“Slap Bet” forever changed the face of HIMYM. Pun intended.
That little Season 2 episode (2×09) fed into the strong continuity that HIMYM was rapidly becoming known for, and created one of the show’s longest recurring jokes. It carried the show between seasons with slapcountdown.com, which has spawned a lot of homage sites (theslapbetcountdown.com, slapcountdown.org, and others you can google for yourselves). It spawned the immortal “Slapsgiving” (3×09), a less immortal imitator in “Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap” (5×09), and the conclusion to the Ducky Tie saga (“Disaster Averted,” 7×09). And it didn’t occur to me that most of these slaps occurred on the ninth episode of each season. But not here.
That ninth-episode rule, though, is about the only groundbreaking thing “Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra” does (and there have been other slaps outside of those ninth episodes, so it’s not exactly a rule written in stone). Otherwise, this episode epitomizes what I’m henceforth calling “victory lap episodes.” It makes a lot of easy jokes, it relies on quirky premises and questionable special effects, and is content to sit back and let references to previous seasons do the heavy lifting.
Marshall’s return heralds the dawn of the “fourth” slap, although longtime viewers know that number is a little complicated (“Disaster Averted” again). And to prepare the slapping field for his mighty Minnesotan hand, Marshall weaves an elaborate deception involving a fake jukebox and a years-long journey across China—and Cleveland—wherein he learns the three virtues of slapistry: speed, strength, and accuracy from three slap masters graciously portrayed by Robin, Lily, and Ted in the fantasy flashbacks. As the training gets sillier, and the effects more and more hokey, Barney’s own love of showmanship betrays him as he begins falling for Marshall’s orchestrated slap-prep.
This episode is all about Marshall and Barney, and it’s all superficial. There’s all of the continuity and none of the emotion inherent to the best episodes of HIMYM, and while there are some great laughs, and some familiar faces, this one won’t be remembered among the series’ best and brightest. It’s light, it’s breezy, it’s fun, and ultimately forgettable. We’re past the fourth slap now, which means we can get back to the real story that much faster.
The ending appearance by Boyz II Men feels a little much. Obviously it’s a TV show, but it seems too gimmicky for a show that relies so heavily on the humanistic relationships between four best friends and their living cartoon lothario. I’m not a big fan of HIMYM letting the seams show, or lowering itself to leaning on more traditional sitcom tropes. But I’ll allow it. The show’s taken some awesome chances and made amazing leaps in the format. They deserve a few victory laps in their closing season.
Just try to space them out. Too much fun all at once makes me break out in hives.
- Love the cold open with “O Fortuna.” That should play whenever anyone on TV is about to slap anyone else, regardless of the show’s genre or network.
- “The Slap of a Thousand Exploding Suns” sounds amazing. Or is it a million?
- Marshall’s training journey comes complete with Tarintino-esque title cards: “The Cruel Tutelage of Red Bird”, “The Punishing Scholarship of White Flower,” and the “Some-Might-Call-It-Nitpicky-But-It’s-Really-Just-Thorough School of Calligraphy.”
- “When I slap you, it will be beneath a willow tree next to four women and a tiger.” Prophecy becomes reality. Amazing.
- The fabled Slapping Tree of Gongqing Forest. Of course everybody’s heard of that.
- “Oh my God, you had a tree-way?” Groan.
- It’s nice to see Nora is still looking well. She’s still carrying some anger, though.
- Why Cleveland? “It’s the city equivalent of getting slapped in the face.”
- “Look where you’re slapping. That’s important.”
- When you love your friend, and you want to slap him right in his stupid face, you care enough to buy a fake jukebox for your bar so as to make that friend think you have super-slapping powers.