'How I Met Your Mother': The Exploding Meatball Sub Disappoints
This week's episode took a superficial and unfocused look at what makes relationships work
How I Met Your Mother returned this week with an episode called "The Exploding Meatball Sub." Though an exploding meatball sub does actually factor into the plot, the episode is mainly about relationship challenges, specifically whether it's preferable to have a fully supportive, albeit predictable, relationship like Marshall and Lily's, or a volatile and challenging but always interesting one like Ted and Zoey. It takes a full episode and Future Ted's 20 years of perspective to assure us that ultimately the supportive and predictable relationship is superior. He has this wisdom to offer because Present Ted doesn't go with his instincts and break up with Zoey, even though she is protesting his dream project with court orders, pickets, and loudspeakers. We're told that he would have to learn his mistake "the hard way," because Future Ted teaches his kids lessons in the context of the broader narrative, not by explaining away oversimplified resolutions in the moment.
Written by the longtime but infrequently used HIMYM scribe Stephen Lloyd, also responsible for "Cleaning House" (easily one of the worst episode of the season), this episode was superficial and unfocused. Marshall quits his job at GNB for an unpaid volunteer position at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Lily tires of her own selflessness, and Barney plots an elaborate revenge against Marshall (for pointing out some errant meatball sauce on Barney's tie) with the use of an exploding meatball sub. The exploding sub and Barney as the mad scientist is a funny bit. But for a season that has managed to tell complicated stories in a variety of interesting and coherent ways, this episode tries to mash in too many unbelievable and humorless details such as Lily's impulsive, uncharacteristic, and unaffordable almost trip to Spain. And yet, regardless of the execution of this episode, the fundamental tensions between Zoey and Ted, Barney's unreconciled feelings about his father, and Lily's bottled up issues leave plenty for the writers to explore in the four remaining episodes of Season 6.