Recap and review of How I Met Your Mother – Season 8 Episode 14 – Ring Up!
How I Met Your Mother does itself a huge favor by not following up on last week’s reveal that Ted (Josh Radnor) is still not entirely over Robin (Cobie Smulders). Instead, “Ring Up!” focuses on simply being a funny episode, making a case for why this series is still worth your time, even if the overarching story it’s telling isn’t your cup of tea. I will say that the episode makes a significant leap forward in its mythology by shooting down one of the most prevalent online theories as to the Mother’s identity: that she’s Barney’s half-sister. We can now see that this is far from the case, although maybe the temporary pairing of Ted with Barney’s half-sister, Carly Whittaker (Ashley Benson), is a wink-and-nod to the theory by the series creators. Regardless of the motivations behind it, the story generates one of the better Ted-related subplots of the season, as he’s less an object of angst, and more just the lovable schmuck that Ted tends to be, at his most enjoyable.
The main thrust of the episode is the conflict bred from Ted dating a quirky, hot 19 year-old college student, which Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) encourages, so that he might live vicariously through Ted’s hook-up, as Barney is having a hard time detoxing from his addiction to cheap one night stands, now that he’s chosen to be a monogamous individual. Barney practically begs Ted to sleep with the girl, despite Ted’s complaints that the two have nothing in common. Of course, this turns out not to be the case, as they share an abiding love for Star Wars (although Carly has only seen the prequels. “Close enough,” says Ted, diving in for the kiss). Ted shows Barney pictures from the hook-up, which brings him to the horrifying realization that this is his half-sister. This initiates an episode-long vendetta between the two, with Barney trying to get Ted to marry Carly to imbue their hook-up with meaning, while Ted helps Barney to eventually recognize the depth of his commitment to Robin, in lieu of one night stands.
Ashley Benson acquits herself well in the role, playing Carly as equal parts ditzy and sultry. Her attraction to Ted is based entirely around her fetish for old people (“I bet you look hot playing Shuffleboard”), and it’s a comic quirk that Benson runs with. Her comedic timing is pretty well-hidden in her role as Hanna Marin on Pretty Little Liars, and it’s fun to see her in a role that allows her to show her range, in addition to playing a character who’s slightly older. She bounces off the rest of the cast well, particularly when she and Ted exchange knowing winks after Barney forces them to promise they won’t sleep together again. I genuinely hope Benson returns, as Carly is a character that lends the show a sense of fun and frivolity that’s been lacking in recent weeks.
The other elements of the episode are also welcome in their lightheartedness. Robin is worried that her engagement ring is making her invisible to other men, leading to two of the episode’s best sequences: the first, a musical sequence in which Robin strolls along the avenue, receiving complimentary items from singing bystanders who offer her freebies simply for being beautiful; and the second, a Lord of the Rings parody where the engagement ring makes Robin invisible to bar patrons and the bartender (more of an episode-long gag than a single isolated sequence, but well-executed either way). It parallels Barney’s uncertainty about his preparedness for commitment, which is remedied, on both fronts, by episode’s end – Barney realizes that Robin is the only woman in the bar he ever wants to look at again, while Robin comes to peace with how her marital status changes the perceptions of strangers around her. It’s a simple, poignant little story that is among the episode’s best.
Even Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) get an amusing subplot, in which Lily reimagines Marshall as a loser musician living out of a van, as part of a fantasy that reignites their sex life. There are plenty of great gags in here, such as Marshall’s new rock-loser makeover, to his allergy to the wristband that legitimizes the outfit – an allergy that results in his hand ballooning to a cartoonish size. The episode’s tag returns to Marshall and Lily’s sex life, when a pair of oversized jeans ignites Marshall’s fetish for midwestern stay-at-home moms (in a bit that’s weirdly Oedipal, but then, Marshall has always loved his mother to an inordinate degree). It’s an amusing capper to a uniformly funny episode.
“Ring Up!” is a return to form for How I Met Your Mother, embracing its more overt comedy roots, even while eschewing the serialized format that has pretty much helped it gain its following (this isn’t a bad thing if they replace the compelling serialized aspects with solid comedy, as they do here). I hope the series stays on this track, as it serves the dynamic of the cast well.