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'How I Met Your Mother': The uninvited guest

March 22, 2010 |  9:22 pm
97823_D0325b I'd almost forgotten what it was like to have the whole gang together for one storyline, so it was nice to be reminded of that with everyone celebrating Lily's (Alyson Hannigan) birthday. Almost the entire episode featured the group of five hanging out in just one room with requisite flashbacks and flashforwards. But there was an interloper among the group: Ted's (Josh Radnor) date, Amanda (Brooke Nevin), also known as the Shedder and Skank. Take your pick.

Marshall (Jason Segel) had planned the perfect black tie birthday dinner at home for Lily, so she was upset when Ted brought a random girl to their intimate evening. It wasn't the first time either, Lily reminded him as she flipped out her photo album for a walk down Random Skank Lane and a game of Name That Skank. Has the word “skank” ever been uttered more in one half-hour? Lily loves her staged group photo. In a flashback that probably took place shortly after “Duel Citizenship,” she even went so far as to sit Marshall between a kissing Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) because she knew they weren't going to last and didn't want their coupledom preserved in the photo. So you can only imagine how angry she got every time Ted's random date ended up in their group photo. Someone needs to introduce Lily to PhotoShop. Just cut that skank out with the skank removal tool.

But the worst was when Marshall went to Paris to visit Lily while she was studying abroad and Ted decided not only to tag along, but also bring Karen (Laura Prepon). Karen, if you don't remember from last season, was Ted's college girlfriend, whom Lily and Marshall hated. She confessed she'd slept with her professor on the plane, making for one of the most excruciating flights ever and completely ruined Lily and Marshall's reunion. After two months of no sex, Marshall was really looking forward to the trip, but Karen forced Ted to bunk with him post-breakup while she roomed with Lily. It was a pleasant surprise to see Prepon, but she wasn't the only familiar girlfriend from Ted's past that made a surprise appearance. Anne Dudek also returned as Natalie, the sock monkey-loving girl who kicked Ted's rear all the way back in Season 1 after he dumped her for the second time. Marshall was forced to comfort her after the breakup as he was for all of Ted's girlfriends and he'd had enough of it.

Then they came across the first photo of Lily, Marshall and Ted in college, which Ted revealed he'd invited Lily into even though she'd only been dating Marshall for a few weeks. He believed in her, so she had to believe in him. Lily invited Amanda, whom Marshall had kicked out after she wrote “Happy 42nd Birthday, Lori “on Lily's cake, back to the party and into the group shot. And with that, Amanda became one of Ted's many possible The Ones That Weren't in Lily's photo album. But one skank did survive. She just wasn't The One. Robin was the “skanky exception,” who became Lily's best friend.

Aside from the random girls, the photos also had two other things in common. Barney always had the same hand-on-tie pose much like Harris' trademark pointing Twitter photo pose, and Marshall always had his eyes closed. Robin tried without success to get a bad picture of Barney until in a flashforward to one year later, a little cilantro in the dip did the trick. Oh, and Ted could not Name That Skank Amanda, but at least he'd learned his lesson. It was just the five of them.

Readers, were you happy to see the gang all together? Which group photo was your favorite? I'm partial to the one from New Year's Eve with Ted's date kissing Robin's cheek. Were you surprised to see the brief returns of Karen and Natalie?

– Vlada Gelman (follow my TV musings on Twitter at @stayingin)


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Photo: Laura Prepon as Karen, right, with Ted (Josh Radnor) from her appearance on the show last season in “Sorry Bro.” Credit: Sonja Flemming / CBS