The game episode. It’s a classic sitcom vehicle to teach audiences about the intricacies of the characters within (and often, to teach the characters about each other). It’s a moreover enjoyable time, especially when handled expertly — recall Friends’ fan favorite “Miss Chanandler Bong” ep from the fourth season. Many others have ventured into this territory: The Big Bang Theory, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother — a warhorse of the genre.
Fans will remember the glory days of Marshgammon, and will be pleased to see a return to form of HIMYM’s playful manner in this week’s episode, “Who Wants to Be a Godparent?” It’s pretty much just what it sound like — after a swerving taxi provokes Marshall and Lily to accept their mortality, the pair begins to make arrangements for the guardianship of Baby Marvin pending their early demise. After none of the couple’s three living parents are deemed unanimously acceptable, and Marshall’s older brother Marcus is revealed to have deserted his wife and kids to live in the Caribbean (kind of an odd and sad one-off joke), Marshall and Lily look to Ted, Robin, and Barney, whom they have been ignoring ever since the birth of their son.
Once they learn of Marshall’s and Lily’s dilemma, Ted, Robin, and Barney each adopt a kneejerk competitive drive to prove him or herself the most ideal candidate for guardianship, prompting Marshall to channel his passion for game-making to decide once and for all who the right choice truly is. One scene change later, there’s a giant spinning wheel in the apartment living room, Lily is dressed like Vanna White, and all five ostensibly jobless 30-somethings are spending the entire day vying for the legal guardianship of their friends’ kid.
Before we go on, there’s something important to note that might bother a few of you, if you’re at all like me: the Robin issue. Robin does not want kids. It’s not a passive distaste for them — she has been shown to genuinely, adamantly, consistently not want to be a mother. It has been the ruin of multiple relationships for her. As such, you can assume that she probably wouldn’t actually want to take on the responsibility of someone else’s kid. Now, this doesn’t necessarily negate the possibility of her competing in this episode. Very possibly, she’s just driven to show up Ted and Barney. Perhaps she simply seeks the validation in knowing that Marshall and Lily would, hypothetically, consider her a suitable parent (despite her disinterest in being one). Or maybe she’s just bored. Any of these are possible, believable, acceptable motivations. But it does seem a bit lazy on the part of How I Met Your Mother that nobody even acknowledged this huge component of Robin’s character in an episode that is wholly about the raising of children.
Moving right along, the games begin. Marshall presents the three competitors with hypothetical scenarios that involve overcoming some challenge with or regarding to Marvin. For example, the explanation of Marshall’s and Lily’s death; disciplining Marvin after he has stolen the toy of another child; the “birds and the bees.” The characters all demonstrate their strengths disparately: Ted is the most sensitive and understanding, Robin the most effective disciplinarian, and Barney… actually, Barney isn’t really shown to win any categories (although a time-jump reveals that he actually managed to score a good deal of points, somehow).
The episode is definitely a few steps up from the season’s par, inciting a few laughs and channeling the spirit of How I Met Your Mother of yore. But here’s the only real issue: the ideal objective of these types of episodes is to teach us something new about the people on screen. Instead, the illustration of the child-rearing scenarios just plays off up-to-11 versions of the existent quirks of Ted, Robin, and Barney. Yes, Ted is an easy-bleeding square. Robin is callous and insensitive. Barney likes sex. We already know this stuff. It’d be more fun to discover new, still harmonious facets of the characters through vignettes like these… although after eight seasons, that isn’t exactly going to be an easy feat.
The game erupts in a fight, with Ted, Robin, and Barney accusing Marshall and Lily of completely abandoning their interest in their friends’ lives, which the couple recognizes to be true. Marshall and Lily then make it up to the other three by spending all night at the bar (don’t worry, Lily’s dad is watching the baby), learning just what’s been going on with Ted (Victoria’s dad is forcing him to pay for her canceled wedding), Robin (Nick upholds “inadequate degrees of masculinity”), and Barney (he slept with some girl) over the past few months.
In the end, Marshall and Lily name Ted, Robin, and Barney their child’s collective godparent, bequeathing legal guardianship of Marvin unto the lot of them. Of course, we’ve seen them make it to 2030, so this won’t really be an issue for quite some time. Unless Future Ted is just a brazen liar, which we’re all starting to believe… are those even his kids? Is there even a mother? She’s barely even mentioned anymore!
[Photo Credit: CBS]
From Our Partners: