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How I Met Your Mother Recap: Child’s Play

Did everyone else groan when Marshall said, “Lily’s dad showed up unannounced”? Chris Elliott’s guest stint on this show has been pretty much universally panned, so we can’t imagine what would prompt HIMYM to bring him back for what sounds like a more regular role. But apparently his daughter, former SNL star Abby, will also appear this season (reportedly playing an unrelated character). Maybe they’re a package deal? If so, HIMYM’s waning relevance can be measured by its caliber of guest star.

Last night’s episode was probably exactly what we should have expected. Barney’s back in the game! (If exclamation points could be sarcastic ... ) This makes this, what, the third time Barney has tried to rebound from a relationship that was advertised as the one that would change him? People may tire of Ted’s exhaustive search for the Mother, but Barney’s romantic story lines are as repetitive. At least Ted is more or less the same sincere guy, looking for a woman whom he can share his life with. It’s been a long search, but a reasonable one. Barney is a bachelor. He works as a bachelor, but when he gets reactionary with it, his character becomes too self-conscious. Bangtoberfest was the latest in what has become the increasingly less creative bid for Stinson memes, as Barney looks for a new play (one that will presumably make it into “The Playbook,” which was trotted out during the episode in which he was recovering from Robin back in season five).

Last week, we noted disappointment with HIMYM’s failure to bring its newish characters (Victoria and Quinn) into the fold for a more satisfying plot prior to Becki Newton’s departure. We feel similarly about Robin and Ted’s new-relationship competition. While not exactly fresh territory — Robin and Barney struggled to prove their bona fides in “Bagpipes” — it could have been amusing to see the couples square off together. Instead, Nick and Victoria were kept in the way, way background. We still thought Ted and Robin’s repartee was funny, but it should have been more prominent. As delightful as Mrs. Buckminster was, Marshall and Lily’s search for a new nanny didn’t demand the attention it got, and it mostly fed Barney’s weak subplot of sexual exploits. 

What we liked:

  • This particular exchange between Robin and Ted. Robin: “Nick signed for a package when I wasn’t there.” Ted: “Victoria keeps her tampons at my apartment!” Robin conceded. Though the latter point sounded a little antiquated — and Ted seems like the kind of too-thoughtful guy who might keep feminine products on hand — both of these gestures are small milestones in a new relationship. We also liked how Robin threw Ted off his game with “Jamaica, that’s an island, right?” before upping the ante to say that she and Nick were going to Hawaii for New Year’s (“Ha-aloha-burn.”) Future Ted said both couplings were about to implode in a month, so he and Victoria won’t be going to that wedding, nor will Robin ring in the new year with Nick, but this competition was fun while it lasted.
  • Marshall’s wordplay with fellow St. Cloud native Julie Jorgensen, whose father ran George Jorgensen’s Organs until it became George and Morgan Jorgensen’s Organs. They opened up a new shop in Oregon — called Piano Town. Okay, the humor was completely lost in this translation, but last night’s episode was bad, and we’re grasping at straws.
  • Lily’s straight-talk to Barney after he slept with Julie, the one nanny they liked and could afford: “Thank you for being the most immature person I have ever met.” In reality, nobody could stand to have a friend like Barney, unless he was played by Neil Patrick Harris, which is why his character works here. Nonetheless, he’s a real shit-bird, and it’s satisfying to see him called out for it every once in a while.
  • The creepy “Pop Goes the Weasel” music as the nannies gang up on Barney.
  • Baby Marvin. That kid is damn cute.
  • Mrs. Buckminster bedding Barney. Good for her for going out and getting hers.

What we didn’t like:

  • Mickey’s redemption. Please, the one thing that Chris Elliott’s character had going for him was that we could feel justified in our hatred of him. Now, suddenly, after years of being a deadbeat dad, it turns out there was a time when he was a decent father, with a photo album of little Lily to prove it? It’s too convenient — just like the metal pins in his gag thumbs.
  • Nick and Victoria’s bad habits. Nobody was even trying with those. It seems like Ted would know Victoria well enough by now to have learned some time ago that she was a slob. And even if not, that doesn’t really fit her character. Neither is it believable that Nick is so needy and sensitive that he cried when Robin killed a spider. Why bring these characters in to waste them so entirely?
  • Barney’s scheme to sleep with nannies. Everything about it, from the fake son, Edgar — a callback to the fake family he hired to satisfy his mother? — to his contribution to his wife’s death (by giving her multiple orgasms) felt so tired. This joke has just run out of gas. It’s been beaten to death. It is a cliché on par with both of those clichés.
  • Poo jokes. Every new-baby story line invites them, but it would be nice if just once a sitcom resisted.
  • Mrs. Buckminster bedding Barney. We wanted to be advanced about this, but nobody likes the idea of Mary Poppins having sex.

This was just one of those throwaway episodes, and there’s likely to be a few of them this season. We just hope the series’ status is resolved soon, because we suspect that once the writers commit to an ending, they will be able to unload all the quality ideas they might be hording as they wonder for how much longer they need to stall.

Photo: Frame Grab/CBS