Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HIMYM 6.24: "Challenge Accepted"

“He’s out printing up a whole new batch of resumes because he misspelled the phrase ‘detail oriented.’”

“Challenge Accepted” wasn’t all horrible, but it was certainly mediocre in the pantheon of HIMYM season finales. Season one’s “Of Course” is a lot of fun with “Angel” alums Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, season two’s “Something Blue” is very emotional and makes me a bit teary even though I could care less about Ted and Robin’s romantic relationship, and “The Leap” is notable for its sense of hope. “Challenge Accepted” just had some Barney and Robin moments that made me happy to really take it out of the dregs of HIMYM overall. There wasn’t really a whole lot of the unexpected with this episode, even though there were a few things that were probably intended as twists. Long-time viewers of the show, however, could see these events coming from a mile away. While somewhat disappointing, I will certainly be back to watching the show this fall. On the whole, the season was more successful than the disaster that was season 5. I appreciate that there was a season arc, even if one of the season-long plots (Ted and Zoey) was horribly annoying. You can’t win them all.

This episode fast forwards through the summer of 2011 and takes place in September. Ted claims that the summer isn’t really worth talking about because all that happened was that he and Barney argued a lot over who was going to press the button to destroy the Arcadian. Things pick up a bit when at MacLaren’s with Barney and Robin, Ted mentions that he saw Zoey again for the first time since their break-up. Zoey’s life hasn’t gone so well since divorcing the Captain, either financially or personally. Of course, she wants to try a relationship with Ted again. Barney and Robin try to wave Ted off this idea pronto. Besides the Ted and Zoey fuss, the other major plot of this episode involves Lily and Marshall. Lily is picking up some soup for Marshall. It happens to be his favorite soup from a kind of shady restaurant. Inexplicably, Robin has joined her for this errand. I say it’s inexplicable because as Lily is purchasing the soup, Robin reminds Lily that Lily has gotten food poisoning there before. Lily corrects Robin. She’s gotten food poisoning from this restaurant three times before.

Ted has a meeting with the contractor for the new GNB headquarters, who just happens to be played by the awesome Chi McBride, aka Emerson Cod from “Pushing Daisies.” He doesn’t really have a lot to do in this episode, but since the HIMYM producers went to all the trouble of hiring Chi McBride, I’ve got to hope he’s going to be more of a fixture next season and this was just a way to introduce him. Since “Pushing Daisies” is still my all-time favorite show, and Chi McBride was incredibly funny on that show, I have high hopes for where HIMYM can go with this idea. Contractor Chi (which is what I’m going to call him until I bother to learn the character’s name) wants Ted to choose some lighting for the building. He needs to order 50,000 of whatever light bulb Ted chooses. Ted brings the two possible light bulbs to MacLaren’s and fusses over them, much to Barney and Robin’s chagrin. Barney tells Ted that either light bulb will be fine because the building is all new, and “new is always better.” Robin scowls at this, obviously thinking about how Barney seems to want to move on to a new romantic interest.

Meanwhile, Robin’s prediction about what will happen to Lily from eating the soup seems to come true. Lily vomits on her Kindergarten class’ guinea pig, and she just can’t stop vomiting. She thinks she must have food poisoning, so she rushes home to try to stop Marshall from eating any of the soup. Unfortunately, Lily is too late. Marshall is already on his third bowl. He goes to MacLaren’s to join his friends and orders jalapeño poppers. He wants to eat them before the food poisoning sets in because they’re unhealthy but very tempting, and he’s hoping the food poisoning will give him a food aversion to them. When Marshall gets home, Lily is not happy to find out that he told the group she was sick. She thinks that when someone has a stomach ailment, you should be discreet and just say something like “under the weather.” She has a good point. Marshall lies and says he told the rest of the group that she just had the sniffles, but back at MacLaren’s, Barney and Robin make diarrhea jokes while Ted continues to fuss over the light bulbs. This was probably the low point of the episode to me. The diarrhea jokes were stupid, and Neil and Cobie didn’t even seem all that into the jokes. Ted puts an end to it when he tells Barney he can push the demolition button and runs out of MacLaren’s.

While anticipating being very sick very soon, Marshall gets a call from a big time environmental law firm. They want to interview him, and the interview has to take place that evening, even though Marshall thinks he’ll be sick from the soup by then. Marshall really wants the job, so he takes steps to prepare for being sick like lining his briefcase with a plastic bag and getting an adult diaper from a neighbor. The interview, unfortunately for Marshall, does not go well. It’s a real test on Marshall’s stomach, with the hiring partner showing him photos of all sorts of horrible environmental disasters. When the hiring manager says that he wants to allow 20 more minutes for Marshall to ask him questions, Marshall has had it. Despite Lily’s advice, he tells the hiring manager in rather crude terms what he thinks is going to be happening to him soon because of the soup. And then he runs out of the office, horribly embarrassed. Once he arrives home, all Marshall can do is sleep, and he sleeps all night without getting sick. The next day, when complaining about how he blew his interview and it’s been a crappy year so far, Lily tells Marshall that she’s been sick because she’s pregnant. Doesn’t everybody know that a woman being sick is TV shorthand for pregnant?

Anyway, shifting back to the main plot of the episode, Robin finds that Ted left his phone behind when he ran off from MacLaren’s. She discovers that right before he left, Ted received a text from Zoey, and they’re planning to meet for coffee. We then get a little montage of flashbacks showing how Ted runs back to old girlfriends the instant he’s feeling a little stressed. My favorite was when Ted tried to ask Robin for coffee and she just blew a raspberry at him. Barney and Robin decide it’s their mission to figure out where Ted has gone and stop this foolishness. First they visit Lily, because they think she might remember romantic stuff like where Ted and Zoey had their first date. Lily doesn’t remember that, but she does have a voicemail from Ted that was left on his way to meet Zoey and includes a subway conductor announcement in the background. Fluent in “conductor,” Lily uses the announcement to tell Barney and Robin where Ted is. Robin doesn’t think there will be time to stop Ted, but Barney winks, and Ranjit appears in his towncar.

Barney and Robin have a lovely little conversation in the towncar where they talk about how Ted and Zoey did love each other at one time, when they’re really talking about themselves. I like the acknowledgement that there was something genuine between them. Eventually, Barney and Robin are able to find “The Intersection,” which is the name of the coffee shop in Brooklyn where Ted is supposed to meet Zoey. Zoey is sitting there alone. There’s a flower shop next door, and Barney and Robin correctly figure out that Ted is in that shop trying to pick out the perfect orchid for Zoey. As Ted leaves the flower shop, Barney and Robin tackle him, and they manage to convince him not to restart things with Zoey. Ted gives the orchid to an older woman to give to Zoey, but she gives it to another blond woman instead. There’s a brief “and that’s how I met your mother” psych when that happens, which seemed a little disrespectful of the audience, but it didn’t seem to bother me as much as it bothered the rest of the online fandom.

We then see that it’s time to blow up the Arcadian, and amazingly, Barney lets Ted do the honors. After the event, Robin and Barney are happily walking down the road and bantering, when all of a sudden, Nora reappears. Barney asks her out to coffee, Nora reluctantly agrees, and Robin looks very sad. Can this plot get any more anvilicious? Finally, we fast forward “a little ways down the road” to the wedding that was teased back in the season premiere. Predictably, the groom at that wedding is Barney. We don’t know who he’s marrying, but if it’s not Robin, all logic of television is blown out of the water. Since Cobie is already a regular on the show, it doesn’t make sense for Barney to be marrying anybody else. And if he does, I’ll probably quit watching, because it still makes me sad how Barney and Robin’s relationship was handled so poorly in season 5. Immature? Maybe, but here at MTVP, I tell it like it is!

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