Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers from the January 3, 2011 episode of "How I Met Your Mother."
The bright red “50” sitting on Lily and Marshall’s doctor’s desk at the beginning of Monday night’s “How I Met Your Mother” looked like any other prop… at first.
But, a moment later, when the numbers 49 and 48 appeared on a pamphlet and a bottle of hot sauce, viewers knew something was up.
It was the countdown to bad news, which, for a moment, seemed like it might be the couple’s inability to conceive a child naturally.
But, as most fans likely already know, the bad news - delivered by Lily at the very end of the episode - was that Marshall’s father, played by recurring guest star Bill Fagerbakke, had died.
Looking back, his death was imminent – the flashbacks of Marshall calling his dad whenever he had good news, and having his parents show up in NYC the second they thought something might be wrong. And, as some bloggers pointed out, Marshall losing his father makes a lot of sense. It’s just one of the ways the show will evolve as its characters transition from 20-somethings to 30-somethings.
And while “How I Met Your Mother” is no stranger to incorporating heavy plot lines – Barney searching for his real father, Ted getting left at the altar and, now, Lily and Marshall’s trouble getting pregnant – death is a different beast in sitcom world.
“8 Simple Rules” successfully tackled the theme when John Ritter, the show’s main character and backbone, died suddenly in 2003. And it’s safe to say “How I Met Your Mother” will approach the senior Eriksen’s death in a similar way: using a little bit of drama and a little bit of humor.
Despite the care in which the episode was executed, it wouldn’t have worked if Jason Segel (Marshall) weren’t such a dynamic actor.
Like Alan Sepinwall says in his review on Hitfix.com: “The guy doesn't get much of a chance to show his dramatic chops (even his darker moments in the Apatow universe are usually played for laughs in some way), but that was some outstanding, naked, very touching work right there.”
What did you think of the way “HIMYM” handled the death of Marshall’s father? Were you expecting it, or were you caught off guard?
It is deficient break to fall out of a thirteenth hearsay window by Friday.
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I haven't watched this show in months. I watch it tonite 1/17 and its a sad episode. I cannot believe they killed his father. He was a funny character when he was on. I think it's time for this show to end.
"it wouldn’t have worked if Jason Segel (Marshall) weren’t such a dynamic actor." say what???
This guy is possibly the most one-dimensional actor working in the business today (some say ever). Am I the only who prays for a Neil Patrick Harris spin-off that does NOT include Jason Segel? HIMYM is successful IN SPITE of Segel's atrociousness.
PS. This death plot-line could also be referred to as "JUMPING THE SHARK."
Great episode, sometimes bad news come when you least expect it
I actually found this episode both very poignant and hilarious with the dual Robin and Lily and Marshall plots. Overall, a satisfying HIMYM episdoe.
And i honestly never connected those numbers to any sort of countdown, i would just notice one once in a while randomly. But in retrospect, it was such a unique and clever idea! i like how the writers tralied the audience along, thinking one thing, but getting something altogther different (and much sadder) at the end.
The actors did an amazing job with the last scene. It felt so realistic to watch and you could honestly feel the pain Marshall was feeling. I especially liked when he broke down at the very end as well.
Jason and Allison couldn't have played that last scene any better. It made you want to go and call your parents just to make sure they were still here with you.
Beautifully acted. Loved it when he sobbed "I'm not ready for this" and then broke down. It's just perfect acting and scripting all around. Makes you forget you're watching a sitcom.
when Marshal said "I am not ready for this" as he cried and hugged Lily.......I had a barely existing relationship with my father, and I still had the same reaction when he died.......well played, very emotional, very real. The countdown was amazing. I thought it was going to be Lily saying she was pregnant. Then the Erickson phone was never answered at the home in Minnesota. I looked at my wife and said he's dead.......
Mo_in_VA Totally awesome reference and one of the funniest shows MTM ever did!
The countdown actually started somewhere in the 75ish area, from the very beginning of the episode. I watched it twice just the try to find each number. I either missed some or they didn't put each and every number in the countdown, but it definitely started in the 70's and went down until the 001 on the taxi cab Lily got out of....Very sad.
I like how they had to list in the credits that Neil Patrick Harris played the doctor . . . like maybe there was a Neil Patrick Harris doppelganger out there that they got to play the part.
My husband and I noticed the numbers right away...so concerned we might miss the next number, we missed some of the dialogue. Both were very choked up by the end. Big fans of the show.
the show has gone steadily downhill in the past three seasons. Last night was just another reminder of how they have run out of material (they also occasionally lift bits from Seinfeld and Friends). The show is called How I Met Your Mother. Putting aside the disturbing fact that the premise of the show is older Ted telling his teenaged children how many women that he and Barney slept with and how many men Robin slept with as well, among other things, i.e. things that a parent would never be so open about with his children, it is like the 5th season and the show's creators refuse to move the how Ted met his wife part of the show along. To quote Andy Dufrense, "get busy living, or get busy dying." Move on with the dang plot or get rid of the show.
I don't tune in to sitcoms for drama. Obviously the writers must be getting bored when they throw in these things. I think sitcoms should stay away from death period.
What struck my husband and Iwas the horribly inappropriate promo for the new Early Show team that immediately – and I mean IMMEDIATELY – followed the episode. They had obviously pre-filmed the segments to follow all the CBS comedies last night. Someone up the CBS food chain should have warned them that the audience wouldn't be "having fun" at that particular break.
Hmmm... a show about a guy who thinks women think he's hot, yet in reality he is a flamer. The shows a sure miss...
What planet have you been on for the last several years? The show has won Emmy's and has been on for over 5 years. perhaps you have been wearing you hood, white robe and burning crosses and to busy to watch TV?
He's not a flamer. He's actually quite clever which is totally lost on an epic fail such as youself. Go watch Al Bundy...I'm sure you have much more in common with a shoe sailsman who's only satisfaction is sticking his hands down his pants like a nervous five year old.
I figured as soon as he said he was going to call his dad what had happened. However, I didn't anticipate how it would affect me. I don't cry at TV shows or movies, but that scene had me tearing up. Fine job!
I'm glad I didn't notice the numbers thing. It would've been too distracting.
It was not funny!! This is supposed to be a sitcom. Married with children lasted a very long time being funny. I hate when they take a sitcom and add drama like MASH (Alan Alda killed it) and Home Improvment (the idiot that played Jill wanted cancer scenes so Tim Allen cancelled the show himself). Again NOT funny! FAIL!!
Saw this at 49 and had a blast picking them out with the wife. Did anyone notice that at what I think was number 44 they showed it twice. Was in the bar on a sign in the back and then back of tshirt a second later.
YOURE NAME IS EXTRA CORRECtLY FOR BEING A LOST FAN ADN THINKIGN THAT JUST BEING A LOST FAN MAKES YOU SMART WHILE IN FACT IT MAKES YOU STUPID FOR EVEN FOR JUST ONE MINUTE THINKING IT WAS GOOD TV. I CAN DO THIS ALL DAY
sure is slow news day in here
It was well done, and you instantly realized what was going on at the sight of the empty work bench. My father in law died 5 months ago and you could identify with this scene very readily if you have gone through this before. The tears came easily.
What Lilly said to Ted were almost the exact words that my mom told me when she told me about my dad dying from a heart-attack 10 years ago. Oh, yeah... I had tears in my eyes.
Oops... I meant what Lilly said to MARSHALL, not Ted.
You guys know that this show blows, right?
the show sucks so nobody really cares
I never saw the #12. Cried at the end, was shocked. Great writing, amazing acting.
I love this show. I was blindsided by the death of Marshalls father. My husbands father had a heart attack and died in 2003. As my husband and I watched we both broke down crying. It was like we were back to that horrible day in July.
Miss ya Gpa Duane. Brody would have loved you.
Hated the episode. The numbers were distracting. Some of you are oblivious. My wife and I both noticed the "49" right after the 50, and knew something was up. Not sure some people understand the term "sitcom", as in situation comedy. No drama, don't want it, don't need it. And how can you losers be teared up by a comedy show death of "Dawber/Patrick"? Don't any of you have real lives, parents, children?
One or two more episodes like this, and we're out. I watch sitcoms to be entertained. If I wanted to be depressed I'd watch "Breaking Bad".
"A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants."
Proud to be an oblivious loser :) Mike – you suck. Please go watch Two and a Half Men and leave the rest of us alone.
I think HIMYM did an excellent of portraying that horrible moment. I know what that moment was like, since the last conversation I ever had with my father was to tell him I had gotten engaged. He died of a heart attack six days later.
Jason Segel gave a glimpse of what it is like to go from having your highest high in your life to your lowest low. I applaud HIMYM for doing something so heavy & sad in a comedy show. I know it hit me like a ton of bricks, because I really experienced it. For me it was some of the most real TV I have seen in a longtime. Last night's episode proved why HIMYM is one of my favorite shows not because it made me laugh because it made me cry.
My husband and I thought the count down was a fun game – until the ending. We hated how they did this episode. We had no problem with the story line, but having the count down did cheapen it, in our opinions, and it was a huge distraction for the subject matter. Our vote is "poorly played HIMYM". Still fans, though.
I was already impressed by the writers tackling Marshall and Lily's issues with conceiving. Early in the episode I thought to myself, I wonder if they'll ever write about the loss of a parent, and 15 minutes later they did. Totally wasn't expecting it and it definitely made my tear up. Great acting, writing.
caught on the the numbers immediately and thought it would be a funny bit or happy news. the dead was shocking and i think would have played just as powerful without the silly countdown. i thought the trick cheapened the powerful acting by lily and marshall. as a person who has lost their parents, i know what a transition this is in anyone's life so something so silly seemed mostly pointless.
Why would they kill Dawber? Poorly played.
The dad's death was a total shock to me. The only number I saw was "9" or "6" on the file folder. I should pay more attention.
Loved last nights epi the count down was awsome it had you searching for the next number.... I love this show.. and I have my own take on who the mom is:)
If you look at the episode called "the fight" I think in season 5, Marshall is talking about being able to carve a turkey with a lightsaber. At the end when they depict this event, Marshall's father is not in the family thanksgiving.
I forgot that I noticed that too, I watch the dvd's all the time. Thanks for reminding me.
My husband lost his dad recently, and they shared the same kind of relationship. We both cried at the end of the scene. It was a punch in the gut, but the reason we all love these characters....we see ourselves in them. Wonderful TV.
wow... I can't believe how many people totally missed these numbers. I saw that first "50" and thought, that's really weird... then I saw 49... 48... and so on.. I only missed one or two numbers, and I think it was when Robin was at work and they had lottery numbers... 32 31 30 29 28...or something like that. Anyway... What I didn't catch onto was it was a count down to bad news. obviously the bad news came at the number 1, but I thought there was something else totally going on... You know like in the show Psych, they always have a pineapple somewhere in their episode...
Great show, great actors, love it.
Amazing show last night.. ending was REALLY shocking.. but that is how life really happens !! I love this show and all of its many moving parts!! they all are so fluid together!! can't wait for next week..
I was shocked... the acting was amazing, I was laughing through the episode and then POW... kind of like real life when something tragic happens. Great writing, really moved the story forward.
My boyfriend and I picked up on the number thing pretty quick. We were hoping it was a countdown to Lily announcing sh ewas pregnant. But the moment Marshall called his father and it showed the empty garage we knew what had happened and both ended up crying. We noticed the number pretty quick, but it wasnt til about halfway through the episode that we realized the photos inside the doctors office changed every time Lily and Marshall were there. It was a great episode.
I noticed the numbers with the big 49 on the pamphlet, but also thought it was counting down to Lilly's pregnancy announcement towards the end. They made a deal not to try until Barney's doppelganger was found and low and behold, there he was – I thought the universe was holding up it's end of their bargain.
It was an excellent episode, thought I was distracted looking for the numbers.
I normally don't watch a lot of network TV, but last night I watched this episode. I saw the numbers towards the end too, but I thought that Marshall's parents were having a litlle hanky panky not his father dying. It got me thinking about parental death and wondering how I would react in the same situtation. Excellent episode.
My TV was on, but I wasn't really watching it until the end. It made me cry. I'm going to miss his Dad though.
I also really didn't notice the numbers until 6, but I knew that something had happened to his dad when the phone just kept ringing. It was a dose of reality that usually isn't seen in sitcoms, and it was written and acted perfectly. What was especially sad was when Marshall said "I'm not ready for this." It made me think, who is?
I can't say whether or not I liked the episode because it seemed like a bigger style change than Barney searching for his father/ Ted left at the alter. However, trying to keep track of the numbers left me completely unprepared for such a bombshell. Whether I liked it or not, they've proven once again how superb the writing is.
Like I’ve said on other sites, I loved the countdown. To me, it didn't cheapen the moment at all-it gave me more of a "oh no, what's going to happen?" feel and I was on the edge of my seat. Granted, I was noticing stray numbers here and there, but I didn't realize it was a countdown until embarrassingly late in the episode. I saw the 20 and 19, and then 18 on the door and I'm like "this is how obsessed I am. I notice that they happen to be descending." Then, Marshall held up the cup and it said "1716" and I always say, twenty-ten and not two thousand and ten when referencing last year, because seriously, no one said, "one thousand, nine hundred..." whatever last century. So I saw the cup and thought "seventeen-sixteen" and then I realized "oh crap, this isn't me overanalyzing, this is real!" and then I wondered what the bad news would be. I didn't know until I saw the two. It was, I think, a very deep thought to put there, like all the time you're thinking about one thing, other things are happening and will happen, and you won't realize it until they do. The numbers, the countdown, were all around Marshall, but of course he didn't notice-in the possimpible change that there is a coincidental countdown like that, who would notice it? But I think it was showing you not to only focus on one thing, because whether you know your father will die tomorrow or not, it will happen. (In this case, anyway.) Maybe it would have been more distracting had I noticed every number from fifty (which I did notice but didn’t connect it to anything at all) and tried looking for them, but that could also be a lesson about little things in life or even how your clock is always counting down to things like losing your parents, you just don’t always think about things like that. I actually thought it was clever, creative, and added to the moment, not taking away from it.
This is really for Nicole,
The numbers weren't always around Marshal, they were everywhere... .45 wings when Ted and Barney were at the bar, 44 Beers in the same bar scene... at the end of the show he was around a lot of them though.
I was already tearing up at Lily's news, but when Marshall tried to hold it together and then fell apart, the tears came a flowing. .That was some PHENOMENAL acting!! Good job Jason Segel! In regards to the countdown, I'm pretty sure it threw everyone off. With the silly numbers, placements of them, you started looking for them in different scenes and you even found yourself counting down to the end, thinking it was going to be something silly or good, to get the bad news delivered from Lily at the end of the episode wasn't what I was expecting at all. . .But both actors deserve a standing ovation for the delivery, as sad as the news was!!
I have to admit, I thought both of his parents had died. Because they had just flown back to Minnesota, I thought maybe their plane had crashed or their car had crashed on the way home from the airport. When it was just his dad, my heart still broke for Marshall. You're never ready for it. Kudos to the writers/show runners for adding this to the story – though it was sad, that's how life is – when you get older, you have to face the possibility that you'll lose a parent. Jason and Allison played it beautifully – they are more than just comedic actors.
Yes that's how life is. However i don't watch comedies to see how life is. I watch them to hopefully escape the horrible parts of life. I have seen every episode over 10 times but I will never watch this episode again.
My husband and I thought this episode was particularly very funny. The end hit us both in the gut though. I did see it coming but not right till the end when he called his father and he wasnt there but I didn't want to think the worst.
I had the same reaction.
I spotted the countdown almost right away. (Saw the 49, then the 48, so didn't have to go back that far.) It gave an air of tension through the whole show. Like danielle, I only figured out what was happening once we were at 3. Stunning.
Someone on Twitter said the episode could've been written by Joss Whedon. I'll second that.
Jason Segel is such a person. Aside from being a great actor - just a great person. It's great when you get to see him play different styles and last night's dramatic turn carried the emotion because of the way he's handled his character's personality for the length of the series.
LOL! I noticed something with the big 6 on the folder as fake Dr. Barney threw it away, but wow, didn't see that it was all throughout the episode. And I was a Lost fan!
Thank god! That's when I noticed too. I didn't think the numbers were distracting until the 6:)
It would appear that you are the idiot considering your lack of ability in the typing, spelling, and grammar department. How embarrassing it must be to call someone an idiot and yet type like a 10 year old. Not to mention you were cool enough to use nothing but CAPS. Thats awesome. Keep on trucking.......all the way back to 2nd grade you moron.
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