For nine seasons, Ted Mosby recounted the lengthy tale of how he eventually met the mother of his children on the popular sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” Joined by his longtime Marshall Ericksen, Lily Aldrin, Barney Stinson, and Robin Scherbatsky, Ted searches for true love as he enters his 30s and progresses in his career. And amidst all the jokes about the trials and tribulations of the dating scene, “How I Met Your Mother” always brought plenty of emotional depth for its story and characters as they navigated life.
With the spinoff series “How I Met Your Father” having successfully launched on Hulu, here’s a look back at the series that started it all. From long-running slap bets to Barney’s increasingly outlandish strategies to seduce any woman that crossed his path, “How I Met Your Mother” is packed with fan-favorite moments. Here are the series’ best, standing as the most memorable in Ted’s longstanding quest to find the woman of his dreams.
Though Ted and Robin broke up at the end of “How I Met Your Mother” Season 2, the lingering attraction between them was explored halfway through Season 4 in the episode “Benefits.” With Ted and Robin living together again, under the presumption that they were to keep things platonic, tensions begin to arise. The two roommates then realized that they could resolve virtually any disagreements between them by having sex, with no strings attached.
“Benefits” not only continues to capitalize on the deep chemistry between Ted and Robin, which further informs their longstanding romantic tension, but underscores how much Barney truly loved Robin. Despite the normally suave Barney insisting he was not jealous of his ex-girlfriend hooking up with Ted, this turned out to be a lie. This revelation provides a much-needed vulnerability to Barney, and also foreshadows that his own romance with Robin was not quite finished.
By “How I Met Your Mother” Season 3, Barney’s patented Bro Code had become a hallmark for the character and a major fan-favorite element of the show. As the season continued, Barney shared the code’s ultimate axiom in the episode “The Platinum Rule” as he advised Ted’s latest romantic endeavor. With Ted strongly considering dating his tattoo removal doctor, Barney reveals that the eponymous rule forbids people who see each other regularly from dating. By Barney’s reasoning, should such a romance fail, the regular interaction would become unbearably awkward for the former couple.
“The Platinum Rule” provides another excellent showcase for Sarah Chalke’s recurring character Stella Zinman. Of all of Ted’s paramours over the history of the show, Stella holds a particularly special place. More so, the episode further expands on the lore of the code upon which Barney has sworn his life, leading to him debating its merits with Ted in absurd detail.
There’s a reason that it takes Ted nine seasons to find true love and settle down: Sometimes he makes grave relationship mistakes that result in messy consequences for all parties involved. This fallibility of the character is perfectly illustrated in the Season 1 episode “Nothing Good Happens After 2 A.M.” With Ted growing closer to Robin, the true object of his affections, he has to reconcile how he’s going to deal with his serious girlfriend Victoria. And just as Ted screwed up his first date with Robin, he somehow fails even more spectacularly this time around.
“How I Met Your Mother” always worked because of its true-to-life wisdom and the titular proverb is one that particularly resonates. With everyone a bit more emotionally vulnerable and cognitively compromised that late at night, Ted makes some bone-headed amorous decisions. One of the most effectively heartbreaking episodes in the series, the episode is a reminder that, like all of us, Ted makes big mistakes and he has to face the consequences for them.
With Ted often depicted as being single-mindedly hung up on a sole love interest at a given time, it’s easy to forget how he navigates the dating scene. This distinction includes how well Ted and Barney work together as wingmen, trying to pick up women for their respective pursuits. The dynamic between the two friends is explored in full in the Season 4 episode “Three Days of Snow.”
The episode traces three different storylines unfolding as an enormous blizzard passes through New York. As Ted and Barney host a party for a visiting college marching band, Marshall and Robin set out to pick up Lily from the airport as she returns from a trip. Comedic panic ensues as one of Marshall and Lily’s enduring relationship traditions is threatened by complications from the heavy snowfall, with Robin providing her own outside observations. These character pairings work well, showing how naturally the actors are able to play off each other in these varying scenarios.
There is no more important weekly meal for a millennial than brunch, and the eponymous meal serves as the centerpiece for an early Season 3 episode. Ted’s parents Alfred and Virginia are visiting New York to meet Robin for the first time, and three separate squabbles surface over the course of the day. Along the way, Ted receives bombshell news about his parents, while Lily and Marshall address their rekindled romance.
The era of “How I Met Your Mother” where Ted and Robin were a committed couple is an interesting period for the show. Robin was always something of the ultimate unattainable woman for Ted and watching them challenge each other as a couple adds a fascinating dynamic. And with Ted’s parents providing his primary evidence that true love exists, the revelation that their marriage has unraveled leads to something of an existential crisis for him.
Marshall has always been a character capable of finding joy in the small, everyday pleasures that life has to offer. That comes to play in “The Best Burger in New York.” Though Marshall finds himself jobless at the start of Season 4, he decides to cheer himself up by locating the best burger joint in the city. Unfortunately, Marshall can’t quite remember where this fabled establishment is, leading his friends on a merry search for it.
The Marshall-driven episodes have a more innocent sense of fun about them, befitting the character’s nature, and that works wonders here. “The Best Burger in New York” also comes with the running gag of Robin simply trying to eat, following a lengthy cleanse, only to be dragged elsewhere before she can eat. “How Met Your Mother” doesn’t always capitalize on its New York setting, but this episode really leans into how much fun the environment can be.
“How I Met Your Mother” Season 8 is a season of second thoughts and romantic anxiety, all fueled by a healthy amount of heartbreak, and that’s readily apparent right from its season premiere. “Farhampton” telegraphs the matrimonial premise that will make up the bulk of Season 9, while offering Ted a second chance at one of his great loves that he thought he lost for good years ago: Victoria.
While Ted had disastrously botched his romance with Victoria in a failed bid to woo Robin in Season 1, his ex-girlfriend resurfaces to rekindle their relationship. The Season 8 premiere involves Victoria dealing with the consequences of leaving her fiancé at the altar, with guest star Thomas Lennon hilariously portraying her jilted German lover Klaus. As Ted and Victoria face Klaus, Barney celebrates his own engagement to his girlfriend Quinn, a relationship audiences already know is doomed to fail — thus adding an extra level of intrigue.
With nine seasons and over 200 episodes, it’s remarkable how much enduring continuity for “How I Met Your Mother” is borne specifically from the pilot episode. Kicking off the series, the pilot quickly establishes all of the main character’s dynamics, with many of the recurring jokes permeating through the series introduced here. Some shows change a lot from their pilot but “How I Met Your Mother” lays a particularly strong foundation out the gate.
The series begins with Marshall finally proposing to Lily after years of dating. This leads Ted to become more serious with his own romantic pursuits, searching for true love. He soon meets the enigmatic Robin, who could be the woman of his dreams. All the key players for the majority of the show come together but, as the episode’s denouement confirms, the mystery is only just getting started.
While Barney always had eyes for Robin, one of his other most thriving romances was with Quinn, whom he began dating in Season 7. As Barney prepares to introduce Quinn to his friends, he makes Ted swear an oath on the Bro Code — effectively “The Broath” — that he won’t tell them she’s a stripper. This oath is, of course, broken immediately, as Ted and his friends wonder if Quinn is truly a good match for Barney.
“The Broath” confirms just how much of a master manipulator Barney can be, and what makes Quinn such an ideal match for him. This couple dynamic is mirrored by Robin facing crises across the board and approaching Ted to commiserate — only for him to rebuff her. Mixing drama, romance, and comedy in equal measure, “The Broath” is a sterling example of what “How I Met Your Mother” was capable of, even in later seasons.
Marshall and Ted have an undying love of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, with the aptly titled Season 7 episode “Trilogy Time” honing in on this. The guys are revealed to have a tradition every three years where they binge the first three “Star Wars” movies. As Ted and Marshall revisit the iconic space opera franchise, they fantasize about how their lives will be in the next three years.
These alternate futures provide amusing glances at how each of the characters will end up, while cementing the timeline upon which Ted will meet the long-promised mother. A lot has been said about Ted and his perpetual bachelorhood becoming a bit wearying in the latter seasons, but “Trilogy Time” utilizes this well. And any occasion that “How I Met Your Mother” gets to indulge in humor about flatulence is certainly a welcome one.
“How I Met Your Mother” Season 6 ended with the cliffhanger revelation that Ted is destined to serve as the best man at Barney’s wedding. The Season 7 premiere “The Best Man” expands on this, with Ted calming Barney’s pre-matrimonial jitters by recalling a different wedding where he served as best man. The episode follows Ted attempting to prepare a best man’s speech for a high school friend named Punchy, with the ceremony set to become a total disaster.
“The Best Man” gives each of the core cast hilarious subplots to follow up on as they assemble at Punchy’s wedding. Outside of his usual stomping grounds, Barney decides to experiment with his pickup techniques and expand his playbook. Lily is pregnant and she and Marshall decide to keep this secret, resulting in Marshall drinking for both of them. And through it all, the seeds for Barney and Robin to rekindle their romance are planted, setting up Season 7’s big payoff.
One of the running jokes throughout “How I Met Your Mother” is Robin constantly getting grief by the gang for being Canadian. Robin’s status as a New Yorker is called into question once again in the Season 6 episode “Subway Wars,” where she’s given three challenges to become a true New Yorker. This comes as the gang debates what’s the fastest way to reach a restaurant, with each taking an individual transit method to get their first.
What “Subway Wars” does so well is split up its core ensemble in reaching a common goal, as each member of the gang runs into their own complications in reaching the restaurant. Additionally, the three Herculean challenges given to Robin unfold over the course of the episode, to mounting comical effect. As fun as it is to see the core ensemble play off each other, “Subway Wars” is a strong reminder they can individually carry themselves in a thrilling race.
One of the biggest emotional gut punches in “How I Met Your Mother” is the death of Marshall’s father Marvin. The fallout from this sudden loss is explored in the Season 6 episode “Last Words,” as the gang travels to Minnesota to support Marshall at his father’s funeral. As Marshall rejoins his family, he shares memories of his father and the familiar faces that arrive for the funeral.
“Last Words” is a character study, delving into Marshall’s relationship with his father and how it shaped him into the man that he became. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of funny moments to buoy Marshall’s grief-stricken introspection — Ted has his own traumatic memories of his father while the gang gets to play off of Marshall’s family and childhood friends to great effect. But really, “Last Words” is a reminder of the emotional poignancy the show is capable of and does so well.
“How I Met Your Mother” Season 4 was a particularly tumultuous one for Ted’s personal life, from being left at the altar to getting fired, with all other manner of mishap along the way. Despite this, Ted remarks that it was the best year of his life, and that all comes to fruition with the Season 4 finale “The Leap.” As Ted works late nights to salvage his architecture career, Marshall plans a surprise birthday party for his friend on the apartment’s roof.
For a season that put Ted through the wringer, “The Leap” really stands as a triumph for the protagonist as his resilience and friendships win out. This isn’t to say that Ted doesn’t earn some additional bumps and bruises along the way, but we would expect nothing less of Ted Mosby. The episode also offers some overdue character growth for both Barney and Robin that will inform each of them for seasons to follow.
It really was only a matter of time before “How I Met Your Mother” provided its own spin on March Madness bracketology, and the Season 3 episode “The Bracket” doesn’t disappoint. As Ted and Marshall track their college basketball brackets for the season, Barney finds himself mysteriously and repeatedly thwarted in his recent romantic endeavors. This frustration leads Barney to create his own bracket chart of his various amorous escapades.
Barney has always been the most cartoonish and depraved of the main ensemble, and that is highlighted in full in “The Bracket.” Delving into Barney’s romantic history as he searches for his own personal saboteur gives the episode its own overarching and intriguing mystery. “The Bracket” offers a deeper look at Barney’s antics and gives him a chance to grow … albeit not too much for the show’s own resident Don Juan. True love is coming for him, but there is still a larger story to tell, after all.
In an age of text messages and online dating, one of the big debates is how long someone should wait to respond to avoid looking desperate while maintaining interest. This principle comes into question in the Season 4 episode “The Three Days Rule,” with Barney instructing Ted to refrain from following up with a woman right away. This leads Ted to carry on a text conversation with the woman in question, with Robin reminding him to temper expectations accordingly.
“The Three Days Rule” is an episode that resonates with modern audiences particularly well years after its initial broadcast in 2009. Ted has built up an idealized version of his would-be paramour, benefitting from the distance and his own vivid fantasy. This offers a greater glimpse into Ted’s idealized romantic partner while setting him up for a harsh reality check that modern, online dating savvy audiences may be all too familiar with.
“How I Met Your Mother” Season 3 gave Ted and Barney’s friendship its greatest test when Barney hooked up with Robin shortly after she and Ted broke up. Discovering what transpired, Ted and Barney had a falling out that comes to a head in the episode “Miracles.” Revolving around two harrowing accidents, Ted and Barney are left reevaluating their lives and their dynamic after a close brush with their own mortality.
With Ted and Barney both narrowly surviving their own accidents, the gang ponders on their own experiences with the miraculous, offering a fun look at their history. But really, “Miracles” offers two substantial moments in the greater “How I Met Your Mother” lore — it proves just how resilient Ted and Barney’s friendship truly is, while testing Stella’s own relationship with Ted. These two elements directly set the stage for the start of Season 4, while Ted and Barney’s dynamic will play an even more central role moving forward.
By its very premise, “How I Met Your Mother” is predicated with the expectation of its main characters becoming parents and recounting their adventures to their children. This setup is completely subverted in the Season 7 episode “Symphony of Illumination,” with a story that largely centers on Robin. After Robin and Barney believe they have conceived a child, Robin imagines herself narrating her own history to her children.
This, of course, all proves to be an elaborate fabrication — Robin learns she is biologically unable to have children at all. Robin was introduced as a character who planned to focus on her career instead of raising a family, but this episode reminds audiences just how vulnerable she is underneath that bravado. It’s one thing to decide not to have children and another thing entirely to be incapable of doing so, and “Symphony of Illumination” is an absolute heartbreaker of an episode. And yet, for all the tragedy, the episode also underscores how much Ted cares for Robin, especially at a moment when she needs it the most.
For years, audiences grasped at whatever minute clues and details “How I Met Your Mother” dangled regarding the identity of the long promised mother. The lengthy wait finally came to an end with the Season 8 finale “Something New,” finally unveiling the face of its future mother: Tracy McConnell. And while that alone is worthy of a place on this list, there is plenty of solid material in the episode leading up to the big reveal.
As Barney and Robin prepare for their lavish wedding weekend in Farhampton, each of the other main characters face their own crossroads. Frustrated with watching Robin marry his best friend, Ted plans to move away from New York for good. Meanwhile, Marshall hasn’t told Lily about his new job. Say what you will about “How I Met Your Mother” Season 9, the setup for the season coming out of Season 8 was a masterclass in setting the stakes.
A prominent celebrity cameo can make or break an episode. Fortunately, “How I Met Your Mother” has managed to incorporate its cameos to feel more than a mere gimmick. Season 6 brings Katy Perry into the fold portraying Honey, the incredibly naïve cousin of Ted’s friend Zoey. Naturally, Barney sets out to woo Honey while Ted contemplates if there’s more to his friendship with Zoey than he initially thought, with Marshall providing long distance support.
Though Zoey and Ted’s romance is one of the shorter lived relationships, the start of their courtship is undeniably sweet. And Perry proves she has acting chops that can more than keep up with the main cast, and she’s not afraid to poke fun at herself. “Oh Honey” is a particularly solid episode in Season 6, with Perry giving the proceedings a welcome shot in the arm playing off her veteran co-stars.
Halfway through “How I Met Your Mother” Season 8, Barney and Robin rekindled their romance and got engaged. As the happy couple began preparing for their wedding throughout the latter half of the season, Barney’s bachelor party was chronicled in the episode “The Bro Mitzvah.” In Barney’s eyes, however, his plans for a raucous stag night quickly go off the rails as Ted and Marshall helm the festivities.
“The Bro Mitzvah,” full of plot twists, shows just that Ted and Marshall understand their longtime friend even better than he realizes. It’s also an episode that has aged incredibly, presaging the popularity of the revival series “Cobra Kai” years before its eventual premiere, complete with its “Karate Kid” revisionism and celebrity cameos. “The Bro Mitzvah” is a fantastic example of “How I Met Your Mother” still firing on all cylinders in its penultimate season.
Some of the best episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” involve the gang revisiting their history together, and the Season 4 episode “Intervention” is a great showcase for this. As Marshall and Lily prepare to leave their longtime apartment to start their own home as a married couple, Robin is ready to move to Japan. This leads Marshall and Ted to debate who should pay for their apartment’s security deposit, reminiscing about damage done to the unit during their tenure living there.
This trip down memory lane involves the gang recalling moments that they staged interventions for each other. In true “How I Met Your Mother” fashion, these involve interventions to stop relatively silly concerns, from Lily constantly using a British accent to Barney’s magic tricks. However, by the end of this, genuine concerns between the characters are raised, reminding audiences just how much they are truly invested in the gang.
Disagreements are a natural outgrowth from any long lasting relationship, and though Ted and Robin seemed like the ideal couple, they finally have their first big fight early in Season 2. The episode “Ted Mosby: Architect” features a tense moment between the couple over their individual work concerns. This leads Barney to help Ted realize that women think architects are cool and sexy, leading him to look outside of his relationship.
For all of Ted’s faults, we intuitively know that he’s not the type to cheat on Robin, but the episode demonstrates how much they’ve grown as a couple. “Ted Mosby: Architect” also helps keep audiences guessing — despite us knowing Ted’s better nature, there are plenty of clues that he could become unfaithful in the episode-spanning mystery. As an audience, we want to see Ted and Robin thrive, and this episode puts that notion to the test with its exploration of relationship growing pains.
Barney is a character that the others, and by extension the audience, are never quite sure how much they should take seriously. Always one to employ guile and wanton manipulation to get what he wants — or to play an elaborate gag — Barney keeps everyone around him on their toes at all times. This duplicitous side to Barney provides most of the hilarity and narrative tension in the Season 1 episode “Mary the Paralegal.”
Invited to an award banquet for Robin after she wins a prestigious honor at work, Ted finds himself in need of a date after breaking things off with his serious girlfriend Victoria. Barney sets up Ted with a date for the event, but it’s unclear if the woman in question is a sex worker or a co-worker of Barney’s. This leads to an entire episode of Ted and his friends debating whether his date is all that she appears, with plenty of red herrings and clues heightening the funny mystery.
“How I Met Your Mother” Season 2 began with Marshall and Lily separated, having broken off their engagement at the end of the inaugural season. Their adventures as single individuals was explored in the episode “World’s Greatest Couple.” Relocating back to New York, Lily finds herself moving in with Barney in the interim while Marshall begins hanging around with a new friend named Brad.
Of everyone in the usual friend group, nobody butt heads more frequently than Lily and Barney. “World’s Greatest Couple” capitalizes on this interpersonal friction. Similarly, while “How I Met Your Mother” boasts several enduring bromances, the blossoming friendship between Marshall and Brad pokes fun at this dynamic. On the surface, the audience wants to see Marshall and Lily back together, but “World’s Greatest Couple” shows how effective and interesting the two characters are apart.
While “How I Met Your Mother” introduced plenty of memorable love interests for Ted, one that looms especially large is Victoria. Halfway through Season 1, Victoria was introduced as a woman at a wedding attended by Ted, with the two hitting it off immediately. This leads to a grand mystery, as the gang sets out to discover who exactly this woman actually is.
“How I Met Your Mother” began with Ted constantly pining for Robin, only for complications to arise every step of the way, preventing their potential relationship from progressing. “Drumroll, Please” presents the possibility that true love for Ted lay elsewhere, and Victoria’s introduction opens that interesting direction through actor Ashley Williams’ natural chemistry with series star Josh Radnor. Ted’s journey began very much in the shadow of Robin, but Victoria led the character to a far more interesting path moving forward.
“How I Met Your Mother” began with Marshall and Lily’s engagement and, despite all the twists and turns along the way, the couple finally marries at the end of Season 2. The season’s penultimate episode, “Something Borrowed,” has the gang scramble as a whole wave of obstacles surface, threatening to completely derail the impending nuptials. Contending with everything from the sudden appearance of Lily’s obsessive ex-boyfriend to a harpist going into labor, the wedding is set to be a total disaster.
“Something Borrowed” goes to slapstick lengths to deliver in some of the series’ biggest laughs, including a memorably tragic haircut for Marshall right before the ceremony. Throughout all the comedic mishaps, the episode delivers one of the most picturesque happy endings the series has ever crafted, as the wedding proceeds through the crises. And if there were any lingering doubts about Barney’s intentions, the reckless ladies’ man pulls out all the stops here to save the day.
Just as its preceding episode chronicled the lead-up and private wedding ceremony between Marshall and Lily, the “How I Met Your Mother” Season 2 finale revolved around its subsequent reception. “Something Blue” has Barney realize Ted and Robin are holding a big secret in the midst of the effusive celebrations. This leads to one of the most bittersweet episodes of the series, as Ted and Robin quietly admit their storied romance has finally come to an end.
On one hand, Robin was never going to be the long promised mother to Ted’s children — this was telegraphed from the series premiere. On the other hand, so much genuine chemistry between the couple and goodwill had been shown across the first two seasons that it’s legitimately heartbreaking to see them split. “Something Blue” is an episode that sets the stage for the long game behind the series, with a spoonful of sugar to help that bitter medicine go down.
The first woman that was poised to become Ted’s true love in the wake of his breakup with Robin was Doctor Stella Zinman. Introduced halfway through Season 3, Stella and Ted’s romantic rapport was the centerpiece of the episode “Ten Sessions.” As Ted visits Stella to have her remove an embarrassing tattoo across ten sessions, she repeatedly rejects his amorous overtures. This leads to Ted to pull out all the stops during their final session, giving a whole new meaning to “whirlwind courtship.”
While recurring actor Sarah Chalke brings plenty of energy and light to the show that will benefit from for the rest of Season 3, there is a different secret weapon here. Just as Season 6 saw a memorable guest star turn from Katy Perry, “Ten Sessions” features a prominent guest appearance by Britney Spears. In one of the most acclaimed guest star roles in the series, Spears’ character Abby plays off both Ted and Barney well, providing the laughs as Ted woos Stella.
One thing “How I Met Your Mother” fans can largely agree on is that the show’s ninth and final season is its weakest. From dead-on-arrival running jokes only getting worse as the season continues to the main story being set over the course of a single weekend, Season 9 is a mess. Having said all that, there are still some bright spots in the season and the episode “The End of the Aisle” is certainly one of them.
Beginning approximately thirty minutes before the start of Barney and Robin’s long awaited wedding ceremony, “The End of the Aisle” addresses Season 9’s longstanding core conflicts. From the matrimonial couple dealing with the last of their pre-ceremony anxieties ,to Marshall and Lily reevaluating their own marriage, the emotional stakes of Season 9 are fulfilled here. And through it all, Robin finally gets her own meeting with Tracy, leaving only Ted to make her fateful acquaintance as the series’ endgame looms on the horizon.
Across Season 7, there was the long-running mystery of whom Barney was destined to marry, picking up from the cliffhanger ending to Season 6’s glimpse at the future. This secret was finally revealed in the Season 7 finale “The Magician’s Code: Part 2,” while Ted reexamined his own romantic woes. This reappraisal brings back Ted’s ultimate girl that got away, marking Victoria — at her own matrimonial crossroads.
True to the show’s nature, the revelation of Robin as Barney’s future bride comes as he successfully proposes to his girlfriend Quinn in the present. Not only does this resolve Season 7’s longstanding question, but promises Season 8 will be one filled with its own surprises and twists for Ted and Barney. “How I Met Your Mother” is a show borne from a mystery and “The Magician’s Code” presents another puzzle that will shape the ensemble’s trajectory in its final two seasons.
Just as “The Magician’s Code” rekindled the romance between Ted and Victoria, her return into his life was presaged earlier in Season 7 in the episode “Ducky Tie.” While making amends for how disastrously their past relationship ended, Ted is also driven to reevaluate his friendships with Robin and Barney, given their intertwining history. This core trio believed they had overcome their interpersonal tension, but “Ducky Tie” sets the stage for this to resurface as the series moves towards its finale.
Of course, as Ted’s subplot takes him on a more reflective path, Marshall and Lily find themselves caught in a contest with Barney to give the episode a more comedic main story. Barney gets obsessed with changes to Lily’s body from her pregnancy, prompting a bet with her and Marshall over a particularly ugly tie. While Barney is a fan-favorite character for the show, its always nice seeing the overconfident character falter, and “Ducky Tie” features a well deserved comeuppance.
For all the laughs, “How I Met Your Mother” has always brought a strong level of emotional investment in its main characters as they progress through life. The show often accomplishes this by pairing triumph with tragedy, and one of the first episode in the series to expertly showcase this tonal juxtaposition is the Season 1 finale “Come On.” Though Ted finally manages to embark on his romance with Robin, this victory is marred by Marshall and Lily’s relationship completely imploding.
Despite us being explicitly told that Robin not being the mother of Ted’s children, Season 1 resolved around his attempts to start a serious relationship with her, with the audience cheering him on. This tumultuous journey was contrasted with Marshall and Lily as the ideal couple, happily engaged and planning their wedding. True to the show’s commitment to the long game, both narrative arcs come to a head in the season finale, setting the emotional stakes for the audience for the ride ahead.
Barney Stinson is an unrepentant lothario — it’s the defining feature of his character for most of “How I Met Your Mother.” For Barney, it’s all about hooking up with as many women as possible, and that drive informs his central role in the Season 5 episode “Perfect Week.” As Barney tries to hook up with a different woman every day for a single week, the rest of the gang endures a particularly terrible week themselves over the same period.
If “Come On” is an illustration on how “How I Met Your Mother” mixes victory and defeat on more emotional terms, “Perfect Week” plays this contrast for laughs. The gang initially believes their recent spat of bad luck is inversely correlated to Barney’s amorous winning streak. However, as the episode progresses, the gang realizes the key to breaking their bad week is in seeing Barney actually succeed, giving him an impromptu crew of wingmen.
One of the early mysteries in “How I Met Your Mother” involved the identity of Barney’s biological father, with the character suspecting it to be “The Price Is Right” host Bob Barker. Barney finally got the chance to personally face Bob in the Season 2 episode “Showdown,” with the venerable host appearing as himself when Barney arrives on the show as a contestant. This storyline is intercut with Ted preparing to write his best man’s speech for Marshall and Lily’s upcoming wedding, and struggling with the assignment.
Seeing Barney’s giddy joy in getting the “The Price Is Right” challenges down to an exact science is an unfettered delight. This is mirrored by Marshall constantly interfering with Ted’s speechwriting, insisting that his best man keep it as family friendly as possible. Marshall has Ted replace unsavory terms and events with innocuous substitutions, giving Ted a surprise creative challenge.
Though Season 7 gave both Robin and Barney their own respective serious relationships, the two drifted back into each other’s arms early in the season. This comes to a head in the episode “Tick Tick Tick,” with the two deciding to confess to their significant others while stuck on a boat together the following evening. Of course, this plan does not go as intended, with its own set of complications and betrayal of trust along the way.
Undercutting these emotional stakes is a subplot following Ted and Marshall attending a concert with Lily. After smoking marijuana together (which, in “How I Met Your Mother” parlance is substituted by eating a sandwich), the two go on their own cognitively impaired adventure. “Tick Tick Tick” provides a solid amount of character growth for Barney, and Neil Patrick Harris delivers one of his finest performances in the series.
If there was ever an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” practically begging for a rewatch, it’s the Season 6 episode “Bad News.” As Marshall and Lily address fertility troubles while trying to conceive a child together, numbers start appearing in the background, counting down throughout the episode. While the overarching premise of the episode would suggest this has to do with the couple’s troubles conceiving, the countdown instead ends with a shocking tragedy for Marshall.
Bad news often comes when those least expect it, and the episode not only reflects that, but reminds audiences that there are human stakes at play — as outlandish as the show can occasionally become. “Bad News” also gives the gang plenty to do aside from its countdown, with Robin squaring off against her old nemesis Sandy Rivers at work while Barney’s doppelganger is discovered. Though the episode’s core gimmick can be a bit distracting, “Bad News” largely rises above it to deliver a particularly memorable twist for the show.
One of the most curious stretches for “How I Met Your Mother” is the start of Season 2, with Marshall and Lily remaining broken up. It was only a matter of time before they reconciled, and that finally takes place in “Swarley” following Marshall’s brief attempt to reenter the dating scene. This romantic reconnection follows “How I Met Your Mother” introducing the concept of the “crazy eyes.”
Ted, Barney, and Marshall each embark on dates with women possessing eyes that hint at hidden mental instability, responding to each portend accordingly. This comes as Barney earns an unfortunate nickname while Lily becomes despondent over Marshall dating again. There is some funny, true-to-life dating advice to be had in “Swarley,” but more than that, the episode finally brings back its ultimate couple back together as Season 2 kicks into high gear.
For all the time “How I Met Your Mother” takes to explain how Ted would eventually meet the mother to his children, Season 3 remembers to highlight its other introductions. Though Ted’s history with his friends were explored in previous flashbacks, the full story of gang’s first meetings are explored in the aptly titled “How I Met Everyone Else.” Mirroring this trip down memory lane is Ted dating someone whom Barney finds on the wrong end of the crazy/hot scale.
For a show that relies so heavily on flashbacks and flash-forwards, it was good for Season 3 to finally get so much of its own history out of the way in a single go. Plenty of the show’s mythology would be established in “How I Met Everyone Else,” including Ted’s propensity to use “eating a sandwich” as a euphemism for smoking marijuana. Flashbacks aside, the episode is just a funny one, with the core cast clearly relishing portraying the younger lives of their characters.
One of the longstanding plot threads in “How I Met Your Mother” was the slap bet, which saw Barney serving as the recipient to a set of slaps from Marshall. Though two slaps had already been delivered, the fanfare surrounding this bet truly began in the Season 3 episode “Slapsgiving.” As Marshall and Lily host their first Thanksgiving as a married couple, Barney must contend with the promise that he will receive a slap by the end of the evening.
“Slapsgiving” is such a celebrated episode in the series that “How I Met Your Mother” would produce two sequels to it as the slap bet continued. However, whereas future Slapsgivings felt derivative, the first one cements its place in the show’s mythos. And more than simply relying on tension between Barney and Marshall, “Slapsgiving” reminds audiences that Ted and Robin could still play off each other well, even after their failed romance.
One of the keys to any successful, long-lasting friendship is learning not to bring up certain aspects of a friend’s life or behavior, lest it unearths latent tension. This rule is challenged in the Season 3 episode “Spoiler Alert,” as the presence of Ted’s new girlfriend Cathy leads the gang to address each other’s annoying habits. And, of course, once a genie like that is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put it back in.
“Spoiler Alert” instills plenty of friction between its core cast, with relatively low stakes and plenty of comedic gold to be mined from it. As fun as it is to see the gang work together, the chance to see them poke fun at each other is capitalized here. There is an even greater joy in seeing the ensemble inevitably work their way back together, as a testament to their enduring friendship.
Though Ted found love with Victoria, this fledgling romance was tested halfway through Season 1 in the episode “Game Night.” The gang assembles for a series of games orchestrated by Marshall, who presides over the evening’s activities due to his undisputed mastery over all established games. This leads to each of the gang sharing, as part of one of Marshall’s drinking games, the most embarrassing moments of their respective lives to each other, told through a set of flashbacks.
“Game Night” offers a surprise look into Barney’s background and the smooth-talking, sharply dressed persona he had built for himself. Every hero and villain deserves a good origin story and, with Barney occasionally acting as both, his mysterious past finally stands revealed. This backstory is juxtaposed with the gang’s other awkward anecdotes, including unseen details behind Ted’s disastrous first date with Robin, with a tense fuse lit between him and Victoria.
Running for over 200 episodes, “How I Met Your Mother” always pulled out all the stops whenever it hit a landmark centennial episode to mark the occasion. The first of these milestones was reached halfway through Season 5, with Episode 100: “Girls Versus Suits.” The climax of the episode was an entire song and dance number that saw Barney professing his love of suits, with the song itself nominated for an Emmy Award.
Boasting a whole set of guest stars, including Tim Gunn as Barney’s personal tailor, “Girls Versus Suits” celebrates the show’s centennial episode with plenty of style to spare. Apart from Barney’s musical ode to his sartorial fixation, the episode also marks a progression in Ted’s overarching story to find true love. Though the future mother remains elusive, there is the sense that she is right around the corner as Ted dates her roommate … though the ultimate reveal was still years away.
From slap fests to awkward family get-togethers, Thanksgivings were always a standout occasion in virtually every season of “How I Met Your Mother.” One of the last truly spectacular Thanksgiving episodes occurs in the Season 6 episode “Blitzgiving.” The episode has Ted finally take on host duties to have his friends over for the holiday, only for complications to arise. Ted develops a growing fear that he has become the fabled figure in the friend group to just miss out on every major moment, nicknamed “the Blitz.”
As Ted tries to fight this perceived curse, the past holder of the curse resurfaces, portrayed by guest star Jorge Garcia. Garcia plays off the core cast well, as does other guest star Jennifer Morrison, foreshadowing her character Zoey’s impending romance with Ted. The jokes fly fast and furious in “Blitzgiving” and the cast is at the height of their powers making sure they land.
While Barney is often responsible for introducing unorthodox methods to pick up love interests, one of the most memorable came from an entirely unexpected outside source. An unassuming man named Mitch reveals he successfully used a pickup technique known as the Naked Man, which has him disrobe before a date. Boasting an unusually high success rate, the gang is shocked to learn the technique worked on Robin and seek to investigate further themselves.
Taking place in Season 4 as Ted recovered from being left at the altar, “The Naked Man” marks his return to the dating scene with hilarious results. The episode also shows Lily and Barney attempting to use the technique for themselves, while Robin insists there’s more to her dalliance with Mitch. Every now and then, “How I Met Your Mother” leans unabashedly into the absurd and “The Naked Man” showcases this comedic sensibility at its best.
One of the most celebrated episodes in “How I Met Your Mother” is the Season 1 episode “The Pineapple Incident,” serving as the perfect comical showcase for Josh Radnor. Ted is a character that often drives the series’ overarching story forward, but “The Pineapple Incident” presents the character with an unrelated side mystery. After a night of blackout inebriation, Ted awakens the next day with a list of surprises, including a female companion and a fresh pineapple sitting on his nightstand.
Drunk Ted is a welcome change of pace from the usual iteration of the character, overthinking virtually every aspect of his life. Operating like a twist on the thriller “Memento,” Ted pursues the various clues around him in an attempt to piece together what exactly transpired while he was drunk. “The Pineapple Incident” became a benchmark for what the series could be, with its unique storytelling style, and one that was subsequently referenced repeatedly — including in “How I Met Your Father.”
Though Barney embarked on a serious relationship with Robin, he quickly slid back into his womanizing ways upon their breakup. Barney’s renewed romantic antics served as the central story in the Season 5 episode “The Playbook,” with Barney sharing his most ridiculous pickup techniques yet as Lily set out to foil him. Barney’s approach to his breakup is contrasted by Robin, who decides to devote her focus to her career — only for Marshall and Ted to predict otherwise.
While it’s always interesting to see Barney grow rather than remain a womanizing caricature of a playboy, “The Playbook” is something of a return to form for the character. Much of Barney’s enduring popularity is derived from this initial iteration, and “The Playbook” demonstrates there is still plenty of comedic mileage to be had. It would be sometime before Barney would mature up again and “The Playbook” reveals the character at his most calculatingly manipulative.
There are fans that want to see Ted and Robin succeed as a couple and there are fans that want to see Barney and Robin make it work. The later seasons of “How I Met Your Mother” really build an argument for wanting the latter relationship to thrive, though they would face their own complications along the way. The long road to their presumed romantic reconciliation was finally set in the Season 8 episode “The Final Page: Part 2.”
Though Robin assumed Barney was attempting to woo her co-worker Patrice, the episode presented the twist that Barney was vying to reconnect with Robin all along. “The Final Page” demonstrates “How I Met Your Mother” at its most romantic, with Robin and Barney get back together. This development is now all the more bittersweet in knowing how the series would end, but the episode is a testament to amorous triumph and having one’s faith pay off.
Perhaps the most memorable element of Marshall and Barney’s friendship is a the slap bet, which saw Marshall slap Barney at unexpected moments throughout the series. This was introduced in the Season 2 episode “Slap Bet,” with a running contest between the two friends. By the end, Barney would find himself at Marshall’s mercy, skewering their power dynamic for the remainder of the series.
Of course, the eponymous slap bet is far from the only revelation in the episode, with the title masking its ultimate twist as Robin holds a secret of her own. Robin’s past as a teen idol in Canada is unearthed, complete with a music video introducing her pop star alter ego: Robin Sparkles. The discovery reminded audiences how wacky the show was willing to go with its characters and would shape Robin’s trajectory for years to follow.
Just as “How I Met Your Mother” delivered a legen -– wait for it –- dary centennial episode, it similarly crafted a standout story to commemorate its 200th episode. After years of just missing out on seeing the mother and offering plenty of clues, the pieces of the puzzle finally came together in the Season 9 episode “How Your Mother Met Me.” Told entirely from Tracy’s perspective, Ted’s true love reflected on the steps that led her to that fateful wedding weekend in Farhampton — where she met him for the first time.
In many ways, actor Cristin Milioti was given the impossible task of portraying a character that had been built up with stratospheric expectations over the years. And yet, Milioti more than proves she’s capable of creating such a fully formed character in her own right in this episode, not just as a romantic foil for Ted. Of all of Season 9’s faults, Milioti’s performance is not one of them, and she gets overdue time to shine in the spotlight here.