“Three Days of Snow”
January 19th, 2009
There comes a time in the life of every sitcom that tries to be something different than your traditional sitcom that you stop thinking of its unique qualities as unique and start to view them as cliches, crutches the show uses to pretend that its storylines are something more than they really are. And considering that this is the umpteenth time that I will talk about how charming the show’s use of time in order to disrupt storylines, perhaps this is the time for How I Met Your Mother.
Now is not the time.
What makes “Three Days of Snow” such a strong episode is that the time-twisting trait of sorts was intertwined with the characters who hold this show together, returned to their simplest forms. Lily and Marshall use this three-day storm of the century to re-engage with the innocence of their married days, Ted and Barney try to pick up co-eds and investigate the futility of male fantasies, and Robin is forced to confront her robotic tendencies and perhaps open herself up to some sense of emotional connectivity in the future.
The result is, yes, the very definition of a sitcom episode: characters we know and love put in situations where they get to demonstrate why we love them. But HIMYM continues to shine when it uses these scenarios as a display for a unique comic voice and a unique sitcom structure that’s time is not up by a long shot.
The rituals of Lily and Marshall’s marriage have always been one of their most quaint characteristics, and this is not the first time where their busy lives and the drive towards a more mature relationship have challenged their quirks. It’s a simple storyline: they have their traditions, they’re losing sight of their traditions as they move further into adulthood and Marshall becomes more attached to his job, and now they are faced with one of their most charming traditions being taken away from them by what Marshall read in CosmoGirl. I’m just horribly charmed by this couple: they have always been the most youthful of our characters, not so much hopelessly naive (like Ted) than wonderfully comfortable with the state of their lives. For that to be in jeopardy, both of them coming to a realization that their attempts to ruin one tradition they had left were ill-advised, was actually disheartening in a way that few “sitcoms” are usually able to achieve.
Call me a hopeless romantic and you’d probably be wrong, but who couldn’t be at least somewhat emotionally moved by the final sequence where, after realizing that Marshall and Lily’s airport arrivals were actually separate by two days, we discover how the various plots of the episode come together for one rousing finale. The entire storyline had that air of something very familiar and comfortable: Ranjit being there at the airport in order to help Lily transport her keg of Seattle was in itself the kind of thing that takes any storyline (see: Ted’s date in “Ten Sessions”) and connects it (if very simply) to the show’s own sense of tradition. But as Marshall organized for a marching band to perform “Auld Lang Syne” and give Lily and Marshall a chance to reconnect with their traditions, I was emotionally lifted. The show is still capable of evoking those types of feelings, and I am very happy about this.
The other half of the episode was the second week in a row where I felt like Ted was used correctly – I have always contended that Ted is a perfectly good character when not the center of the show’s dramatic tension, and here I thought he was great with Barney. Their entire bartending montage to “Kokomo” was perfectly executed, Barney’s inner telepathic monologue consisting entirely of “Kokomo” was inspired, and the opening sequence of Barney consistently dragging Ted into McLaren’s was totally justified by the fantastic punchline of Barney calling him in to complement his joke instead of berating him for it. None of this is fundamentally new, but it’s one of my favourite dynamics: not Ted getting dragged along on one of Barney’s schemes, but rather Ted and Barney hatching a plan that was five years (and an ever-dangerous five words) in the making.
Their scheme was not so much crazy or inappropriate than it was just very typical: owning a bar is the kind of thing that guys dream of doing, even when it is both entirely impractical and a huge pain in the ass when it comes to kicking everyone out at last call. That last part is what Barney and Ted swore they would never do at Puzzles (the name of their imaginary bar), but there comes a point where they realize that they should stick with what they know: throwing a raging house party and checking to see if the flute section is seeing anyone.
But where the episode really came together was when everything melded into one: as the splitscreens showed us that the timeline was more skewed than we though, the episode title having more meaning than we expected, the two storylines converged into the great conclusion. The show’s traditions may be becoming a little bit rote, and certainly I’ve talked enough about them now that writing this much more may seem redundant, but darnit the things work: they took what was a very simple episode from a character perspective and turned it into a celebration of their simplicity in the face of some harsh reality.
- My favourite moment in the Lily and Marshall storyline other than its conclusion was perhaps Lily’s lovey-dovey phone call that Marshall attempted to respond to in official business talk. I loved it because of the inherent irony that his attempts at non-sexual discussion actually sounded extremely sexual, even when they were euphemisms for very innocent things. It’s the kind of scene the show does really well, and it worked great here.
- Similarly, I loved the bit about Barney’s Party School Bingo; it wasn’t that the idea was particularly clever, but rather his confusion at Ted’s insistence that the game have a goal other than to bag five co-eds whose school’s names were in a line either vertical, horizontal or diagonal. I greatly enjoyed it.
- Robin was the one character who went nowhere here, but I guess there’s a chance she might recall Marshall’s attack on her (and perhaps her SO blatant attempt at hitting on Marshall, poor thing) when eventually opening herself up to Barney’s love.