“Everything Must Go”
May 12th, 2008
Previously on How I Met Your Mother, we asked ourselves two important questions: “The Bracket” asked us which of Barney’s former conquests was trying to ruin his chances with all other women, and “Ten Sessions” made us wonder how quickly the show would angle to bring back Britney Spears to boost ratings considering that Ted and Stella continued dating. What we couldn’t quite predict, although some fans certainly called it at the conclusion of “The Bracket,” was that both questions would be answered in the same episode.
It was, indeed, Spears’ Abby who was responsible for his downfall, after Barney’s betrayed her and Ted destroyed her heart by dating her boss. Of course, now they both hate Ted for his recent decisions, so their reconnection and eventual plot to destroy Ted does feel in character considering the situation. The problem, of course, is that Spears is not a proven comic talent (She never actually got up from her desk last time for more than a few minutes); does she have the chops to pull this off?
And, does her appearance take away from the fact that this episode isn’t actually about her? I’d argue that she falls a little short, but that the episode doesn’t necessarily hit the same lows.
Before we even discuss Britney Spears, let’s discuss what the episode is actually about: Lily and Marshall’s struggles to renovate their apartment. They need an extra $1500 (How much was this to begin with, exactly?), and Marshall decides that Lily has to sell all of her designer fashions that sent them so far into debt. She, of course, points out how selfish this is (To which I’d point out that she was the one who selfishly bought the clothes to begin with, but I still enjoy her), and decides to try her hand at art. And thus we return to two enjoyable elements of the series: Lily and Marshall’s relationship, and Lily having an actual career.
I enjoy a lot of things about the series, don’t get me wrong, but the show has spent too little time as late with this relationship. They abandoned the couple as soon as Ted/Robin took over the narrative in last season’s finale, and outside of a few footnotes their storylines this season haven’t had the same emotional resonance for them as characters. Here, finally, we return to a story not about home ownership, job loss or debt concerns, but instead a story about Lily’s art and her struggles for legitimacy.
I’ll admit to being charmed by the turn, particularly by the return to Marshall standing up for Lily and for Lily’s artwork actually providing her a new clientele of sorts. I do think that I could use a moment of epiphany for her character in terms of her selfish ways with all of the designer clothes, but at the same time this felt like a natural turn for their relationship. The resolution, that her paintings calm down dogs and thus prove immensely valuable, is too clean by a mile, but the storyline proved humorous, heartwarming and beneficial in finding a moment to bring these characters together that wasn’t a cliched married couple roadblock.
It also allowed Ted and Robin to play humorous supporting roles: between Ted trying to pull off the red cowboy boots (Which were eventually approved by the elusive GCWOK [Gay Couple Without Kids] demographic), their humorous bickering over how to analyze paintings, or Robin wanting to keep Lily’s clothes in the family, they were simply charming characters who crack the jokes we enjoy while not dragging things down with their various couplings. It’s proof the show can course correct on a dime when necessary, and I found it charming.
However, for the media, this is the second Britney Spears episode and little more. Trying to figure out why they brought back Spears is intriguing: Sarah Chalke isn’t in the episode, and her storyline with Barney only once intersects with the other characters and gets no actual emotional payoff for the Barney/Ted conflict. In that case, bringing her back was literally a gimmick, a storyline shoe-horned into the episode with little to no total relevance (And not even a connection to the somewhat recurrent “You can do the right thing 1000 times, but then that 1001st time…” theme).
On the one hand, this is frustrating – Spears is no comic actress, and while she was passable she lacks the breeze with which another actress could have taken on this role (Even more apparent here when she was forced to act in various different scenarios). It feels as if the show either rushed her back due to ratings potential, to ensure a renewal and to continue momentum, or to attempt to mend fences with Britney over the fiasco over the Associated Press story. Yes, perhaps they felt it was also a creative way to display some parts of Barney’s character while doing these other things, but while I don’t disagree I do think it seems a bit egregious.
But, its impact was largely muffled by its isolation: Neil Patrick Harris carried the weight of the storyline, it was a marginal part of the episode as a whole, and while it felt even more like stunt casting than “Ten Sessions” I think that like that episode it was everything else that really stuck with me in the end. Considering that, I still don’t think that we can blame them for these decisions, although I certainly do hope that the next time a juicy guest role pops up they try to find an actress who could win an Emmy, as opposed to one who could win a few hundred thousand viewers.
- I don’t really know where the title actually derives from, but I immediately saw it as a reference to the Manic Street Preachers’ song of the same name…before the episode proceeded to make it clear that it was in regards to Lily selling all of her clothes. It’s also a common phrase during any sort of sale. Clearly, my brother’s music taste has ruined my ability to view things simply.
- Although I think her acting leaves something to be desired, I did enjoy Spears’ execution of her love of Ted’s hair – it just made me laugh, not sure why exactly.
- As the end of the episode noted, you can actually go and bid on parts of the show for charity by going to LilyandMarshallSellTheirStuff.com, which leads to Charity Folks, an auction website. It’s getting hammered right now, but check back later to bid for a great cause.
- Even better: the partially french and mostly fantastic Guyforceshiswifetodressinagarbagebagforthenextthreeyears.com. Just ridiculous.