Note: This post contains spoilers, and I apologize for the abnormally late review. With the new year, and the holidays wrapping up, I’ve been sick and it’s been hard on top of that to get back into the swing of things. Deep apologies, but reviews will be on time next week. Until then, enjoy!
The last time we left How I Met Your Mother, Robin received the bombshell of a lifetime when she was told she couldn’t have kids. But, we got an emotional ending when it was revealed how Ted would always be there for her. Now, the gang capped off 2011 with Marshall telling his father in Minnesota of everyone’s New Year’s Eve shenanigans. But, was the episode one of the best ones this season? Or, was it a fresh start misfire? Find out as we break down “Tailgate” into three sections: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
THE GOOD: Guest Stars helped run the show – Before the night’s episode aired, the only confirmed guest star for the show happened to be Will Sasso’s character of Doug the Bartender. Come to find out, the episode was filled with guest stars galore. Kal Penn as Robin’s boyfriend Kevin, Bill Fagerbakke as Marvin Eriksen, Alexis Denisof as Sandy Rivers, and Chris Elliott as Mickey Aldrin all reprised their roles of HIMYM past, and each impressing more than the last. Denisof had a great share of comedic moments, and Penn fit in extremely well alongside Josh Radnor and Neil Patrick Harris. But, Fagerbakke and Elliott’s fatherly roles struck the heartstrings as they closed out the episode in very strong heartwarming fashion (which we’ll get to later on).
Smart Writing - Usually, we’ve seen this season limp when it comes to individual stories. When the gang isn’t together, the episode is usually incredibly weak, something feels off, and at least one of the plots feel incredibly lackluster. All of the storylines worked well, stood strong on their own, each bringing forth plenty of jokes, plenty of strong emotional tentpoles, and it works outstandingly. In an episode that centrered around the New Year, alot of the old happened to pop up. Ted and Barney’s dream of opening their own bar from years ago ended up becoming a reality in hilarious fashion, Robin’s inability to have kids was still touched upon as she couldn’t wait for 2011 to be over, Sandy Rivers returned acting as perverted and funny as ever, we revisited the fathers of Lily and Marshall, and everything seemed to be incredibly nostalgic in all the right places.
Revisiting a heartfelt plotline - As soon as we find out we’re going to be revisiting Marshall’s dad, and that one of the main settings of the entire episode is that he’s headed back to Minnesota in order to continue a tradition the two had together, you could feel the heartstrings being tugged already. From here, we get the setting of the half hour, but also a very sneaky move…
Incredibly Emotional Moments – Marshall’s storyline keeps building and building, and just when you think, “Okay, this isn’t really amounting to much”, we learn about how much he’s like his father, and that just warms the heart in that cold snow-filled cemetery even more. What doesn’t help is the incredibly successful payoff that brings emotions full circle right after. Now, if you’ve watched the series so far, you know that Lily’s dad is kind of a dick. While the twist is a bit predictable, we learn Mickey didn’t hang up on Lily, but immediately left the convention to race on a plane and come see her. Once Lily starts crying (because Alyson Hannigan is one of the most infectious cryers on television), you’ll star to tear up as her father gives her a huge gift, and gives his congrats. It was an emotional cresendo that closed the episode with audience’s smiles on their faces.
THE BAD: Storylines that were incredibly big - If I had to add anything that really irked me about the episode, it would have to be that each storyline in tonight’s episode could have easily been expanded into it’s own half hour. Together, they felt just a bit cramped, and perhaps a bit too big to lean against each other. When you throw in all of the references to past episodes, including the characters that come back in comedic ways, it all just feels so…crowded.
Underuse of Will Sasso - Out of everyone who showed up this week, Will Sasso’s character of Doug was the most underutilized. We see him only twice really, once at MacLaren’s not letting Ted and Barney in, and once as he’s throwing people out of Puzzles for Ted and Barney. He only has a few lines, and doesn’t make the comedy waves that any of the other guest stars do, which is disheartening given that he was the only revealed guest going in to the night’s episode. I’d like to see more of Doug in the future, but let’s keep it a solo list so that we can get more out of him, rather than just a cameo or two.
Rehashing storylines – While I loved Puzzles, I couldn’t help but feel “Hey, we’ve been here before.” And, indeed we had in “Three Days of Snow”. We’ve seen Ted and Barney be unable to handle a rowdy bar before, and they did it yet again with their own. The big problem was that nothing really changed. Sure, Kevin was there, it provided for Robin to get her first national appearance as a step-in for Sandy, and there were Twitter jokes, but other than that, it was just the same story. I could argue the same about Lily’s inability to believe in her father as well, but it proved that when Mickey appeared at the end, the plot had seemingly been flipped on its head. The biggest problem with that is simply that Lily had barely anything to do this week besides mope and groan about him, and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
THE UGLY: Surprisingly enough, nothing was too harsh to be considered “ugly” this week. So, for the first time in the format change of my reviews, I’ll be leaving this section blank. That’s one of the beauties of “Tailgate” with the inclusion of nearly everything, it’s rare to find a single fault in the episode. There are a couple lulls in the stories, and a few jokes that don’t hit, but overall the episode is a great one.
FAVORITE QUOTES: “She’s my everything Robin, my sun, my stars, my oxygen. Plus she likes it fast and dirty and that’s the way Sandy rides!” – Sandy Rivers, drunk, to Robin.
“Well proposing a three way was bad, starting without us was worse, finishing in the hallway was the nail in the coffin.” – Robin to a drunk Sandy, trying to figure out what went wrong with his girlfriend.
THE VERDICT: ”Tailgate” has barely any faults, but plenty of stuff to love. There’s a great amount of heart, especially in the Marshall/Lily side of things, a great basis for the New Year’s tale, hilarious moments with Puzzles, great character development with Robin, and the inclusion of guest stars that easily improve the episode. That atmosphere of everyone mixing and mingling is definitely missed, and there are various moments that definitely could have been improved, but it’s a particularly strong episode that keeps you laughing throughout, while also keeping a very serious face to the stories at hand.
4.25 out of 5