Marshall's back at Dr. Stangel's to get his news. The doctor, who has a folder with a giant "9" on it, tells him he has bad news: It's very unlikely Marshall will be able to father a child. Marshall gets upset, and Dr. Stangel tells him that a regimen change could change things if he does some cardio, preferably with a partner and a firearm-based activity. Marshall pulls off Barney's beard. Meanest trick ever. Dr. Stangel comes in (we see they're in room number "8") and forces Barney out, but not before Barney asks what the receptionist's situation is. The real Dr. Stangel tells Marshall his sperm is fine. Cut to MacLaren's, where Marshall opens a bottle of Champagne with a "7" on it (so maybe it's Seagram's 7?) to celebrate with the gang (minus Lily). Cut back to Dr. Stangel, who turns Barney's "9" folder into a "6" as he turns it over and tosses it into the trash. He tells Marshall his sperm is very strong. At the bar, Barney gives Marshall a "motility 5," the most subtle of all the numbers in this countdown.
Marshall's apparently lost his phone (though I think this would have worked better if they'd shown us that), so he asks to borrow Ted's to call his dad. Cut back to Marshall leaving Dr. Stangel's office, stopping in front of a "4" layers of the uterus poster to tell him this is great because he was really expecting bad news. Back at MacLaren's, Marshall walks outside, smiling giddily, dialing, past a neon sign that says MacLaren's is open till "3." He dials, and there's no answer. Just a clock his dad's been working on pointing to "2" in his shop. Marshall's still smiling when a cab pulls up with its light on. It's cab number "0001," of course. Lily gets out, and Marshall tells her how glad he is she's here, and can she believe the great news? But then he notices what we already did: Lily's crying. She tells him that something's happened: His father had a heart attack and didn't make it. Marshall's like, "My dad's dead?" And that's the one line that's too on the nose for me here. Because both of their faces and tears seem so real, then they hug and he tells her he's not ready for this as he breaks into a sob.
So, obviously, the countdown was to the episode's "Bad News": Marshall's dad's death. But why? Just so they could prove they can? Honestly, if they wanted to do it, I think they could have done it better. Those double numbers and big obvious ones left a lot to be desired. The rest of the episode, on the other hand, did not. Great emotional buildup, suspense, red herrings, and then payoff. Not that it's happy. But, come on, this show has been all about these people going from twentysomething carefree singles to responsible adults. You can't really do that with a gang of five without a parental death, can you? But it's so sad we won't see Dauber again. I loved that character, and the dynamic between him and Marshall. Oh, who am I kidding? This show flashes back and forward and sideways and upside-down so often, we're sure to see him plenty.