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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How I Met Your Mother: "The Magician's Code"

Considering the lengthy mid-season hiatuses that CBS has inflicted upon HIMYM fans, it seems odd that the two-parts of tonight’s two-part season finale have so little in common. There pretty much no thematic correlation between the two, and they have no greater continuation of story than any other two neighboring episodes. Still, we must take our HIMYM where we can get it, and most of the hour-long “Magician’s Code” was charming, funny, and surprising.

The first episode was more strongly connected to the previous installment, as we open with Lily in labor, Marshall stuck with Barney in Atlantic City, and Ted and Robin putting aside their awkwardness to help Lily in her time of need. Part I did not wring many laughs from Marshall’s drunkenness, although I appreciated Jason Segel’s ability to perform drunken-Yoda speak. I was also slightly put off by Barney’s consistent need to inject his and Quinn’s troubles into the discussion. It just seemed false and selfish. This plotline got much better when they essentially discarded the extreme drunkenness and shifted to the attempts to get the bus driver to pull off the road so Marshall could get to the hospital. I greatly enjoyed the “I am Spartacus” moment among the senior citizens on the bus.

As for Lily’s need to be distracted after going into labor, I enjoyed the “fake clip show” aspect of these scenes even if I wondered how much Dan Harmon would be upset by this “homage.” Still, the writers at HIMYM are often at their best when they are just rapid-firing jokes one right after the other, and this was certainly one of those times. Many of them were really silly, like Ted’s super long arm hair, but I got a kick out of most of them, especially the experiment to determine how slippery banana peels really are. The runner with the door also paid off nicely in the end.

Of course, this being How I Met Your Mother, the arrival of Marvin Waitforit Erickson (one of the lamer jokes of this offering) can’t help but be used to make Ted and the others re-evaluate their lives.

Ted and Robin have a great conversation where she calls him on the gap between what he says he wants and what he actually pursues. It’s a familiar theme in the show, especially given how often the show has used Ted and the career-driven, no-kids-wanting Robin as a couple. Her suggestion is to go after Victoria one more time, which is kind of nonsensical considering her previous rant about unavailable women. Victoria is engaged, as Robin knows.

Meanwhile, Barney is relieved that Quinn hasn’t left him, but he pays the price by having his apparent redecorated with a Hello Kitty theme. This was rather dumb, but Neil Patrick Harris was great as always and redeemed most of it.

With very little in the way of transition, Future Ted begins Part II with a scene from Barney’s wedding, teasing us with the idea that it’s a wedding that did not go well. We’ve been waiting all season to see who Barney will wind up marrying, and this better not be another instance of the show pulling a fast one. Much as I like this show, I don’t want it to run forever.

Marshall and Lily are basically too tired with the newborn to be much involved in this one, except as the uncooperative subjects of Robin’s attempts at a perfect family photo. Instead we get Barney and Ted taking big steps forward.

Barney and Quinn are headed to Hawaii for a romantic getaway when one of his magic tricks causes him to be detained by airport security. What follows is a largely implausible but still amusing piece where Barney refuses to disclose the contents of the box, adhering to the titular “Magician’s Code”, a concept instilled in Barney by the magic teacher who was working on a trick called “The Disappearing Salami” with Barney’s mom.

Barney is unflappable even with the TSA officers’ guns pointed at him, and the sheer absurdity of his drawing a sword and setting off an explosion in the security room at an airport drew a lot of laughs from me. Of course, the whole thing is just a way for Barney to too-quickly propose marriage to Quinn, who it turns out actually quit stripping for Barney, because there’s no way these two are actually getting married and they need to lay the groundwork for why not.

Over in Tedland, he follows Robin’s advice and calls Victoria, who is surprisingly eager to catch up, in fact she needs to make it 1:30 instead of 2, and if you didn’t know right at that moment that she was getting cold feet before her wedding, then you don’t watch very many sitcoms. Of course, she can’t just tell Ted this information, she has to show up at McLaren’s in her ball gown style wedding dress.

Ted is flustered by the dress, but it turns Victoria has been thinking about him. She wanted to leave Klaus for him in the fall, but knew Ted wasn’t over Robin. Now she wants to leave her fiancĂ© at the altar and ride off into the sunset with Ted. She needs an answer soon, and since Ted is pretty sure this rates more than an 8 on Marshall and Lily’s scale of Ted problems, he gives them a call.

Lily thinks Victoria is just panicking and would regret running off, while Robin is gung-ho for Ted to take off with the bride. Ted decides to go through with it, before changing his mind and driving towards the church, which he then blows past, grabbing Victoria’s hand and heading straight toward the conveniently-placed sun. He’ll get word of Barney’s engagement somewhere to the west.

We end with a flash-forward to Barney’s wedding, and the bride wants to see Ted, who first stops to chat with Marshall about all the twists and turns it took to get to this day, and by this point I was half-expecting Victoria to be marrying Barney. But no, it’s Robin, because of course it is. Sometimes plot developments are spoiled in pilot season, and Becki Newton, who plays Quinn, is set to star in Bays’ and Thomas’ new show “Goodwin Games” on FOX. Debuting and departing from the network’s schedule this spring.

And that’s a wrap on Season 7. What are we to make of all this? Where do we go in Season 8? Marshall and Lily may have inadvertently brought Marvin to the bar for his first outing, but I would think that would be an infrequent occurrence. At least they’re not out on the Island anymore. Most of the early part of Season 8 will be breaking up Barney and Quinn before Newton uses up her allowable guest appearances. Here’s guessing she’ll be better about not making money at the Leopard Lounge.

As for Ted, as much as I’ve always loved Victoria, this was a pretty indefensible act, especially coming from a man who’s been left at the altar himself. Is there any chance that Victoria is the mother? That doesn’t seem like something that Bays and Thomas could have had planned, and it doesn’t seem to fit the premise of the show. But I think there’s some unspoken rule that if you steal a woman away from the altar you pretty much have to marry her, right?

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