S7E13: Best news since the DVD release of Space Teens*: we’re picking back up with How I Met Your Mother recaps, starting with this week’s “Tailgate.” It looks as though the series is adopting a pattern of examining the lives of the five-some through the eyes of some of the other group members. The previous episode, “Symphony of Illumination,” gave us a pretty heavy and interesting take on Robin’s journey, and “Tailgate” has us seeing things through Marshall’s eyes.
Marshall visits his dad’s grave in Minnesota to honor their tradition of tailgating their beloved Vikings’ games. Marshall is hoping for a sweet, personal interaction with his deceased father, but is lambasted by the unexpected company of his two brothers, Marcus and Marvin, Jr., as well as a gathering crowd of grieving townspeople who just want in on Marshall’s graveside mini-television and grill setup. Marshall’s conversation with his father frames the telling of three New Years Eve stories that envelop he and his friends.
Marshall, again on a mission to mend the relationship between Lily and her distant father, insists that she phone him and finally tell him that she is pregnant. As Lily expects, her dad gives her an aggressively apathetic response before abruptly hanging up.
The rest of Marshall/Lily’s story has Lily rejecting Marshall’s passion for the mysterious—things like Bigfoot, werewolves, and a woman and her daughter both making sandwiches at the same time—and his drive to raise their child with stories of this nature. We have observed this sort of thing as a fixation of Marshall’s since the beginning of the series, but we finally learn where it all came from: a childhood flashback reveals that Marshall’s dad (unsurprisingly, considering how much Marshall idolizes his father) is the one who instilled this fascination with the occult in him. Lily eventually reveals a sort of jealousy that fuels her rejection of Marshall’s plight to teach their son about monsters and aliens. Her father never shared anything with her, nor did he raise her to believe in anything, as did Marvin Eriksen with his youngest son. However, the end of Marshall/Lily’s story has the latter’s father show up unexpectedly at their door, revealing that as soon as he had hung up with her, he drove straight from his board game convention in Chicago all the way to New York to celebrate the news of his grandson-to-be with his daughter.
While Lily’s story has her experiencing a personal victory, Robin’s has her experiencing a professional one. Her boss, Sandy Rivers, is set to host New York City’s televised New Years Eve celebration—which Robin was not hired to produce, as the woman who was given production duties has been sleeping with Sandy. Following their (on air) breakup, Sandy gets violently delirious/intoxicated and calls Robin. She is unable to handle her idiot boss, who keeps disappearing, and has no choice but to take over hosting responsibilities herself—with a bit of encouragement by her boyfriend, Kevin. A conclusive remark by Future Ted reveals that this event is a significant spark for Robin’s career as an on-air journalist (which, as we’ve seen, has all but been put to rest…for now).
The third and final New Years story: Puzzles. Ted and Barney, having apparently forgotten about how much it sucks to run a bar, decide, once again, to run a bar. When MacLaren’s psychotic bouncer Doug overcharges the duo for entry on New Years Eve, Ted and Barney round up a crowd and open their own bar—called, of course, Puzzles—upstairs in the apartment, complete with a Cheers-reminiscent theme song and a mission statement to undercharge (which quickly goes out the window when people keep breaking their expensive stuff). Things go awry for pretty much every reason imaginable, including Ted’s and Barney’s inconsistent visions for the bar: Ted wants it to be an intellectual hotbed for literary and philosophical discussion; Barney wants to sleep with drunk girls in Ted’s bed. An especially eager Kevin, apparently forgetting how emotionally unhealthy he thinks these people are, is on board to help run the bar…but neither Ted or Barney is open to any of Kevin’s suggestions.
As expected, Marshall’s perspective gives us a lighter, more whimsical and upbeat, and endearingly sentimental episode than that delivered by Robin—who, by nature, is a more cynical and unhappy person than Marshall is (but then again, isn’t everyone?). Lily’s story with her father ends on a sweet, very “things sure worked out perfectly!” note. Perhaps this is just the Robin in me, but it seems as though How I Met Your Mother is hell-bent on mending the relationships with its characters and their parents. Even Robin got a phone call from her pretty horrible dad after the hurricane earlier this season—and Lily’s dad, who is shown to be a self-involved jerk, is finally starting to turn it around for his daughter. As long as they can keep this going organically and not just force us to accept sugary sentimentality, I’d be willing to welcome a positive relationship between Lily and her dad into the show. Maybe building a stronger relationship with him might help her ease up on some of her own selfish flaws (like playing puppet master to her friends).
I truly think the most interesting part of this episode is the framing device, in which Marshall is frustrated to share the day set aside for he and his dad with his two brothers. Marshall has always been shown to be extremely close with his parents, but sort of subtly begrudgingly distant with his brothers. When an acquaintance remarks on Marshall’s likeness to his superhumanly kind and caring father, Marshall realizes that he should welcome his brothers into his life rather than trying to push them away. Beyond a strengthening of Lily’s relationship with her father would I like to see one between Marshall and Marcus/Marvin, Jr., and to perhaps learn why exactly (beyond all of the childhood physical abuse) Marshall hasn’t always shown to be as affectionate towards them as he has been to his parents.
As said, I’m more of a Robin than a Marshall—I innately prefer the darker, more somber episodes like “Symphony of Illumination” to the sweet, sentimental ones like “Tailgate.” But we need that balance. The show does a great job of balancing its characters’ different states of being, and these two episodes, when held up against each other, are basically a celebration of the different essences the people of Ted’s life contribute to the story and the world of How I Met Your Mother. What does everyone think of the developments involving Lily’s and Marshall’s families? Are people interested in seeing this carried out further, or would you rather just keep the stories focused on the five main characters? Would you like to see more episodes from different characters’ perspectives? What sort of mood would a Lily episode, or a Barney episode, bring to the table?