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'How I Met Your Mother' recap: The Little Mermaid was a manatee

December 6, 2010 | 10:45 pm

The group warned Ted (Josh Radnor) that hanging out alone with Zoey (Jennifer Morrison) is dangerous because she's married. But it's OK if you're old friends, Marshall (Jason Segel) pointed out, using himself and Robin (Cobie Smulders) as an example. Lily (Alyson Hannigan) responded that he and Robin never hang out alone, so they made a dinner date. While Robin and Marshall scenes are definitely rare – Smulders has said it's because they can't keep a straight face together – we've seen some bonding time before between the two of them. We saw them get trapped together in a car in “Three Days of Snow.” And it was Marshall who first took Robin to the Hoser Hut in “Little Minnesota.” But yes, those are rare treats, every one of which I really enjoyed, so it was great to see the show revisit their friendship.

Their dinner date got off to an awkward start when they went through all their topics of conversation – cold weather, sports, and cold weather sports – in 16 seconds. The stared at each other, their opposite eyes hilariously twitching. Marshall explained that the reason they never hang out together is because of The Mermaid Theory. Cue Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Marshall in a pirate flashback. The myth of the mermaid originated when lonely pirates started to imagine that the big, ugly manatees were beautiful mermaids. Every woman, no matter how plain or ugly, has a mermaid clock, Barney explained, and when it stops ticking, she becomes a mermaid. Cue Marshall seeing Robin dressed up as a manatee. It was in that moment that I realized why I love Marshall and Robin scenes. Smulders and Segel are gung-ho, hilarious actors who really go for it and play off each other so well comedically. After a night of drinking, Marshall's beer goggles started to see Robin as a manatee with mermaid features (seashell bra, blond hair). (Is there an embarrassing outfit Smulders hasn't worn by this point?) It seemed as if Marshall's fears about Robin becoming a mermaid, “singing 'Part of Your World' to my pants,” were coming true. Then Robin threw up in front of him. After that, she was forever a manatee to Marshall and they were “closer than ever,” said Future Ted. I demand to see more Marshall and Robin scenes after that declaration.

Ted, meanwhile, was out on the boat with Zoey's husband, the Captain (Kyle MacLachlan). Lily advised him that if he's friends with both of them, then there's no problem, so Ted took the Captain up on his offer to go sailing. But he failed to account for the fact that no one can hear you scream in the middle of the ocean, which the Captain kept pointing out. I'm not a fan of MacLachlan's more recent TV characters on “Sex and the City” and “Desperate Housewives.” Probably because he's always playing the WASPy jerk, but on “HIMYM,” he gets to poke fun at that type. And MacLachlan seems to be having a blast playing the slightly creepy Captain with the manic smiling mouth/angry eyes face. But Ted didn't have anything to be worried about. The Captain was worried about fitting in with Zoey's younger friends and just wanted to be buddies with Ted. Everything was fine when Ted and Zoey met up at the bar later and would continue to be so as long as they didn't have the tiniest hint of feelings for each other. They both agreed that they didn't as the mermaid clock began to tick away.

The episode also used the show's storytelling framework to amusing effect this week as Future Ted had problems remembering why Lily and Barney were fighting. It created for one of the show's most self-referential, fourth-wall breaking moments as Lily and Barney stared at the camera while Future Ted tried to remember how the story went. First he thought Barney was upset because Lily didn't want to hang out with him. Then he realized they were outside, not inside the bar, during their argument just before when Lily saved Barney from being hit by a motorcycle. Then he remembered it was Barney who hurt Lily's feelings because he called her a big, fat manatee while she was pregnant in a completely different timeline! It was actually Barney who saved Lily. “You saved us,” she said, rubbing her pregnant belly – from the motorcycle. Barney reassured her that when she started breastfeeding, she'd be a mermaid again. So our first glimpse of a pregnant Lily is actually a very pregnant Lily. I have to say that was one of the more believable looking baby bumps I've seen on TV. We didn't get any hints as to when this pregnancy takes place aside from Future Ted's “much, much later,” but we did see Ted storm into the bar in a green dress and exclaim, “Now we're even!” Is the green dress the new goat?

Readers, would you like more Robin and Marshall storylines? Did you see it coming that Lily was actually pregnant? How long do you think it'll be before the mermaid clock runs out and Zoey becomes a mermaid to Ted? And what do you think of MacLachlan's performance? Also, how awesome were Harris and Segel as pirates? “Dude, we need to find land.”

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

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Photo: The Captain (Kyle MacLachlan) and Ted (Josh Radnor) go sailing. Credit: Cliff Lipson / CBS.