The Wife:

After putting up with that Stella arc and last week’s super sitcom-y episode, I am glad that HIMYM has returned to form and delivered unto me a really great Marshall and Lily episode in which they wonder: are we ready for babies?

This show is so much my life.

Framed by Barney’s theory of The Cheerleader Effect (hot girls in a group appear hot, but individually, they’re not nearly as good looking, and one of them always looks like Marshall in drag), Barney receives a phone call that presents him with the worst news possible:

“Apparently, I’m gonna be a dad.”

Hearing their friend announce the possibility of illegitimate Stinson spawn and hanging around other 30-something couples in Dowisetrepla with adorable young babies, Marshall and Lily wonder if they, too, should be thinking about spawning. They can’t, however, even if they want to, because homeless and unemployed Robin is squatting on their couch and constantly ruining sexy babymaking time by running in to eat vanilla ice cream with a bottle of Guinness poured over it (which, by the way, is a great idea) on the couch or shooting beer cans on the roof and disturbing the neighbors/potentially injuring her hosts.

I have a feeling this might slightly impose on Marshall and Lilys love life . . .

I have a feeling this might slightly impose on Marshall and Lily's love life . . .

When Barney finds out that his potential baby mama is not, in fact, pregnant, Barney dances through the streets of New York in celebration and announces to Marshall at their mutual office that he will be creating a holiday in commemoration of all those men who choose not to have children but still lead the Stinsonian lifestyle: Not a Father’s Day. Within a span of hours, Barney’s holiday is a full-fledged thing (just like the Lemon Law), complete with an assortment of greeting cards and a website through which you can purchase them: Unfortunately, Barney’s website doesn’t have the greeting card he gives to Marshall:

Marshall: It looks like an Asian woman.

Barney: On Not a Father’s Day, you get a Thai you’d actually wear! Word-play five!

Meanwhile, Lily has kicked Robin out of the house for the evening so she and Marshall can have a romantic dinner and make some babies. But then Marshall realizes that his “breakfast meeting” he thought he had the next day was a really a breakfast meeting for the Chinese business partners they’d be conferencing with via satellite, meaning he’d have to work late and miss Lily’s . . . dinner.

Lily: Dinner is a baby!

Robin: Lily, that’s horrible!

Upset by this, Lily starts to rethink the pros and cons of having children and calls over Robin and Ted to help her sort out her thoughts. Robin, clearly an anti-maternal sort of woman, argues that having children would just hold Lily back from all the things she wants to do in life, including going to graduate school and teaching art at the college level. (That’s all well and good, Robin, but I’ve known far too many people in academia who start having children while they’re in graduate school, as the schedule is a little more free to work in childcare than a “real” job and most major universities have an on-site child care center.) Ted argues as the pro-kid advocate, presenting only the positive aspects of child rearing, which Robin points out that Ted basically does already to his friends: scolding them, acting like a dorky dad with waitresses, telling terrible jokes – all of which are things that I think are totally appropriate for the narrator of a show called How I Met Your Mother. (But you have to wonder – does future dad Ted color his past anecdotes with these things to seem a bit more fatherly to his kids? Or simply that he doesn’t remember in 2030 being any way but the way he is then?) Ted calls Robin out on her intense fear of children, which she pokes from a distance as though they are dangerous animals. She also runs out of the room screaming whenever that eTrade commercial with the talking baby comes on.

Ultimately, Lily’s decision is made by the entire bottle of wine she’s been downing throughout this conversation and the tiny sock from her neighbor’s child that got left behind in the apartment. And so begins Alyson Hannigan’s best performance on this show. Ever. She coos at the sock in various tones of voice that I am incapable of reproducing in print, and then disappears from Ted and Robin’s sight, only to show up, totally wasted at Marshall’s office demanding:

“You put a baby in me, Marshall! I’m rrready!”

Marshall then has to balance preparing for his meeting and handling his drunken wife, who is acting just like a giant toddler: tearing apart his files and re-alphabetizing them in a way that makes sense only to her (“I put the As next to the Gs! Ag! Aaaaaaaaag!”), drinking yet another bottle of wine, “spitting-up” in the wastebasket and, of course, crying. As she gets loose from Marshall’s office, she scoots by the window of the conference room on a rolly chair, dancing and making lewd suggestions until, finally, Marshall figures out how to get her to sleep in exactly the same way my parents did: he uses the soothing rumble of a car to get Lily to drift off to sleep and then puts her to bed.

All in all, a true tour de force comedy performance from Hannigan. Not even in American Pie have we seen her go quite this far with physical comedy and the lady is fucking great at it. I’d petition for more drunk Lily, but I know that can’t happen much in the future since Hannigan is really having a baby with husband Wesley Windham-Price, er, Alexis Denisof, so the writers of HIMYM will have to gift Marshall and Lily with a child at some point in the near future.

As Marshall deals with Drunk Baby Lily, Robin and Ted continue their pro- and anti- kid argument at the bar, with Ted trying to aggressively re-gender Robin by saying that she’s too much of an ice queen that any children who suckled at her breasts would get brain freezes. She counters by implying that Ted’s willingness to rear children is somehow emasculating. There’s a lot to unpack in that argument about how these to characters perceive gender in one another, but it all gets put aside when Ted, answering Robin’s phone when she leaves for the bathroom, finds something in her purse: baby Jeremy’s little sock, proving that somewhere under her tough-as-nails exterior, Robin does have some maternal bones in her body. She insists that she remains ambivalent about the whole notion of progeny, but that it’s really hard to resist when you see things like tiny socks. (It is. Tiny socks are so fucking cute.)

“Maybe someday. When I’m, like, 70. Science will catch up.” – Robin

Ted warms to his former paramour in this moment, after she admits that being homeless and jobless she really isn’t in a space in her life to even fairly consider children, and offers her the spare room in his apartment.

In Dowisetrepla, Lily apologizes to Marshall with her breakfast specialty (and mine!) of chocolate chip pancakes. She realizes that after the way he took care of Drunk Baby Lily, he’d be a great parent, and Marshall realizes from the same incident that he’s not quite ready for children, worried about the number of hours he’s putting in over at the GNB offices. They both decide that they’re not quite ready yet, but when they are, they will be totally friggen’ awesome parents.

Back at the bar, Barney is holding a Not a Father’s Day celebration for the men in his organization, which Robin points out is also suffering from The Cheerleader Effect.

“None of those guys is childless by choice.” – Robin

Barney realizes that the Not a Father’s Day aficionados are not quite as awesome as he is (especially the one who looks like a long-haired, plaid-wearing Marshall, which I realize now is kind of like seeing what happened to Freaks & Geeks Nick Andopolous) and when he sees baby Jeremy’s sock, it sends him in to a weepy haze, dashing off to a karaoke bar to sing a tearful rendition of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Man, that sock gets to everyone, doesn’t it?

As much as I feel this is a Lily and Marshall episode, it actually really adeptly balanced the entire cast and their opinions on/reactions to child-rearing. Everyone had something to do that felt in-character and utilized the actors’ talents, especially Radnor’s uncanny ability to act very poorly (like when he’s being dorky restaurant dad and delivering terribly jokes) and Harris’s numerous Broadway skills (he both sang and danced in this one).

I feel very close to this episode, personally, as that whole baby question kind of looms over you when you’re married. And while my husband and I are very much Marshall and Lily (I’m redheaded, make chocolate chip pancakes and have a ridiculous shopping habit . . . he has a giant melon head, tests his underpants radius and is too big for New York), we’re not really at a having babies point in our lives. And most of our other married/seriously coupled friends aren’t either . . . except for the couple that’s currently expecting their second child. Those two want all of the rest of us to have babies. We will someday, and I’m sure that we’ll also be totally friggen’ awesome parents. But for now, we have cats. And they’re a big enough handful as it is.

The Husband:

HIMYM has a tendency to fuck with our expectations, and last night it skirted dangerously close to becoming “just another sitcom.” This occurred early in Barney’s story. When told that he is to be a father, he immediately goes to church and prays to God (complete with a “Ssup?”), promising that he would do anything in order for his former one night stand to not be pregnant.

Now, let’s assume in an equation of sitcom buffoons that Barney Stinson is roughly equal to Dale Gribble of King of the Hill. They are ridiculous in their own unique way – Barney with dating and relationships, Dale with conspiracy theories and impulsiveness – but both are fairly harmless when all is said and done.

If Dale Gribble was faced with a similar problem, he might, in fact, get an entire prayer out to God, and right at the end get the phone call that the woman was not, in fact, pregnant. Considering this to be Divine Intervention, Dale would, in all his impulsiveness, become a Jesus freak for exactly one episode and would probably bug the hell out of lifetime spiritualist Hank Hill and the rest of Arlen by going over-the-top with his ridiculousness, then in the end learn that even in religion, there is a middle ground to be had.

When Barney started reciting a prayer, my mind immediately went to being disappointed that this was the direction Barney was going to take for the rest of the episode. However, here we go with the fucking with your expectations. Instead of letting him finish the prayer, the show allows Barney to receive the “not pregnant” call right in the middle of his prayer, thus releasing him from sitcom cliché hell, and instead send him off on the entirely unique story of starting Not A Father’s Day as its own little pseudo-religious cult, making a joke while at the same time being true to his character.

Cut to me breathing a sigh of relief.

That’s what I like about this show – the plots come out of character traits and not the other way around. I really dug Frasier, for instance, but about one-third of the time this brainiac radio psychologist would suddenly act like an idiot just to serve the machinations of the plot, and that’s something that really gets my goat about a lot of sitcoms (especially the ones in the 90s).

On a different note, upon copy editing my wife’s entry above, I see she has suffered from a fallacy that confuses Cat Stevens’ song “Father & Son” with Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and made the correction for her. However, she is not the first in my life to make the same error, and it has come to my attention that this is actually a widespread thing. Hell, I did it more than once. The truth is, both are beautiful songs, yes, and both are about fathers and sons, but they are still different songs. Check out the elements that have led to this strange confusion:

Please, won’t you help me in curing this disease? Only your donations can make this possible.