Some of the best How I Met Your Mother episodes are the ones that show us flashbacks from before 2005 (season one) or that explore the past of the characters’ lives. Think about the episode where Ted tells Blah-Blah how he met everyone else in the gang or the flashbacks from when Barney thought Bob Barker was his father. Of course the Robin Sparkles episodes are top of the line, but there are some that aren’t as instantly memorable, but when they come on syndication you’ll remember every joke. “Noretta” will be one of those episodes where it’s funny now and then will go into remission until one day you realize the genius behind it.
Let’s start with the totally unnecessary, but totally awesome cameo of Wayne Brady returning as Barney’s gay, black half-bother. At first we think he’s going to be a guest star throughout the episode, but when he forces the gang to ask him what he thinks of his brother’s girlfriend, Nora, three times and reveals she is too much like their mother, he excuses himself to the bathroom and is never heard from again. It was totally clever to use him as a MacGuffin and let him fade into the background. Him claiming Barney is dating someone who is essentially their mother allows Kevin (Robin’s therapist boyfriend) to claim we all date people that remind us of our parents.
And so the fun begins. Marshall accidentally insults Lily as he tries to tell her she’s sexy even though she is beginning to bloat. Not one bit. So he tries to prove how beautiful she is with a made-up board game called “Chutes and Lily” even though “MonopoLily” would have been better. This brings horror to Lily’s face when she realizes that her father also loved to create absurd games. A series of flashbacks show actual scenes (instead of ones created for the episode like HIMYM sometimes does) from the series. I’m not saying that the writers planned this episode out half a decade ago, but somehow they managed to create a world where Marshall was exactly like Lily’s father. However, Kevin’s theory doesn’t hold up because Lily isn’t anything like Marshall’s mother; who she does remind him of makes for one of the best scenes in the entire episode. I don’t want to ruin anything, but it left me gasping for air.
The episode also returns to Ted and Robin’s relationship. No, they’re not together, but Kevin points out how fragile Ted is and how weird it is that the ex-lovers are now living together. The plot harks back to a few episodes ago when Victoria alluded that the Ted-Robin-Barney triangle was bigger than they knew. His actual plot is lackluster, but is saved with the lingering question of what in the world is going to happen to the three good friends. I don’t think the writers meant for this to bother viewers this much, but I put all my eggs in the basket with the revelation that it’s all I think about from Monday to Monday.
Since the episode is entitled “Noretta” (Nora + Loretta), you would think Barney’s plot would have been the most memorable. In reality, his was just a catalyst for the rest of them seeing their parents’ characteristics in their significant other. Sure, his night out with Nora was funny, cute and everything like that, but there was something missing.
Going into the episode I thought it would be one of my absolute favorites, no questions asked. However, it made me realize that though it was uproarious, all I want is to bring the focus back on Ted. Looking ahead at episode titles and synopses, it seems we’ll see that as soon as next week. This episode was spot-on and provided great laughs, and you’ll appreciate it again, but at the end of the season you might forget exactly how funny it was.