Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Mini Romantic Movie

"The best part of any first kiss is the leadup to it. The moment right before the lips touch. It's like a big drumroll. So how about tonight we just stick with the drumroll?"

Victoria (Ashley Williams)

OK, I'll grant you that the first part of the two–part episode of How I Met Your Mother that debuted two weeks ago in 2006 wasn't great. But I did think the second part, "Drumroll, Please," which premiered on this day in 2006, was kind of special.

It was certainly different.

As I mentioned on the anniversary of that first part, Ted (Josh Radnor) was going to a wedding and planned to take Robin (Cobie Smulders), but she was called in to anchor the news at the last minute. Ted was disappointed because he felt that the wedding was intended to be the occasion when he and Robin finally embarked on a relationship; instead, he wound up sitting with Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and watching other couples dance.

And then it happened — he saw a girl across the room (played by Ashley Williams) and struck up a conversation with her. They hit it off, but the girl explained that she never hooked up at weddings. However, she did have a proposal — so to speak. She suggested that she and Ted spend the evening together — but they wouldn't kiss, they wouldn't sleep together, they wouldn't even share their real names. They would choose aliases.

And when the evening was over, they would part company and never see each other again.

Ted was OK with that — until Barney came running up to him with one of the bridesmaids on his arm and kept repeating Ted's name, then ran off with the bridesmaid. Thus, the cat was out of the bag. "I'm Ted," he confessed.

"Victoria," she replied.

So Ted and Victoria went off on a playful evening that included Ted playing ragtime on the piano while Victoria tap danced.

Then she confessed that she didn't really know how to tap dance. It was a darn good imitation.

That was the way the evening progressed, and the next day, when Ted was telling Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) about his evening, he kept saying it was "amazing." Marshall and Lily had been at the wedding, too, and they kept ranting about the cake.

(Keep that in mind. It's important.)

After Ted had told them about his evening, he said he was fine with not ever seeing Victoria again. Then, after what has long been called a pregnant pause in the theater, he told them that he had to see Victoria again. But he knew nothing about her except her first name.

Lily had the idea to call the bride from the wedding and ask her for info on Victoria. But Claudia (the bride) was on her honeymoon. Lily advised Ted to wait a couple of weeks, then call Claudia and ask her for info. But Ted was impatient and called Claudia that day. Claudia told Ted that she knew the guest list backwards and forwards — and there had been no Victoria at her wedding.

And the mystery surrounding Victoria grew murkier.

Lily's theory was that Victoria had used another alias. Marshall thought she might be a ghost.

After exploring about every option he had, Ted decided it was fate that he should not be permitted to see Victoria again. And he and the gang resumed their lives as they had been before Victoria and the wedding interrupted.

But fate, as it turned out, had other ideas.

Robin came by to see Lily and tell her about her experience as a substitute anchor. She had done so well, she told Lily, that she was now the official weekend substitute anchor. The one regret she had was standing up Ted. Lily told her not to be concerned, and then she told Robin all about Ted and Victoria.

A stunned Robin told Lily, "I know who she is."

Apparently, after her work as the anchor ended, she had gone to the wedding, hoping to tell Ted all about it — and she stumbled on them alone and seemingly on the verge of a kiss. In fact, it had been Victoria's suggestion that they not kiss — but, instead, come close so as to preserve the drumroll buildup that accompanies a first kiss.

Robin, of course, did not know that. She left almost immediately — and without being seen by either Ted or Victoria — and went to the ladies' room, where she sat in one of the stalls and cried.

Victoria came in to the ladies' room, heard Robin crying and offered her shoulder, but Robin declined.

She did, however, ask Victoria if she was a friend of the bride or the groom. Neither, Victoria replied. "I made the cake."

With that knowledge, Ted was off to find Victoria's bakery, which they did.

But when they got there, Ted began to think about it. The evening had been perfect, and it was a memory that would always be good, would never change no matter what. He was about to leave it as it was, but then he went in. First, he looked through the bakery window — and saw Victoria spreading icing on a cupcake. He went in, ringing the bell on the door as he did, and Victoria turned and saw him. She ran to him — the way lovers always do in all those romantic movies you see on television — and said, "Thank God," before they finally kissed.

OK, it was an episode that probably would have been better if shown around Valentine's Day, which certainly could have been done. In fact, if it had aired three weeks later, it would have been the night before Valentine's Day.

So I guess that would be my main — if not only — complaint about the episode. And when you think about it, if the most you can criticize about a TV episode is the timing of the broadcast, that speaks pretty well of the quality of the episode. I do have a few other remarks to make, but I'll leave it you to decide whether they qualify as complaints. I think they are more along the line of observations, neither good nor bad.

Now, romantic movies really are women's domain. And I mentioned romantic movies earlier because this episode was like a mini romantic movie, a romantic movie packed into a half–hour sitcom episode (well, two half–hour episodes, counting that first one, which really was essential for everything in the second episode to make sense).

Thus, it really wasn't surprising that so much of the story was told from women's perspectives. Ted's character was compliant enough that he could easily fit the part he was required to play. This story was about women and love and dreams and fantasies and the weird kind of sexual logic that always seems to guide relationships in their formative days.

It also seemed to me that there was a kind of assumption made that all men are like Barney — sexual predators. That is a false assumption that arises from that sexual logic I mentioned.

I thought the story was well written, and it may have been the best of the series' first season. But the male characters were, for the most part, reduced to props that reinforced negative stereotypes.

(I am reminded of a period in my life when I worked in an office where we were divided up into small teams. My team was nearly all female. In fact, I think I was the only male in the group. And all day, every day, I heard them telling each other about their experiences with men. Needless to say, I never had anything to contribute to the conversation.)

I'm not saying the story would have been better if the males had been allowed to be three–dimensional as the females were, only that it was clear to me that the story was written from a female's perspective. I knew that even before I knew that a woman wrote the script, and another woman directed the episode.