“No Questions Asked” is a useless episode of television, the worst kind of filler episode. Filler episodes should entertain. How I Met Your Mother hasn’t entertained in four years. The episode’s full of pointless and baseless gags, useless flashbacks, a horrible spoof of ghost shows, and hollow resolutions. For an episode so useless, the two important stories of the episode, Marshall’s hesitance to tell Lily the truth, and Barney and Robin beginning to realize why they suck together, were the meatiest of the season. Those stories mean something for the characters and for the audience. Of course, bad comedy undercuts the storylines.
Marshall’s frantic to stop Lily from reading the revealing text about Marshall’s judgeship Daphne sent because she’s a plot device. I dislike this story because it’s unnecessary and one of the oldest tropes in sitcom. Television’s a business. A long time ago the business settled on a season of at least 22 episodes. Storytellers don’t always have enough story for 22 half-ours, or 24, or 26. No, storytellers sometimes don’t have enough story for 13 episodes. HIMYM hasn’t had enough story for the last four seasons, but here we are. I guarantee an aspiring writer submitting this as a spec script to an agent or a show would get rejected. The lack of originality is not surprising but expected.
The A story is full of sitcom situations you’ve seen many times before. The writing makes the audience aware. Before Ted, Barney and Robin figure out elaborate ways to get into Lily’s room to delete the text message, Marshall tries to tell the three they can enter through the room door because it is broken. The audience’s time needs wasting, though; so Ted sneaks in through the window, looking like the ghost of room 13 in silhouette. Yes, Lily’s sleeping in the haunted room. The story of the haunted room is horrible and not worth recapping. Barney sneaks through the air vents. Robin sneaks in with the assistance of room service. Lily pays no mind to the entrances. She’s sitcom-dumb in these scenes. She disappears to complain to the manager about her room service bill. Not too long ago, the show celebrated Lily’s friendship with Lily. Robin has no problem giving Lily and Marshall a $400 bill. I don’t like these characters.
Lily keeps her phone with her, which makes sense. People keep their phones in a pocket. Unfortunately, the trio concoct new ways to get the phone back. The conceit connecting the three is Marshall’s use of the ‘no questions asked’ favor. ‘No questions asked’ is a thing mid-thirty year olds do in HIMYM. Ted owes Marshall for Marshall helping him out of a mailbox without asking questions; Barney owes Marshall for signing him out of a hospital without asking questions; Robin owes Marshall for helping her escape something stupid. Ted uses the ‘no questions asked’ thing on Lily when she’s about to read Marshall’s text message. Since she’s a sitcom character, she obeys. Ted sighs and celebrates with Farhampton’s smoothest whiskey. Marshall, of course, realizes why he shouldn’t keep Lily in the dark abut the judgeship. For their entire relationship he never used ‘no questions asked’ with her. So, Marshall tells her. Lily threatens to kill him. The end. Jason Segel played Marshall’s slow realization in the third act well. The scene worked well, but then HIMYM ruined it by asking Alyson Hanigan to mail in her reaction and adding sound effects to her reaction. Lily’s threat, like Barney’s outburst against his family earlier this season, will get forgotten by November sweeps (which is next week).
Robin and Barney realized a central issue in their relationship and impending marriage: communication. Neither communicates. Barney and Robin act without thinking about each other. Robin’s bothered by that communication problem. HIMYM’s usually forcing problems in a relationship, but communication problems is a natural part of relationships. Robin’s feelings about communication connects her with the audience for the first time this season. Barney doesn’t care until the third act when he becomes a functional character and not a collection of tired punchlines.
Barney and Robin communicate and form a plan for taking Lily’s cell phone and deleting the text message from Daphne. The resolution is hollow. Barney and Robin don’t address the real issue, but I guess the amount of episodes lefts means the show will return to this plot point. Perhaps their communication about the form shows they’ll communicate together. Of course, Robin’s going to sneak out a window on her wedding day. Relationship fears haven’t been quelled by Marshall’s phone project.
Next week’s preview promises a return to more substantial storytelling—that is if you’re craving more Robin/Loretta drama. The Mother is going to return next week. I hope the mother can salvage the season. It’s a trainwreck right now.