November 19th, 2007
Well, this was it. After over 115 days of waiting, the Slap Bet Countdown posted by CBS in July has finally been brought down to zero. At one point in the episode, Barney pleaded with Marshall to cancel the slap, saying that knowing about it ahead of time only made the suspense and fear grow. Similarly, perhaps you could argue that there was greater fan interest as a result of the countdown (Based on hits to this post explaining the Slap Bet here at Cultural Learnings, this is in fact that case).
However, I actually thought it took away from the slap itself. The episode was really more to do with Robin and Ted than it was with the Slap Bet, and while it provided a great coda to the episode (Complete with a fantastic piano ballad featuring backup vocals from a recovering Barney) I really didn’t feel like it had the impact that our first surprise slap did. And, while I perhaps was more likely to tune in knowing it was going to happen, it seems to have been an issue of quality promotion over quality comedy…and that’s kind of disappointing.
The episode was really the culmination of the first portion of the show’s third season: the post Ted/Robin breakup detente finally came to a head, with the two sleeping together in their attempt to relate as friends after Ted becomes jealous of her new boyfriend. The two characters had never really been alone since the season began, so it was good for the show to acknowledge just how awkward it was. Unfortunately, the end of the episode pretty much “fixed” it when they shared an inside joke: “Major Buzzkill” is supposed to make them friends again? Really? It felt a bit tacked on, and too akin to other sitcom’s attempts to make holiday episodes particular feel-good.
It especially felt off compared to the Slap Bet storyline, and even compared to its own internal representation of 41-year old Bob as a far older man. Marshall’s slap preparations were humorous, as was Barney’s slow descent into hysteria, but the storyline didn’t surprise as it could have. We knew from the countdown that the slap would happen (Our slap countdown operating independent of the one within the show), so this attempt to pull the rug out from under us was something I never bought. The slap itself lacked impact: it struck well, Marshall had fine form, and Barney performed his table spot admirably, but it didn’t resonate.
The song helped, especially once Barney started providing added vocals. But, on the whole, I liked being surprised: I liked, as much as Barney hated, never knowing when the slaps would come. While it allowed them to build hype, it made the episode itself just a constant build to a slap we knew was coming: it didn’t disappoint, per se, but its impact was lessened and I don’t feel the Ted/Robin storyline got the attention its deserved thanks to our minds being so attuned to the slap.
But, again, this show is all about experiment: this was their choice, and it certainly had its benefits. But, for the future, I’d personally like to be surprised.
- I have to wonder how popular the name Frobisher is: Robin used it in her (entirely fabricated) explanation of Canadian Thanksgiving, and it is also the last name of Ted Danson’s character on Damages. Are there some fans in the HIMYM house?
- That totally wasn’t the first slap in the Slap Bet in the montage: that was the slap given prematurely. How a show so hung up on continuity messed that up confuses me, so maybe it was a network note added in post-production after the writers went on strike.
- Didn’t Marshall and Lily buy a new apartment? Or did they not actually buy a new apartment? Or are they just taking a really long time to move in (I say this not quite understanding the timeline of the last few episodes, considering their bending of the concept)?
- I am too rushed at the moment to check, but I definitely recognized the guy playing Ted’s image of Bob from somewhere, and it really bugged me throughout the episode.