On Monday, March 31st, we say goodbye to five friends that have been in our lives for nine years. Barney, Robin, Lily, Marshall and Ted have all gone from hapless 20-somethings to somewhat grown up 30-somethings in CBS’s How I Met Your Mother.
My own journey to the show started with a boyfriend, which I think is apropos. I’d never watched an episode before, probably because Two and a Half Men tainted CBS for me. But he loved it so much and forced me to watch the entire first season… and I hated it. It felt contrived and forced. And boy did I hate Ted – what a total wuss. How could people endure nine seasons of THAT? I nearly walked away from it… but then there was Lily and Marshall. Their relationship drew me in and I loved how real and natural they were with each other, even in the worst of times. By the season eight premiere, I was all caught up. As a side note, sitting by my side watching the second to last episode of the show on Monday night was that same boyfriend, who is now my fiancé.
Finales are tricky; you know this if you were a fan of Lost. In fact, I know a few people that watched a catch up video on YouTube for the six season series that were way more satisfied than those of us that tuned in every week for six years. But this will not be the case with How I Met Your Mother. People that have seen most of the episodes will be the most satisfied… hopefully.
Here are eight episodes to watch that will catch you up enough to watch the finale and really understand the emotional investment people have in these characters. You never know, those final moments might have you tearing up alongside the biggest HIMYM fan.
1. “The Pilot” – Season 1, Episode 1
Begin at the beginning. Meet the gang and really see the kind of guy that Ted Mosby is: a hopeless romantic (stress on the word hopeless) whose boundless belief in true love is part exhausting and part inspiring.
2. “Slap Bet” – Season 2 , Episode 9
Oh man, this is one of my favorite episodes. It is the introduction of two of the longest running gags on the show. Barney and Marshall’s Slap Bet and Robin’s Canadian pop star alter ego, Robin Sparkles. The slap bet has played out throughout the series with a satisfying ending in the penultimate episode, “The End of The Aisle”.
3. “No Tomorrow” – Season 3, Episode 12
That yellow umbrella you see in almost all the ads for the show? This episode is where it all starts. Barney takes Ted out for St. Patrick’s Day, and they end up at a club. Ted mistakenly takes home a yellow umbrella. That umbrella belongs to THE MOTHER, who was also at the club that night, but they never crossed paths.
4. “Ten Sessions” – Season 3, Episode 13
This is a quintessential episode of the show. Not incredibly important to the overall plot, but classic Mosby. Ted has to get a butterfly tramp stamp removed and ends up falling for his dermatologist, Stella (played by Scrubs star Sarah Chalke), who says she will not go out with him. Ted works the long game and after his 10 sessions with her are up, he asks her out. She explains she has no time to date, since not only is she a busy doctor, she is also a single mom. Ted then takes her on a two minute date complete with half a block cab rides and a full meal with dessert. It’s just a great episode, and again showcases our hero Ted’s ability to go overboard for love. Incidentally, Stella ends up leaving Ted at the alter in Season 4.
5. “Girls vs. Suits” – Season 5, Episode 12
Ted meets Cindy (Rachel Bilson), a lovely PhD student at Columbia, and asks her out. After she decides she can’t date him because she’s a student and he’s a teacher, he shows up at her apartment. In an effort to convince her they are meant to be, he points out three things in her room they have in common. Turns out those things don’t belong to Cindy, they belong to her roommate… THE MOTHER. As Ted leaves, he sees her ankle as she walks into her room from the shower. Oh, and he accidentally leaves that yellow umbrella behind, inadvertently giving it back to The Mother. As an added bonus, since this is the show’s 100th episode, we also get a musical number.
6. “Legendaddy” – Season 6, Episode 19
In a Barney-centric episode with the heart and humor that How I Met Your Mother does best, we get a little taste of what the show has done well in its nine seasons. It’s got it all: an intervention, Ted’s future home, John Lithgow as Barney’s dad and a Marshall on the upswing after his father’s death.
7. “Symphony of Illumination” – Season 7, Episode 12
This is one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series and delivers one of the best/worst twists at the end. It turns the format of the show on its head and the reveal, which I won’t spoil, is like a punch in the gut that leaves you literally breathless. It is the best of what the show does. Plus, we learn more about Robin’s emotional life, which you don’t see often from the stone cold Canadian.
8. “Something New” – Season 8, Episode 24
We meet her! You see her face for the first time! In the season eight finale, Ted reveals his plan to move to Chicago, Marshall finds out he got a judgeship, Barney and Robin start to nervously head to their wedding and THE MOTHER buys a train ticket to Farhampton, sealing her fate.
BONUS: “The Pineapple Incident”, Season 1, Episode 10
Still the most watched episode of the series, this is a classic HIMYM episode. The guys go out on a legend…wait for it… DARY night, where Ted blacks out and wakes up next to a brunette with a pineapple on his nightstand. Ted’s love of detective work takes him through the episode to uncover all the mysteries of the night before, except for where that pineapple came from. Maybe Monday’s finale will finally answer that question.
FOR MORE INFO
If you can, watch every single episode because I left out some doozies and the entire series is like hanging out with your friends. There’s the episode with the Woo Girls or the one where you find out how everyone met each other or the one where Barney makes the ducky tie bet.
Or if you don’t have time, check these sites out.
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