How I Met Your Mother, "Cleaning House": because Santa is a lie

Quick Take: How I Met Your Mother, "Cleaning House"
"It's time to let go of the fantasies," NPH says as he expertly flips the switch to his sad eyes. And the crowd goes awww.

how i met your mother

Review: How I Met Your Mother, "Cleaning House"
(S0602) Brace yourselves: It's a Barney-centric episode that doesn't revolve around a new sexual feat he's attempting.  I know, it's hard to believe after last season repeatedly hit viewers over the head with plots that said "Look how awesome Barney is as a man-whore!" as if to make up for the much-too-short stretch in which he stomached a monogamous relationship with Robin.

But have hope: producers Craig Thomas and Carter Bays have all but conceded that Season Five just wasn't very good.  They attempted a more self-contained, date-of-the-week format that steered away from much advancement of the larger, mother-seeking plot, aside from a couple of dead-end teases ("Look! The mother's ankle!").  The result was a mostly forgettable season that lacked much of the emotional intrigue and character progression fans have come to expect.  In fact, much of the time our protaganist Ted (Josh Radnor) seemed simply unlikable.  Douchey, you might say.

Don't get me wrong, a little douchiness is essential to Ted's character, but we've got to be able to root for him.  The show seemed to lose some of its heart. So it's with high hopes that I enter this season, in which the producers promise to return to the style of the first couple seasons, with larger story arcs, real character development, and perhaps some actual progress in the search for the titular mother. Last week's season premiere got off to a promising start by flashing to the specific future event when he meets the mother -- a wedding in which Ted is serving as the best man.  It also sets up another mystery to chew on: whose wedding is it?  The frontrunners would seem to be Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), but it would take a lot of change to get them realistically to that point.  So who knows?

"Cleaning House" is another solid effort.  It's a little bit light on laughs, and it doesn't advance the "Mother" plot, but we can't expect them to do so every week.  Where it succeeds is providing Barney with some much-needed emotional softening, and further fleshes out his ironic backstory. 

The premise: Barney's mom Loretta is moving, and he convinces the gang to help him pack up all of his old belongings.  Wayne Brady reappears as Barney's gay brother James, and what follows is a bit of a trip down memory lane.  Memories, it turns out, that are mostly lies concocted by their mother.  Most notably, we revisit the false notion that longtime Price is Right host Bob Barker is Barney's father, which Barney inexplicably seems to still believe.  He also believes that he was kicked off the basketball team for being too good, that no one came to his birthday party because the postmaster general lost the invitations, and that he got Valentines from EVERY girl in school.  These gags, complete with flashbacks to his mother's good intentions, are humorous, if slightly implausible. 

It all comes crashing down when they find an unsent letter to a man named Sam Gibbs.  They seek out the possible father, and in a rather touching scene, Barney reveals that he knows deep down that Bob Barker is not his father, and that having a celebrity dad made him feel special.  "It's time to let go of the fantasies," he says, and NPH expertly flips the switch to his sad eyes. And the crowd goes awww.

Of course, the fantasies resume when Sam Gibbs ends up being a black man (and thus, obviously, not Barney's dad. In case you didn't make that connection).  Sam bonds with James, the son he never met, and Barney tries naively to join in.  Eventually he has a heart-to-heart with Mom, asking "I want you to be honest with me.  Why do white people like Carrot Top?" (this joke fell flat.  When's the last time anyone, white or otherwise, cared about Carrot Top?).  She offers to tell him who his father is, but he declines, realizing that Ms. Stinson was enough of a father figure for him. Cue a sappy Saget voiceover, and we're out!

Other brief thoughts:

  • I don't think this is the last we've seen of the "Barney's father" story.  Hopefully they revisit that later on.
  • Ted and Robin have an innocuous subplot in which she oversells him to a potential date, and then overcorrects by dramatically underselling.  This is actually fairly realistic behavior when people try to set up their friends, so these bits were kind of fun.
  • Ms. Stinson's lies caused Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) to think about how they'll treat their own child, as part of their ongoing quest to have a baby.  Lily is stoutly against ever lying to her kids, including the most common parental lie, Santa Claus.  I think this is a bit extreme, as does Marshall.  This didn't really go anywhere, so I guess we'll have to wait until the kid comes to find out how they solve the great Santa debate.
  • The highlight of the episode, for me, was the end tag, in which Barney attempts to join Sam and James singing "Stand by Me," but does so with an auto-tune voice modulator, T-Pain style.  I'm a sucker for auto-tune gags anyway, but NPH nailed it. 
  • This is my very first post! With any luck, it'll be the first of many.  I hpe you enjoyed it!
  • From Around the Web: How I Met Your Mother, "Cleaning House"

  • Show Tracker: What really worked for me about this episode is that it brought the whole group together for one storyline – a recipe that often makes for some of the show's strongest episodes. 
  • A.V. Club: I like the idea that Barney did take a step tonight toward a grown-up engagement with the truth -- that it’s not always worth having for its own sake, but that it can show you a new side of what you thought you knew all along.  And I think he might have farther to go before this season is done.
  • By Adam Wattenbarger

    About the author

    More From Adam Wattenbarger

    "With a healthy diet you can live a long and healthy life... if nobody stabs you." - Barney's doctor
    Read More
    "Sometimes you have to choose between love and talent." - Mercedes
    Read More
    Steve Carell to exit The Office before May. Who will take over?
    Read More
    1 Comment
    On: Tuesday, September 28, 2010
    Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

    We will be lucky to have any/all of your future posts as well Adam, fantastic job! 

    I made my first serious attempt to check out HIMYM and was a bit startled to not really get what all the fuss was about (in addition to really loving most of the main cast in other films/TV shows). Your explanation makes total sense and so will have to give it another check out. 


    Email (Will not be used):


    characters left

    Featured Articles

    Popular Today


    Recent Comments

    "Mysterion Rises" with The Cute Lord Cthulhu - South Park review
    Actually, the birthing of Kenny in "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" doesn't necessarily conflict with the circumstances of Kenny's reincarnation...
    Alien Encounters, "The Message": a hard to find little show that's worth the search
    Mind Reading Technologies and Tongues Governments from around the world have been using mind reading technologies that can read...
    Dog The Bounty Hunter, "And Baby Makes Three": revisiting an old favorite
    i do like your show i wish can be your fan club i want all of your show on dvd please
    Boardwalk Empire, "Two Boats and a Lifeguard": daddy issues
    Are you looking for a partner for the relationship or for fun? Then you came to the right place. We are providing you the best dating...
    The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
    I can verify Bear Claw. Good man. I cant vouch for the other participants. It is to bad society does suck so bad that this type...
    The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
    Lake Michigan is not an ocean. Has anyone seen my white dog? Lost him while hiking in Arkansas
    The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
    I too also as well live on the island, I can attest that Dan lives in the ocean as he has for hundreds of decades. We locals call...
    Parks and Recreation: why is everyone so mean to Jerry?
    It's funny because its so not funny.
    The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
    I too live on the island and ISLANDER does not know what they are talking about. Dan lives out in the middle of the island with...
    The Boonies: National Geographic's off the grid reality exploit
    this is not real i know that goat and it is not "doc's" its my neighbors goat. and by the way i live on the very top of that mountain...