How I Met Your Mother: Season 6, Episode 21
Barney has always represented a bit of a challenge for How I Met Your Mother. He is clearly the show's breakout character (the Kramer or the Urkel, if you will) and that puts the show in a dangerous position in regards to his development. If Barney actually matures, he by his own definition will cease to be awesome in the way the show has portrayed him and milked him for laughs over the course of six seasons now. Yet if he remains in permanent stasis, like most breakout characters, it becomes sort of difficult for the show to treat him as a living breathing human being, which it likes to do at least a few times a season. If Barney is a realistic character (and that is a big if at times) he has to develop, yet in developing him in an actual way may make him less funny to watch. A Barney without crazy hook up plots, drunken madness, and a drive to get everyone else on the show to try something crazy may be a less hilarious character. But he will almost certainly ring truer for the progress he makes.

This is why I am always in favor of Barney's development. I am even a fan of how fitfully it arrives. Sure, it means we get more time with the classic Barney we have all come to adore (and therefore serves the show's interests in keeping him the same), but it also lends realism to his arc. No one changes overnight, and no one is able to alter the course of their entire life just by realizing that they should. Tonight saw the return of John Lithgow (who is stellar as always, and may get a chance to match his Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Emmy with its Comedy equivalent this fall) as Barney's father Jerry, and found Barney trying to force his father to regress and become "Crazy Jerry" for just one night. In typical Barney fashion, this means clubbing (which leads to a nice "Who's on Third?" bit with club names), hitting on women, drinking, and forcing his friends to adopt false identities because none of them know George Clooney.

So Marshall becomes a playwright in an open marriage to fashion mogul Lily, and Robin is a professional scotch taster (no one watches the news except for car chases and nip slips) dating Ted, who is not allowed to quote Oscar Wilde. Which brings us to the very small subplots that fill out the episode: Robin sees a "secret crush" from when she and Ted were dating (some great callbacks in this plotline) and Marshall and Lily compete to see who would fare better in an open marriage. Neither of these goes anywhere tonight (though we are told Robin and her secret crush will be going somewhere soon), but they are both fun, if a little rushed. I enjoyed the idea of Ted and Robin pretending to get engaged and I think there could have been great fun in letting Marshall awkwardly hit on women again like he was back in season two, but neither was given the room to breathe, so instead both were more good ideas for plots than actually successful in and of themselves.

While all of this is going on, Barney is having real revelations about his life. He doesn't know the hot clubs anymore, he finds strip clubs fun but doesn't really want to, and he might maybe be getting too old for the life he's leading. And, most promisingly for those of us who still manage to hope for Barney and Robin even after that TERRIBLE run they had last season, there was hope in this episode, both when Barney predicts his Dad will see Robin and say, "Deep down you know you were never happier than you were with her" and when his Dad actually suggests he just has to meet the right girl and he says, "Maybe I already have." What with Robin's secret crush, I see this all headed toward Barney about to confess his feelings before finding out Robin has a new boyfriend, but I would kind of be ok with that. The show was pretty great at the will-they-won't-they of Barney and Robin, and a return to that, if done correctly, could be pretty awesome.

Last season of How I Met Your Mother was flat out bad. This season has just been wildly inconsistent, which I guess is an improvement, even if it is a tenuous one. The show is always at its best, though, when it has a real arc it's following and strong emotions to tie the comedy to. If that can't be Ted's arc (apparently he doesn't have one again this week. He's still with Zoey, right? Why wouldn't she be there, even if he does want to break up with her now?), then at least we've had some solid Marshall and Barney storytelling this season. If Marshall's issues losing his father can transition realistically into his fears about becoming a father and Barney's disappointment in regaining his father can become an impetus for actual change in his life, season six of the show can prove itself to be a vital part of How I Met Your Mother's ongoing story, even if it has heretofore done very little to address the masterplot. I still hold out hope, however, that we will get some major progress on that front before the season is out.

Grade: A-


-The group singing the theme song was a fun touch, especially as I recall a great outtake on one of the dvds in which they could not remember what the theme song sounded like.

-"Many of my plays are about the bourgeois...and ennui...and one rock opera about...a frozen yogurt shop."

-"If I can score five numbers before you, we have sex in the bathroom. BUT, if you get five numbers before me, we have sex in the bathroom." "So our usual wager then. Deal."

-"I would've stolen you a whole orchestra. There. What's the rush?" Great callback to one of my all time favorite moments. Also a nice cowboy boots callback.

-"Look what I just ripped out of the ground!" I'd like that to become a thing.
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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