Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Return of the Slap

Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap

How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 9

Lily's estranged father shows up at Thanksgiving, and Marshall gives Robin and Ted a gift: one of them can slap Barney, bringing the total Slap-bet count to 4.

In working on my fanfic script of HIMYM, I had envisioned Lily's dad as a stodgy, old man named Alderman Aldrin. But in "Slapsgiving 2," the writers took a totally different route - although I hit the nail on the head when I considered him estranged. In last night's episode, Mr. Mickey Aldrin was an inattentive father who preferred to create boardgames - like Tijuana Slumlord, Car Battery, and There's a Clown Demon Under The Bed - rather than spend time with his daughter. To top things off, his character is played by Chris Elliott, who is the perfect actor for a quirky father who doesn't understand why his boardgames aren't selling.

Lily had yet another angry role to play this season, but it was the first time we saw the effects of her red-eyed death stare. She went through a whole gamut of emotions in this episode, from considering her dad dead, to storming out after finding out Marshall invited him to Thanksgiving, to realizing that she doesn't want to stay angry at her father forever. While it was nice to see a storyline for Marshall and Lily, it was Marshall's desire to bring the family closer together that won me over, rather than Lily's about-face while sitting in the neighborhood bodega.

While Marshall was out of line in inviting Mickey over, it made sense for his character. As Lily mentions, he has a tight-knit family that still includes him - via Webcam - for Sunday night dinners. His approach to getting Lily and her father reunited may have been a bit too much, but in the end, it worked out (albeit a bit too quickly) and Lily and her father started to make amends.

While the Lily & Marshall storyline had some heart, it was the slap bet everyone looked forward to in this episode. Who's going to hit Barney? Robin, who is still getting over the breakup, or Ted, who really has no reason to hit Barney at all? Not knowing who makes Barney flinch every time one of them moves, prompting him to worry about getting 'crow's feet'.

The two roommates argue over who has more of a right to slap Barney across the face, and Barney encourages it. If they don't make a decision before sundown - aka before dinner - then no slap will be had. "No way" passed my lips when Ted proclaimed that he was still in love with Robin, which is why he deserves to be the slapper, but (thankfully) Robin called him out on his lie.

Two minutes til sundown, Robin and Ted realize the 'slap' isn't fun anymore when they argue about it, and Robin gives the gift of the slap to Ted. He winds up and then...he stops. He gives the slap to Robin, who goes through the same process of getting ready, only to realize that someone else should get to slap Barney, who is nervously waiting in the Slap Throne. Robin gives the slap to Mickey, who gives it to Lily, who can't do it either... which of course prompts Marshall to cheer about how the Slap Bet brought everyone together. He then tells Barney that there will be no slapping today, Barney confidently stands up, and Marshall slaps him across the face. Awesome.

Although, it wasn't as good as the 'original Slapsgiving,' with Barney taunting Marshall and the Slapsgiving song, and Robin and Ted figuring out how to be friends after they broke up. (Major Bummer! Salute.) Barney did nothing really to deserve the slap this time around, unlike when he put on a play, but Marshall played it well, as he did throughout both his storylines in this episode.

What did you think of this season's slap? Do you think they'll show the final slap before the show is eventually over? What did you think about Barney not being the center of attention in this episode (even if he was the receiver of the slap)? Did you gasp when Ted told Robin he loved her? And what did you think of Mickey and his boardgames - especially "Diseases," which explodes all over the turkey?

Share your thoughts below!

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2009 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Running is like writing

The hardest part is starting. You talk yourself into changing into your workout clothes. You talk yourself into sitting down at the dining room chair. Once those first steps are accomplished, you remind yourself of your goals: make it a mile then maybe two. Rewrite Chapter 3, then depending on how long that takes, rewrite Chapter 4, which was once Chapter 10. You'll run for 45 minutes. You'll write for an hour. The goals might be different, but the process, how it all works together, is all the same.

But it's still hard. You stretch out your leg muscles. You crack your knuckles and then start typing, just trying to get your mind ready for what's ahead.

Then, you go. Your feet pound the pavement, and your fingers hit against the keyboard. You hit your stride. You feel like you can keep going and going and going, and no one will ever stop you. You can run for miles. You can finish one chapter, then two, then three.

Then there's those other times, when the going gets difficult. Your breathing gets labored, your leg muscles tighten. The words don't flow out and your fingers stop chattering against the keyboard.

But you push yourself, tell yourself that you just need to keep going, that you can do this. That you might not look your best while you're running past all the homes in your neighborhood, that you might not be putting your best words down... but you're making progress and you just need to turn off your internal critic/editor off for just a few more minutes. You're working toward your ultimate goal: losing weight and getting healthy, as well as finishing this novel. It takes patience and it takes practice, but you will get there.

Then, you finish for the day. Your run turns to a jog, which turns into a walk. A few more thoughts trickle out onto the page. You think about tomorrow, about how you'll improve, about what route you'll take next, and you feel wonderful for everything you've just accomplished.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Barney bambozzles with the help of the Playbook

The Playbook
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 8

Last night's episode showed exactly why the Robin and Barney thing ended so abruptly: writers Bays and Thomas wanted Barney to bring out his 'playbook.' (Christmas present, anyone?) The entire episode essentially became a list of all the schemes and bamboozles Barney has in his repertoire, including the simple flim-flams: "Don't drink that," claiming that a guy slipped something into her drink, to the complex, such as "The Lorenzo von Matterhorn," which involves creating lots of fake Website pages talking about how famous and rich you, as Lorenzo von Matterhorn, are.

I'm not saying the list of scams wasn't funny, because it was. And I was curious as to how Barney intended to get the girl by wearing a scuba outfit to McLaren's. But the writers have shown that Barney can be a sweet guy, both in his relationship with Robin and well before, as he struggled to express his feelings for Robin ever since his realization way back in Season 3. Barney was anything but caring in last night's episode - funny and womanizing, as he's always been, but not nice.

While Barney is handling the breakup by returning to his player ways, Robin decides to focus on her career. This statement prompts Ted and Marshall to tell her that's exactly one of those 'Things People Say Right Before They Meet the Love of Their Lives.' Robin responds by brushing off their stories of love and marriage six months later.

So why hasn't this 'focus on the career' ploy worked for Ted and meeting the love of his life? He explains that he doesn't want to be single, ergo if he said it, it wouldn't be true. And then the plot moves back to what it always does: Barney and Robin, but especially Barney.

The entire episode is framed by Lily telling a blond-haired girl at the bar why she should not talk to the guy in the scuba suit who is trying, unsuccessfully, to drink with his mask on. But then the truth comes out: there is no "Scuba Diver" in the playbook that Lily stole (after getting Barney to hit on an actress during his "The 'He's Not Coming'" stunt on top of the Empire State Building), and the gang needs to know what "The Scuba Diver" con is.

Along with the blond, they all crowd in at the corner table to confront Barney. Taking off his mask, he admits that he's just trying to get over his break-up with Robin and that he's sorry for hurting Robin's feelings. Lily feels bad for how angry she got, and she tells the blond that she should go out with Barney after all, because, deep-down, Barney is a really great guy. Of course, the pair heads off and it seems like it's over... but wait.

Barney texts Lily, asking her to look under the table. Surprise, surprise, there's the missing page of the playbook, with a full description of the scuba diver con, and it played out exactly like the episode showed it would. Lily meddled, Barney pretended to confess to feeling sad about the break-up, and Lily got the girl to go out with him. That sounds like the old Barney all right - but I still don't completely buy it.

I know, I know. I'm biased because I've always been a supporter of a Barney & Robin pairing, but this episode, like the last, seemed a bit too forced. Barney loves to create elaborate schemes, yes, but him claiming that he's fine after the breakup? Don't buy it. Him claiming that he lied about feeling bad about hurting Robin's feelings? Don't buy it.

He may be a womanizer and a schemer, but he has a sweet side, too. "The Playbook" episode, like last week's "The Rough Patch," seemed to be a cop-out, with the writers forgetting all the character development they've done with Barney over the past season or so. He's more than just a bamboozler.

That said, Robin did end up meeting her new co-host, Don, which will lead to another relationship for Robin according to future Ted. Will Robin's new relationship make Barney jealous? Or will he just ignore it, like he ignored Robin's feelings completely in last night's episode? Will Lily's teacher friend return? Or is Ted doomed to be out-played by Barney every time someone tries to match him up? Share your thoughts below!
Photo: cbs.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Awesome plus awesome cancels all the awesome out

The Rough Patch
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 7

I knew it couldn't last, as much as I wanted it too, but I didn't expect it to end so quickly. After Barney gives away his porn, Ted realizes how unhappy the new couple is, and he tries concocting a plan to break up Barney & Robin in HIMYM's latest episode, "The Rough Patch."

While Ted admits he probably exaggerated how bad they got (remember Slapsgiving and Robin's 'older' boyfriend), Barney gains more than just a relationship gut (thanks to a fat suit) and Robin lets herself go, complete with pasty skin, zits, and not washing her hair. Unhappiness abounds when they're together. They even stop going on adventures, opting to stay in to watch a movie. "Legend - wait for it! - s of the Fall!" Barney proclaims.

Lily refuses to break them up - claiming to now be a matchmaker, even though she refuses to set-up Ted - and claims that the new couple has just hit a rough patch. But Ted and Marshall aren't convinced. Barney won't be Ted's wingman anymore, and he gorges on ribs, wiping BBQ sauce onto his suit shirt.

Ted and Marshall's plan seems fool-proof: make Robin think Barney is proposing. A misplaced engagement ring broke her and Ted up so it has to work again... right? Wrong. With both Robin and Barney playing a game of relationship chicken, with both too proud and "independent" to end it, they say 'why not?' to getting married. Lily's hand is forced. She's broken up plenty of Ted's relationships - most of which are recounted in The Front Porch episode - and she's ready for the challenge of Barney and Robin. One big fight won't cut it, Lily explains. Rather, they need to recreate four of their biggest fights:
  • The Battle of the Dirty Dishes: a highlight of which we saw in the Bagpipes episode
  • The Ex-Girlfriend Conflict: After Barney recognizes his ex-girlfriend Megan by her butt, he tries to get Robin to bend over for some comparison
  • The Star Wars Altercation: Robin teases Barney about the life-size Stormtrooper model in his apartment
  • The Canadian-American War: Barney takes it too far when he calls Neil Young an old woman

Lily explains how it'll all go down: While Robin and Barney are in their favorite diner, Alan Thicke will happen to come by, setting off the Canadian fight. Megan will join them just as a Stormtropper - which ends up just being a random robot because to Lily it's all the same - walks by. Then a busboy, carrying a load of dirty dishes, will also stroll by. If all goes as planned, it will be the fight to end all fights, ending in a breakup as well as Barney and Robin choking each other to the tune of "Murder Train."

Yet, things start to go awry outside in the stake-out station wagon. Alan Thicke doesn't have much time. The Stormtrooper is, well, a robot. The sausage pizza doesn't fit into the car's window - which provides plenty of double entendres. And, worst of all, Barney & Robin look out the window and the gang thinks they've been caught. They go ahead with the plan anyways, and are surprised to see it result in a sweet kiss near the diner's front door.

Little do they know that when Robin and Barney looked out the window, they really just saw their own reflection - and they didn't like what looked back at them. Seeing what they'd become finally woke them up to their unhappiness, and they decided to go back to being two friends.

After Robin finishes recounting their breakup - finished with that one sweet kiss - the gang asks how Barney is doing. Before she can respond, everyone gets a chill, and in walks Barney, looking as svelte as ever, drawing the attention of every woman in the bar, and he says, "Daddy's home."

While the episode was entertaining at moments, it felt like a cop-out to me, like the writers weren't sure how to handle Barney in a relationship so they ended it. It felt too rushed, and it was hard to imagine Barney letting himself go that quickly, even if that was kind of the point the writers were trying to make. I'm betting Robin and Barney will get together again, eventually, but until then, we'll get the womanizing Barney back. Let's just hope we keep some of the sweetness, too.

Before we wrap up, let's not forget what we learned in this episode. Alan Thicke reveals that him and Robin worked on a failed variety show together. Barney's reaction is just like of old. He leaves the girls behind at the bar and rushes off to find Robin's latest embarrassing video.

What did you think of the episode and the break-up? Will Barney return to the same womanizing guy he was before Robin? Will Ted ever have another date again? Will Lily play matchmaker again? What's next? Share your thoughts below!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Making More Time

If only it was possible to "make" time, as simple as throwing flour, sugar, milk into a mixing bowl and then baking in the oven; thirty minutes later - poof! - the clock rewinds a few hours, or, at the very least, time stands still.

If only.

Rather, I'm talking realistically: making sacrifices and making changes to my daily routine. It's a popular topic on a lot of writing blogs, and I wrote about back in March. As I've made a re-commitment to finishing this novel sooner rather than later, I've also re-committed to making more time for the writing.

The biggest change: watching less TV. I have DVR. I watch all my TV shows after they've been recorded, thinking it saved me time by cutting 60 minutes down to 44-ish minutes. But then I can watch two shows that were recorded in the same time slot... hence, more shows than I've ever watched before.

Which for my writing is bad, bad, bad.

I've now cut down my list to shows I will not give up, and ones that I can do without. HIMYM (no surprise there), Big Bang Theory, Grey's Anatomy, and Fringe made the cut. I have a couple others I'll watch too, maybe on the weekends (if I have time), but this is a drastically cut list of TV programming.

I'm already noticing a difference. In the past 48+ hours, I've only watched 20 minutes worth of TV, a vast improvement for me.

Lately, I've also been sacrificing sleep and going to bed an hour later than usual, but I'm not sure how long that can last.

How do you make time? What sacrifices do you make? And do you know a working recipe for making more time? Because I could use it. =)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Best Couple Ever

Photo: Fox Television Photo, Ron P. Jaffe

A few weeks ago, HIMYM treated us to the "best night ever," complete with a video montage and Marshall singing. In Season 5, Episode 6, "Bagpipes," we're witness to another "best" category where there previously hadn't been any competition; Lily and Marshall get overtaken for the spot of "best couple ever" due to some serious romantic cute-ness from Robin and Barney. Meanwhile, Ted deals with new upstairs neighbors who...er... like to 'play bagpipes' a lot.

Putting aside the fact that Ted's storylines have had nothing to do with the 'mother' since the beginning of the season, recent episodes have been about developing and nurturing relationships. In other words, Barney and Robin suck at being in a relationship (yet I still like them together).

Season 5 facts:
- Episode 1: Barney and Robin are unable to define what they are to each other, so they lie about being in a relationship.
- Episode 2: Barney is clueless to Robin's unhappiness in regards to him visiting strip clubs.
- Episode 3: Barney tries skipping the "getting to know you" phase by taking "Robin 101" classes from Ted.
- Episode 4: Barney & Robin don't see the value of 'couples night' until it's almost too late.
- Episode 5: Barney pushes Robin to forgo her Canadian roots and become a U.S. citizen.

Which brings us to last night's episode, "Bagpipes." Barney claims that now that he's awesome at being in a relationship, Marshall feels threatened. Buying into this claim, Marshall takes some advice from Barney about how to win arguments with Lily - complete with Barney imagining himself in Marshall's place and making out with Lily. As to be expected, Barney's advice goes horribly awry when applied, and Marshall is forced to sleep at Ted's apartment.

Meanwhile, Robin and Barney are acting all cute-sy, and still claiming that they avoid fights easily, with Barney either leaving the room or Robin getting naked. But when Ted isn't discovering this his upstairs neighbors are old folks, he's growing suspicious of the new couple's romantic ways. So what does he do? He finds Barney's downstairs neighbor, who attests to the fact that Barney and Robin fight A LOT. The fights all began, they recount, when they got stuck on a ski lift and Barney couldn't run away and Robin couldn't undress without the threat of frostbite.

With their fighting discovered, they seek the help of Lily and Marshall, who automatically forgive each other after hearing the horrible fights that Barney and Robin have. When Lily and Marshall explain that sometimes you just have to put your ego aside, realizing that your love is more important, Barney & Robin laugh, and say, 'seriously?' After Robin & Barney leave, Lilypad and Marshmellow break out the champagne and declare that they are officially the BEST. COUPLE. EVER. Silly kids, everyone already knew that!

Barney and Robin then fall back on their old solution of avoiding fights, and proceed to add another item to their list of places where they've 'done it' (83.5 places as of last count, according to Barney).

Is this a sign of worse things to come for the new couple? Are Robin and Barney ever going to be capable of a normal, healthy relationship with each other? Will Ted ever have a relationship-storyline of his own again? How much do Lily and Marshall rock as a couple? Share your thoughts below!