S7E15: How I Met Your Mother is a show that loves to have fun with story structure. This week’s episode, “The Burning Beekeeper,” mimics the three stories formula the show has used in the past—notably, on the Season 2 episode “Brunch.” This week, Lily and Marshall host a housewarming party with guests that include an arguing Ted and Robin (Kevin is inexplicably absent), an up-to-the-usual-tricks Barney, a Lily’s troublesome father Mickey and Marshall’s workaholic boss, Garrison Cootes. Future Ted explains from the get-go that Lily’s party goes to hell five minutes after his arrival with Robin, and then proceeds to explain the events as they play out room by room. Recapping the events in this format would make them twice as incomprehensible as they were just to watch, so I’m going to handle the summation as chronologically as possible.
“Ted! Baby Gouda is coming out. Look alive!” – Marshall
The episode indicates one thing foremost: these characters have aged. A lot. When we first met Marshall and Lily, they were engaging in nightly chugging contests and driving to the airport on a whim. But now, Lily is frantic over throwing a pleasant housewarming party. This isn’t a flaw—if anything, it’s an especially honest way of dealing with these characters. But it might get to you, especially if you’re amid a transitional period in your life. While a very pregnant Lily frets over the food, her father’s meddlesome new hobby of keeping bees in the basement, and the news that the house has mice, Marshall is dealing with his environmentalist boss’ insistence that they go back to work in forty-five minutes (“Mother Earth doesn’t get a day off, neither do you”).
“It’s like Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War: ‘Never give up. Never surrender.’” – Robin
“That was Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest.” – Ted
Ted and Robin arrive, kugel-equipped and already waist-deep in an argument. Apparently, Robin had yelled at an elderly woman at the bakery—an act with which Ted has taken issue. He says that she is too mean and aggressive, and she counters that he is too nice and passive. First off, I don’t think this is an accurate assessment of Robin. She’s cold, unemotional, a little coarse, but she’s never really all that mean. But foregoing that, this story plays out way too lazily to really work. To prove to himself that he’s not a pushover, Ted picks a fight (at the slightest provocation) with Marshall’s sixty-year-old vegan boss. Though nothing amounts past some close-face threats, their scene might be the funniest of the night. Thus, the entire story might have been built around the idea of the nerdiest, wussiest showdown the show could come up with. Robin’s reaction to her fight with Ted play out via barely more than a line or two in which she restrains herself from lashing out at one of her friends. And by the end of the episode, through a seemingly nonexistent process, Ted and Robin admit appreciation for one another’s personalities and put their fight to rest.
“I know you got it off the Internet. Why does that make it impressive?” – Barney
Barney finds himself in the company of a crazy woman to whom he is physically attracted. However, it isn’t until too late—she is already waiting for him in the upstairs guest room—that Lily informs Barney just how crazy she is: apparently, she pulled the Lorena Bobbitt on an old one-night-stand who didn’t call her back. Barney goes hysterical over the idea of this sort of wrath, and begins to drown his sorrows with every glass of wine in sight while delaying his journey upstairs.
“The office chair races were particularly stimulating. Until, of course, Gayle went down the stairs. But for one brief moment, boy, did she fly.” – Cootes
Marshall lashes out at his boss for overworking his staff, and quits in a huff, accusing Cootes of being so obsessed with work because he has nothing else going on in his life. Cootes takes this to heart, and through a misguided suggestion from a nearby Mickey, decides to try out beekeeping. Cootes borrows Mickey’s beekeeper suit, which, thanks to a completely unfounded suggestion by Barney earlier, is drenched in kerosene. Naturally, he finds himself next to an open oven momentarily…
“I doused my suit in kerosene. All beekeepers do this.” – Mickey
A bee-suited-up Cootes, engulfed in flames, rushes through the living room and dives into a lawn of snow (I guess back when they shot the episode, it seemed believable that there might be snow on the ground on Long Island in early February…the fools). This brush with death grants Cootes a change of heart. He insists that he and Marshall take a little more time off from work, and gives his employee a “free pass” regarding the whole quitting thing from earlier. So once more, everything works out—except, of course, for the fact that Cootes accidentally filled the house with the escaped bees.
The final moments of the episode feature Barney sneaking away from the yammering crazy woman, with whom he has just made love, into a storm of bees—favoring their wrath over conversation with her.
“I guess it’s kind of nice you’re such a badass.” – Ted
“It’s pretty badass you’re so nice.” – Robin
The problem I have with the episode is that although it acts as a showcase of an interesting formula, it does so at the expense of story. The aforementioned “Brunch” utilized a near-identical formula, but is memorable for featuring a legitimate and full story about Ted’s parents’ divorce (with smaller, but still fully functioning stories about Lily’s and Marshall’s then rocky relationship, and Robin’s and Barney’s attempts to win over Ted’s parents). In this episode, it feels like each story lasts no longer than a few lines and a couple of cheap jokes.
The closest thing to an exception might be Lily’s: she equates her inability to handle this party with an inability to raise a child. Ted gives her a few kind words to pick her out of her funk, and Marshall’s boss’ pledge to be more lenient does lend to conclude her worries that he’ll be working around the clock while she tends to their baby. But again it’s way too flimsy to work.