (last time being at the end of Season 1), when Lily shows up. I guess she just couldn’t bear to give up on Marshall. Without Lily even expressing her unhappiness, Marshall says he knows that even though he loves what he’s doing for the NRDC, he needs to find something that isn’t quite as soul-sucking as working for GNB, but at least gives him some sort of paycheck. That’s something Lily really can truly support. Seeing Marshall and Lily work out this huge issue makes Ted realize what he doesn’t have with Zoey. He’s about to break up with Zoey, but then those darn graduation goggles kick in, and they end up dancing and kissing. To “I Will Remember You,” of course.

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