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Monday, April 29, 2013

HIMYM & Castle Give Us the Same Episode: Bro Mitvah vs. Lives of Others

Barney’s bachelorette party and Castle’s birthday party were basically the same event...


‘How I Met Your Mother’ is known for often over the top comedy, while ‘Castle’ is a mix of crime, drama and comedy. Apart from the comedic link, the shows normally couldn’t be more different.

‘How I Met Your Mother’ focuses on the lives of five friends living in New York, while ‘Castle’ remains focused primarily on its two main characters (with occasional forays into the lives of the supporting ones).

However, in two of these shows recent episodes the similarity was hard to ignore.

In “The Bro Mitzvah” (S8Ep22) Barney insists that the gang will never be able to give him a bachelor party that will meet his expectations. For the first half of the episode we think he’s right—we witness the worst bachelor party possible. The guys rent Barney a horrible hotel room, they invite a birthday party clown to make balloon creations, and they invite the “wrong” Karate Kid (fans of the show will know that Barney always interpreted that movie a little different from the average ten-year-old). Then, to make matters worse, the stripper turns out to be Barney’s ex-fiancé Quinn. Finally, Barney’s had enough and insists on a ride home, but not before the Karate Kid taunts him into gambling. When Barney finally arrives back in New York (after having lost $85,000), Robin sees him with Quinn and throws her engagement ring in his face.

BUT (and here’s the twist) we’re quickly informed via flashback that all of this misery was planned. The gang decided to give Barney a bachelor party he would never forget by giving him the worst night ever.

Cruel? Ted ponders that at one point, but they all laugh it off.

Luckily, despite a momentary awkward pause when Barney discovers the truth and his face goes blank, he actually does love the fact that they tricked him. He proclaims it the best bachelor party ever and eagerly hugs Robin.

Now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with ‘Castle’; it turns out a hell of a lot.

Just a few weeks before “The Bro Mitvah” aired, ‘Castle’ aired its 100th episode. In “The Lives of Others” (S5Ep19) ‘Castle’ takes a Hitchcockian turn. Castle is injured, so while Beckett and the guys are off solving a murder he’s stuck at home. He takes to staring out his window with binoculars that Alexis has given him as a joke—and he sees the plot of ‘Rear Window’ unfold before his eyes. Beckett refuses to accept that he’s seen a murder, despite the fact that Castle keeps on seeing more and more hints to the contrary. Finally he persuades Beckett to go over to the neighbor’s house. The husband—who supposedly murdered his wife—catches her and Castle thinks (for a horrifying moment) that Beckett is going to be killed while he watches through the window.

However, as soon as Castle reaches the neighbors’ apartment he discovers all of his friends standing there and yelling “surprise”! It turns out it’s a birthday party, planned by Beckett. As she explains it Castle’s face looks very much like Barney’s—blank with disbelief. Everyone pauses awkwardly for a moment but then—again like Barney—Castle eagerly exclaims that it’s the best party ever. Beckett breathes a sigh of relief and they hug.

I can’t even explain to you how bizarre it was to watch these two episodes back-to-back. It is interesting to see very similar plot devices used in a half-hour comedy and an hour long procedural.

Which show did it better? I’m honestly not sure. In a way, ‘Castle’ seemed a little crueler, and even after it was revealed that it was all a trick I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was with the group leading Castle astray. I was particularly uncomfortable because Beckett almost did die last season and we watched Castle go through the agony of having to watch her bleed out in front of him. Tricking him into believing (even if only for a moment) that Beckett was being killed again seems unconscionably cruel.

Meanwhile, Barney getting tricked was also cruel, but considering how much pleasure he takes in tricking other people it felt more justified. He even proposed to Robin with an elaborate hoax, so why not give him a bachelor party in the same vein?

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