How I Met Your Mother, “Natural History” (6.08)

“Bring it on, princess.” – Ted Mosby

After two strong episodes, will the increase in quality hold?  More on the episode, written by showrunners Carter Bays & Craig Thomas and directed by Pamela Fryman, after the jump…

“Natural History” is the show’s strongest yet, for a multitude of reasons. Particularly, they’ve found success here by hewing close to the season one/two style: a story about who we are, mixed with emotional stories for our characters and peppered with callbacks, flashback/flashforwards, and a general sense of history.

Season five would have forgotten that Lily broke up with Scooter in the middle of prom, would have given Barney the A plot and filled with with over-the-top antics, and would be nothing near the sweet, lovable episode the show delivered tonight. There are flaws, one particularly egregious one that rankled, but all in all I very much enjoyed the episode.

Ted and Zoey: This was their strongest plot together yet. Jennifer Morrison is having a field day with the smug, cunning and generally unpleasant Zoey, and she’s a bucket of fun to watch. A weaker actress would emphasise these over the top qualities, but Morrison, by playing them naturally, is somehow able to project much of Zoey’s own insecurities as she tears Ted down for being a corporate fat cat. She and Josh Radnor have great chemistry, evidenced beautifully in their final moment, where she seems to become aware that their adversarial relationship is the most fun she’s had in ages. The fact is, this relationship works because its clear to everyone that, at least when they’re together, both of them love their biting banter.

Their battle was a lot of fun, and it also introduced us to The Captain, whose quirks were brought to life nicely by Kyle McLachlan. On one hand, he was a very simplistic caricature, but on the other, he was exactly the type of person Ted would be able to have enough fun mocking to draw blood from Zoey.

This plot’s climax (Zoey hearing Ted defend her to The Captain) does rely on what seems like coincidence; that is, until you remember who Zoey is. Of course she’s listening in on the conversation, if only to enjoy her victory (and I doubt The Captain’s threat is unexpected for her, even as she doesn’t like to admit how dismissive he is toward her). And it makes sense, if she’s intentionally listening in, that Zoey would use that trick – like Ted, she’s an architecture buff, and likely knew about ‘the spot’. Nicely done, show. Nicely done.

Lily and Marshall: This was one of this twosome’s best emotional plots in ages, as rather than stumbling over the overplayed baby drama, the two get into the nuts and bolts of the future. We knew from previous flashforwards that Marshall ends up wearing a suit all the time, and its nice to know that Marshall has indeed evolved from the idealistic lawyer we met six years ago. Watching Lily struggle with this, and resolve it via a conversation with College Marshall, was a nice emotional beat for the two. This also feels like a continuation of themes we haven’t really touched since Marshall went corporate back in season three beyond bits and pieces.

This plot was also rife with Old School pieces: flashbacks (to College Marshall, complete with sandwich), continuity callbacks, and even a twist-foreshadowed-by-a-joke-ending, with ‘Corporate Marshall’ hinting at extinction sometime in the future.

My main issue with this plot actually goes against the very things that impresses me about it; that is, memory. Just last week, Marshall was fighting like hell to avoid becoming ‘that guy’, while this episode tries to sell us on him already having become him. That jarred.

Barney and Robin: Now that the writers remember who Robin actually is, this Barney/Robin plot was able to be a whole lot of fun. Barney tapping into his childish glee of pranks, combined with Robin feeding into her own secret love of irreverence (at least, when her work’s not involved) gave the characters some fun to play with. These two were just fun together, in the exact way that led fans to wanting to see them together in the first place.

We also get some movement on Barney’s father, as an out-of-left field (yet, as in classic How I Met Your Mother, completely logical based on the plotline) twist allows Barney to discover the identity of his father: ‘Uncle’ Jerome Whitaker, who Barney hasn’t seen since the blue whale incident at age six.

Honestly, this episode was a lot of fun. And if they keep this up, I’ll be one very happy fan.

One Response to “How I Met Your Mother, “Natural History” (6.08)”
  1. Sharia says:

    I think that the fact that Jennifer Morrison is a weak actress is what makes Zoey more unlikable than she should be. All my friends who watch the show find her unwatchable and i think that this storyline can be the kiss of the death for the show.

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