December 7th, 2009
There are moments where it feels as if Robin Scherbatsky exists entirely to be ignorant to the various long-standing mythologies that exist in How I Met Your Mother’s universe. Inevitably, when something new to us is introduced, Robin is the one asking “what’s that?” And such we enter “The Window,” as we discover (through Robin) that Ted Mosby has been on a nine-year journey to bag a college pal and yet has been foiled every time.
The way the show is able to use Robin to justify its exposition, almost always told through a casual conversation at McLaren’s or in Ted and Robin’s apartment, is part of why these stories are able to move so smoothly. In just moments, the stage has been set for what is yet another potential love story waiting to happen, fate and destiny fighting against reality. And by nicely balancing some more emotional beats for Josh Radner’s Ted with some broader comedy as the rest of the gang tries to keep the window from closing, the episode manages to entertain while also providing the sort of heartwarming conclusion (albeit with a twist) that HIMYM is so great at.
There’s been some complaints that there hasn’t been a lot of Ted stories this year, so it’s fitting that “The Window” is all about Ted Mosby without actually involving Ted Mosby to the degree that would have made the episode less engaging (since, no matter where you stand on the character, too much Ted is never good for the show). When we learn that he’s had a crush living in New York for nine years that he’s always wanted to ask out but never had the opportunity, it’s a good excuse for the character to ask himself whether he’s ready to be one of her long-term boyfriends. The character has reached this point in the past, considering when a long-term relationship is something he really wants, and since Stella he’s been resistant to these sorts of opportunities. And yet, with a single phone call he acted reflexively, getting to Maggie Wilkes before every other suitor thanks to tipping off her elderly neighbour.
And what happens with Ted then it what makes the episode work: by having Ted forced to head into his class, it allows the character to investigate his feelings without having to test whether he and Maggie would actually make a good couple (since, after all, he has no evidence of this beyond her reputation as the ultimate girl next door. As such, his class (who seems to genuinely like the guy, which in turn makes them his favourite people on the planet) become a therapy group, and he’s able to talk through his relationship troubles with a group of people who aren’t able to say “Dude, remember what happened with Robin?” or “But what about Stella?” or anything else. It doesn’t change the fact that Ted has been here before, but it was a different audience for his concerns and represents a strong creative decision.
It also allows that could have been an overly serious episode to still fall strongly on the side of comedy. As Lily and Marshall, Robin and then Barney are made responsible for Maggie staying unattached for the remainder of the evening, each of them forced to peel off for one reason or another created by the plot of the episode, the show is able to play with some fun combinations and allow some characters to have moments of their own and others to just play outright comedy. I think Barney’s characterization was probably the leakiest (boom boom yeah) of the bunch, if only because Barney didn’t actually get to do much with the overalls and the final realization that Barney is willing to have sex with the elderly neighbour just felt like the show going too far for me personally.
But I thought Cobie Smulders had almost too much fun in the episode, to the point where I kind of feel like they broke up Robin and Barney so that they could have Robin back in scenarios like this one. There’s some episodes where Robin seems pulled back from Barney’s comedy, but there was a fun dynamic here as Robin just started running off Farmer jokes, and then transitioned into throwing herself at Maggie’s co-worker (Jamie Kaler playing it straight compared to his My Boys character) with every ounce of her sexuality. There was a point last season where Robin became a comic tour de force (especially when Lily was missing, leaving the female comedy entirely up to her), and this was the first episode where some part of me (a very small one, I swear) was actually glad that she was single to be able to play her own absurd role in the charade.
And while I usually dislike random Lily and Marshall plots, I thought that Jason Segel sold the hell out of the letter from his 15-year old self (and the Mad Libs/Overalls that came before it) and its effect on him. As with Ted, he’s had the same sort of mid-life crisis before, but I thought the flashback sequence (with the rat tail, and the overalls, and the “Informer”) was just inspired enough to carry the episode over, and the return of older Marshall (this time time-travelling back to December 8th in order to send Marshall some hot wings as a sign of the existence of time travel) was paradox opening but immensely fun in the process. No, there’s nothing particularly fantastic about Marshall trying and failing to dunk a basketball in trying to live up to his life’s expectations, but it sort of captured the same sort of life’s consideration Ted was going through, and Vanilla Thunder really is an awesome nickname.
As things got to the end of the episode, with Barney in control and the co-worked back in the game, things got to the point where these mythology stories always do in figuring out how it’s all going to go wrong. We know that Maggie isn’t the mother because it would be too convenient, and because there’s no indication of JoAnna Garcia sticking around for more than one episode (such is the world we live in that we know this for certain). And yet, despite Barney’s presence offering the opportunity for the show to use his womanizing ways to in some way tarnish or ruin Maggie for everyone, the show goes in a completely different route. Instead of sabotaging her, the show further cements the role of destiny in the universe by having her own boy next door from her childhood in her apartment, rekindling a long lost love that is what Ted calls “the second greatest love story I’ve ever heard.” And you realize that “The Window” closed not because destiny doesn’t exist, but rather because there are other people like Ted out there who are sitting around waiting for their Mother to come along.
And set to Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” (in case you were wondering “What was the song at end of The Window?”), that montage allows this particular reference to fate to prove outside of Ted’s grasp without undermining his purpose. Ted didn’t fail so much as he learned a lesson, and while this isn’t an entirely new development it was nicely condensed into a single episode (as opposed to turning into Stella, who even with my appreciation of Sarah Chalke in general went on far too long to make a largely similar point). It’s as if “Ten Sessions” had been the end of Stella’s journey, simply revitalizing Ted’s belief that there is a reason fate exists, and there’s a reason he’s still out there searching for “the one” (and a reason that we are still following the producers on this wild goose chase to find the mother).
I laughed, the cockles of my heart were warmed, and I got to revisit the wonder that is early 1990s unintelligible white rap – I’ll take it.
- Loved the small moment where Ted is chasing through the streets cursing Barney, and a woman responds with “Me too!” from somewhere on the street.
- I haven’t seen Se7en (I know, I know), but Smulders so sold that “What’s in the box?!” joke at the opening as both a) kind of terrible and b) kind of awesome that I didn’t need to “get it” to “get it.”
- As far as the Robin/Barney complaints of past weeks go, I thought it was better here, although I don’t like Robin’s “I can’t believe I dated that guy” attitude. Barney wasn’t a complete and total womanizer here, and it appears (in an interview with the L.A. Times, which has minor plot spoilers) that they’re going to consider the ramifications more carefully eventually…although a reunion seems out of the question.
- I now want to know who Robin’s “Mike Chaps” is – Barney’s random chick doesn’t warrant investigation, but Mike Chaps totally does. His last name is Chaps!
- JoAnna Garcia was charming and pretty as ever as Maggie, but Jaime Weinman is right that it’s very tough to properly cast someone who is supposed to be completely irresistible: beauty is subjective, after all. However, I thought show was smart to avoid showing too much of Maggie’s early years in college so as to not have to be put on trial for whether she was charming enough to warrant the obsession, thus leaving it to our imaginations and our ability to accept Ted’s romanticism.
- Now, excuse me while I Make Adjustments [and] Go Get It Energized!