Wednesday, October 3, 2012

HIMYM 8.02: "The Pre-nup"

"Marshall, this morning you thought ghosts made your toast."

After many years of being a fan (I credit the show with my passing the bar exam…long story), I’ve learned that there’s good HIMYM and bad HIMYM. “The Pre-Nup” was bad HIMYM. It was misogynistic and “Cartoon Barney” in the worst possible way. HIMYM doesn’t have a great record when it comes to episode twos of a season, however (“Best Burger in New York,” anyone?), so I’m not overly concerned about the season as a whole. Yet. I think part of the issue could be that the creative team does not yet know if they’re going to be getting a season nine (it depends on whether or not all the actors sign one-year contract renewals), so they’re not quite sure how to pace the story they have left to tell. As much as I’d love for Neil Patrick Harris to be the shoe-in for 65th Annual Emmy Awards host that he would be if HIMYM were still on the air, after this episode, I’m thinking that it’s best if season eight is the last.

As the episode opens, Saget!Ted tells us that the summer of 2012 was the “Summer of Love” for the group because everyone was in a happy relationship. But according to Saget!Ted, that’s not interesting, so we fast forward to October and the “Autumn of Breakups.” By the end of the episode, one of the established couples would be broken up, which was a very welcome development, even if I think the way they got there was absolutely ridiculous. Anyway, the sequence of events leading to the breakup starts with one of Barney’s coworkers warning him to get a pre-nup. This coworker is a bitter recent divorcé, so he goes way overboard, scaring Barney with stories of lost custody of the dog and gained custody of the kids.

The pre-nup that Barney (with the help of his lawyer coworker) is just gross. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s more fitting of season one Barney than it is of season eight Barney, who has evolved to be just a touch more human than a cartoon. The pre-nup, for instance, gives Quinn’s lady parts names and gives Barney visitation rights to them in the event of a divorce. Not only are there rules for divorce, but there are also rules about how Quinn is supposed to behave in their marriage (Barney claims they’re just suggestions), such as a mandatory pillow fight. This whole sequence just makes me incredibly sad. And, of course, this whole sequence of events makes all the other guys start thinking about what they’d like to “renegotiate” in their own relationships. Marshall thinks Lily is overprotective of Marvin (so what if Marshall tossed Marvin up in the air when he first came home?), Nick’s unhappy that Robin leaves the television on when they have sex, and Ted is upset that Klaus has moved in with him and Victoria. The latter two started out funny, but then the jokes went too far. It turned out that Robin liked the TV on because seeing herself on TV turned her on. And Klaus was just really obnoxious, walking around the apartment naked on a regular basis.

There’s lots of conversing at MacLaren’s about how horribl this situation is. Quinn’s (understandably) upset about the re-nup, and Barney is upset she wouldn’t sign it. What’s interesting here is how all the new significant others were integrated into the social life of the group. We haven’t really seen the likes of this since the first time Victoria was around. Usually out-of-group significant others only hang out with the group in a peripheral way, and rarely at MacLaren’s (unless they’re meeting their in-group significant other to go to another location). In this episode, though, the four guys and the four ladies each (separately) have very animated conversations at MacLaren’s. It’s almost as if HIMYM was trying to see if they could be more like “Big Bang Theory” in its more recent seasons, with the “girls” plots and the “boys” plots. It’s very odd. Part of me wonders if this is the creative team trying to prove to CBS that they can write a typical CBS sitcom instead of the somewhat deeper show HIMYM has usually been.

Quinn doesn’t just sulk over the horridness of the pre-nup, at least. She serves Barney with her own pre-nup with the help of the other landies. Most of Quinn’s pre-nup parodies Barney’s with equally obnoxious demands. And there’s also a bit about putting a shock collar on Barney’s penis that will shock him every time he hits on another woman. I know Barney can be pretty gross sometimes, but really? The rest of the guys show up to support Barney, and arguments about the “terms they need to renegotiate” break out among all the couples. Finally, Barney’s lawyer friend puts a stop to it. He reminds them that they all have someone to love, which is important, and they are currently royally screwing up. Everyone but Barney and Quinn end up making up right away. Barney and Quinn, however, are the first victims of the Autumn of Breakups. First they start making an even longer pre-nup than the already massive pre-nups they had already prepared. Then they realize that getting married should be simpler and the reason they’re going through all of this pre-nup foolishness is because they don’t trust each other. And that means they shouldn’t get married. I have to admit, even though they went out with a whimper, I am so glad to see Barney and Quinn done. One step closer to the inevitable Barney and Robin end game that the show has been delaying for years.

Following the breakup, barney has beers with the guys at MacLarens. He claims to be happy to be single again. Which is probably half true and half putting on a front. To cap off the episode, we fast forward to “a little ways down the road” again. Barney is excitedly talking to his coworkers about his upcoming wedding to Robin. The lawyer friend offers to draw up a pre-nup again, and this time, Barney says, no, he doesn’t need one. Robin stops by the office to meet Barney for lunch, and my first reaction was to say “aww.” But now I’m not so thrilled about it. Didn’t the creative team learn from Barney and Robin round one that it just doesn’t work if you try to fit them in stereotypical lovey dovey couple mode. These are unconventional folks who should have an unconventional, yet still fulfilling, relationship. I just don’t think that message will ever get through.

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