‘How I Met Your Mother’ midseason premiere falters amid another flashback storyline

Rohan Nadkarni, Reporter

Welcome to The Current’s “How I Met Your Mother” blog! For dedicated fans of the show, we’ll be reviewing each and every ninth season episode in 2014, as we barrel toward the series finale in March. We’re here to document every laugh, cry and drink at MacLaren’s Pub until Ted finally meets the woman of his dreams. 

“How I Met Your Mother” returned last night for its midseason premiere, “Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra,” another filler episode in what is becoming an increasingly forgettable ninth season.

“HIMYM” went bold for its final go-around, opting to have the action take place only during Barney’s wedding weekend. Monday’s episode upped the ante, with most of the episode told through flashback over a single slow-motion slap. In the show’s timeline, the episode probably covered less than half an hour.

Unfortunately, none of the gimmicks aided Monday’s plot, which featured Marshall telling his story of traveling to China — with some questionably racist jokes about how Chinese people age — to learn the art of the perfect slap.

The flashbacks are a nice way to get the gang back at the bar, but those scenes just don’t have the same feel of old episodes. The show is sorely missing watching its protagonists move from adventure to apartment to bar to adventure, instead of bar scenes juxtaposed with the wedding.

Anyway, Marshall’s slap story was completely fake, and the only funny gag was the gang playing along in order to scare Barney. Ted’s “I think I backpacked there during college” offered the only consistent chuckle in the entire episode.

Marshall’s exploits in China were ludicrous.

His lesson in accuracy from Chinese Ted was a glaring reminder of how poorly Josh Radnor’s character has been treated the past few seasons. He receives silly storylines, and he’s often made to look a fool as opposed to the intelligent professor he is. Remember when this show was about Ted meeting the woman of his dreams?

And if Jason Segel hasn’t thrown in the towel on this show, he’s currently balling it up and cocking his arm. I don’t blame Segel for returning. I’m sure he’s close with the cast, and CBS must’ve offered a handsome sum for a ninth season.

But beginning with Segel’s odd exodus for the first half of the season, where he was on a road trip away from everyone else, to last night’s phony story, it’s clear Segel is losing interest in taking his character in a consistent direction.

What’s maddening about the ninth season is that it has shown flashes of brilliance. All of the other castmate’s interactions with the Mother have been extremely entertaining. But even though Cristin Milioti was added to the ensemble as Ted’s final love interest, she’s missing from far too many episodes.

The inconsistencies have projected on to the characters as well. Marshall and Lily’s fight about Marshall accepting the judge job (a conflict completely ignored in “Slapsgiving 3”) seems completely out of place for the couple. And for a show so heavily dependent on a wonky continuity, Marshall exclaiming his most recent slap was No. 4, even though the slap montage that followed immediately after featured many more, seemed out of place.

Eventually, Marshall did slap Barney, but the actual slap still left a lot to be desired. At least this episode did not revisit Ted’s feelings for Robin, or more of Barney and Robin wondering if they can actually marry one another.

Ultimately, Monday’s episode did little to advance the plot, and for a show ending in a few months, it’s about time the writers pick up some steam toward the finale.

Stray observations:

  • Nice touch bringing Nora back as one of Barney’s jilted lovers. I would have preferred if Barney ended up with her, as this whole Robin thing still doesn’t feel right.
  • Never thought I would see a heart fly out of someone’s chest on network television, let alone on a sitcom like “HIMYM.”
  • OK, I did enjoy Boyz II Men showing up at the end, although I missed the typical Segel song that follows a slap.