Friday, March 25, 2011

HIMYM 6.19: "Legendaddy"

“You know what, I’m going on a trip too, Scott. It starts in Narnia, it works its way up to Candy Land, and then, hey, congratulate me, because I’m the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. Expelliarmus!”

I’ve been kind of reluctant to watch “Legendaddy,” mostly because an episode focusing on Barney with John Lithgow as a guest star just has to be amazing, and I was afraid of it not meeting expectations. But meet my expectation it did. The only way it could have possibly been better would have been if Robin had taken more of a role in helping Barney get through the difficult situation in which he found himself. But what we got was still great. Both Neil Patrick Harris and John Lithgow got to show great range from comedy to drama. Although I am absolutely a Barney fan, I haven’t always been a fan of Barney-centric episodes. There have been some great ones like “Game Night” and “Of Course,” but then there have also been unfunny 90’s sitcom parodies like “The Stinsons” or all joke and no heart episodes like “The Playbook.” This episode, however, struck all the right notes. It had its humorous moments, like any sitcom should, but it had a whole lot of heart. And things weren’t wrapped up in a neat bow, either. Barney still has a lot of work to do to come to terms with his father.

The episode opens with the gang taking a trip to Ted’s house, which I thought was nice because we haven’t seen it since he bought it, and it feels like that happened a while back. Ted and Barney have very different ideas about what should be done with the house. Well, maybe they don’t actually have different ideas, but what Barney says should be done is certainly different. Ted’s going on about how to make it a nice space for family, including a basketball hoop outside. Barney thinks it should be a seduction lounge, complete with “Vietnamese shame wheel.” The purpose of the trip isn’t really to see Ted’s house, though. It’s an intervention for Barney, complete with the infamous intervention banner. I do love when HIMYM brings back little details like that.

We then backtrack a bit to see why exactly the gang called an intervention for Barney. This episode’s structure was a little more complicated than your typical in media res, which was nice. We even eventually find out why the intervention was held all the way out at Ted’s new house. Several days earlier, the gang had been at Barney’s apartment (which is not something I think we’ve ever seen them do before), presumably to watch something on his big screen TV. The TV is broken, and a screwdriver is needed to fix it. Not knowing a thing about tools, Barney calls the landlady, presumably to bring him a screwdriver, and maybe even to fix the TV. When he opens the door to his apartment, however, the landlady isn’t standing there, though. His dad is. He got a letter Barney sent.

The gang (minus Barney, who is meeting with his dad), reconvenes in Ted and Robin’s apartment. Barney’s earlier complete lack of knowledge about tools leads them to start discussing their own gaps in knowledge. I thought this was the weakest aspect of the episode, because it seemed so transparently an attempt to jam in the classic HIMYM “give a name to a social phenomenon.” Where the story ended up made it somewhat worth it, though, although it still felt a little hollow compared to Barney’s story. Anyway, we learn that Ted’s gap in knowledge is that he mispronounces the word “chameleon,” and we see a quick flashback of him mispronouncing it in a lecture to his class. I enjoyed Robin’s gap more, which is that until a boyfriend told her he was going on a scientific expedition to the North Pole, she didn’t think the North Pole was actually real. I love how many geeky references to fantasy stories (and one board game) are fit into the flashback to illustrate this gap. We later learn that Lily’s gap is that she has terrible aim, illustrated by her accidentally throwing a beer for Marshall against the wall of the apartment.

Barney rejoins the rest of the gang, and everyone instantly wants to know how the meeting with his dad went. Barney tells a fantastical tale of drinks at MacLaren’s, where he discovered his dad is essentially his older carbon copy. He says his dad is awesome, with the same drink order and some of the same mannerisms. He was a groupie when Barney was a little kid, but now he’s a rock tour manager. Barney says he offered to let him come along with him on an Australian tour. To top it all off, Barney’s dad, Jerry, can pick up chicks like nobody’s business. He got the number of a woman sitting at the bar in five seconds. The rest of the gang privately worries that Jerry is pretending to be Barney’s definition of awesome, and that Barney is going to get hurt.

It turns out that Barney is indeed going through the emotional wringer thanks to this experience, but not in the way they think. Jerry finds the gang (conveniently minus Barney) at MacLaren’s and asks for their help. He hasn’t heard from Barney since their initial meeting and was really hoping to connect. He’s also not tour manager traveling the globe. He’s a suburban driving instructor. Jerry tells the story of his and Barney’s drinks at MacLaren’s, and we see what really happened that evening. Jerry was really more the endearing old dad type than womanizer, and Barney just acted bored. Jerry tried to apologize to Barney because Jerry’s former hard partying ways made Barney’s mom say he had to stay away, but Barney still doesn’t seem to want to listen to him. Finally, Jerry starts bragging about his achievements, but all those achievements are pretty lame.

The intervention from the beginning of the episode was to make Barney go to dinner with his dad again, because Jerry conveniently lives only ten minutes from Ted’s house. Barney says he never wants to speak to his dad again, but Marshall changes Barney’s mind by reminding Barney that he actually never can speak to his dad again. Barney ends up eating dinner at Jerry’s house with his stepmother, eleven-year-old half-brother, and Jerry. Barney has a half-sister, too, who is in college. He goes into total little boy mode, really getting into the sibling rivalry with his half-brother, J.J. It was funny at first, until it became obvious that Barney’s behavior was coming from a place of deep pain. Barney gets especially upset when he finds out that J.J. stands for “Jerome Junior.” He’s crushed that he wasn’t named after his father, but this kid from his father’s new life was.

While waiting for Barney, Marshall confronts the group about treating him with kid gloves since dad’s death. He mentions that with all the gaps in knowledge talk recently, nobody has mentioned any of his gaps. He has also been testing the group. Nobody made fun of him when his voice cracked, nobody disagreed when he said that “The Phantom Menace” was the best Star Wars movie, and nobody disagreed when he said that he has no gaps and he’s perfect. Lily confirms that everyone has been trying to treat him nicely since he lost his father. Marshall insists that what would help him the most would be if they went back to ribbing him like they used to. What Marshall wants, Marshall gets. We’re treated to a long list of Marshall’s gaps, including the fact that he can’t wink and he can’t swallow pills.

We next see Barney standing on the hood of Jerry’s car, trying to take down the basketball hoop on Jerry’s garage by shaking it. Jerry goes outside to see what the commotion is, and Barney starts to freak out. It’s amazing work by Neil Patrick Harris. Certainly his best this season, and it’s definitely up there with his other top performances throughout the series. He yells at Jerry that since he couldn’t have his childhood, he’s at least taking the basketball hoop. Jerry wants to know why the fact that he’s boring and kind of lame bothers Barney so much. Barney, in probably the most poignant line of the episode, explains that it makes him wonder why, if Jerry was going to be a “lame suburban dad,” he couldn’t have been that lame suburban dad for Barney when he was growing up.

Jerry admits that he doesn’t have a good explanation for his absence, and he continues to apologize profusely. He also teaches Barney how to take down the hoop using a screwdriver, a task Barney had never learned to complete before due to Jerry not being in his life. Jerry says that he now wants to be a part of Barney’s life when Barney is ready, but clearly Barney isn’t ready just yet. He leaves Jerry’s house carrying the basketball hoop, still angry and upset. The gang heads back to Ted’s house, and Barney gives Ted the basketball hoop. Trying to cheer him up, Ted suggests that maybe Barney’s idea for an outdoor stripper pole wasn’t so bad after all. Barney, however, insists that “a kid needs a hoop.”

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