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It’s Edward James Olmos. And Ewoks are awesome.
Science-fiction nerds such as myself could rejoice with this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother, but the real question to come out of Season 7’s fifth episode might be whether or not the show can keep up this balancing act between characters for an entire season.
Although significantly funnier and more memorable than last week, “Field Trip” rotated around even more between Robin’s relationship with her therapist, Barney’s doubts about whether he can love a woman that doesn’t love Ewoks (and might be 37), Ted’s improvised architecture field trip and Marshall’s doubts about the tenacity of his boss as an environmentalist.
The episode opened to a fast-forward of Robin’s therapy sessions and how they nearly ended because Kevin (Kal Penn) started to develop a crush on her. They decide to keep things professional, but cave into their feelings despite not knowing if it's a good idea.
In theory, I like the idea of Robin dating someone because he understands her psychological complexity in terms of her romantic feelings. Long term, it makes sense for Robin to like such a character, but the writers decided not to nurture that relationship and shove the two together in “Field Trip.” Plus, we just saw an entire episode dedicated to the lengths Robin will go to keep Barney happy, yet he never comes up once as Robin and Kevin consider their relationship. Presumably, Robin will have to decide between the two at some point, but in order for fans to care about that decision, we’ll need to see a lot more of Robin and Kevin. Penn better be up for the challenge of making Kevin lovable despite how rushed his character has been thus far.
In the world of Marshall, we finally see him return to his new environmental attorney job where his boss is Garrison Cootes (Martin Short). Now poised to save the world like he always dreamed, he discovers Cootes is not the iron-fisted defender of Mother Nature that he expected. As the entire office parties over a mediocre settlement from a billion-dollar company (with lots and lots of cake), he must decide what he’s made of.
Rather than have Marshall get pushed around by his superiors and peers as the show did with his years at Goliath National Bank, he finally shows some progress. It sacrifices some humor, but the episode isn’t shy on laughs by any means. Now that he’s gotten Cootes to have a change of heart, it’s a bit unclear where the writing will take Marshall’s work subplot from here, but rest assured we’ll get it, even if there’s no room.
Ted and Barney’s subplots get the entertainment points, but to no purposeful end. They are mere anecdotes meant to keep the characters involved in the episode. Barney’s conclusion that Nora (Nazanin Boniani) must be 37 if she doesn’t love Ewoks and therefore he might have to dump her recalled Season 3, in which Ted didn’t know if he could be with Stella because she hadn’t seen the original Star Wars and therefore she might not like it — something Ted wouldn’t be able to live with. So not only was this completely anecdotal, but it was also recycled.
Barney works better in comic relief regarding Ted’s field trip than with this “debacle.” A dense powerpoint on Ewok history and how Barney seems to know Ted's students already through his usual means were highlights. The failed field trip, however, did nothing for Ted’s character, something the writing usually sneaks in as Ted reflects on the week’s experience toward the end of an episode. “Ted the Prideful Architect” is a side of him that’s very true to the character, but the incarnation this week came off as a hollow reminder that Ted is in fact still an architecture professor and his building is still in fact being constructed, even if unlike Season 6, it’s not a focal point of the season.
When they say laughter is the best medicine, in the television world it also helps to cure the varying ills that sitcoms endure, especially sitcoms meandering and avoiding forward progress in order to fulfill contractual obligations. If How I Met Your Mother can filter the balancing act down to a few quality story lines, the laughs of Season 7 can be enjoyed guilt-free, but the juggling shows no signs of stopping at this point.