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How I Met Your Mother Season 5 Premiere – Definitions – review
Season 4 of How I Met Your Mother built up to two climactic moments: Ted tantalizing us with the hint that the mother is in the first class he teaches the next fall, and Barney and Robin finally admitting they might have feelings for each other and falling into a kiss.
This opening to Season 5 starts with Barney and Robin telling Lily and Marshall they’re not dating, even as their mannerisms are exactly in synch. But when the rest of the gang walk into Ted and Robin’s apartment to find Robin and Barney making out, the game is up—they’re seeing each other. Or are they? They admit they’ve been sleeping together all summer but refuse to call what they have a relationship. Lily is pushing for them to have The Talk and define their relationship, while Ted is preparing for his first day as a professor by having nightmares, stressing out over what kind of professor he wants to be, and practicing with the Dr. (Indiana) Jones bullwhip and fedora set Marshall gave him.
Things get more muddled when Barney punches the McLaren bar-back for trying to kiss Robin at a hockey game. The next morning they wake up in Robin’s bed to find that Lily has locked them in the room, determined not to let them out until they have The Talk and provide a definition to their relationship which she deems acceptable. Meanwhile, Ted wishes he had known two things about his first day as a professor: first, that his wife was in that classroom, and second, that he was in the wrong room making an ass of himself in front of Economics 305 instead of Architecture 101. In the end, Ted finds the right classroom and is so harried at being late that he forgets to worry about what kind of professor to be, and Robin and Barney decide to keep doing what they do so well together—lying—and tell the others they’re boyfriend and girlfriend while secretly knowing that’s not the case.
I thought this was a solid opening episode, but perhaps not a brilliant one. The humor of this show is often built up situationally, and with a gap of 3 months between the end of last season and now, the comedy didn’t have the same steam it develops after it stops playing catch-up. Also the comedy tends to run smoothest when it’s in an ensemble, and this episode was fairly disjointed since it was focusing on Ted, on the one hand, and Barney and Robin, on the other, without much for Lily and Marshall to do but sit on the sidelines. That being said, I think it was a better season-opener than last season’s, so that was nice.
There were a couple really hilarious moments to me—when Ted is finally told, after a painful series of bad puns and attitude switches, that “you’re in the wrong classroom, T-dog,” and when Ted reminds Barney of his how to avoid a girlfriend talk: “Girlfriends are like gremlins. Never let them near water, that is, don’t let them shower at your place. Never let them near sunlight, that is, never see them in the light of day. And never feed them, that is, never spend the night with them and go have breakfast the morning after.” To me, the implication of this scene for what impact Barney’s being in a relationship will have on his character as a womanizer, is that we’ll see the old Barney through flashbacks and probably often in contrast to what he’s doing now.
Smaller amusements: Robin’s “safe word” being ”fluglehorn,” which I expect we will hear much more of. Also the scene of Marshall screaming at Ted to use the bullwhip and then blaming him for using it irresponsibly while they’re walking back to the apartment with Marshall’s face lashed. Part of this show’s brilliance is their use of editing; it was much funnier to go straight from Marshall egging Ted on to Marshall nursing his hurt cheek than it would have been to actually see him get snapped with the end of the whip.
There were also the usual sweet moments. Marshall, getting jealous of Ted and Barney for not inviting him to Tuxedo Night; and when Barney and Robin are “lying” about how they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, it starts facetiously but ends up entirely serious as they look at each other and quietly admit how “awesome” they find each other to be.
I really liked the way they integrated the mother’s having been in that class into the humor of the situation—it certainly gives her a reason to remember Ted later. It was also a good way to give us the teaser that she was there, that close, but neither we nor Ted get to know who she is at this point, without any expectation of seeing her again until much later. I am not sure if she is going to end up being as significantly younger than Ted as her presence in a third-year class implies (9 years)–that is, if the reason it takes her so long to find him, despite “coming as fast as she can” according to Stella, is because she’s still growing up, or if it’s because she took the long way around and did something besides go directly from high school to college.
I also like that they’re letting Barney and Robin develop their relationship in a different way than the MO used by Ted or the one used by Lily and Marshall. My guess is that this season’s build is toward Barney and Robin actually committing to their relationship. And to anyone who thinks this is just a cheap way to get as much mileage out of their hook-up as possible, I would like to say that I know from personal experience that they are doing exactly what two people afraid of commitment but perfect for each other do. They have to build a history of being there for each other while keeping one foot out the door (basically the only commitment being exclusivity until someone gets bored, at which time it’s over). Only when the thought of losing each other becomes more terrifying than trusting each other completely can they commit to a relationship that would suit the standards of, say, Ted/Lily/Marshall. So for me it’s not a gimmick but a totally realistic story arc for them.
At this point I don’t have any guesses where this season will take Lily and Marshall and Ted; their storylines seem less predictable to me. In all, the premiere was what I expected—not as hilarious as the closing episodes of the season before, but still funny; not as on-a-roll and in-perfect-synchronization as the closing episodes of last season, but only a bit wobbly as they turn the corner into new situations and get everything in place for the shenanigans to come.