Solid episode of How I Met Your Mother, if not quite on the level of The Naked Man and—like that episode—not revealing anything that requires a spoiler alert. (Unless you haven’t seen the Sex and the City movie yet.)
What I liked best about this episode is that it was a fine example of how the show plays around with gender roles—not social gender roles, exactly, so much as sitcom gender roles. Alan Sepinwall has an HIMYM theory that Barney is the one character who is allowed to act as sitcommy as possible, so that the others can behave more realistically. I would add to the theory that Barney specifically holds down the guy sitcom role: the guy who chases women, lives large, holds forth on matters sexual and generally—unless and until things develop with Robin—refuses to be tied down. (Except occasionally with cuffs.)
The other characters, though, play with and against what’s expected of single men and women in a sitcom. When the show first debuted, I wrote that what made it stand out is that Ted was playing the girl role, actively seeking commitment where guys in sitcoms are supposed to avoid it (or at least accept it grudgingly).
Really, what Ted does is bounce between guy behavior and girl behavior (I know these are generalizations; consider all “guy” and “girl” references here to be in air quotes), depending whether he is, in a given episode, more under the influence of Barney and Marshall.Marshall, and this is what I love about Jason Segal’s character, is not so much a girl type as a guy whose life is devoted to not being that guy. He’s monogamous, he’s idealistic (“Mahatma Panda and Martin Luther Koala”), he doesn’t like to fight (though we learn that he can bring the pain, octagon-style).
Robin, meanwhile, is as much of a guy-guy as Barney. (Whether this means they are meant for each other or doomed I don’t know.) She avoids commitment, and last night jumped with gusto into that great “I was doing…” Marshall-hazing scene. (“Your nails?” “The relationship quiz in this month’s Cosmo?”)
Her influence and Barney’s pulled Ted into the not-quite fight, because when Ted’s between relationships, he’s got to indulge his inner guy. He’s never completely convincing at it, though—whenever he prepares himself to act like a sitcom guy, there’s always something very calculated about it—and some of the best HIMYMs deal with this push-pull between Ted’s girl side and his guy side, his Marshall side and his Barney side. Which is really him? Both, maybe. But remember: Marshall is his real best friend.
I realize, by the way, that I left Lily out of the whole girl-guy HIMYM equation here. I’ll leave that up to you.