It’s time that someone out there launched a Change.org petition for the How I Met Your Mother team to change the theme song to John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels,” Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” or some other wheel-related number, because spinning its wheels is really the only thing this show is consistently good at anymore. (U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” would also be acceptable.) “Now We’re Even” was the show’s second non-episode in a row, where the majority of the half-hour was packed with filler except for one scene at the very, very end where some significant and/or emotionally resonant happened. Early on in the show’s run, these kinds of aimless installments could be quite entertaining because we were still getting to know the show’s characters and the slightly skewed version of reality they inhabit. With the gang now mostly shadows of their former, likable selves and the show’s fictionalized New York looking more and more like Toon Town with each passing year, episodes like this only serve to expose just how rudderless the series has become as it stalls for time until the network takes mercy on us all and announces a firm end date.
Since “Now We’re Even” had next to no narrative spine to speak of, let’s just recap the episode’s so-called events on a character-by-character basis:
Ted: Having temporarily gotten over that three-years-in-the-future vision of himself as a frozen dinner-eating hoarder shut-in, Ted discovered the benefits of living solo, including poor nutrition, copious nudity and re-watching old episodes of Sanford and Son just because you can. (Nice to hear that Ted knows what a DVR is as well. Between this and those Star Wars Blu-rays in the last episode, one gets the sense that the writers are trying to make up for that VHS fiasco from a couple weeks ago.) But he’s repeatedly forced out of these pleasurable pastimes to serve as Barney’s partner-in-crime on a series of increasingly outrageous escapades. When he finally puts his foot down and insists on staying home, his pal tricks him into getting locked out of his apartment sans cell phone, thus forcing him to make the trek to their old bar in his pajamas and call the super. Just another crazy night in the life of Ted Mosby. And to think someone once believed this guy was interesting enough to build a whole show around. (Oh yeah, and Ted also wears that green dress we saw him in last season. So if you cared enough to remember the callback, there’s your payoff.)
Barney: In case you’ve forgotten… Barney’s DATING A STRIPPER! And in case you forget that nugget again, he repeats it a bunch more times during the course of the episode in the spoken equivalent of caps lock. The pride of landing such a wicked cool girlfriend has seemingly inspired Barney to want to make every night a legendary night, whether the specific act of — um, legendariness? — is forming a mariachi band, bringing a horse into the bar or bungee jumping off the Statue of Liberty. But at the end of the episode, we discover the real reason for his manic obsessions with whooping it up every night between the hours of 9 PM and 4 AM is due to the fact that he’s desperately trying to forget what his girlfriend does for a living. Just as in “Trilogy Time,” Barney’s brief bout of honesty is also the episode’s only authentic moment. It’s a crutch the writers are leaning much too heavily on of late, but that’s because they know they’ve got an actor who is able to nail those scenes when the occasion demands it.