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'How I Met Your Mother' recap: Who's your daddy?

September 27, 2010 |  8:41 pm

So much of “How I Met Your Mother” is about the identity of the mystery mom. It's right there in the title, after all. But there's another parental mystery in the show – the question of “Who is Barney's dad?” In Season 2's hilarious “Showdown” episode, we learned that Barney's (Neil Patrick Harris) mom told him Bob Barker was his dad, which was a lie Barney happily accepted. But tonight, we got a really sweet, funny and often heartwarming story about Barney coming to terms with the truth about his father's identity. What really worked for me about this episode is that it brought the whole group together for one storyline – a recipe that often makes for some of the show's strongest episodes.

Barney reveals that his mom, Loretta (Frances Conroy), is selling his childhood home, which Ted (Josh Radnor) sympathizes with since his mother's hippy husband has turned his room into a “tantric sex temple.” “With all the bamboo, pot smoke and '60s music, it's like my old G.I. Joes are frozen in some weird Vietnam flashback,” Ted jokes. Barney talks the group into helping him spend an entire weekend packing up his mom's home, where they go through his stuff to glimpse insights into his childhood. In flashbacks to curly, moppet-haired Barney, we learn that his mom lied to him over and over to spare his feelings when he got kicked off the basketball team for sucking and when no one came to his birthday because he threw up at a museum. Barney was not always so awesome.

Lily (Alyson Hannigan) points out that Marshall's (Jason Segel) mom lied to him as a child too. When he got too hyper, she'd tell him he was sick and gave him cough medicine to knock him out. The gigantic Marshall hilariously says that he thinks this is what stunted his growth in the fifth grade, when he hit 6-foot-4. He is the shortest member of the family. Lily says that she refuses to lie to her kids, especially about Santa. “But that's a good lie. Like when we tell Ted he'll meet the right girl and settle down,” Marshall replies. Zing!

Robin (Cobie Smulders), meanwhile, is attempting to find the right girl for Ted. She's oversold him to Liz, the hot makeup artist at her work, by raving about what an amazing lover he is. She sends another e-mail after Ted complains but goes too far into the opposite extreme. “The first few times aren't going to be that great. He's going to say, 'Are you finished?' more times than a waiter at a busy restaurant,” Robin writes.

Downstairs, Barney and his brother James (Wayne Brady) stumble upon an envelope addressed to Sam Gibbs, containing a picture of the two of them. On the back, it reads, “Your son.” But which one?! After Loretta freaks out, Barney and James head to Sam's house, with Lily and Marshall and their sloppy joes in tow, while Robin and Ted hang out in the back of the moving truck with the boxes. This time, Robin decides to go to both extremes and let them balance each other out: “Ted Mosby is really handsome, but extremely violent. And really rich, but lacks bladder control.” When the truck hits a bump, Robin accidentally sends the e-mail. To everyone. When Liz still wants to go out with the freak show in the e-mail, Robin admits that she oversold Liz. She does look like a movie star; it's just Robert De Niro in “Cape Fear.”

At Sam's house, Barney finally reveals that he knows Bob Barker isn't his father. But believing he had a celebrity father made his less than awesome younger self feel better. When the door opens, it's Ben Vereen, so not Barney's father. Barney looks crestfallen. Until he exclaims, “Pops!” and joins James and Sam's hug. James and Sam hit the piano to sing “Stand By Me” and Barney joins in overly soulful song. (Brady, by the way, was very good in Harris' production of “Rent” at the Hollywood Bowl this summer.) Nobody has the heart to break Barney out of the fantasy after a really difficult day. “Can't we just let the guy be black for this day?” Marshall pleads. Barney's mom eventually gives him a piece of paper with the name of his father, but Barney tears it up. He has a father, he tells her, and his name is Loretta. In episodes like this, with Barney's mix of innocent denial, eventual acceptance and sincerity, we're reminded Barney is more than a skirt chaser. And Harris always shines when given more dramatic material. But as truly touching as Barney's moment with his mom was, I'm pretty sure this isn't the end of Barney's journey to find his father.

Readers, what did you think of this episode and Barney's father struggles? Who do you think should play Barney's father?

— Vlada Gelman (follow my TV musings on Twitter at @stayingin)


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Photo: James (Wayne Brady), left, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Sam (Ben Vereen) sing "Stand By Me." Credit: Adam Taylor / CBS.