The series premiere of How I Met Your Father made it clear that the series is not a reboot of How I Met Your Mother, but a sequel, following the story of a young group of friends who took over the apartment from the original show after Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and their crew moved out. Of course, if any of those characters had been cast on How I Met Your Father, it seems likely fans would have found out by now. So it was surprising to learn that this week's episode featured an appearance by a fan-favorite How I Met Your Mother character.
The character in question was George Van Smoot, better known as The Captain. Played by Twin Peaks and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD star Kyle Machlachlan, the character first appeared in the sixth season of How I Met Your Mother, as the then-husband of Zoey Pierson (Jennifer Morrison), who left him to date Ted Mosby. In a twist of fate, the eccentric "Captain" became a fan-favorite, while Zoey is widely regarded as one of Ted's least popular girlfriends.
The Captain got a happy ending in How I Met Your Mother when he married Becky (Laura Bell Bundy), Robin's former Metro News 1 co-anchor, who also popped back up in this episode.
This week's episode of How I Met Your Father opened with the revelation that The Captain has been cheating on Becky, who discovers the affair. The affair does not obviously connect to the main story, although the older version of Sophie (the one narrating the story, played by Kim Cattrall) assures her son (and by extension the audience) that the affair will be important later.
"It takes a while, especially on a multi-cam show, to get to know the characters, the friend group and the vibe, and we wanted to make sure to give How I Met Your Father room to stand on its own two feet before we started bringing in bigger pieces from the expansive How I Met Your Mother universe," co-creator Isaac Aptaker told TVLine. "Towards the end of this season felt like the right time to dip our toes into the water and bring some of those beloved characters back."
And while it took them a while to get to this point, apparently the decision itself came early on in the season's development.
Elizabeth Berger, the show's other co-creator, said that the twist was something they came up with pretty early on, adding, "We were really excited by the idea that something mysterious would be happening… and it felt really exciting to have that mystery involve [established] characters, as opposed to random people."
But it might have been random people if things had gone a little differently. Apparently Maclachlan was working on a project in Australia, and while he was completely willing to head back to Los Angeles to work on the show, How I Met Your Father producers had to write an alternate version of the story with a newly-introduced couple of New York socialites. After all, international travel has not always been easy during the pandemic. Ultimately, it obviously worked out, and Bundy was already in Los Angeles, so she was able to make her way down without any drama.
How I Met Your Father drops new episodes on Tuesdays at midnight ET/PT on Hulu.