Episode 15 - Game Night
5 August 2009
Synopsis: Marshall has invented a new crazy game called Marshgammon. Victoria joins the group for game night and Marshall and Lily try to quiz her about her past. Lily was also given a video tape for Barney by a woman she met at a party. The gang watch the video of a younger and very different looking Barney weeping over a girl called Shannon. The night moves to the bar where Barney agrees to tell his story. But in exchange he wants the rest of the gang to admit to their most embarrassing incidents.
The Good: The story of Barney’s “origins” is one that had to be told and this was a highly entertaining way to do it. Once more the writers found clever use for the rest of the gang and their flashback format.
We still don’t know much about Barney. We don’t know about his family, his job or what he studied at college. Despite the shallow and basic nature of his character, he has been unerringly consistent with his behaviour. A real credit to the acting and writing. So far we have never seen him take a traditional moral stance on anything or show generic emotional reaction to his friends’ day to day lives. So that apparent shallowness and simplicity have actually built a very intriguing and interesting character.
Now we see that once Barney was very much like other people. In fact he had ideals, was very moral and altruistic in his motives. He was also in love with one woman and committed to being with just her. When she betrays him with a money making, suit wearing, shallow older man, it breaks him. He gives up on everything he believed in and becomes the man who stole his woman.
His back story as seen here is just like his character. It’s shallow, simple but consistent. As silly as his Darth Vader transformation is, it seems strangely appropriate for him. His life remains a mystery and this dramatic transformation maintains a general mystique around who he really is and how he feels. But we have the bare bones of the hurt and pain which drove him to become the apparently soulless individual that we know. The final shot of him sitting alone before psyching himself up to hit on yet another woman was a lovely touch. It’s fare to say that in a sit com we don’t have time for a deep psychoanalysis, or at least not so early on in the show’s development. But to hint at the emotions which lie beneath the surface was smart storytelling.
Barney’s final triumph (see Comic Highlight) was absolutely the right move. Instead of admitting that he had any regrets over his past, he slept with Shannon and was able to ditch her. The ultimate revenge and of course the ultimate anti-moral of any normal story. His desire to get Ted to admit his feelings for Robin in front of Victoria was also classic Barney and stirred the pot nicely for the ongoing romantic tension.
On the way to discovering Barney’s past, the writers managed to include all the characters and their ongoing stories. Marshall’s enthusiasm for his new game was typically enjoyable. The buzzer to keep forcing everyone to drink when they said “What?” was a nice easy way to get a laugh. His engineering of the game in order to ask Victoria personal questions was clever and fit well with how you might expect Lily and Marshall to act around Ted’s girlfriend. Their embarrassing story really was bad, poor Mrs Erikson.
The Bad: Robin’s overreactions to Victoria (to imply her jealousy) were not subtle and looked rude. Similarly Victoria’s story not being told was a bit weak. You can justify it’s non-inclusion just fine but it never looks good when the characters react hugely to something we can’t see.
Comic Highlight: So that there is no doubt about Barney’s “victory” over Shannon he filmed them having sex on his phone. He shoves the video in Lily’s face to prove it. Shannon can be heard saying “Is your phone on?” To which an out of breath Barney replies “No it just takes a while to power down.”
How I rate your episode: Yet another beautifully structured episode from How I Met Your Mother. What the show lacks in jokes it makes up for in intriguing tales.
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