Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HIMYM 6.02: "Cleaning House"

“You guys are adorable. You seriously believe that I, Barney Stinson, can’t talk you into this? I got the Queen to give me a fist bump.”

While I don’t think I’d count “Cleaning House” among my favorite episodes of HIMYM overall, I most definitely enjoyed it. We got an interesting exploration of the nature of truth and lies between the lies Loretta Stinson told her sons, Marshall and Lily having a discussion about parenting lies, and Ted and Robin debating how much to tell a blind date. This was the first Barney-centric episode that has really worked for me since Season 4 (with the possible exception of “Of Course” if you consider that Barney-centric), and considering I’m a huge fan of Barney, that’s saying something. The episode centers around the gang helping to pack up Barney’s childhood home because his mom is moving. I was kind of concerned, because the last time the show went to the house of Barney’s mom for an episode, we got “The Stinsons,” arguably one of the worst episodes of the series to date. In fact, before Season 5, I would have said it was the worst episode. I really needn’t have worried, though. I think I’m still a little gun shy after last season, honestly, and every time there’s heart in an episode of this show or Barney acts kind of like a person instead of a caricature, I’m surprised.

The gang is having an evening at MacLaren’s, like they do, and Barney is acting a bit unusual. When asked what’s wrong, Barney reveals that his mother is moving out of his childhood home. He then proceeds to smarmily ask the rest of the gang to help with the process that weekend. They, of course, are not interested at all in spending their weekend that way. There’s some back and forth about whether or not Barney could possibly convince them all to give up their weekend, and we see Barney gearing up to put on quite a show to convince them. There’s a quick cut, and right before the theme music plays, we see the gang all at the Stinson house helping pack. I thought that was a pretty funny way to handle it, really. Barney’s actual pitch couldn’t have been anywhere near as great as the set-up, so this lets us use our imaginations about how exactly Barney convinced his friends to help.

My confidence in this episode started to go up once one of the guest stars appeared. Wayne Brady was back as Barney’s brother, James. He was great back in Season 2’s “Single Stamina,” so I was excited to see him again. We see through a series of flashbacks that Barney and James’ mother was pretty much a compulsive liar. For instance, she told Barney that the coach wanted him off the basketball team because he was so much better than all the other kids, when the opposite was the truth. Also, she once gave him a letter from the “Postmaster General” saying that no one would be at Barney’s birthday party because the invitations got lost in the mail. Barney believed each one of these lies wholeheartedly, and still does when he shows the rest of the gang mementos of those occasions. James, however, sees right through it all. He’ll get caught up on the moment of one of his mother’s lies, but he sees through it within seconds. He grew up; Barney didn’t. This whole discussion of the stories Loretta told lead Marshall and Lily to discuss what they will and won’t tell their children, particularly whether or not they will let their kids believe in Santa. Marshall is for Santa, and Lily is opposed.

Meanwhile, while taking a break from the packing, Robin reads to Ted an e-mail she sent to her friend Liz. She’s setting up Liz and Ted on a blind date, and the e-mail is her description of Ted, which includes kind of explicit descriptions of how good he allegedly is in bed. Ted is worried that Robin is overselling him to Liz, which will only lead to disappointment. Really the only good thing about this plot is that Ted uses “The Karate Kid” as part of his explanation of overselling, and his karate moves were hilarious. Robin’s next attempt undersells. Her third attempt is even worse on the underselling end of the spectrum, and she accidentally sends it to everyone in her address book. By the end of the episode, Ted realizes that not only did Robin oversell him to Liz, she oversold Liz to him. Whatever.

Anyway, Barney and James come across an envelope addressed to a man named Sam. It contains a photo of Barney and James, and on the back of the photo is written “Your son.” Loretta tries to spin another lie to explain the photo, but James doesn’t believe it. Barney does believe it, of course, which makes James kind of go off on him. He tells Barney that Bob Barker is not his father (a call back to the Season 2 episode “Showdown”). The gang goes to see Sam, and I think my favorite scene of the episode takes place right before they knock on Sam’s door. Barney fesses up that he knows Bob Barker isn’t his dad. He also admits that he needs a minute to prepare for the possibility of meeting his father. Neil Patrick Harris really does play the more dramatic, heart-felt Barney moments so well.

The door opens, and it’s Ben Vereen, which makes it pretty clear that Sam is James’ dad. Nevertheless, Barney attaches himself to Sam. Seriously, that’s really the only way to describe it. He reverts to childhood as much as he can. It gives Neil Patrick Harris a chance to show off his physical comedy chops, which is always fun. My favorite part is when he starts running around in circles and gets upset when Sam isn’t watching. Marshall thinks the group should let Barney live in this fantasy for a little while because he’s been through so much. Also hilarious is when James and Sam are at the piano singing “Stand By Me” and Barney keeps cutting in, only to be dragged away by Lily each time. I may just have to go rewatch that sequence right now it’s so funny.

The episode ends with a serious chat between Barney and his mom. Loretta admits that Sam isn’t Barney’s father and offers to tell Barney the truth. Barney suddenly realizes all the lies she told while he was growing up and realizes that most of them were to protect him. He rips up the paper with his dad’s name on it, telling his mom that she’s his dad, too. It’s a sweet moment, although painfully obvious that Barney will be meeting his dad this season. I wonder if this is the beginning of an arc that will make him ready for his probable wedding at the end of the season? Before James knocked on Sam’s door, Barney did say it was “time to grow up.” Before reverting to complete childhood, of course. Interesting stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment