“The Naked Man”
November 24th, 2008
[UPDATE: For those who want a better look at Lily’s list of 50 reasons to have sex, Mo Ryan at the Chicago Tribune has the enormous napkin list. I think my favourite is #39 because of its history between Marshall and Lily and the early Season Two period.]
When adding terms to the HIMYM Lexicon, it is usually Barney who takes the mantle, but “The Naked Man” takes a slightly different approach. For once, it places all of our characters on the same page: they are all students to Mitch The Naked Man’s teacher, and the result is that all of them test out his unorthodox method for their own purposes.
What could have been, as a result, a highly unorganized episode smartly lays low in regards to the show’s central dramas. With Barney and Robin’s love, and Ted’s recent breakup with Stella, payed homage to without dominating the episode, you have a chance for each character to play their comic beat while not becoming overloaded in drama. Yes, ultimately this episode feels quite inconsequential, but it was indulgent in a way HIMYM hasn’t been all season with the cloud of Stella or Major Life Changes hanging in the air.
And in many ways, this episode is the transition point: from this point forward, Ted’s in a new place in his life and perhaps we can find a new turn around the horizon…just as long as Mitch isn’t there when we turn the corner.
Of the various causes of the existence of Mitch the Naked Man, I think I liked Ted’s the best. This is perhaps, because, Josh Radnor for once got to play a version of Ted that wasn’t convinced of his own superiority, who was tentatively putting his toes in the water and, at the first sign of trouble, not neurosing his way into a state of annoying self-aggrandizing but rather taking off his clothes and lying in wait for his geriatric-hating, overly demanding date. While his angst in the intial post-Stella episode felt real and natural, it needed to disappear: being naked and doing the Coppertone pose did a lot to help ease Ted back into a more comfortable comic space, and I’m glad for it.
Similarly, I thought that Lily and Marshall’s storyline was a welcome change of pace, even if I think that the whole crippling debt/employment/baby side of things was something necessary for long term development. Here, they just get to have fun being who they are: Marshall is the one who stoicly defends love as the only good reason to have sex, while Lily is the one who wants to be able to explore something more kinky and kind of indulge in the act of making Marshall uncomfortable about the fact that he gets an erection when he flosses (which, to be honest, still kind of creeps me out typing it). There wasn’t really anything to their story, as slightly written as it was: they quarrel over the list, she gets 49 ones that displease Marshall, and then as she Naked Mans him in their living room with the “I have boobs” pose they realize she left “Love” off the list. Simple, effective, and charming: works for me.
Comparatively speaking, Barney got one of his slightest supporting turns to date. So often dominating these types of episodes, he is as much at the whims of the “2 out of 3” guarantee as Ted is, and that parity must terrify him (especially considering the outcome). I do like that we didn’t spend too much time with Barney here, and that he was the one who failed: it kind of plays against type for the character, and Barney can’t be the center of attention at all times. The one thing we did see here was Lily play the “Robin” card, to which Barney implies that “The Naked Man” is more important to humankind than is his love for Robin. We have to presume this acts as a sort of signpost, so I’d expect to return to that issue soon enough.
As for Robin, I just find Cobie Smulders really charming in these types of role. Not only is “The only thing standing between you and sex is clothes” now my synonym for slut, but I also think that Robin’s attempt to prove the Naked Man was not just a shameless ploy with no hope for continuation says something about the current state of her life. She fell victim to it out of “Shock and Awww,” as Mitch put it, but a lot of that pity might be self-directed: considering how hard she was working in trying to get that job on the phone, I’d tend to think she’s in a pretty bad place. The one thing about these types of episodes is that we don’t get to go any deeper when it feels like we should: while scratching the surface felt a good way to get Ted past Stella, it’s a bad way to demonstrate Robin’s current predicament.
But, that’s for another episode: this one was an ode to an intriguing man with an interesting plan, and the resulting episode was something charming if not legendary. And at this stage in the season, I think that’s enough.
- I was really convinced that they gave us this huge scoop by revealing that the goat incident referred to in “The Goat” and earlier episodes but promised for this year was going to happen on May 9th, 2009, the day that it listed when it went through the list of weird things Ted has found in his apartment, but for some reason they chose a date that isn’t actually a Monday. And so, while one would presume that it will take place in May, not even giving us a real date felt a little off.
- How long it takes to get over a breakup, courtesy of Ted’s friends: Lily (Half the time of the relationship), Marshall (A week for every month), Robin (10,000 Drinks), Barney (Steps from the bed to the door).