A review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I get a rotating Vietnamese shame wheel...

"'Cause if you were going to be some lame suburban dad, why couldn't you be that for me?" -Barney

The climax of "Legendaddy" involved a basketball hoop, and going into the episode it seemed like it would be an easy layup for the series: the climax of the long-running arc about Barney's quest for his real dad, pairing the show's best actor with multiple Emmy winner John Lithgow. It was a gimme. But while basketball players do, on occasion, blow layups, "Legendaddy" went strong to the hole and scored, giving Neil Patrick Harris an obvious and effective choice for his Emmy submission episode.

All the emotional stuff was well-done. In fact, the most effective bit involved not Barney and his father Jerry, but Marshall telling Barney (who had just declared that he would never talk to his father again), "No, Barney. I'm never going to talk to my dad again." A strong moment for Jason Segel and NPH, and a good interweaving of the season's two strongest arcs. But NPH was terrific throughout, finding ways to play the little kid inside the suits in a way that generated laughs while still showing how much he was hurt by growing up father-less. And he was particularly fantastic in the final two scenes, with Barney finally telling Jerry how he felt (and not being quite ready to forgive him), and then Barney agreeing with Ted's vision for his house(*) and noting, "A kid needs a hoop."

(*) I'm glad they finally returned to the house, if only to temporarily stop the "Why did the show forget about the house Ted bought?" questions. The idea was never that Ted was going to move into it right away, but that he bought it to renovate slowly (as we saw here) and eventually move into once he had gotten married and was ready to have kids. GNB and Columbia must be paying him a whole lot combined for him to carry half a Manhattan 2-bedroom's rent, and a mortgage, and money for contractors, but that's the idea.

But I was impressed with how much the episode was able to generate laughs while never undercutting the inherent pain of this storyline. Barney's fantasy conception of his dad (the latest in a long "HIMYM" tradition of unreliable narrators) was amusing, but even better was the long run of Jerry's accomplishments that were supposed to impress Barney. I can't decide if those were all supposed to be real things - "I guess you could call me the LeBron James of drapes" and "All the county judges started chanting, 'More quiche!'" - that were examples of Jerry's boring suburban life, or if those were lies that boring suburban guy Jerry thought would impress Barney, nor can I decide which interpretation is funnier, but it was a great run for Lithgow.

The "gaps" subplot started out as something for the other regulars to do while NPH was hanging with the Trinity Killer, but there were some good gags in there (Lily's difficulty throwing especially), and maybe a few overly silly ones (Robin's not that stupid), and then it paid off with the long sequence of all the things the gang let Marshall get away with (Barney concurring that "Phantom Menace" is the best "Star Wars" film was my favorite, followed by the soul patch). Again, a good example of how the show is at its strongest when its funny bone is closely attached to its heart.

Darned good episode, and it set things up so Lithgow can return when he's available, and when the writers think Barney's ready for it.

What did everybody else think?