S7E14: How I Met Your Mother has been alluding subtly to the eventual end of the group’s addiction-like codependence for quite some time now. As Future Ted states at the end of this week’s episode, “46 Minutes,” changes like seeing your friends less frequently are just part of life. “46 Minutes” tackles this, sending Marshall and Lily out to Long Island for their first night in their new home. Ted and Barney each overreact in their own ways, while Robin and Kevin spend the night trying to prove to one another how much fun they are.
"Look at what has become of our booth." - Robin
"I know. It looks like my old shop teacher's hand. Just sort of missing something." - Ted
With Marshall and Lily gone, Barney declares himself the new leader of the group—cue a modified version of the show’s theme song in which Barney sings about how awesome he is. Barney deals with the “loss” of Marshall and Lily (everyone is immediately convinced that this means the end of them as members of the group) by refusing to admit he is upset about the ordeal, and instead insists that the married duo ruined all the fun for everyone else. Thus, Barney drags Ted, Robin and Kevin to a strip club, dead set on making the night as wild and non-Lily-approved as he possibly can.
"This is like when they canceled Party of Five, for the second time... or when they canceled... sports." - Ted
Ted, as one might assume, is dealing with the absence of his best friends quite differently: he gets drunk, leaves embarrassing voicemails on the couple's phones, and collapses into an emotional breakdown. This seems like a good point to address what we’ve been seeing of Ted lately: How I Met Your Mother seems to be forgetting that he is, in fact, the show’s hero. Lately, in light of Marshall/Lily’s maturity, Barney’s emotional fleshing out (which has otherwise been handled quite well) and Robin’s personal struggles with her relationship and her infertiliy, Ted has been locked in the comic relief position.
Now, I think Ted is one of the show’s funniest characters—especially when his pretentiousness and endearing lack of traditional masculinity come into play. But these traits are only funny when Ted is being treated as a person of value by the show. We find them endearing because—both due to the show’s structure and the fact that he has generally been shown to be a relatable balance of grounded and idealistic—we view the show from Ted’s vantage point. But as he is gradually turned into a caricature of his former self, becoming an embodiment of the pretentious, girly dork with few apparent traits of his former humanity, he no longer holds the same role as the show’s hero or audience surrogate, and his journey—that oft mentioned one about meeting the mother—no longer has the life force it once did.
I admit that it is pretty premature to cast this judgment. I am simply taking into account the last few episodes, wherein Ted was used as more of a secondary, silly character. I suppose I’m reminded of Scrubs, and what the later seasons did to J.D. In fact, the process is eerily similar: both characters narrate the show, both started out as intelligent but flighty young men—romantic and capable of sincerity—and both seemed to turn gradually into overgrown children as their married best friend couple, former love with emotionality issues, and psychologically ravaged mentor (one begrudging, one self-proclaimed) took on some of the show’s more sincere stories. I don’t mind seeing Ted used for laughs every so often, but I’m just hoping the show doesn’t lock him into the role.
But back to the strip club. Barney’s unhealthy rejection of his feelings gets kicked up a notch when a familiar face from the group’s past shows up: Stripper Lily (Lily’s doppleganger from Season 5) makes another appearance, and Barney is instantly on board with welcoming her and her hulking Russian boyfriend into their group to replace Lily and Marshall—cue a modified version of the show’s theme song in which Stripper Lily and her scary boyfriend smoke angrily and handle various pieces of weaponry alongside the smiling gang. Better Lily, as she is dubbed, and New Marshall lead their new cronies to a poker game in the basement of a “mostly abandoned mental hospital” (the episode, to its credit, is filled with very funny one-liners such as that), where an inebriated Ted makes enemies of a bunch of cartoonishly villainous criminals by beating them all at poker. The gang’s new friends Better Lily and New Marshall proceed to rob Ted, Barney, Robin and Kevin and desert them in an alley, leading Barney to conclude that he should probably not be in charge of the group’s plans anymore. And at this point, they realize they are not ready to give up on the idea of their five-man band. The group decides to take the forty-six minute train out to East Meadow, Long Island to surprise Marshall and Lily before sunrise. Kevin, who has been agreeing to the crazy adventures all night in order to prove to Robin that he is fun and interesting (Robin has been doing the exact same thing), finally admits that he doesn’t want to go, thus ending the pattern of self-conscious lies. So, Robin, Ted and Barney head off to the dreadful Long Island (represent!) to visit the other two-thirds of their codependent clique. "These annoying notes he keeps leaving around: 'I need absolute silence while practicing the drums.' 'Do not touch the fudge in my nightstand.' 'We need ant traps for my nightstand.'" - Marshall Things have not been going smoothly for Marshall and Lily out on the Island. Lily’s dad, Mickey, who maintains a complete lack of redeeming qualities, has invited himself to stay with his daughter and son-in-law indefinitely. Since they are now living in the house Mickey grew up in, he has seized authority on the layout and rules of the house. Marshall reaches his breaking point—a bit out of character, actually—and tells Mickey he needs to leave. Unfortunately, this occurs right before the power blacks out, and Mickey, who knows the house to a tee, even in the pitch black, passive-aggressively refuses to help Marshall find the fuse box (he even uses the intercom to play a sort of Saw mind-game with Marshall. Eventually, Lily gets through to her dad, convincing him to be a mature and helpful father, and he talks Marshall through the booby trap-lain basement to the fuse box. The morning comes, and Marshall and Lily are overjoyed to see Ted, Barney and Robin. And they’re forgiving enough to allow Mickey to stay for a little while longer (even though he has never, to date, appropriately made up for ignoring Lily throughout her childhood—still bugs me). A closing monologue from Future Ted admits that groups do grow apart, but that his has done a pretty good job of keeping together—need we be reminded that they still do attend Robots Vs. Wrestlers every year. What did you think of “46 Minutes”? Do you think the show is taking a wrong turn with Ted? Will Marshall and Lily begin to fade out of the group’s regular routine? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter (@MichaelArbeiter).