*EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been imported from my Tumblr page, where it originally appeared, and may contain broken links.*
If you missed the episodes that comprise numbers 11-15, click here. And now, the countdown of the top 15 How I Met Your Mother episodes continues!
10) “The Naked Man”
S4 E9 – November 24, 2008
A number of the episodes on the list deal with the heart of the show, the way these characters touch our emotions. But just as deserving of as much credit are the episodes that are 100% pure fun, and “The Naked Man” is the one of the best. While Robin and Ted lived together, Ted walks into the apartment to find Robin’s date, Mitch, stark naked on the couch. Mitch explains that he’s attempting a move called “the Naked Man”, best employed on a bad date as a last-ditch pity plea to get a girl to sleep with you. The group finds this idea ridiculous, until they discover that it actually worked on Robin. So while Robin continues to half-heartedly date Mitch to prove in Marshall’s eyes that she is not a slut, Ted and Barney each try out the Naked Man on their respective dates.
I’ve always loved the scenes where the gang hangs out at the bar and has lengthy discussions about relationships, often coining phrases and terms for certain occasions. This time around, they debunk Marshall’s theory that sex should only be for love by listing 50 other reasons to have sex. My favorite one? The term of “Paratrooping: when you go out of town, but instead of getting a hotel room, you go straight to a bar with the sole intention of hooking up with a girl so you have a place to stay.”
The best and most iconic part of the episode is Barney and Ted coming up with different poses in which to display the Naked Man. Because standing there and letting it hang just isn’t enough. The “Oops I Didn’t See You There” and the “Coppertone Baby” always make me laugh, even now, just posting this picture.
Some trivia: As Ted discovers the Pablo Neruda collection, it’s bookmarked to his favorite poem, titled “Desnuda”, which is Spanish for “naked”.
Ted: “The Naked Man works! I just had decent sex with an awful human being. I am back!”
Ted, to Mitch naked on his couch: “When you leave, take the seat cushion with you. That’s trash now.”
9) “How I Met Everyone Else”
S3 E5 – October 22, 2007
Another great variation of the “story in a story”, this one is actually more like an anthology than any other episode. The plot is fairly simple: Ted brings to his new girlfriend to the bar to meet his friends, and they all tell the tales of how they all met each other. The episode starts out with a great example of the show’s “unreliable narration” as Future Ted fails to remember the name of the girl he had dated, so for the remainder, she’s referred to by everyone as “Blah Blah.” Because Ted met Blah Blah online, everyone becomes wary of her, which gives Neil Patrick Harris an opportunity to display his mirrored air-drawing skills in order to bring out one of the best relationship concepts the show has ever created: the Hot/Crazy Scale.
Then the narration continues by introducing one of the show’s signature tropes: In order to not be too explicit with his kids, (but more importantly, in order to get around showing the characters using drugs on network television) Future Ted hereby refers to smoking marijuana as “eating a sandwich.” Watching College Ted take a bite from a two-feet-long sandwich makes the imagination run wild.
All of the flashbacks provide great laughs and surprises, such as the fact that Ted knows sign language, Marshall tricking Barney into seeing him as a dating god, and Lily and Ted making out at freshman orientation. (Fortunately, Ted was mistaken about it being Lily. That’s just weird.) And just knowing that Barney was responsible for getting Ted to shave off that ugly goatee makes him a true friend in my book. Also, Abigail Spencer was fantastic as Blah Blah. I dare say that she was the best one-episode dates that the show has ever featured, having just the right amount of crazy without seeming cartoonish. (I’m looking at you, Meg.)
The episode finishes with Ted, Marshall, and Lily in their 40s (Balding Marshall!) at their college reunion “eating sandwiches”, prompting a high Ted to giddily ask, “Where’s my wife?” That line is the mini-cherry on top of the regular cherry on top of the sundae of awesomeness that is this episode.
Plus, this scene:
Marshall: Dude, this black-haired goth chick stopped by today. Wanna tap it!
Ted: I’m Too Much Tongue Guy.
Lily: And I’m Unreasonably Small Mouth Opening Girl.
Barney: Worst superheroes ever.
Finally, an observation: Looking back, after Robin’s exaggerated dismissal of the notion that she and Barney are dating (sixteen “no”s), I should have known all along that they would end up together forever. Which leads me to…
8) “The Final Page”
S8 E11 & 12 – December 17, 2012
Barney Stinson is a magician by trade, and in this two-parter, he pulled off the greatest trick of them all: He made “Barney the Womanizer” disappear and in its place made “Barney the Committed Man in Love” a reality.
Part one was aplenty in the humor department, with Barney caught under a jinx by the group, unable to speak until someone said his name. Neil Patrick Harris is a very talented actor, and what he brought to the table with his physical expressions, haplessly drawing on a notepad, only to turn it around and feature a very detailed illustration—Who knew he could be so funny with just a piece of paper?
Part one also featured a guest appearance by Seth Green, who is super freakin’ charming even when his character is being creepy, and it introduced a concept known having a “pit guy,” someone you’re so obsessed with that you do like The Silence of the Lambs and throw them in a pit in your basement. Ted and Robin dealt with such people in each of their stories, until they realized that ultimately they had put themselves in their own pits, and the only person who could let them out were their own selves.
This theme led perfectly into part two, as Ted discovered that Barney would be proposing to his girlfriend, Patrice. He struggled with whether or not he should tell Robin, meaning letting go of a woman he loved but knew didn’t love him, and thus getting in the way of his own true happiness by not doing so. In the end, he decided to let himself out of his pit and not just inform Robin, but convince her to let herself out of her own pit and not be afraid to be loved and maybe be hurt.
As Robin read the final page of The Playbook, the writers, much like Barney, displayed mastery of their own craft. There was nothing surprising about the fact that Barney was actually planning to propose to Robin; their wedding had been foreshadowed for years. What was a surprise was the fact that everything Barney had done over the previous six episodes, from professing his love to “drunkenly” kissing her, from rejecting her to pretending to date her nemesis, was all part of one big play to get to this point. And this is what was brilliant about this situation, because as upset as she was, there was a reason Robin said yes. This manipulating, scheming Barney is the person that she fell in love with, and the same goes for the person Barney loves. The first time around, Barney and Robin tried too hard to be different people in their relationship. Barney even took lessons from Ted on how to date Robin! But what really works with the two of them is them being themselves, hence “The Robin.” “The Final Page” shows that the writers know exactly who these characters are and found a way to make their pairing—and upcoming nuptials—work. What sounded manipulative on paper turned out to be the second most romantic moment in the entire series.
Oh, and the staff also created another awesome song:
7) “Last Words”
S6 E14 – January 17, 2011
Season 6 was a turning point for the series. Bays and Thomas acknowledged that the show was in its twilight period, and they needed to start building toward a definitive end to the series. They began showing glimpses of the eventual day when Ted meets the mother of his children, but they also took the opportunity to take these characters, now in their 30s, and have them go through some emotional confrontation. So in the middle of a season where Marshall and Lily try to conceive a child, Marshall receives news that his own father, Marvin, suffers a fatal heart attack. It was a defining moment for both the characters and the series.
“Last Words” picks up after that moment, taking place at the wake and the funeral service. This episode, in my opinion, was a make-or-break situation. It was the highest rated episode of the season; over 11 million people tuned in to see exactly how the creative team would handle this situation. The challenge they presented themselves was finding the right balance between humor and sorrow. If too heavy, the show wouldn’t be the reliable comedy people expected to laugh with. If too light, they would lose the reality in which these characters were grounded.
The writers made the smart move by relegating Marshall to the side for most of the first two acts. He was either too distracted to react to things like Ted and Barney’s well-intentioned but bizarre attempts to make him feel better by getting him to laugh at YouTube videos of people getting hit in the nuts, or he was too busy trying to remember the last words his father said to him, to go with the theme of the memorial. Fortunately, all of the flashbacks with Marvin featured him at his light-hearted, goofy, racial-stereotyping best. Hearing him say, “Plane food is ass,” dissolved all the tension brought about by his passing.
But after moving past the funny scenes of the gang remembering the horrible last words uttered by their own fathers, and Robin playing the role of a pusher, magically pulling out of her purse all of the vices people needed, the third act belonged completely to Marshall. After listening to the voicemail his dad left him on the day he died, only to hear the shuffling sounds of a pocket, he let out all of his pent-up frustration in a scathing rant to God.
This scene still stands as the most emotionally wrecking moment the series has ever produced. Sitcoms don’t often deal with the repercussions of a character’s shortcomings. But here, after failing to conceive a child with his wife and then losing his personal hero, Marshall freely admits to feeling cheated by the universe. Making this scene even more effective are the others, alternating between fighting back tears and staring at the ground, unable to help their friend. Of course, the writers resolve this dire situation when Marvin picks up mid-message and tells his son he loves him…and then asks about cream for his foot rash. The levity in this moment underscores the ability of Bays and Thomas to write not just great comedy, but great television in general. The show followed with memorable dramatic stories like Barney meeting his father and Robin discovering she can’t have kids; “Last Words” was the pioneer of those stories.
6) “Three Days of Snow”
S3 E14 – January 19, 2009
As I’ve previously mentioned, one of the best things HIMYM does is play around with its storytelling structure. This episode is classic in that respect. Future Ted tells the story of a three-day snowstorm, but he tells it all mixed up. So while we think that what we’re seeing is one streamlined timeline, it’s actually separate occurrences stretched out over three separate days. This serves to punctuate the fact that while we think that Marshall and Lily are in sync with each other, they’re really not. But more on that later…
During this time, Ted and Barney persuade MacLaren’s Pub owner Carl, who wants to close for the day due to the storm, to instead give them the keys to the bar while they wait for two college girls they’re looking to score with. (I’ll never get over the speed with which Ted gets up from the booth when Barney first tells him about the girls.) Barney and Ted have always wanted to buy a bar, where the drinks flow, and there is no last call. This leads into a great Cocktail reference, where the two actors show off their amazing juggling skills while they take turns making drinks—and breaking them.
But this episode is really all about Marshall and Lily. Neil Patrick Harris once pointed out why the couple is different from all other married couples in a sitcom. Usually you’ll see such a pair always arguing and annoyed with each other, provoking the other one, all played for laughs. But with Marshall and Lily, we have a couple in love who stick together and support each other no matter what. Throughout the run of the series, they’ve had their tests and trials, their high points and a few lows. But through their entire journey, we the viewers have never questioned that they belong together. Though we can point to many instances over the eight years that prove this, in my eyes, “Three Days of Snow” defines who they are as a couple.
When one of them flies out of town, the other usually waits at the airport to pick up the person upon return, cardboard sign in hand, and the traveler brings back a six-pack of local beer from the place they visited. But now, Marshall and Lily, each 30 years old and in the 12th year of their relationship, decide that they must mature as a couple and let go of those silly rituals they had established when they were younger, such as telling each other what they had to eat for the day, calling each other at lunchtime to say “I love you,” and staying up on New Year’s Eve for a midnight kiss. What they fail to realize, and what their friends (and a stranger) help them figure out, is that those little things make them the unique couple everyone admires and aspires to be. Those rituals shouldn’t be tossed aside, but celebrated as part of their identity. So they each make a mad last-minute dash: Lily to buy beer, and Marshall to greet her at the airport. Of course, due to the story structure, we learn Lily’s flight was delayed two days, and Marshall was early. This gives him time to make up for lost rituals, leading to the most romantic moment of the entire series. (Presented in craptastic quality by Random YouTube Person:)
Even though Marshall and Lily are set to face their toughest challenge yet in the final season, we know that somehow, someway, when all is said and done, they’ll manage to love each other even more. And we don’t need flash-fowards to know it.
Thanks for reading! Click here for the top 5 episodes! What do you think is number one?