The series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” airs Monday (March 31), and it’s prompted a lot of nostalgia here at Zap2it. The show loves jumping back and forth in time, so we thought we’d do the same.
Here are our 10 favorite episodes of the series, along with one more that packed a big wallop at the end. They’re arranged in the order in which they aired.
‘Sweet Taste of Liberty’
(Season 1, episode 3) Ted and Barney’s first wild adventure: A night out to pick up women turns into a trip to Philadelphia, being taken into custody by airport security and a last-minute detour to lick the Liberty Bell.
While Ted might complain about how crazy Barney is most of the time, their adventure to Philly and back was indeed legendary. Besides, now he knows what the Liberty Bell tastes like: Freedom and pennies.
‘The Pineapple Incident’
(Season 1, episode 10) In addition to having an incredible sight-gag at its center and guest star Danica McKellar, “The Pineapple Incident” represents the best of “HIMYM” non-linear storytelling.
The episode begins simply enough — Ted wakes up in bed with a woman (who he initially thinks is Robin), a sore ankle, a pineapple and no memory of a night filled with drinking. It takes a series of stories told by Ted’s friends and acquaintances to piece together a full night of silliness, heartbreak and bad decisions.
But we never find out why there’s a pineapple. It’s beautiful.
(Season 1, episode 13) Say what you will about Robin, Victoria (Ashley Williams) was Ted’s true first love of the show, and it all started with a drumroll at a wedding. Ted and Victoria immediately hit it off, though she doesn’t want to exchange names or kiss him because relationships started at weddings just don’t work. Still, the drumroll leading up to the kiss is rather intense.
When Ted finally tracks her down again the next day, it was as if we’d just met the mother (and would have, had the series been canceled quickly). You know how that story goes, though. In the end they just didn’t work out, primarily because of Ted’s feelings for Robin. Coincidentally, this was also the first episode Robin admitted she had feelings for Ted.
(Season 1, episode 15) This is when viewers got the first real taste of just how obsessed Marshall is with games: He actually created his own, Marshgammon. While this was an episode that introduced Victoria to the group as Ted’s girlfriend, it’s more notable for revealing Barney’s previous life as a peace-loving barista — until a rich guy steals his girlfriend.
That caused him to drop the hippie act, get a corporate job and a suit. Now he’s the Barney we know and love … or loathe. Just to show how far he’s come, he hooks up with Shannon once again and films it. He also manages to get all of his friends to divulge their darkest secrets, proving once and for all Barney is the winner of game night.
(Season 2, episode 9) Not only did this episode introduce us to the titular bet — which ended with an understated smack at Barney and Robin’s wedding — but we also met Robin’s alter ego for the first time: Robin Sparkles. So, if you’re keeping score, that’s the show’s two best running bits in a single episode. Let’s go to the mall, everybody!
(Season 3, episode 8) Ted thinks he’s found a great girl in Cathy (guest star Lindsay Price), but the rest of the gang can’t stand her. It turns out that Cathy pretty much never shuts up, which Ted doesn’t notice until it’s pointed out to him — to the accompaniment of a shattering-glass sound effect. The gang then lets loose on one another about their own flaws: Lily’s loud chewing, Marshall’s habit of singing what he’s doing, Ted’s penchant for correcting people. It’s both a very funny episode and one that helped deepen our understanding of the group’s friendship, which is reaffirmed when they discover that one of Marshall’s nonsense songs is the password to find out whether he passed the bar exam.
(Season 3, episode 13) It all comes down to the two-minute date. When Ted decides to get his tramp stamp removed, he develops a crush on his dermatologist, Stella (Sarah Chalke). She turns him down, saying she doesn’t date patients. So he waits until the end of his 10th session — only to be turned down again, as Stella says she’s too busy with work and her daughter to date. Ted’s solution is the fantastically directed (by Pam Fryman) and wonderfully scored (to “Thirteen” by Big Star) two-minute date, incorporating a meal, movie and dessert. It’s “HIMYM” at its romantic best.
And, oh yeah, the guest spot by Britney Spears as Stella’s smitten receptionist was just fine too.
(Season 4, episode 5) Of all the women Ted dated in the nine years of “How I Met Your Mother,” Stella seemed to be the most likely candidate for the Mother role. She was, after all, Ted’s fiancee and a lovely woman he was willing to change every part of his life to be with.
That all changed with what should have been their wedding episode, “Shelter Island.” After Ted and Stella rush into a pre-planned wedding, red flags seem to appear for Ted. His friends question the decision, Robin rushes home from Japan only to be uninvited, and Stella keeps bringing up worries she has about Ted’s commitment.
Except that none of this is about Ted. The whole story, unbeknownst to everyone, is about Stella. It all comes together when she leaves Ted at the altar and runs away with her ex, Tony, the father of her daughter. The moment is genuinely touching — even with the cool joke of Future Ted’s “blonde family” in the moment before everything is revealed.
‘Three Days of Snow’
(Season 4, episode 13) This episode shows how you need to pay attention to the title.
There’s a snowstorm in New York that is causing trouble for everyone. Lily’s flight back to the city is delayed, Marshall and Robin have trouble making it to the airport (getting buried by a snowplow will do that), and Ted and Barney pretend to run a bar (named Puzzles). Extra angst comes in when Lily and Marshall start to feel that the magic of their relationship has faded away — both go to extreme lengths to re-create old traditions, despite it being nearly impossible.
But it all works out in the end, because this is the story of THREE days of snow. What appear to be three simultaneous storylines are actually taking place on three separate nights. It all ends happily ever after with a keg of beer, a marching band and expressions of true love.
(Season 6, episode 4) “HIMYM” is very obviously shot on a Los Angeles backlot, but the show managed to perfectly encapsulate the New York experience with “Subway Wars.” Public crying, running into a random celebrity and fiercely defending your transportation choices? Check, check and check.
Honorable mention: The final scene of ‘Bad News’
(Season 6, episode 13) The countdown motif in “Bad News” indicates that something is coming at the end of the half-hour, but aside from that it’s a pretty standard-issue late-period “HIMYM” episode. That last scene, however, in which Lily tells Marshall his father has died, is among the most emotionally raw in the series’ history, wonderfully played by Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan. The episode as a whole isn’t quite worthy of this list, but that scene is among the show’s best.
What are your favorite “HIMYM” episodes?