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'How I Met Your Mother' recap: 'The mother of all fathers'

March 22, 2011 |  8:00 am

100217_D0459b Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) finally met his father, Jerry (John Lithgow), on tonight's “How I Met Your Mother,” but it didn't go as Barney expected. In Barney's imagination, his dad left him because he was living an awesome, legendary life of excess. That's the only way Barney can justify his absence. But the person who shows up at Barney's door is nothing like that. Barney lies to the gang and tells them Jerry is “the mother of all fathers.” He ordered the same drink as Barney, picked up a chick in five seconds – that's still too long for Jerry though, who rips up the number, proclaiming, “Life’s too short for chatty chicks” – and travels the world with rock bands. He invites Barney along, who replies, “This is going to be the second most fun I've had on an Asian leg.” It's legen – wait for it – daddy. Except that Jerry isn't anything like that. In reality, he's a skim milk drinking, acid reflux suffering driving instructor with a family in the suburbs. Props have to be given to Lithgow, who gave great comedic distinction to the two versions of Jerry.

Barney wants nothing to do with this lame version of Jerry and ignores his calls, forcing the gang to stage an intervention at Ted's (Josh Radnor) house, which seems to be coming along nicely. Marshall (Jason Segel) lays on the “I'll never talk to my dad again”guilt and convinces Barney to have dinner with Jerry and his family, who live just 10 minutes away. (So Ted and Barney's dad will one day live in the same neighborhood? Random.) Barney immediately falls into bickering sibling mode with Jerry's son J.J., fighting him for Jerry's attention and ribbing the young boy (“What gym do you go to?” “4th period.” “Sounds like you're having your fourth period.”). But when Jerry reveals that J.J. is named after him, Barney storms out and attempts to take the basketball hoop off the garage door.

“If you were going to be some lame suburban dad, why couldn't you have been that for me?!” he yells at Jerry.  Things come full circle when Jerry brings out a toolbox and teaches Barney how to use a screwdriver – he hilariously bangs on the nails with it at first – to take down the hoop. “If you ever feel like you're ready, I'd love nothing more than to be a part of your life,” Jerry says. So even though Barney didn't get the father he wanted and maybe overestimated his readiness to meet him, Neil Patrick Harris did get his Emmy submission tape. He really sold the comedic and the dramatic moments, especially that outburst at Jerry.

I'm curious to see what effect this encounter has on Barney in future episodes. The open-ended quality of the episode definitely made it seem like a setup for more, and executive producer Craig Thomas did tell me Lithgow would be back. At the end of the episode, we definitely saw a changed Barney. Instead of talking about putting a stripper pole in Ted's backyard, he conceded that “a kid needs a hoop.” He not only acknowledged that Ted would one day turn into a suburban father just like Jerry, but that there are things he missed as a child and wished he'd had. Now the question is: Will Barney come to accept Jerry and some part of that suburban life for himself? And will Jerry serve as a warning to Barney in a way? It was Jerry's excessive ways and Barney's mom finally having enough of them that cost him his relationship with Barney. If Barney continues on the way he is, what will it cost him?

Meanwhile, Barney not knowing how to use a screwdriver gets the gang talking about their own gaps. Ted pronounces chameleon the way it's spelled. Robin (Cobie Smulders) doesn't think the North Pole is a real place, likening it to Narnia, Candyland and Hogwarts. Lily (Alyson Hannigan) has no aim, which is kind of a lame gap until Marshall reveals that she pees on the floor. Marshall wants to know his gap, but his friends have been treating him with kid gloves ever since his father died. After realizing it, he started to do stuff on purpose to see what he could get away with. The list is awesome: proclaiming “Phantom Menace” the best “Star Wars” movie, which causes Barney to nearly choke on his drink before replying, “It does age well”; growing a soul patch; bringing home a possum he found in the trash. So the gang finally gives him his gaps: He can't wink; he can't swallow pills; he drowns his oatmeal; he always misses a belt loop.

Showtrackers, what did you think of Barney's father? Do you think it will cause Barney to embrace or change his lifestyle? And what's your gap? I definitely have a few like Ted.


'How I Met Your Mother': Executive producer Craig Thomas previews Barney's father
Complete “How I Met Your Mother” coverage on Showtracker

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

Photo: Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) takes down a basketball hoop with his dad's (John Lithgow) help. Credit: Sonja Flemming / CBS.