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How I Met Your Mother: Home for the Holidays

While we’re still debating whether Barney and Robin should have broken up, How I Met Your Mother is moving on with the help of group dinners, inappropriate board games, estranged family members, death stares, and slapping. Yes, it’s that time of the year again — Slapsgiving! While last night’s episode was highly uneven (it definitely fell into the “slightly embarrassed to watch around non-HIMYM fans” category), there was just enough slap-centric action to get us through.

Things kick off with Marshall finding, and then subsequently forgetting in a cab, the perfect turkey. (Marshall’s “Why didn’t I just listen to the pre-recorded voice of former mayor Ed Koch reminding me to take my belongings?” was funny, even if we haven’t heard those messages in a while.) So when good Samaritans Ted and Robin track down the turkey at Port Authority, an overjoyed Marshall gifts them with the right to slap Barney once (Marshall won five Barney slaps during a bet from the Robin Sparkles episode in season two.) While Barney quivers in fear (“I’m doing so much flinching, it’s bad for my skin. I’m getting crow’s feet!”), Ted and Robin bicker over who should get to administer the slap.

Meanwhile, drama ensues when Lily’s estranged father Mickey (guest-star Chris Elliott) shows up at the front door. We get the backstory: Mickey was always too busy creating screwed-up board games to pay attention to his daughter, culminating in Lily cutting him off altogether three years ago. (For the record: The repeating crazy game-title gag (Tijuana Slumlord, Car Battery, There’s a Clown Demon Under My Bed) was amusing, if a little cheap; the repeating “Lily’s you’re-dead-to-me-stare” gag, complete with crappy special effects, was just sort of stupid.)

Marshall pushes Lily to let Mickey in, which leads to a fight, and the best joke of the episode: By way of illustrating Marshall’s perfect family, we see the Sunday Eriksen family dinner, with Marshall joining in via video chat; when everyone goes to hold hands for grace, a smiley Marshall is seen clutching two creepy mannequin hands. Also, it leads to Lily storming out. The gang waits for her to return while playing Mickey’s latest game, Diseases, which leads to the second-best joke of the night: When the game’s gallbladder bursts, spraying gunk all over the turkey, Mickey calmly explains: “It’s not real bile! Its lead-based paint from China. And horse bile.”

Marshall storms out and tracks Lily down at the bodega, ready to apologize for trying to get her to forgive her dad. But a convenient contrivance with an auxiliary character has changed Lily’s mind — it is time to forgive! Back at the apartment, everyone’s happy. We cringe through some truly terrible slap puns, and then it’s time to lay the slap itself down. Robin insists that Ted take it, after all he’s been through; Ted insists that Robin does, after all she’s been through; Robin hands the rights to the slap to Mickey, by way of welcoming him into the family; Mickey gives it to Lily, by way of apologizing for his poor fatherhood; Lily is pleased, but can’t go through with the slap. A wise Marshall explains that this is what he intended all along — for the slap to bring everyone together. (Okay, we know that part was supposed to be ironically trite, but it was annoying either way.) And just when Barney thinks he’s off the hook, Marshall tags him up good. Hurray!

Our favorite part, though, was definitely the fake Slap Bet–game commercial: Not only could we watch people getting slapped in the face for hours, but that jingle’s still stuck in our heads. “You just got slapped/Across the face, my friend…”

Other Recaps:
The Shame Index is with us in calling out the bad special effects … but we are of two minds on the quality of the Slap Bet commercial.
The A.V. Club thinks a sequel to "Slapsgiving" was doomed to fail.
BuddyTV is asking the important questions: Were you satisfied with the slap?

Photo: Courtesy of CBS