Two weeks ago, in the middle of a season featuring relatively undemanding plot lines, How I Met Your Mother took a serious turn with the death of Marshall's dad. HIMYM always tries to address some issue of adulthood in each episode, whether it is taking a job for the money instead of your ideals, debating whether or not to try long distance with your significant other of only two months, or experiencing the sudden death of a parent.
In what might be one of the sweeter gestures from a group of television friends, all make the trek to Minnesota for the funeral and wake and the episode becomes in part an exercise in showing us the different ways that we try to help friends cope with grief. One of the unspoken truths of funerals is that they can be painfully awkward. Everyone wants to help in a more meaningful way than just being there, but it's difficult to figure out what those in mourning actually need. Robin immediately establishes herself as the "vice girl," miraculously doling out everything anyone could need, including cigarettes, cell phone chargers ("outlet or USB?"), alcohol, pain killers, firecrackers, and dirty playing cards. Lily decides that she'll play caretaker to Marshall's mother Judy, in spite of the fact that neither Judy nor Lily particularly care for one another ("that dress makes you look like a Kansas City whore"). And Barney and Ted take on the task of trying to make Marshall laugh with a Homer Simpson-approved standby "man getting hit by object in the crotch."