It’s no big secret if you know me; my favorite show of all-time is How I Met Your Mother. I can’t really explain why, but I’ll give it a shot. To me, it’s a guaranteed happy ending, and well, you don’t get that too often. The caption on the season 1 DVD reads, “A Love Story, in reverse.” There’s something so beautiful about that. We know right from the start that the main character, Ted Mosby, has two beautiful children and has sat them down to tell them the long story of he met his wife. It tells me that through-out this journey, not only to meet his wife but to become the person he needed to be when he did meet her, there would be many ups and downs, great times and heartbreak, but at the end of the story, at the end of it all, there would be a guaranteed happy ending. There’s something about that, that really struck me and connected with me.
Now, in this new series, Ten Classic Episodes, we will look at my favorite TV shows and the ten episodes of that show that best defines that show. It will not always be what I feel are my personal ten favorites but rather what I feel best represents what the show is all about. When it comes to this show, a show that is nearing 200 episodes over 7 seasons with season 8 right around the corner, it’s hard to pick just 10. Knowing that, I’ll probably do another ten classic episodes of How I Met Your Mother sometime in the future. For now, let’s focus on this first edition and get started.
-Pilot: The pilot episode of any show is such an important episode. It must do several things, but the most important thing it must do is make you want to keep watching. I felt that way in the opening seconds of watching this episode. I’m a sucker for narration so as soon as I heard Bob Saget as the older Ted, I had no chance. The pilot moves so quickly, setting up the story and introducing the characters. We are quickly introduced to Ted’s best friend Marshall and his soon to be fiancé Lily. Ted’s other best friend, Barney is a little hard to take at first but the more you watch him, not only in this episode but future ones as well, the more you realize how harmless he really is and begin to actually like him. So Marshall and Lily get engaged, and Ted begins to realize how much he wants to settle down as well. And just like that, we are introduced to Robin, the final member of this great ensemble. We are led to believe that Robin is the wife that Ted is telling his kids about. The end of the episode holds the twist, and kills all of that as well as future speculation when Ted refers to her as Aunt Robin. I’ve had mixed feelings about that for a while. It’s positive in that it took away the is she or isn’t she the mother discussion right off of the table. The negative aspect I felt was that the two had amazing chemistry and now you just know there was zero chance of the two ending up together. So much is packed into 22 minutes and there’s really nothing that does not work. There are many laughs and classic scenes, and after the 22 minutes, how could anyone not want to come back for more?
-The Pineapple Incident:
How I Met Your Mother has beautifully played with its structure and non-linear devices right from the beginning. In The Pineapple Incident, we see brilliantly for the first time those non-linear devices come into play. We see Barney get Ted drunk and then Ted blacks out what happens next. He wakes up the next morning and has to use clues to find out what happened the night before. It’s such a great idea and a wonderful treat for us. It’s also very relatable since we’ve all had those nights where we drank too much and can hardly remember certain events. It’s hilarious watching Ted put it all together and finding out who the anonymous woman in his room was. Also, it ends without really knowing how the pineapple came into play. Sometimes it’s better leaving things to the imagination.
Slap bet is probably the episode that best defines this series. It’s an instant classic and hilarious from start to finish. It really feels like not a second is wasted. Robin has a secret and everybody wants to know what it is. Barney and Marshall both have their theories so they make a bet on what that secret it, but this isn’t just any bet, rather it is a slap bet. What is a slap bet? The winner of the bet gets to slap the other person as hard as he can. This provides endless entertainment with some slaps currently in play on the show. This is the first time where the show really crosses into the delightfully absurd. We are introduced into Robin Sparkles as we learn that Robin was a Canadian Pop-Star back when she was a teenager. It’s a very easy transition for the show to make since it always walked a very thin line between the comedic and dramatic elements. We find out that we don’t really need to know every little thing about each other, and we also get our first exposure to the Robin Sparkles Let’s Go to the Mall video. I think it’s safe to say that our lives are so much better because of it.
Here we also have another episode that greatly defines this show. We see that Ted and Robin are running late to the airport and will most likely miss their flight. We then trace back to certain events that led to that event. There are about four or five events that actually lead to it and each one of those events is quite the treat to watch. We find out that Marshall was training for a marathon, Barney tells us the easy steps to running a marathon and we see how Ted finding a lucky penny set off all of these events. It’s a play on destiny and how one little thing can start the chain of events of something much bigger than all of us. Lucky penny might even be funnier than Slap Bet, if that’s possible. We see the inspiration for Marshall wanting to begin his marathon training, why Robin is so exhausted and causes Marshall’s injury and Barney hilariously taking Marshall’s place in the often mentioned marathon. Lucky Penny has all of that and so much more.
-How I Met Everyone Else
Flashbacks weren’t always a huge part of this show, not considering of course that the whole show is one huge flashback. We see the first flashback towards the end of season one in Best Prom Ever as Lily begins to regret not chasing her dreams she tells Robin the story of how she broke up with her high school boyfriend Scooter. How I Met Everyone Else doesn’t feature a brief flashback however, as the entire episode features flashbacks of how everyone met each other. This is another episode where not a second is wasted and everything clicks. Even Ted’s love interest, who would only appear in this episode, is a perfect fit, beautiful but crazily hilarious. Ted does not remember her name so only refers to her as Blah Blah. Blah Blah is the inspiration for Barney’s Crazy/Hot scale, one of the most memorable creations of this show. We see how Marshall once thought Ted was the dean of their college and how he was initially disappointed to learn he would be his roommate. We see Barney meet Ted and Marshall and we see the awesome moment when Ted and Lily meet as Ted first mentions his college girlfriend Karen. To add to the delight, we also get a flash-forward to sometime in the year 2020.
These ten episodes really show how much this series excels when it’s firing on all cylinders. Here we get hilarious right from the start as we see Ted on a ‘date’ with the previously mentioned but here seen for the first time, Stella. Stella never comes off more likeable than she does in this episode. Ted needs to get his lower back tattoo removed, which will take ten long sessions, and Stella is his doctor. Each session allows the two to get to know each other more and Stella lets Ted know right from the start that she can’t date her patients. Ten Sessions ends with the legendary two-minute date between Ted and Stella, as the two begin dating shortly after. It’s a very funny episode as we watch Barney win a bet when he gets Ted to grow a moustache. It also features the first case of really big stunt casting as Britney Spears plays Abby, Stella’s receptionist. Her second episode appearance in Everything Must Go resulted in one of the worst episodes in this series, while here her role is limited and doesn’t affect the greatness of this episode.
This isn’t the last episode where we see Stella, but it’s certainly the conclusion of the Ted-Stella relationship. I absolutely love this episode. Ted had previously proposed to Stella and this episode has the two pushing up their wedding date and teases a possible end to Ted’s search. Of course, being so far away from the actual end, and only five episodes into season four, I think we all knew something bad would happen and the two wouldn’t become an actual married couple. Ted lets us know right from the beginning that it isn’t going to work and how you should never ever invite an ex to a wedding. Ted and Robin’s past relationship is often ignored and they act as if it is normal that the two can so easily be friends now. Stella isn’t having that of course and does not want Robin at her wedding. It’s a very reasonable request but of course Ted can’t really see how weird that is so he allows Stella’s ex to attend the wedding, not only that but he personally drives the man there. We get a great Robin speech to Ted about how he’s trying to rush to the end of the story, Ted angrily tells Robin to leave the wedding. On her way back home, Robin sees how Stella has ran away with her ex, and we then see as Ted finds the note Stella has left behind. It’s a very somber moment and yet you feel like maybe the man has really dodged a bullet as perhaps Barney was right and he never really wanted to end up with Stella. On a personal note, I just love when Ted explains how if he would have just listened to Stella, the whole story might have ended differently, we then see Stella in the future cutting off Future-Ted and rescuing Ted’s now-blonde kids from the long story. The episode right after this one, Happily Ever After, is essential as well and provides great closure to this story-line.
-Girls vs. Suits
Here’s an episode that you could show someone who has never seen an episode of this show, and I’m pretty sure they would love it right away. Girls vs. Suits features so much of what makes this such a unique, funny and touching show. The always wonderful Rachel Bilson plays Cindy, Ted’s latest love interest. She is, however, not just any love interest as we get the most teasing so far as we learn she might be the titular mother. Well, it turns out to be a head fake as we instead learn that her roommate is actually the woman Ted will end up with. The show has a lot of fun though with the teasing, and it doesn’t frustrate rather it intrigues. We get a small glimpse of Cindy’s roommate’s foot and even though for a second, you think we might see more, it still works. The episode ends with a musical number featuring the whole gang but highlighted by Barney as he decides if he should choose a woman over his suits. It’s a catchy, bombastic performance but on this show it just feels right. Comedy or drama? Why does one have to choose? Barney and the show make their choices, why can’t you have both?
Here, we have what might be the most serious episode of this series. Marshall’s father passed away in the previous episode, and here we are taken to Minnesota and the wake. It initially feels wrong that there are attempts at humor by Ted and Barney as they try to cheer Marshall up, upon watching this episode several times since then, you kind of come to terms with some of that. I say some because the storyline with Marshall’s ex-bully and the priest’s son, still kind of rubs me the wrong way, especially when he seemingly disrespects Marshall’s deceased father, especially since no one really says anything to him. The dramatic aspects of this episode however, all work and offer some of the best moments of the entire series. Much like my favorite scene in one of my favorite movies, The Grey, when Liam Neeson angrily screams at the sky at a God who is most like not there, here we see Marshall do the same thing and wondering why it was his father who was taken away so early. It’s kind of shocking to see something like that in a sitcom but I’m so glad that the show decided to take it there. The episode ends with the gang calling up their respective fathers and letting them know how much they love them. Barney, however, calls up his mother, not knowing anything about his father, and lets his mother know how he’s ready to meet his dad. The show get’s trashed a lot for supposedly declining in quality in its later years, I however will argue with anyone about how this show has always remained as strong as it started.
-The Best Man
Season seven started off with a bang. This one was all about weddings as we had just found out that Barney would be getting married very soon. Barney is having his wedding day jitters, and to comfort him, Ted recalls about the most disastrous wedding that they have ever attended, which was Punchy’s wedding. We see Ted delivering several best man toasts through-out the years and how those toasts came during some of the toughest times in his life. You just get that feeling that you’re watching something special when this show is hitting all its strides. We also see that Robin and Barney have lost none of their chemistry as the two share a wonderful dance that needs to be seen to be really appreciated. This is also the episode when everyone finds out that Marshall and Lily are having a baby, as yes, Ted once again breaks down while delivering his best man toast.
The show is nearing its end, but it certainly is still delivering great and entertaining episodes on a weekly basis. With that in mind, I know that this will only be the first edition of this ten classic episode feature because I could devote paragraphs about each and every episode, even the couple bad ones. I won’t do that but I will focus on the great ones a few more times, and I am confident that the remainder of season eight will offer up some more classics.