How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 18
Say Cheese
How I Met Your Mother makes a point of examining common relationship situations, and the effect those situations have on both the people involved, and those around them. Tonigh'ts episode continued that tradition by examining the problem of the "group picture," which is apparently a recurring obsession of Lily's (and one I'm inclined to believe based on what we know of her). Lily loves to take group pictures, and Ted continues to inadvertently ruin them by bringing along an endless line of random skanks.

This particular issue arises on Lily's 32nd birthday, which is important if only for one of my brief, continuity police tangents: Lily is not 32 yet, as Ted, the second oldest member of the group (after Barney, who is actually a few years older than everyone else) doesn't turn 32 until late April/early May (depending on which one of his birthday episodes falls closer to his "actual birthday"). This is a pretty minor deal, however, and since this episode is a stand alone, I'm willing to accept that this story is being told to us slightly out of order, and that Lily is only a littler younger than Ted. They were in the same grade after all. Anyway, Lily makes a big deal of her birthday, which means Marshall makes an even bigger deal out of her birthday, making her breakfast in bed, bringing in a musician to play her through it, making her birthday dinner a black tie event, and even composing a birthday song for her. All Ted has to do is bring her favorite kind of cheesecake.

Instead, Ted brings along Amanda, a chef who will make Lily a cake. Amanda consistently gets in the way of all the Lily-centric fun, failing to answer her question in "Lillial Pursuit", and not knowing what to write in the compliment-based game "Gilding the Lily" (where Barney writes, "She seems nice" and means every word). This leads to a group-wide confrontation while Amanda is off baking the cake, and a trip down memory lane. Ted has ruined Christmas (with a girl he thinks was named Sarah), he's ruined Marshall's passing the bar party (by bringing Strawberry, a hippy who throws red paint on the hibachi chef), and he even ruined Marshall's trip to see Lily in Paris, by bringing Karen who he fought with and broke up with on the plane.

Ted's random string of skanks has produced some positive results though. As Ted correctly points out, Robin began as one of his random skanks (Lily retorts, "She's the skanky exception, not the skanky rule" to which Robin replies, "I'm crying a little bit"), and in the episode's very cute, if a little pat, conclusion, a flashback reveals that the first picture of Ted, Marshall, and Lily occurred when Ted invited Marshall's random skank into their first picture together.

This wasn't a particularly fascinating or funny storyline, and the ending was a little forced, yet I give the show credit for any episode that throws the gang in a room and just lets them go. Excellent side gags included Marshall's propensity to close his eyes during every picture, and Barney's incredible composure in every shot, as well as Marshall's continued attempts to get everyone to sing the "Lily Day" song. The episode could have been better by making the flashbacks a little zippier, or by making the side gags slightly more dynamic, but it was nothing if not a pleasant twenty two mintues spent with characters we've grown to love.

Grade: B


-For an episode that had so many Marshall jokes, this week had surprisingly few belly laughs. Usually the more adorable Marshall there is, the harder I laugh in an episode.

-"I believe Ted was mouthing the word yellow...which also would have been wrong."

-"Let's just take a random stroll down skank lane." "Or we could keep walking down Best Birthday Ever Avenue!"

-"Is your thing, 'I ha sex with my philosophy professor last night?' Because that's my thing."

-"Two months! My balls were Bleu! Bleu!"

-"I admit it, Strawberry was a mistake, but how was I supposed to know that?" "Her name was Strawberry!"

-I like that the cake read "Happy 42nd Birthday Lori."

-CONTINUITY POLICE: Natalie and Ted broke up in a restaurant, where she kicked his ass. There's no way she would have been crying at the apartment. What about the first time they broke up, you ask? He did it over a message, left at her apartment.

-"I don't know how I'm going to put my life back together..." "Oh shut up!"

-The flashforward was really wasted. I get excited for those because they usually employ some foreshadowing, but unless there's a reason Barney has lost his mojo by next year, that was a pretty stupid gag to flash forward for...
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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