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'How I Met Your Mother' recap: How Barney learned to stop partying and settle down

April 19, 2011 |  8:00 am

Despite the title of this week's “How I Met Your Mother” – “Hopeless” – it seems things are not hopeless for Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), who has a real epiphany about his life. Barney decides to bust Jerry (John Lithgow) out of the suburbs and take him on a wild night out on the town. For the purposes of the evening, he's constructed new, cooler identities for his friends. Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) now have an open marriage while Marshall is a womanizing playwright. Robin (Cobie Smulders) is a professional Scotch taster who's dating Ted (Josh Radnor). “Oh man! Why?!” Robin whines. She, like viewers, must be getting tired of the show pulling out the Ted/Robin card every year just to mess with us. Barney explains that he can't have any single female friends because then his dad will be like, “Why don't you marry Robin? You guys were cut together. Deep down you know you were never happier than when you were with her.” Robin looks a little surprised, but the scene quickly moves on. Still, this little moment seems very loaded with possibility. Is that Barney's subconscious speaking about his true feelings for Robin, the things he can't even admit to himself? Is it foreshadowing that Robin and Barney are the ones getting married in the premiere wedding?

After a lengthy argument about where to go, filled with club names like Was, Lame, Open that really reminded me of the episode “Okay Awesome,” everyone ends up at Hopeless. Barney exclaims that he wants to hang out with Crazy Jerry, who told him to “never stop partying” when he was 6, not lame suburban Jerry. So Jerry downs a few shots and lets loose, but being a bit older, he does so in an incredibly embarrassing way that includes wearing his tie around his head and calling the club a disco. “This is awesome!” says Barney. “I finally know what it's like to be embarrassed by my dad.” The two take the party to the streets, where Jerry rips a parking meter out of the ground, gets into an argument, and throws up on a police car. As Jerry and Barney sit on the curb in handcuffs, Jerry reveals that he's not really drunk. It was all a sleight-of-hand aided by the fact that “a magician’s best friend is a drunk audience.” Jerry thought if he could show Barney what it's like when you try to make the party go on forever, he'd realize he can't do this forever.

Surprisingly, Barney seems to take Jerry's words to heart and have a real, genuine moment of self reflection. “I love my life, but I'm not sure I like loving it,” he says. “I'm too far gone. I'm broken.” Interesting choice of words, but I don't think it's too late for him to change. Jerry admits that settling down was difficult. “A magician never reveals his greatest trick, but I'll give you a hint. You gotta meet the right girl,” he tells Barney, who replies, “Maybe I've met her already.”

Dear show: It's Robin, right? Not Nora, yes? Please stop torturing me! Regardless of who Barney ends up with, this was a huge breakthrough moment for the character, one that makes me feel comfortable saying he will end up with someone someday. It was also nice to see Barney have this moment because when Jerry said he was 35-years-old, hearing the number really hit home how ridiculous his lifestyle is becoming. And Jerry's role in the breakthrough was played with a perfect combination of heart – Lithgow had the not-so-easy task of delivering some dramatic moments in order to sell Barney on another lifestyle – and humor. I loved Lithgow's delivery of, “I might be allergic to this stamp.”

Back at the club, big things also seemed to be in the works for Robin, who spotted her secret crush (Michael Trucco). Their chat was cut short by a clueless Ted pretending to be her boyfriend. Then Ted remembers when Robin first met him. It was while they were shopping back when they were together! He bought his red boots that day and then they had really good sex that night, during which Robin insisted that he keep his shirt over his face. Ted gets Robin back by announcing their engagement to the whole club. But as Robin and their crush both head home alone, future Ted reveals, “It wasn't the end of that.” Wouldn't it be an interesting scenario if next season, Barney realizes he's ready to settle down with Robin and she's seeing someone else? Yes, the show kind of did that already, but pining Barney is the best. It'll be interesting to see if Barney exhibits some signs of change in the next episode. More likely, the writers are saving it up for the season finale.

Other brief thoughts:
– Loved the opening credits as done by the gang. What would their band name be?
– Funny moment: Lily and Marshall taking on their new personas a little too strongly, arguing about their fake life until Lily blurts out, “I brought French cooking to America!” She wanted to be Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada,” but it seems she settled for Julia Child.
– Lily's secret crush is Mila Kunis. I really think there's a little bit of Willow in Lily.

Showtrackers, do you think Barney is really serious about changing his life? Was he talking about Robin or Nora or someone else?

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 his dad Jerry (John Lithgow) to a club. Credit: Carin Baer / Fox.