How I Met Your Mother: Season 6, Episode 13
To begin with, I'm not sure how I feel about the numbers gimmick. Throughout this episode, numbers counted down from '50,' apparently to signal us that the title of the episode, "Bad News" was super serious. I'm a fan of a good gimmick, and this show, and even this episode has several, but I didn't see the point of this except to show us they could shove a number or two into every scene of the episode (often distractingly so and done none too inventively, as it was on the cover of like 7 books throughout the episode), which, none to surprisingly, they could. This episode took a tonal left turn once we hit 1, and I think that turn was done very well, I'm just not sure it wouldn't have been more affecting if we hadn't known it was coming thanks to a shockingly frank episode title (No one wondered whether Ted would meet The Mother tonight) and huge numbers pointing us in that direction.
The main thrust (pun sort of intended) of this week's episode is Marshall and Lily's fear that they are somehow incapable of conceiving a child. This was a plotline primed to make me groan (quick, name a sitcom where two people who are trying to get pregnant don't have fertility difficulties or fear thereof. Put another way, how many times have you seen a guy uncomfortably trying to masturbate in a fertility doctor's office on television), but at least dressed up nicely with the reveal of Barney's doppelganger, Dr. Stengel, who is, quite aptly, a fertility specialist. This lead to a lot of laughs in this overdone plotline that didn't come from masturbational discomfort or ovarial awkwardness (though, for fans of the genres, there was plenty of that to go around as well).
Meanwhile, Robin is having a tough time at work because Sandy Rivers (Alexis Denisof, husband of Alyson Hannigan and always a pleasure to have on any series) is her superior and tells everyone they had sex before remembering that she was the girl who fell in horse poop. Two nice callbacks already, but the big laugh came from the montage of all of the ridiculous things Robin has done on television over the course of this series, and while it could have felt cheap and "flashback episode"-y, it was brief enough to get a good laugh out of all the times I'd laughed at this show previously, but not too long as to outstay its welcome.
Around the fringes of the episode, Barney's use of Ted's Sensory Deprivator 5000 from back in Season Two and his efforts to get Marshall to join a laser tag tournament with him were both very funny, as were Ted's attempts to help Robin turn the tables on Sandy Rivers. All in all, this was a pretty solid, funny episode of How I Met Your Mother--and then the walls came crumbling down. Some might call the reveal of Marshall's father's death too abrupt (and I might agree that counting down to it comes across as a bit callous and a definite misstep in hindsight), but the shock that it gave me as a viewer I think justified it entirely. Death is not always, or even often expected, and even if you think you know its coming, you are almost always taken by surprise when it actually happens. You could be doing anything when you find out. Even celebrating your own fertility with a "Motility Five." The death of Marshall's dad before Marshall gave him a grand child is something that will likely weigh the character down and effect him for the rest of the season. This was potentially a big leap forward story-wise for the show, and it handled it with, if not subtlety, then enough realism and pathos to be appreciated. "Bad News" had some problems, sure, but it also had a lot of laughs and ended up adding some very true moments to an episode centered around a plotline tat's been done to (no pun intended) death.
-"Oh God, you found one of the cameras! I swear that's the only one! Wait, which one did you find?"
-"Between the sexual harassment seminar all morning and the secretary beauty pageant all afternoon, Barney hasn't left my sight all day!" This seems as good a place as any to point out that even though it was obvious, Barney taking Stengel's place at the end of the episode in a last ditch effort to convince Marshall to play laser tag was very funny.
-"Its like looking in a poorly dressed mirror." "Ok, you have to go. Leave the model of the vagina."
-""Remember when his Swedish cousin came to visit?" "Oh yeah, Bjorney."
-Here's hoping Sandy Rivers returns!
-"You can't get a girl pregnant? That's the dream! I'd give my first born to not be able to have children."
-"When your friend invites you to a laser tag tournament, you don't fight it. You just run into that abandoned JC Penny's guns a blazin'."
-"They even found the video of me getting attacked by an owl." "You got attacked by an owl?" "I did NOT get attacked by an owl!"
-"If you've hit the elevator you've gone too far. You think I wouldn't have to say that, but you'd be surprised."
-"The clock is ticking, so make it fast." "Only way I know how, doc. Only way I know how."
-"I just thought he needed to listen to common sense and reasonable discourse." "Tell me those aren't the names of your fists." "They're my feet. I'm actually more of a kicker."
-"And for God's sake son, do you have any 6's?" RIP Mr. Erickson.
Tags: How I Met Your Mother