Howard "The Captain" Archibald is the father of Nate and husband of Anne. He is a wealthy banker who resides with his family in a townhouse off Park Avenue on the UES. A former naval captain, Howard taught his son how to sail but doesn't shy from punishing him when he embarrasses the family. At the end of the series, Nate leaves to sail the world with Howard's friend, Captain Charles "Chips" White to avoid getting in between Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen.
Howard makes his first appearance in Pilot, when he introduces Nate as a future Dartmouth student. However, Nate is seemingly uninterested in the school and insists he wants to pursue schools in the west, namely USC. When Nate and his girlfriend, Blair, break up, Howard disapproves; as her mother Eleanor Waldorf is planning to take her company, Waldorf Designs, public and he wants to handle the deal. He insists Nate get back together with Blair to ensure Eleanor gives it to him. In Poison Ivy, Howard tells Nate to secure the usher position for the Dartmouth representative at Constance Billard/St. Jude's Ivy League College mixer. Nate unhappily does as he's told, but tries to leave the mixer early. When Howard confronts him about it, Nate reveals he doesn't want to attend Dartmouth. The next day, Howard insists Nate go for a run with the Dartmouth rep to make up for leaving the mixer early. Soon after, Nate gets into a situation with Carter Baizen that Chuck rescues him from. Wanting to pay him back, Nate goes to make a withdrawal from his trust fund but discovers that it's empty. He calls his family's financial advisor, who reveals that Howard drained the account weeks ago but said he discussed it with Nate (Bad News Blair).
In The Handmaiden's Tale, Howard and Anne prepare for a party Eleanor is throwing and hope to finally secure her support in taking the company public. However, Howard is becoming increasingly on edge and Nate realizes something is wrong. Along with Chuck, he sets out to find what is wrong with Howard. While searching his office, the two discover a bag of cocaine hidden in a book. Meanwhile, Howard receives confirmation that Eleanor will let him take her company public. When he and Anne return home, she searches for a bottle opener to open a bottle of champagne but discovers the cocaine. Howard denies it's his and when Nate returns home from the masked ball he was at, his parents blame him for using. The next day, Anne tells Nate that he will enter rehab in some capacity but Howard swears that he won't let her make him go. He admits to Nate that a co-worker gave him some to try as a way to destress and he didn't even like it; claiming to have flushed the bag. He asks Nate to meet him for drinks after work but when the time comes, he lies that he won't be able to make it. Suspicious of his father, Nate goes to his work and witnesses Howard buying another bag to replace the one he flushed. After seeing this, he goes to his Anne and tries to tell her that the drugs weren't his. Anne doesn't believe him and instead tells him to keep quiet so the deal with Eleanor can happen. That night, the Archibald's have dinner with Blair and Eleanor to celebrate the deal. At the dinner, Howard acts aggressively and out of control. Nate asks him to smoke some cigars with him to get him to cool down, and when they get outside, he tells Howard to calm down. Angry and high on cocaine, Howard punches Nate but the doorman flags a passing police officer. Knowing his father needs help, Nate tells the police to check his pockets and pays the doorman off to keep quiet. Later that night, Howard is arrested for possession of cocaine but once he is booked, the DA adds charges of fraud and embezzlement: two charges they had been pursuing him on for awhile (Victor Victrola).
Anne pays his bail (which was set at one million dollars) and Howard is released, but it isn't long before the scandal hits the newspapers. Once Eleanor hears what happened, she calls her lawyer to free her from the contracts she signed giving Howard the deal. However, Anne is determined not to let the deal go and asks Nate to fix things with Blair to regain Eleanor's support. He considers doing it to help his family but eventually decides not to let them control him anymore (Seventeen Candles). On Thanksgiving, the Archibalds are uninvited from the Waldorf's dinner and Anne prepares dinner for herself, Howard, and Nate. During their meal, she makes remarks on how the scandal is negatively affecting her and Nate tells her to stop. Howard orders Nate to be quiet and instead of being quiet Nate leaves the house. When he returns, he goes to find Howard but finds him passed out and lying on the ground. Anne calls an ambulance and Howard is admitted to the hospital. She tries to deny that he did anything on purpose but Nate tells her that she needs to accept that Howard has a drug problem. When he wakes, he tries to deny that he took too many pills on purpose but Nate knows this isn't true. He asks his father to be a man and do the right thing by turning himself in (Blair Waldorf Must Pie).
In the season finale Much 'I Do' About Nothing, Howard assures Nate that his lawyer is very optimistic about his upcoming trial and they should celebrate at Lily van der Woodsen and Bart Bass' upcoming wedding. However, once Nate is out of earshot, Howard takes a secret phone call and tells the person on the other end to meet him at the wedding immediately following the ceremony and to not draw attention. At the wedding, Chuck sees Howard make a suspicious purchase and tells security to keep an eye on him. During the reception, security tells him that Howard is leaving. Chuck tries to tell Nate about it, and the maybe drug purchase he witnessed, but Nate doesn't believe him. However, he eventually goes outside to check on Howard and discovers him trying to flee in a limo. He stops the car and Howard admits that he left Nate a note at home, saying he's fleeing the country to avoid his trial; because he is guilty and won't win. He also says he lied about his lawyer's optimism and is facing 20 years in prison so he's headed for Dominica, with Anne's support. Angry, Nate punches his father in the face for leaving him and his mother and Howard leaves.
In Never Been Marcused, Anne admits to Nate that the feds took Howard's leaving town as an admission of guilt and have frozen their accounts to make restitution. When Nate returns from the Hamptons, he finds government officials making an inventory of everything they own to be sold at auction. Wanting to help his mother, he agrees to an arrangement with Catherine Beaton, a married Duchess who expects Nate to sleep with her in exchange for giving him money. In The Ex-Files, Vanessa Abrams discovers that Catherine is sleeping with her stepson and Blair's boyfriend, Marcus Beaton. She obtains proof and gives it to Blair, who successfully blackmails the two into keeping quiet about where Howard is and paying off the Archibald debt. However, Vanessa misunderstands Blair's intentions and informs Catherine's husband about the situation. As a result, Catherine and Marcus are sent back to London but give no money to the Archibald's.
In The Magnificent Archibalds, Howard sneaks back into town to ask Anne and Nate to return to Dominica with him to start over. Anne instantly agrees to go, but Nate is more skeptical about it. His suspicions are confirmed when an FBI agent contacts Chuck and Vanessa: explaining that Howard is planning to hold them ransom to Anne's family, the van der Bilt's, so they give him money in exchange for them. The agent offers Nate the opportunity to turn Howard in, but he is unsure of what to do. He eventually decides to do so and when he sees his father for the last time, he says he has a chance to leave but if he does so, he will never respect him. Howard thinks it over and lets himself be arrested, devastating Anne. Afterwards, Anne and Nate are awarded their house and possessions back, as well as having their accounts unfrozen.
Later, in The Grandfather, Nate's cousin Tripp van der Bilt informs him that their grandfather, William van der Bilt is the one who turned his father in for embezzlement and fraud. Nate outs what he did publicly, but William says that he figured out what Howard was doing and begged him to stop; and that he only turned him in when he refused to change his ways.
In Easy J, Nate's new girlfriend, Juliet Sharp, leaves after they spend a night together claiming to have class. When Nate goes to see Howard in the prison he was recently transferred to, he runs into Juliet there. Remembering that she mentioned having a brother in prison, he asks if she is visiting him but she lies that she is a volunteer for the prison literacy program. Once she leaves Nate, she calls her brother, Ben Donovan, who is an inmate at the same prison. She tells him that Howard is an new inmate there and that she truly believes Nate is different than the others on the UES. After their conversation, Ben asks to be introduced to Howard. Later that day, Nate gets a call from the prison informing him that Howard was attacked and was admitted to the infirmary. Meanwhile, Juliet gets a text from Ben asking if she got his message. When Nate goes to see Howard, he explains that all he remembers is being in the library when someone suddenly started beating him with a book. He asks if Nate told Anne, and that he hopes to prove to her one day how much he has changed while in prison. That night, Juliet breaks up with Nate; knowing that Ben had Howard attacked to send a message to her.
In Gaslit, Nate talks to Howard before going with Anne to Thanksgiving with the van der Bilts. Howard is sad at not having seen Anne in ages and wishes for a chance to show her how much he has changed. Upon returning home, Nate intercepts an envelope from the family lawyer and discovers that Anne has filed for divorce. He confronts Anne about the papers and begs her to give Howard a chance, but she is firm when she says that he won't ever change and isn't going to change her mind. Before dinner, Nate visits Howard and is surprised when Anne joins him. She admits that she thought about what he said and Nate was never a mistake they made in their marriage, although they made lots. After their visit, she remarks that Howard really has changed. However, Nate learns that Howard will be up for parole soon and was boasting to the staff how he is almost sure to get it once the parole board learns he will be going home to Anne. Soon after, Anne tells Nate that she's being disinvited from all holiday parties because of Howard. Nate admits to her that he found out that Howard asked about leasing a house outside the city, but he told the family business manager not to mention anything. Anne is unsurprised, and Nate says he really thought he had changed, then offers to tell him about the divorce himself. Nate tells Howard that Anne found out about the house. Howard explains that when they were first married, they vacationed there and she said it was her dream house and he wanted to surprise her so they could reconnect away from the city. Nate apologizes for jumping to conclusions, and promises to fix it but Howard tells him no. He admits that their marriage has been over for a long time, and that he'll be released to a halfway house instead. After Christmas, Nate tells Howard that he gave the parole board his address at The Empire as where he will be living after being released (The Townie).
Once Howard moves in with Nate, Nate worries that Howard isn't following the rules of his parole since he isn't seeking employment and only partying. When he misses a job interview, he confronts Howard about it. Howard explains that he felt embarrassed at going to beg for a job as a janitor but that he really does want to make Nate proud, however Nate doesn't believe him. Later that night, Nate tries to get ahold of Howard and once he does, he claims he's on at an interview. It's revealed that he is indeed at an interview, but for Thorpe Enterprises, the company manned by Russell Thorpe, a man determined to take down Bass Industries (The Kids Are Not Alright). When Nate and Chuck find out about the job, Chuck asks Russell's daughter, Raina, to have Howard fired as a favor. She initially refuses but eventually does so. Howard asks Nate if he told Chuck to have him fired. Nate says yes and Howard reaffirms that he sees Chuck as family and would never hurt him, but he heard he's sleeping with Raina. Nate tells him that that's his decision but Howard needs the second chance to start over. Still angry that he had him fired, Howard leaves the apartment. The next day, he tells Russell that he has no loyalty to the Bass' and will be his go-to guy (Damien Darko).
In It-Girl Happened One Night, Chuck asks Russell for a chance to prove that the Bass name has equity in hopes of keeping the company whole post-sale. Russell agrees to pause his plans for a few days but Howard receives an email telling him otherwise. He tells Nate and Chuck, and adds that he knows Bass Ind. is more profitable kept whole. At Chuck's party, Howard goes to quit but is instead fired by Russell, who says he purposely sent Howard the email because he knew he would tell Chuck but can't have employees he doesn't trust. Howard is asked to turn in his office keycard but gives them one to the gym at The Empire. He gives Chuck the keycard to Russell's office, as well as all the passwords he needs to access the servers.
In Save the Last Chance, Nate lies about The Spectator finances to get a new line of credit from his investor. However, it's revealed that Bart is backing the investor and he tells Bart about Nate faking his numbers. Bart uses this to blackmail Nate into helping him defeat Chuck. In The Revengers, Bart discovers that Nate is playing double agent, for him and Chuck and has him arrested for fraud. Howard comes to see Nate in prison and says he's probably being targeted because of his mistakes. But Nate admits that he really did commit the crime and is guilty, plus that the only person who can get him released is Bart. Howard asks Bart to drop the charges against Nate but he refuses to do so. After he is out on bail, Nate explains his situation to Howard. He promises to Nate that he knows he can achieve whatever he strives to do and leaves as Sage, Nate's girlfriend, arrives. This is Howard's last appearance in the show.
- His former co-worker Frank Meltzer introduced him to cocaine.
- His job, house, and boat were purchased by his father in law, William.
- He is an alumni of Dartmouth University.