How I Met Your Mother: Season 6, Episode 12
False Positive
Someone in the How I Met Your Mother writer's room was looking back when this episode was planned. Someone was watching the early seasons of the show and remembering the complex, inventive, lightning quick non-linear stories the show used to tell regularly back in its first few years. When I watched "False Positive," the early Season Two classic "Brunch" jumped immediately to mind, and at this point in the show's run, I'm not sure there's a higher compliment I can pay to it than admitting that an episode reminded me of its golden years. This is an episode of the show that fits in a storyline for every character (including Ted, who for the last year or so the show has often forgotten is their main character), has some great character moments for all, and actually moves each the plotlines for each character along in the way vintage HIMYM used to, even if only infinitesimally so (and let's be honest, early episodes had progress, but it was a fraction of a step at a time). "False Positive" is almost definitely the best episode this show has done all year, reminding me about HIMYM's ability to be funny, story-centric, cleverly plotted, and heartwarming all within a 22 minute span. The episode divided the stories up by character, and so it seems only fitting that I do the same.

Marshall and Lily (who have counted as one character for at least three years now) get a positive pregnancy test and immediately begin freaking out. They are not sure they are ready to have a kid, and certainly feel under-prepared for the task. After announcing it to their friends (who are these people that run and tell everyone their pregnant without even seeing a doctor first?) they immediately flee home and decide they have to do everything to prepare for the baby in one night. So Marshall paints the baby's room (blue, but then pink because what if its a girl?), baby proofs the apartment with bubble wrap, and then bubble wraps Lily's ipod to her stomach so the baby can listen to classical music (sadly the ipod was on shuffle, so Lily's stomach hears The Jerky Boys instead). Lily meanwhile reads every baby book and learns to knit. The two are a mess of screaming tension and pent up fears, except when they're in front of their friends, when they appear more tranquil than ever before. When Marshall and Lily find out they aren't pregnant after all, they are so relieved they decide that they may hold off on kids and get a dog instead.

Meanwhile, Robin is deciding between two job offers, one as a coin flip bimbo for Million Dollar Heads or Tails, an Alex Trebek hosted game show that is patently absurd in its premise (the show does realize its setting itself up to lose its $1 million prize half the time, right?) and therefore a pretty awesome reality-game show send up, and the other as a researcher for serious news provider Worldwide News. Robin made a resolution last New Year's Eve that she would be working at Worldwide News within the year, but now she thinks that job might be hard and she's pretty enough, so she decides to go for the coin flipping job. That is, until Marshall and Lily's announcement makes her re-think her life and realize she is doing nothing worth being proud of. So she decides to take the Worldwide News job. Until the false positive comes in and she realizes she doesn't have to be a serious person with real accomplishments yet so why not just take the coin flipping job?

Barney has just received his third favorite word beginning with b-o-n (after the obvious, and Bon Jovi), a Christmas bonus that is so huge he has decided to buy a pinstripe suit where every stripe is made of diamonds. When Marshall and Lily make their announcement, Barney too has a crisis of conscience (though he is still glad to be single) and realizes he should be doing something more meaningful than spending all of his money on himself. So he treats the gang to "Barney's Favorite Things," an excellent extended Oprah parody in which Barney gives away velour tracksuits (a reverse punchline introduced with Marshall and Lily strangely dressed in them when receiving news of the false positive), remote control helicopters, condoms, and a limo ride for everyone in the bar to a strip club (Where, "you get a lap dance! You get a lap dance! You give me a lap dance!"). He then heads out to see James' father the minister and begins to write a huge check to his charity to help the homeless (rather than to Charity, the stripper he constantly emails everyone about, who is off doing Peachy, who will be included in next week's update), until he gets the news of the false positive and realizes he too doesn't have to be selfless and serious yet, and so throws in a handy decimal point and buys himself a diamond suit.

Ted has been hanging around the background of this whole episode (which is unsurprising on any given week of this show), but for once this is for an actual story purpose. At the beginning of the episode, Robin mocks Ted for going over floral arrangements with Punchy, pointing about that a Best Man's main job is getting the groom down the aisle, and that Ted is arguably 0-1 in the Best Man department (because of Marshall's head shaving shenanigans at his wedding, which Ted thinks he made up for with an "awesome toast."). Robin tells Ted that the point of a Best Man is to give the pep talk that makes someone do the right thing even when their terrified, and she doesn't think he has it in him. By episode's end, of course, Ted has shown why he is the center of the group, and of the show, and proven that he is the ideal Best Man. Throwing his gingerbread house (which he brought along to a screening of It's a Wonderful Life as a Christmas-themed movie snack, which nicely only Marshall understands) to the ground, Ted steps up to the plate, scolding Marshall and Lily to go home and get pregnant, sending Barney to return his diamond suit and give that big donation to the church, and forcing Robin to apply for the job she needs rather than the easier job she might be more comfortable at. Each of these people had an identity crisis this week, then quickly tried to avoid the realizations they came to honestly by looking at them as a false positive. Ted knows what's best for every member of the group, and because he cares about them, he makes sure they go for it.

This episode reminded me of all the things I've always loved about How I Met Your Mother, from its ability to use non-linear storytelling to add surprising resonance to its plots, to its master narrative about a group of people being forced slowly into adulthood and into becoming the people they always hoped to be. Oh yeah, and it was a really funny episode too. It examined each of the characters as they stand currently, and yes, took everyone a tiny fraction of a step forward into the people they will all be when Ted meets the mother.

Grade: A


-"You're the one who put the Farside calendar over the toilet. You know I laugh with my whole body!"

-"That's exactly the accent of whimsy this celebration of love needs!"

-"Robin, you better check yourself before you Trebek yourself."

-"I also said I would never make out with a garbage man. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

-"I am the Bill and Melinda gates of the sympathy bang!"

-"What am I doing with my life?" "What am I doing with my life?" "I should get a Christmas themed movie snack for tomorrow!"

-I loved the Marshall and Lily telepathy callback. "Just keep smiling, maybe wave...no, don't wave, that makes no sense!" "I'm committed. I'm riding this wave straight to hell!" "Maybe we should leave now so the waving isn't as weird..."

-"Ted, if I ever get married, and you're not the guy I'm marrying..." "Big mistake, but go on..."

-"This Holiday season, why not bang someone in need? I'm Barney Stinson, and that's one to grow on."
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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