April 19th, 2010
Ted Mosby’s search for a nuclear family of his very own has always been at the heart of How I Met Your Mother, and the romanticism at the heart of this quest is one of the show’s distinguishing qualities. Ted isn’t just looking for a wife, let’s remember: he’s got a very clear picture of the sort of life he wants, and so “Home Wreckers” focuses less on the eponymous story and has Ted trying to rush his way to the end of the story in a way that some viewers tend to do on a regular basis.
While the episode as a whole feels a bit repetitive, struggling to get over the fact that it’s effectively a long conversation about a subject that the show has discussed a lot in the past, there is an emotional honesty to the conclusion of the episode which demonstrates the value of Ted’s romantic point of view to the show as a whole. If no one on this show followed their instincts and desires, willing to be reckless and go against what everyone expects them to do, Marshall and Lily may not be together, Robin and Barney may have never tried to make it work, and Ted may never have purchased a house.
By pitting reckless agency against the show’s usual focus on fate and circumstance, “Home Wreckers” manages to offer some intriguing commentary on the show’s future, even if the comedy was largely limited to the wonderful game that is “Drunk or Kid.”
While I liked parts of “Home Wreckers,” it sort of suffered in that it felt more than a little bit rushed: while I understand the connection of Ted’s mother Virginia marrying Clint setting off Ted’s matrimonial clock, it seems like something the season has largely ignored compared to last, where Stella really identified the danger of jumping too fast into something in an effort to turn it into something special. While I think Ted rushing to purchase a house as a way to try to force fate to deliver him a wife makes sense, especially since he’s an architect and all, the episode was very plainly choreographed in a way which sort of robbed it of any real dynamism. Once you read the logline, you know exactly what’s going to happen in the episode, and all the characters seemed to want to do is talk about it in an empty room.
There were some attempts to up the dynamism, like the House Inspector and Robin and Barney’s fight over who it was that cried over Clint’s song, but neither really went anywhere: sure, seeing another African American character on the show is intriguing, and Barney’s penchant for exaggerating got a laugh once, but they felt like clear attempts to distract us from the fact that this was just characters playing out a fairly common discussion for the show in a different setting.
The only successful comic element was “Drunk or Kid,” which actually works better in theory than in practice: I really love the idea of the game, but it never felt like it was naturally part of the conversation once it was introduced, a clear attempt to introduce another HIMYM-ism rather than part of the story itself. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s a fantastic idea, and I’m sure it will work better used as a recurring aside in the general future (like, if you’ll excuse my cute transition, the general/colonel gag) as opposed to in this clear “Look at me, I’m a new clever and witty creation!” sort of way.
But things got a little bit better once it seemed like they were actually getting to the heart of Ted as a character: I thought the Inspector jokes were at their best when Ted forced Marshall to imagine what would have happened if he had had Lily inspected before falling in love, and the final scene between Ted and Marshall was one of the most successul “emotional” scenes that the show has done thus far this season. They both spoke to the sense that this is a show about people dreaming, and part of what makes Ted’s life so difficult is that everyone else’s leaps of faith (Marshall and Lily, his mother and Clint) seem to be working out for them. Marshall is right to note that Ted’s heart is both drunk and a kid, but that’s something that this show ultimately seeks to celebrate, and “Home Wreckers” eventually gets to a point where it earns its sappy but effective conclusion where we learn that this house does eventually become the home his children grow up in, and that the empty room becomes a study where no toys are allowed (or so we presume).
I didn’t laugh a whole lot at the episode, so it’s certainly not an all-time classic, but I really tend to like Ted episodes, certainly more than episodes in which Ted is heavily featured but not focused on. I think Ted is a problematic character only when the story isn’t actually about him, and once the focus shifts to his particular worldview there is an emotional honesty to the character’s actions which can make the characters tearing apart a wall in a Hobo-infested house something a little bit moving. The show can often bring out the worst in Ted, but Ted often brings out the best in the show, and while “Home Wreckers” was a bit rushed to really do that I think Ted’s character sort of rescued the episode at the end of the day.
- I wasn’t clear on this: did the Inspector die when he fell through the ceiling, or did he just leave in a hurry? It wasn’t clear, and the lack of follow-through complicated my appreciation for a rare example of casting diversity from the show.
- Also, I honestly still don’t know who cried: I’m pretty sure it was Barney, but I really don’t know if we were invested enough in what seemed like a pretty petty feud to really care.
- I could have sworn I recognized some of the people in the montage of people questioning Ted on when he was planning on getting married – anyone spot anyone in particular.
- I’m on the record as believing that Barney’s “She’s a Mellancamp” joke in regards to Cougars over 50 was so bad it was good.
- Relevant to Cultural Learnings’ Cultural Catchup Project, the internet has informed me that Harry Groener (who played Clint) was the Mayor of Sunnydale on Buffy – there’s one more connection that I never would have made, the Lily/Mayor Wilkins reunion completely wasted on me. Something to rectify in the future, I guess.