After an uneven fifth season, How I Met Your Mother needed its sixth season to reignite the excitement in its fan base. The high points of the sixth season, represented the show at its absolute best. Season 7 picks up where Season 6 left off with Barney not sure which tie he should wear at his own wedding. The tie decision represents Barney’s own cold feet; however, this isn’t the over-the-top ladies man who has at moments been the staple of this show’s wackier side. No, this is an evolved Barney Stinson. He is about to fulfill his nuptials, but he’s wondering if he made the right decision; however, the decision he’s unsure of would make the Barney Stinson of earlier seasons furious. This new Barney is struggling with a more permanent decision. He wants to make sure he’s spending the rest of his life with the right one.
Barney’s tie debate leads to a flashback into present 2011 to Punchy’s wedding, which sets up a gag of all of Ted’s bad Best Man speeches, which have become a youtube sensation and is a running gag among his friends. Ironically, Ted admits that all of these speeches took place at the worst moments in his life. (“I thought I had that until my wife left me at the alter this week”). However, Ted landed on the cover of New York magazine for his architectural work, which prompts Barney to respond, “Here’s your toast. Single file, ladies, no fat chicks.” Ted’s not the only one going through a crisis. Lily and Marshall are not ready to tell everyone that Lily is pregnant and fail to do a bad job, Barney is struggling with the fact that he may or may not have called Nora back, and Robin is struggling with the fact that she still has feelings for Barney.
This prompts Barney to use Cleveland for market research and the episode’s mandatory Lebron James joke. (“Get ready Cleveland. The last man to screw you hard and disappear was Lebron James”). Robin struggles with Barney’s escapades, but Lily points out that Robin still has feelings for Barney. She also surmises that Barney is purposefully striking out because he too has feelings still for Robin. This sets up the highlight of this episode as Barney and Robin have this brilliant, smooth, sexually tense dance number that is halted as soon as Nora finally calls Barney.
Finally, the Marshall/Lily/Baby story thread ties the other threads of this episode together. They both attempt to hide from everyone that they’re having a baby and do a poor job at it. This sets up a gag involving a very drunk Marshall to cover up for the fact that Lily is with child, and ultimately ruining Punchy’s wedding. After many failed attempts (one of which involving a football barely missing the bride’s head), Marshall and Lily realize that it’s impossible for the two of them to keep this secret. Meanwhile, Ted and Robin have a defeated cigar together on the balcony in a nice call back to the set piece used at the conclusion of the second season’s finale. In a great character moment for Josh Radnor, Ted reveals that along the way he’s seemingly lost hope and the desire to continue his quest for “the one.” For Ted, this was a subtle acknowledgement to how much Stella leaving him at the alter absolutely crushed the hopeless-romantic side of ted that stole the blue french horn for Robin, and it was nice that Cobie Smulders plays it off with grace as well by having Robin encourage Ted to get back on that horse. It was a beautiful call back to the road that leads to this moment. The last time Ted was standing on this balcony’s twin in New York, he was dealing with the acknowledgement of his break up with Robin, the then girl of his dreams.
This moment is interrupted by Marshall, Lily, and Barney appearing on the balcony with the news of Lily’s pregnancy finally slipping out to the big group hug. These characters are the best of friends, but they are as close as family. This leads to a tearful Ted giving another tearful best man speech, which Marshall attempts to try and save and ultimately ends up ruining the wedding, which leads us to the not too distant future with Ted and Barney laughing at how awful that moment was and coming full circle back to the tie (and this year’s goat legend “The Ducky Tie”).
This tie debate sets up a potential theme to run throughout How I Met Your Mother’s seventh season, as each character will begin the process of growing into their future selves. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas (the show’s creators) wisely poke fun at themselves through Bob Saget’s voiceovers. (“We’re totally, almost, not really all that close to the end”). However, this show knows that the ending is not what makes this series important. It’s the interaction between it’s four key characters, the little moments that both help them resist maturity and grow into it at the same time. The transition from late 20-somethings in denial about their final ascent into adult-hood into the 30-somethings who are beginning to plunge into decisions that shape the rest of their lives is almost complete. If the journey ahead will be as fun and exciting as the road taken to get to this point, then we’re all in for one hell of a ride.
Episode Grade: B
“The Naked Truth”
“The Naked Truth” takes place back in Ted and Robin’s apartment the following morning with the gang(more specifically Marshall) recovering from a brutal hangover, which leaves the audience to assume that must have been one brutal red eye flight from Cleveland. This leads to a more straight-forward, uneven How I Met Your Mother episode as the show’s writers begin to add more character memes to the lexicon the show has built up over the years. The big gag and the one that works the strongest is Marshall’s SWEEPING DECLARATION! This is a statement Marshall makes to never do something again only to do it once more the following day. It’s gotten to the point that Robin and Lily take over/under bets for when Marshall relapses. (Lily[paraphrasing] – “Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have taken the over.”).
However, the two big stories here are Ted attempting to get back on the dating scene ends up taking Barney’s advice from “The Best Man” and begins exploiting his magazine cover to pick up chicks. Ironically, this ends up giving Ted a Barney closing rate of roughly 20%. Ted goes on a date with two different girls and finds himself not able to choose between the two (one was great; the other went for the check). This leads to a dating game gimmick between with Ted, Lily, and Robin. This ‘A’ story is guilty of this episode’s uneven nature, as Radnor hams up his performance to the point of irritation and this episode’s writers rely heavily on Ted to deliver a bit much in the way of exposition.
Meanwhile, Marshall is awaiting the results on a background check from the Garrison Cootes (Martin Short) the head of Marshall’s dream job at a large environmental law firm. This leads to Marshall scouring the internet to find any potentially compromising videos lurking out there which leads to a video of him running naked through college as BEERCULES. Marshall finds his still drunken college friend, Pete, and begs him to remove the video. Instead, Marshall finds himself drunk once more with BEERCULES making a triumphant comeback.
Barney, still dealing with the ramifications of his call from Nora, has to retell all the lies he’s told to girls in return for sex much to the disgust of Nora. Neil Patrick Harris then delivers a great moment by calling Nora out on her interest in Barney as being reciprocal because most girls would have walked away by now. Barney continues this display of love by staying in his 24 hour diner booth until Nora returns and agrees to see him again. Barney is slowly morphing into the hopeless-romantic that he’s always mocked Ted for demonstrating.
Meanwhile, Ted has an epiphany of his own that he doesn’t need to date some random girl, but he needs to get back to the hopeless romantic and find “the one” that fulfills all the feelings he’s hoped to truthfully share with his soul mate. Therefore, he chooses to take Robin with him to the architect’s ball so she can meet Lenny Kravitz, who turns out to be Leonard Kravitz (an old architect that could give one hell of a lecture on beams according to Ted). However, the ultimate payoff of this episode reveals a return from first season’s past, as Ted’s most likable baker ex-girlfriend is discovered serving pastries at the event. This is a great reveal makes a nice call back to the old Ted whose refusal to give up on Robin leads him to cheat on his long-distance relationship with Victoria.
These first two episodes had their hits and their misses, but I trust Bays, Thomas, and the direction of Pam Fryman to not lead this story astray too far and take these characters to an exciting conclusion towards the journey that leads to their 2030 selves. Until then, we have Barney’s future bride to chew over (my initial reaction has me going for the curveball and it end up being Victoria to keep with the theme of Barney taking Ted’s left overs), and we certainly have the antics of Ted’s renewed dating life on top of Marshall/Lily’s plunge into parenthood to mold this into a hopefully great and rewarding seventh season among friends in the Big Apple.
Episode Grade: C-