All in all, a nice episode of HIMYM. Could have been a little better; could have been a lot worse. I liked the way the script played with the audience's expectations for this kind of storyline, using an unreliable narrator (Barney) inside another narrator's unreliable narration (Older Ted, natch.) Wheels within wheels, my friends, wheels within wheels.
Seriously though, I was kind of dreading Barney's Cool Dad leaving him behind and breaking his heart. What we got was more interesting and more realistic, which is a combination that doesn't often happen in sitcom-land.
Barney's shame that his father wasn't awesome (apparently writing two non-fiction books about asparagus "and one fiction!" isn't impressive to Barney, nor is being "the Lebron James of drapes") seemed petulant at first, but then the script was flipped yet again, in a poignant scene that somehow involved a basketball hoop and a screwdriver. Barney's plaintive articulation of just why he was so upset ("If you were going to be a boring suburban dad, why couldn't you have been mine!?) was great. It retroactively justified the rest of his behavior and kept the story from becoming too pat and obvious.
Also, a great job by the talented John Lithgow, playing both the imaginary awesome dad and the mild-mannered "real" person. I especially liked him at the dinner scene, as he tried to bond with Barney despite Barney's awful treatment of his other son.
The only problem I really had with the episode was what I felt to be the underlining of the plot connections. I felt like when Jerry handed Barney the screwdriver, the writers were jumping up and down yelling, "See that! We set that up in the open, give us credit!" Maybe a minor complaint, but it stuck out to me.
The other plot, in which the gang makes fun of each other's gaps in "knowledge" (the term is applied somewhat loosely) was a typically fun and light HIMYM subplot. I enjoyed that they used this as an opportunity for Marshall to announce that he's getting closer to being back to normal after his father's death.
P.S. I'm not writing a review, but I watched last night's Mad Love, so I'll share a thought. This show is a little too manic, a little too conventional, and a little too hammy, but somehow still enjoyable none the less. I have no idea if it is at all sustainable, and the premise beggars believability, but if you're like me and have a high tolerability for something that makes you laugh once or twice, Mad Love isn't terrible. Don't expect to see that on the back of the DVD set, but I thought I'd put it out there all the same.