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How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother is a comedy about Ted Mosby, a New York architect who wants to get married and start a family. Future Ted is telling the story of how he met their mother and we see his past story set in the present day and the adventures he has with friends Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin. CBS 2005-???


Episode 12 - Symphony of Illumination

6 December 2011

Synopsis: Barney is pleased to hear that Robin might be pregnant because he can now be a dad. Marshall is enjoying the thought of Fatherhood too as he sets up Christmas lights on his new Long Island home with the help of a neighbours' son Scott. Barney soon changes his mind and he and Robin are thrilled to hear that she isn't pregnant. However Robin also learns that she can't have children and decides not to share the news with the rest of the gang.

The Good: This was a surprisingly memorable and effective episode.

The focus on Robin really aloud her character to get the kind of attention she has been missing for many a season. Part of what made her story so good was that it didn't reach a conclusion. By not telling her friends what was really going on and suffering in silence Robin's inability to have children was actually far more touching and certainly felt more real than the majority of HIMYM storylines.

The use of the future storytelling device worked beautifully as misdirection. Although I wasn't sure whether what we were seeing was true I did follow the narrative as if Robin really did have children with Barney. By pulling that rug out at the end of the episode it suddenly gave the sadness she was feeling a greater sense of permanence and consequence. Instead of a twist which ended her sadness, it underlined it which was clever writing.

I also thought the actual ending with Ted trying to cheer her up was good too. I think if the episode had ended on a sad note it would have felt like a cliff hanger. My assumption then would have been that next episode there might be follow up that would provide the happy ending. Instead we got the happy ending of Ted's comfort which neatly gave her story some warmth without removing the sadness at its core. Perhaps it goes without saying that Ted being a lovely friend was nice to see as well.

Ted and particularly Robin nailed the dramatic acting as they always have. It's their skill at being serious that irks me so much when they constantly have to deliver jokes that have no basis in reality. See the "Comic Highlight" for a perfect example of how to write an entirely reality based joke that works. The writers did well to give Barney an episode last week where he was all baby crazy so that his reaction here seemed fitting and yet took Robin by surprise.  

The Marshall plot also worked out nicely. Again it felt a bit different to what the show usually does as Marshall was static for the episode instead of jumping about in time and space as most plots do. It fit Marshall ideally to both want to do something suburban for Christmas (now that he has the house) and to take joy in playing a Dad. Scott was a little cartoony at times but his manipulation of Marshall made sense and allowed for the really fun idea that he would text Lily asking to see her boobs and she would see it as a sign of her husband's evergreen affection for her.

The Bad: The way Barney fell out of love with the idea of being a father was dull and predictable. I wasn't very pleased to see him joke around with Robin after things were "back to normal" as if he wasn't still in to her but I suppose that was his brave face. I did wonder where Kevin was during all this. I also wondered how on earth Ted became so proficient at arranging Christmas lights but I will let that one go.

I actually liked Robin's imagination of how each of her friends would react to her news. What annoyed me was that the writers then had each character react in the same exaggerated manner when Robin lied and said she wouldn't be able to pole vault at the Olympic level. For a start the reactions she imagined were exaggerations for comic effect. By having the characters literally react that frenetically in real life ruined the scene for me because none of them would respond in exactly that way. But worse than that why would any of them believe Robin was genuinely upset about not making an Olympic team? A few scenes later Lily clearly knows that that isn't something Robin was ever really interested in, nor at 30 something years old should any of them believed she meant a word of it. I hope readers can see why jokes like that irritate me so much. I can easily understand how another viewer would shrug and ignore a bit of silly scripting but for me it slaps me across the face with its nonsense saying "Hey! You are watching a TV show, stop suspending your disbelief and remember how we don't understand how comedy works." Oh and please stop asking Alyson Hannigan to cry, it's one of the least convincing sights on TV.

Comic Highlight: Ted, Lily and Barney begin theorising on why Robin is so upset. Ted suggests that maybe Kevin cheated on her. Lily immediately responds "No way, Kevin's an honest decent guy who never on his best day could pull a hotter chick than Robin." I thought that was really funny as it came initially from a friendly place and then slipped unbeknownst into judgmental.

How I rate your episode: It's not often that an episode of How I Met Your Mother is memorable. The stories all tend to blend into one because of all the monkeying around with the narrative that the writers do. However this was and it told a genuinely emotive story in a straightforward and convincing way. To give the writers some extra credit I do get the sense that each of the main characters is on a journey this season. They are all moving toward marriage and children at different paces but the continuity is better than it has been the past few seasons.



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  • Hi Robin,

    Nice review. I was randomly watching some episodes of HIMYM online. I still haven't watched most of it, but I don't bother to watch them in order, because, as you observed "the stories all tend to blend into one". However, I just watched this, and then went looking for your review, because I thought this was one of the better HIMYM episodes I had seen, and was curious if you would agree. Like you, I was surprised. Anyway, I don't know if you still bother to fix typos here, but if so, "The focus on Robin really aloud her character". This should be "allowed", of course.

    Regards, Faheem

    Posted by Faheem Mitha, 03/09/2014 5:36pm (5 years ago)

  • I don't take the shows statements about what will or will not happen that seriously. If Robin adopted a child then maybe they could say "see, she never HAD kids."

    I'm sure Barney can rediscover his love for kids as quickly as he lost it here.

    I don't think at this point that any other character could be introduced for Barney to marry. Even if Nora came back I just don't see it. If they had faith in her then she would have stayed around as long as Kevin.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 07/12/2011 11:26am (8 years ago)

  • I have quick question for you though. Do you think this episode quashes a barney/robin wedding considering the fact that Ted says she never became a pole vaulter and we at this current moment Barney really wants kids. It's not even that I really want Barney and Robin to be together though I do enjoy their interactions is just I want to get to the stupid wedding.

    Posted by Derek, 07/12/2011 2:45am (8 years ago)

  • Hey guys, I largely agree with both of you on this one. I think the trick with Robin's kids is something you can only do once and they executed it well.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 06/12/2011 3:56pm (8 years ago)

  • I just wanted to say that this particular HIMYM's Robin story nearly elicited a tear. A genuine one I might add - I've been crying about HIMYM for several seasons for different reasons ;) While I feel the 'How I Met Your Father' bit wasn't utilised to its full extent and was stalled by the Marshall on the roof B-story it was one of the better episodes recently. I like it when the show experiments with its story telling technique this way. Is this the first time the story has been told by someone other than Ted? However I did feel a little disappointed that it was all imaginary, but also pleased that I didn't see it coming.

    Posted by Josh Pryer, 06/12/2011 11:23am (8 years ago)

  • I'm really interested to see what you thought about this episode but I really enjoyed it.

    The only reason I continue to watch How I Met Your Mother is because I'm invested in the characters. The show isn't as funny as it used to be (but what comedy is seven seasons in) and I no longer really care who the mother is because it's been far too dragged out so having an emotional character driven episode was nice.

    Barney, Ted, Lily and Marshall all acted extremely dumb in this episode and didn't really seem like real people but Robin's journey was emotionally investing to carry this episode.

    I'm kind of glad that Robin isn't pregnant because it would have a crappy way for Robin and Barney to get back together but on the one hand it means more Kevin, which is not a good thing. Kevin is a completely boring and unfunny character and the sooner we get rid of him the better last season we had Zoey and this year its Kevin HIMYM who used to be so good at writing romance with guest stars is real lacking lately though with Kevin I mostly blame it on the actor.

    Posted by Derek, 06/12/2011 5:36am (8 years ago)

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