13
Apr
2010
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 19
Zoo or False
Jordan
When I heard the title of this week's episode of How I Met Your Mother I was already groaning. and when I heard that a monkey played a very big role in the plot, I was prepared for another trip down "sitcom cliche lane." We've had many brazen cliches trotted out as new over the course of this at best sub par season (the worst offender being Barney in a fat suit), and the "monkeys are funny" cliche is probably the least likely of them to be successful or original. To that end, "Zoo or False" was a failure, yet considering the horrendous pieces in play, I find myself being fairly happy the episode wasn't vastly worse.

The opening narration set us up for what purpose in the scheme of things this episode was meant to serve (spoiler alert: Ted didn't meet the mother tonight, and there was no real character development from anyone): the writers framed this episode as an out for the various continuity errors they've begun to allow themselves to make this year. In prior seasons of How I Met Your Mother continuity was king, but as anyone who has regularly read my reviews this year knows, that is no longer the case. So Bob Saget's opening narration tells us that sometimes the line between a good story and an outright line is a thin one. This may be true, especially in the case of Barney who is touted throughout the episode as the foremost example of this, but that does not comfort me for the overall state of the show. If older Ted (and, by extension, the writers) honestly thinks that exaggerating to make the story more interesting is fair play, that explains any and all continuity errors or unrealistic happenings past and present. Yet it also casts into doubt the validity of the story we as an audience have become invested in, and, more importantly, gives the writers an easy excuse to fall back on whenever they're feeling lazy. All in all, this theory of operation will not do the show any favors if they choose to rely on the "Zoo or False" method of storytelling from here on out.

That is not to say that the writers will definitely be doing this (or, honestly, that they'll even remember they wrote this utterly forgettable episode in a few weeks time) but the idea that they might disconcerts me. Moving on, the episode centers around Marshall's mugging, which may or may not have happened at the hands of a very wily monkey (an occurrence, we learn, which is not uncommon in Thailand, Costa Rica, and many other countries). This story not only cues the entire gang to repeatedly convulse with laughter at the sheer hilarity of a monkey being involved in anything, it also gets Marshall a slot on Robin's increasingly awful early morning show. Let's pause again, for a moment, to point out that actors pretending to find something hilarious absolutely never increases its comedic value, and in fact usually makes a scene feel very forced and unfunny. So having the cast crack up repeatedly at the fact that there was a monkey in tonight's episode actually put the biggest flaw of the episode (hint: it had a tail) in starker contrast.

The whole episode built nicely to a fairly obvious King Kong parody which worked better than it should have because of the episode's previously discussed caveat: stories are sometimes better when exaggerated. Sure, having Ted randomly building a replica of the Empire State Building in the same episode as a monkey was clearly leading to the most obvious parody from the moment of its introduction, but the show played it off as older Ted's exaggerating the story to make it better. This contrivance both made the bit work and further cemented my fears that Ted's exaggerations can be used as an excuse for lazy writing from here into perpetuity. This review quickly became less about the episode, which was mediocre but could have been much more awful, and more about what I fear the episode might foretell, but when all is said and done, How I Met Your Mother made it through the monkey episode without forcing me to replace the phrase "shark jump" with "monkey mugging" and that is something worth at least a haphazard cheer.

Grade: C+

Notes:

-"Are you acting out the last scene of Sleepless in Seattle with little dolls?" "How long have you been out here?" "Ten seconds." "Yeah, just the last scene."

-Hey, Badger from Breaking Bad is Arthur the delivery man!

-I like how brazenly the whole gang leapt on Marshall when he tried to claim he didn't like pizza, which would violate major continuity. My favorite was when Ted pointed out, "Marshall, we have driven across the country to get pizza LITERALLY hundreds of times."

-The montage of Marshall accidentally injuring Lily was very funny. The methods were the cork from the pilot, accidentally slapping her in his sleep, hitting her in the face with a refrigerator door, dancing, and punching her when she came out in a scary Halloween costume.

-"Are you sure it wasn't one monkey standing on top of another monkey wearing a man's trenchcoat?" "That would be about the right height..."

-"I'll believe that Jack Palance is dead when I see the body."
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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