In its seventh season, How I Met Your Mother seems ready for a little introspection and self-examination. Critics have long asked that the show and its characters acknowledge the more unusual, co-dependent aspects of the gang’s friendship, its incestuous nature and especially its resistance to outsiders.
Victoria (Ashley Williams) got the ball rolling in “The Ducky Tie” by forcing Ted (Josh Radnor) to confront his strange dynamic with Robin (Cobie Smudlers) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). The introduction of Kevin (Kal Penn) as Robin’s therapist turned boyfriend has also opened up the topic of the group dynamic to much deeper and more unique scrutiny.
This week, Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segal) have the sex of their baby on a sheet of paper in an envelope but refuse to open it in hopes of preserving the surprise and preventing their child from growing up in a gender biased household. Naturally, Barney will not stand for this.
We know that Barney can’t stand not knowing something, being told that the sex of the baby is knowable and not being allowed to find out is designed to drive him nuts. In order to get him off their back, Marshall lets Barney look at the answer, but this only sets him and Lily up for torturous hints.
Meanwhile, Ted has a date with a very beautiful woman. In order to avoid ruining his date with Janet (Amber Stevens from Greek), Ted decides that they should make a pact not to Google each other. It’s a terrific jumping off point for a story; the age of the internet has indeed ruined some of the mysteries of first dates.
Naturally, Barney can’t stand for this either. Both Barney and Robin have been researching Ted’s dates for years now in order to keep him from getting too deep too quickly. Watching Barney and Robin transform into characters from CSI: New York as they cyber-stalked Ted’s date was a terrific bit of nonsense.
While Barney and Robin seek to discover Janet’s deep dark secrets, at least the ones on her Facebook page, Marshall and Lily have invited them and Kevin to help paint the baby’s nursery. It’s here where Kevin is finally coaxed into analyzing the group after promising he would never do it.
Among Kevin’s observations…
- Separation Anxiety: Marshall and Ted talk like teenage girls while Ted is at the bar getting beers and Marshall is calling him from the booth.
- Inappropriate Social Behavior: The gang sends texts describing their most unusually shaped bowel movements. Yes, this is gross, but to be fair, sometimes it is something you want to tell people about… if it’s really unusual. Just saying, don’t judge me.
- Survivor Guilt: Lily is angst-ridden after watching Survivor without Marshall and not telling him.
- Emotional Extortion: When Barney doesn’t get what he wants he manipulates Marshall and Lily to get it by promising to tell them the sex of their baby.
Kevin’s observations aren’t groundbreaking, or all that revealing aside from the texts. These observations however, are a start. It’s a glimpse of something to come on the show. Season seven is a pivotal one for How I Met Your Mother and the group examining its self and the writers examining this group dynamic is a natural growth point for the show.
“Mystery vs. History” wasn’t the funniest episode of How I Met Your Mother so far this season, that’s still “The Ducky Tie,” but it could prove to be a major transition for the series. How deep will the show go in examining these characters and their dynamic? And, more importantly, what will be revealed through this examination?
- I loved that Barney’s slideshow about babies and gender specificity was directed by McG.
- The return of Ray Wise as Robin’s dad was something of a bust. Yes, it gave us an impression of why Robin is a gun nut as well as a glimpse of her major daddy issues, but the flashback wasn’t particularly believable or funny. It failed as both a parody and as a revealing character moment.
- The episode was really on to something with the idea of Googling people before first dates. I wish the payoff, Janet being a saint with a website dedicated to her sainthood, had been funnier but the idea was solid.
- It was good to see Kevin getting to spend time with the group as so few outsiders get this chance. Notably, Nora (Nazanin Bodiadi) was MIA this week and hasn’t had the privilege of spending time with Barney and the gang in full. Nora’s chemistry with Barney has been shaky, putting her with the group as a whole could prove to be make or break.
- We shall see if the return of ‘The Slutty Pumpkin’ and the annual rooftop Halloween party will bring Nora into the group dynamic for a change.