How I Met Your Mother has been like a NBA regular season for Alyson Hanigan. That is, NBA players seemingly coast through a large part of the regular season. The playoffs are when the NBA gets good and, well, watchable. Hanigan's been terrible through the majority of nearly eight seasons on HIMYM. I wondered aloud often what happened to the actress that could change a scene with a little expression. "Band Or DJ?" had a rare Aly Hanigan moment that recalled the days of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. Baby Marvin isn't moving his bowels, he cries all of the time, and Lily hasn't slept in the month of January because of it. Marshall and Lily feel hopeless and out of ideas. They can't will their son to stop crying, because he's a baby and babies cry; nor can they force him to poop, because that's a whole 'nother thing. Baby Marvin's held and held and held throughout the episode. Lily uses Ted's emotions over Robin's engagement with Barney to escape to the rooftop of the apartment for a moment of freedom and honesty.
"Band Or DJ" refers to Ted's insistence on a DJ versus the engaged couple's preference for a band. It pays off in the end. The episode opens with a quick montage of Ted, Lily and Marshall, learning Robin and Barney are engaged. Ted sees the message and returns the phone to his pocket quickly. HIMYM typically distracts the viewers with silly stuff for two acts. Barney and Robin's story centers on Barney forgetting to ask Robin's father for permission. The reliable Ray Wise is reliably gruff and menacing. Craig Bays and Carter Thomas don't stretch the creative muscles too much, so when they cast a Ray Wise, Ray Wise will portray a stereotypical Ray Wise character. Robin's issues with her father are decently handled. Their separation is shown through an admission of Robin's that she won't accept her father's friend request, followed by her subsequent acceptance of it and discovery that he married and didn't invite her. The writing's not bad for father and daughter; it's worth the audience's time to watch because it's significant for Robin. Daddy issues and romance issues go hand in hand; however, their discord is resolved in two beats, and Barney's fear of Ray Wise isn't resolved for a few more beats. Robin gets short-changed again by the writers.
Ted bears the weight of the reality of losing Robin silently. Mosby throws himself into wedding planning fun. Lily briefly feels jealous of Ted usurping the wedding planner title from her. The band versus DJ argument is essentially meaningless, but it's meaningful for Ted, because it represents a chance to actively be engaged in Robin's life, affect it as it were, in a way he'll never be able to once she's married. Ted's depth of feeling for Robin has been explored and dealt with and the coda is unnecessary; however, the writers are doing something with Ted's feelings for Robin. A common complaint of fans about the show has been the superfluousness of Ted's non-Mother relationships, even though every relationship matters no matter how bad it is. On television, depicting such relationships is tougher. Making them interesting, engaging and worthwhile is tough. Ted's retread relationship with Robin didn't do much. Bays and Thomas have something up their sleeve, though. Now, knowing this show, they're going to screw it up or just drop it completely. Ted's devotion to Robin, the band versus DJ thing, is going to pay off in Ted meeting the woman of his dreams, the love of his life. Four months from now, on a subway wide, Ted and Rachel Bilson will talk, and Bilson and her friend will suggest Bilson's ex-roommates band play the wedding. Bilson's ex-roommates band is the mother. Ted's love for Robin leads to a love that'll transcend the love he had for Robin.
Future Ted loves saying, "We'll get to that." Indeed, the show has four months of killing time before the wedding. Ted's sad in "Bands Or DJ?" Barney's a great friend, but he used women for years; why should he end up with Robin? Saying this thought aloud makes Ted feel terrible. Lily helps him feel less terrible by admitting somedays she hates being a mother and doesn't want to be one anymore, even thinks about leaving town because it's overwhelming. (The Alyson Hanigan from Buffy emerges in that scene). Ted and Lily are trapped in a moment of despair on the rooftop, a moment that'll disappear and that will be forgotten by them when the bloom of love is in their life--when Lily's a terrific mother to Marvin, and when Ted finally meets the mother (which isn't going to happen until Spring 2014, at the earliest; don't let HIMYM fool you).
So, no, HIMYM wasn't terrible tonight. The illusion of narrative progress does wonders for someone like me. I feel like the show is going places even if it really isn't.
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK