Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving "Classic" Recap: How I Met Your Mother: "Slapsgiving"

“Relapse five! That’s where we high five, then it’s awkward for a little bit, and then we high five again!”

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving here at MTVP with one of my very favorite episodes of “How I Met Your Mother.” In fact, it’s such a favorite that it made the 15 Most Legendary Episodes series that I did way back in the first months of this blog (those crazy days when I was unemployed and had time to write over twenty posts a month…let’s hope that doesn’t become the case again after I graduate this May). I love this episode because it’s genuinely funny throughout, and the found family friendship of the gang gives me the Thanksgiving warm fuzzies. I love my family’s Thanksgiving that is often so Norman Rockwell it shocks people, but gatherings like the one in this episode are lovely, too. At my undergrad, we’d have a Thanksgiving dinner served by faculty, and it was wonderful to gather with my very close group of friends (I always say that if we all lived in the same city after graduation, we would have been like the HIMYM crew) to celebrate. I think part of why I love this episode is because it reminds me of my friends and those special times we’ve had.

The episode opens on a rather awkward note for Ted and Robin. They’ve been kind of just going along with the gang’s usual activities since their break-up six months ago, but things are seriously awkward under the surface. They used to have a joke where they would salute every time somebody said a word that doubles as a military rank (like major or general), but they don’t do it anymore. They also take great pains not to be alone together. They don’t have to be alone at the beginning of the episode, because the gang is all at MacLaren’s discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving. It’s going to be the first Thanksgiving the group is planning to celebrate together and the first time Marshall and Lily get to break out the good wedding china and entertain. Robin’s planning to bring her new, significantly older boyfriend Bob because he has nowhere else to go for the holiday. This kind of irks Lily, who thinks Bob will seem out of place when they look back on their first Thanksgiving as a group. Lily’s going to have bigger problems than that, though. Marshall has started calling the holiday “Slapsgiving,” which makes Barney nervous, because Marshall still gets three more slaps from their slap bet. Marshall’s gone all out for this one, even creating a website called

The gang is supposed to meet up at Robin’s to bake pies on the night before Thanksgiving (Marshall can’t be trusted not to eat them ahead of time if they’re in his apartment), but only Ted shows up. This means it’s more awkward Robin and Ted alone time. Ted tries to call Barney to get him to help, but he’s in the middle of hitting on a woman at MacLaren’s, and he just turns the call into part of his game by pretending it’s the President calling to give him a commendation. At Thanksgiving the next day, we find out what happened when Ted and Robin are left alone. Ted tells the story to Marshall and Barney, and Robin tells the story to Lily. There was awkward pie baking for a while with Robin dishing out fun facts and Ted saying awkward things about their past relationship. Then they start fighting over Bob. Ted thinks Bob is a loser, obviously. This of course results in sex, which the rest of the group, when they hear about it, thinks was a very bad idea.

Robin wants to talk about what happened, but Ted doesn’t. This results in them fighting again, and Lily throws them both in Ted’s bedroom to work it out. They have a rather sad discussion about how since the break-up, they’ve really just been pretending to be friends, and they can’t do that anymore. The result seems to be that after Thanksgiving dinner, they are going to break all ties. Which seems like it would be kind of difficult to do considering they have all the same friends, but whatever. It’s interesting to compare this to what’s happening on the show now, with both Ted and Barney being Robin’s exes and Robin and Barney’s recent relapse. Victoria warning Ted that the three of them continuing to hang out constantly like nothing ever happened wasn’t going to work long-term. I think we’re seeing the very beginnings of that here, and it’s kind of surprising that the group has been able to function for all these years since Robin and Ted’s break-up. I guess that’s because it’s television!

While Ted and Robin are hashing things out, Barney is out in the living room begging Marshall not to slap him. Marshall refuses to give in, though. When the countdown ends, there’s going to be a slap. Barney is so upset that he even tries to leave the apartment, but Lily puts a stop to it. She changes her mind and declares as Slap Bet Commissioner that there will be no slaps on Thanksgiving. It’s understandable that she wouldn’t want her first time hosting Thanksgiving to fall apart because of the slap bet.

So everybody sits down around the table to eat, and they’re all kind of pissed off for different reasons. Lily doesn’t even want to give a toast, declaring that the day sucks and everyone should just eat up and go home. Marshall, as usual, takes a more thoughtful approach, though. He gives a nice toast about friendship and thanks Lily for beginning this tradition of the group celebrating Thanksgiving together. Bob remarks that this is really nice compared to his family Thanksgivings, and it prompts Ted and Robin to sort of reconcile their friendship. As the countdown clock winds down, Barney gets really obnoxious about taunting Marshall’s lack of permission to slap, and at the last minute, Lily gets so fed up with Barney that she gives Marshall permission to deliver the slap after all. Slap three is an awesome slapstick performance by Neil Patrick Harris where he falls on and breaks an end table, and it’s followed up by the legendary song Marshall had prepared, called “You Just Got Slapped.” The group happily enjoys the song, with Barney’s pained groans serving as backing vocals.

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