Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"That's right! It's resplendant!": How I Met Your Mother

If "Third Wheel," How I Met Your Mother's third episode of its second season, wasn't the laugh-out-loud fun-fest we know the show is capable of, it at least showed that the show isn't in any sort of slump. It was a sly, winking little hour about how a virile twentysomething male might navigate the waters of that ultimate sexual fantasy -- the tricycle. And at the peak moment, the show left most everything to the imagination, both of the audience and of Barney.

What I liked best about "Third Wheel" was that it restored the gang's easygoing dynamic, putting Ted and Robin out on the dating battlefield and leaving the other three characters back at the apartment to give them advice. It felt sort of like a bottle show (most everything took place in the apartment or the bar, aside from Robin's scenes from a generic restaurant), but that added to the show's charm, as it recycled that old plotline where the main character has something to do and has to race between the frontlines and some other room where his friends are sequestered to get advice. Sure, it defies belief, but on a show with as fun an ensemble as this one, I'm willing to go with it.

The Robin plotline didn't work nearly as well as Ted's adventures with his dates and his friends' advice to him, so I'll start there. The whole story was a little underdeveloped, I thought, even as it introduced a pretty winning moment for Cobie Smulders to indulge in a little physical comedy. Smulders playing up the attempts of Robin to shave her legs with butter was pretty funny, as was her final pratfall, but the whole story didn't quite have the twists and turns that might have made it work a little better. I did like that she kept turning to Lily for advice (Lily seems to be the hub of this group of friends -- anyone can turn to her at any time).

Ted's encounter with Winnie Cooper and Kim Kelly (sorry, couldn't resist) was far more entertaining. It didn't hurt that I like both actresses and that Josh Radnor has a nice, flirtatious chemistry with both, and it was nice to see Ted try to figure out just how lucky he might get that evening, even as he was calling Lily to dash down to the bar and help him figure out which girl might be the better one for him. And I loved the way the episode ended on a sly note of whether or not Ted did it, choosing to center on his unreadable smile.

But by far my favorite thing about the episode was just hanging out in the apartment with Marshall, Lily and Barney (with the occasional appearance by Ted). HIMYM has gotten much better at doing product placement (remember the awful attempts to integrate Red Lobster in the first season finale?), and the stuff with the Wii was both amusing and relatively good advertising. A grown man in boxers playing Wii Tennis will never not be funny, so I was glad to see the show make the most of the placement.

What was even better to me, though, was just the incidental stuff, like the flashback to when the guys got the belt (and the crown) or the dueling flashbacks about when Barney almost got a chance to ride the tricycle. I also loved Marshall and Lily arguing about when he could have a threesome, in the event of her death (she claimed it would be impossible, as she would haunt his penis). The stuff with the gang just hanging out is always golden, and you can largely tell how good an episode is going to be by how many "hanging out" scenes there are.

All in all, an enjoyable episode. Not an instant classic, but the sort you'll gladly sit through again when this show makes it to syndication (as will surely happen).

Bonus: Those clips that previewed what we could see online (featuring Lily kissing Marshall AND Barney) that played over the credits were pretty great. They DID send me online to see what I could see.

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