There was so much to love in last night How I Met Your Mother that it negated any questions I might have about the show’s long-term plans and sustainability. “Oh, Honey” was filled with classic-HIMYM-style jokes, strong sentiment, and even some incredibly clever references which I have to confess I did not catch. (And I’d been so proud of having noticed the numbers in “Bad News” right from the start. Damn.)
Let’s get the episode’s biggest gimmick out of the way first. I’m always apprehensive about HIMYM’s big-name guest stars, especially the non-actors. But I’ve come to appreciate that this is just the way the show is; they like to have fun with their audience. Like Britney and Carrie Underwood before her Perry wasn’t given much to do, and her lack of acting experience was apparent, but she was better than Underwood and I loved the way the show sort of built-in her novice acting by having her play gullible and simple. I enjoyed the recurrence of the “oh, honey” tagline.
The real artistry in the episode is having the story shown through the filter of Marshall’s consciousness. He’s hearing the events at some distance, both chronological and geographical, and on top of that relying on multiple narrators of dubious veracity. I got a kick out of his Minnesotan need to answer every call on call waiting, and of course his insistence on proper telephone etiquette, which separates his kind from Wisconsinites.
The beauty of the framing device was only revealed to me by a commenter on Alan Sepinwall’s review at Hitfix. You can tell that Marshall is imagining the events in his own fashion because he is conflating his friends with the characters in the board game Clue. This is more obviously done in his demonstration on the corkboard for his mother and brother, where Ted is Professor Plum, Zoe is Miss White, and The Captain is Colonel Mustard. But it is reinforced more subtly in the fact that Ted is always wearing purple, Zoe in white, Barney is Mr. Green, Robin is Miss Peacock in blue, and of course Katy Perry’s Honey is Miss Scarlett.
It’s just awesome that this far into their run, the creative minds behind How I Met Your Mother are this committed to finding new ways to tell their stories, and adding in as much detail as they can.