Top 15 ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Episodes: #1-5

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been imported from my Tumblr page, where it originally appeared, and may contain broken links.*

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You’ve seen the best from 11-15. You’ve reminisced as you went through 6-10. Now, get ready to whip out your DVDs and be prepared to turn on Netflix, because you’re going to be reminded of how much you love this show. I present to you the top 5 episodes of How I Met Your Mother

5) “Girls Versus Suits”
S5 E12 – January 11, 2010image

A series’ 100th episode is always a cause for celebration. Besides the obvious implications of continued success, it mostly means that a show can be shopped for syndication. For a long time, this series’ potential long-term future was in doubt. Though its average of about 9 million yearly viewers would be gladly welcome on another network, CBS has a higher standard, and thus it was always on the verge of cancellation after every season. So getting to this point was definitely a big deal for everyone involved. As a thank you to the fans, creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas made the 100th episode of HIMYM, as Barney may put it, an extravaganza of awesome.

Their top priority was rewarding the viewers’ patience by pushing foward with the mythology, as Ted got closer to his future wife than ever before. He meets Cindy, a student at the university where he teaches architecture. Early on, she confesses that she knew who he was, as she had attended the Economics course that Ted had mistakenly thought was his class on his first day. What Ted didn’t know at the time was that his future wife was in that very class. He begins dating Cindy, but we come to discover that she is not the mother of Ted’s kids; that distinction actually goes to Cindy’s roommate.

Before this episode, the only things we really knew about “the mother” was that she owned a yellow umbrella and had legs. This episode was the first time we learned anything about who she is, revealed mostly by Cindy as she dates Ted, and also by some incredibly funny narration by Future Ted. The best part is when Future Ted talks about receiving the first description of his wife, while an instrumental piano love ballad begins to play in the background, only to have it abruptly cut off as Cindy calls her a whore. (Not to worry, she was lying.) I personally can’t wait to see how well Cristin Milioti matches up to the robot-painting, showtune-singing description we got in this episode.

In other happenings, MacLaren’s Pub hired a hot, female bartender played by Stacey Keibler, and Barney’s attempt to be her George Clooney counterpart—bedding her and then walking away—was foiled by her aversion to guys wearing suits. So Barney, determined in his conquest, pulled a Clark Kent and suited down. It’s visually arresting to see Barney in a t-shirt and jeans; it’s just not right. Later, as the bartender was in Barney’s bedroom and discovered his large suit collection, she issued an ultimatum, leading Barney to ponder his decision—via song!

Bays and Thomas aren’t just TV writers, but musicians as well. (Their band composed the show’s theme song.) Their penchant for tunes has shown up throughout the series, and “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit” is the cream of the crop. It’s a song worthy of being in a real musical, and it gives hope for a future version of HIMYM on Broadway—one can dream! The visual montage with full choreography makes full use of Neil Patrick Harris’s stage experience, and raises this episode to be one of the show’s best productions.

In an interview with TVLine, Bays and Thomas discuss the upcoming 200th episode, in which much about the mythology of the show will be revealed or explained. But they don’t plan on doing another big spectacle like the 100th. A smart move: Nothing will top “Girls Versus Suits.”

Quotes

Ted, to Cindy: “I promise you, I am not going to fall in love with your roommate.”
Future Ted: “Oops!”

Lily: “Baby, how could you not wanna hit that? I wanna hit that! If you don’t wanna hit that, I’m sorry, but you might be gay.
Marshall: “Hell yeah, I’m gay. Gay for you.”

4) “Slapsgiving”
S3 E9 – November 19, 2007image

I first started watching HIMYM at the beginning of the third season; I saw the replay of “Something Blue” the week before, where Ted and Robin break up, and then I went forward from there. At the end of the premiere episode, “Wait for It”, fans of the show were treated to a scene in which Marshall reveals a slap countdown, much to Barney’s horror. Unfortunately for me, given my newness to the series, this scene went completely over my head, and I chalked it up to some obscure pop culture reference I didn’t get. So imagine my horror when “Slapsgiving” arrived and I discovered that the show’s jokes not only recur over many episodes but also multiple seasons. Later that week, I took full advantage of the annual Thanksgiving weekend sales and purchased the first two seasons on DVD, ensuring that I would be a fool no more.

Aside from the awesomeness of recurring jokes that make a loyal viewer feel like an exclusive member of a club, the episode itself is a trademark for the series, playing with the framework and using different variations of the same joke with equally funny results. As the gang prepares for their first Thanksgiving together, Marshall rechristens the day “Slapsgiving”, alerting Barney that at precisely 3 PM, he will be doling out the third of his five eternity slaps earned from the results of the slap bet. Their story doesn’t evolve much from there. It’s pretty much Marshall slipping the word “slap” into various points of conversation in order to make the anticipation worse for Barney—and it’s freaking hilarious! I could spend the whole article repeating all of the jokes, but only one will suffice:

image“You see what I got going on here? They’re turkeys, but they’re also hands. Because later, we’re gonna eat turkey, and then I’m gonna slap you in your face.”

This episode wasn’t just about slaps, however. It also opened up another chapter in the Ted-Robin Saga. Ted became jealous of a man Robin was dating, a 41-year-old hunk named Bob. So in Ted’s mind, Bob became the 80-year-old long-time actor Orson Bean. Beginning with season 3, the writers started taking advantage of the show’s structure in more radical ways by presenting stories that were less straightfoward, like Blah Blah’s name in “How I Met Everyone Else” and all of the things Marshall and Lily should have said but didn’t, in “Dowisetrepla”. Bob was the best and funniest use yet; just hearing Bean say things like “chillax” and “You ought to be stoked I found my bliss” is enough to liven any episode.

The debate over Bob led Ted and Robin to argue about how true their friendship is, and after sleeping together, it seemed doomed to end. That’s when the writers added some sweetness to this main course of an episode by rekindling the friendship spark with their once customary hand-salute gesture, which I am proud to say I’ve incorporated into my own life. And when an episode has the power to do that, it deserves to be put in the top 5 of the series.

Now let’s all gather around the piano and watch Barney get slapped again, shall we?

Quotes

Bob: “I made Jell-O shots. We’s gon’ get silly, bitches!”

Barney: “Relapse Five! That’s where we high-five, then it’s awkward for a little bit…and then we high-five again!”

3) “The Playbook”
S5 E8 – November 16, 2009image

I’ve talked a lot about the creators of the series and its writing team, but I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the stellar main cast. Their real-life friendship emphasizes their on-screen group chemistry, and each one has stepped up to the plate when called upon and many times knocked it out of the park. That being said, just like the MLB All Star Game, there is an MVP. It’s hard to imagine any of the characters we’ve come to love being played by anyone else, but without a doubt, HIMYM would never have been as successful as it has without Neil Patrick Harris. Even this anonymous but seemingly credible Wikipedia editor believes it to be fact.

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Harris’s portrayal of Barney Stinson has become one of the most iconic roles in TV comedy today and earned him an Emmy nomination four years in a row. People tuned in every week to see what kinds of crazy exploits and tricks he would use in his continued quest to bed every desirable woman he came across. So although I, for one, was excited at the start of Season 5 to see his romance with Robin begin, it was understandable that a good number of people did not share my enthusiasm. Regardless, everyone knew that Barney’s first attempt at a relationship post-transformation wouldn’t last forever. And when it was time for the Barnacle’s grand return to the open market, both he and the writers decided they needed to make up for lost time.

“The Playbook”, in all of its amazing glory, is a full-blown, unfiltered NPH showcase featuring Barney running a multitude of hypothetical and actual plays ranging from simply constructed to absolutely ludicrous. I still can’t get over the sheer audacity of Barney in a full genie outfit, running the “My Penis Grants Wishes” play. (“Only if you rub it hard enough,” proclaims Barney with enough charisma and boyish charm that it’s not surprising at all that this really works.) With homages to Sleepless in Seattle, Cheap Trick, and, yes, Ted Mosby himself—plaid shirt and all—this episode puts the true breakout star front and center, doing what he does best, complete with winks to the camera. (Skeptics should look no further than the real website of the “phallumegaly” disorder mentioned during the top play of the night, the “Lorenzo Von Matterhorn”.)

Sure, there were other great non-Barney moments. Ted and Marshall’s insistence and examples that because Robin had decided to focus on work instead of relationships, this would be the moment she met the love of her life, is something I appreciated seeing, mostly because such a notion is very true. And I particularly loved the group harmonizing with girl-of-the-week Claire in response to Ted never wanting Barney’s sloppy seconds. But this episode belonged to Mr. Stinson. Literally. Especially since the entire episode was one big scheme to get with Claire…which worked! Barney running a play on the audience: That is how the game is played.

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Quotes

Marshall: “Robin, it’s like this: Do you have any idea how many times in my life I’ve gone to the freezer looking for frozen waffles and not found them? … Millions. But when I go to the freezer looking for a Popsicle or the remote control, because Lily and I are having a fight and she’s hidden it there, you know what I find? Frozen waffles. That’s how it works. You go out there looking for a paper, you’re coming back with frozen waffles, and in this case, ‘frozen waffles’ is a guy. Also, could you pick up some frozen waffles? In that case, ‘frozen waffles’ are frozen waffles.”

2) “The Pineapple Incident”
S1 E10 – November 28, 2005image

Here it is, arguably the most talked about episode in the entire series, and the original “story in a story”. Sure, that story only occurred the previous night, but really, what better story is there than your friends recounting the events of your blacked-out adventures of debauchery and guerrilla karaoke?

The episodes starts with the gang in the bar, until Robin leaves for a date, leaving Ted forlorn at his inability to date her while Barney seemingly gets a phone number with only a single pickup line. The others attribute Ted’s over-thinking brain as his Achilles’ heel, and successfully “encourage” (read: “peer pressure”) him into taking five of Carl the bartender’s custom Red Dragon shots, causing Ted to almost immediately black out. The rest of the episode takes place the next day, with Ted reconstructing the previous night piece by piece. What’s great about this is that unlike the other episodes, with Future Ted bestowing wisdom known and unknown to us, this time we get to be in Ted’s shoes, experiencing it exactly how he does. And in that way, the events of the night are genuine and pleasant surprises. Ted sprained his ankle! Barney set him on fire! Ted slept with a super hot random chick! (As a guy, my favorite part will always be the look Marshall and Barney give Ted upon seeing Trudy.)

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In this episode, there is no existential crisis, no duels with swords, no life-changing moments. This is probably the most normal and realistic episode the series has ever produced. You probably know a person or four who has reenacted their own version of “The Pineapple Incident” with their buddies. In the end, all that matters is the five friends, laughing together and eating a delicious pineapple. (By the way, I’ll share my own thoughts on the legend of the pineapple in a future post.)

1) “Slap Bet”
S2 E9 – November 20, 2006image

As I first started watching HIMYM, the thought of going online and reading the past storylines of the show didn’t even cross my mind. And I thank my brain each and every day for that. The only things I knew prior to my purchase of those two DVD box sets were that Robin was somehow not the mother, Barney had been on The Price is Right at some point, and, thanks to “Slapsgiving”, there was a slap bet. So when I saw that this episode was coming up in my viewing session, I had a moderate amount of excitement, but not too much, since I already knew what was coming. But boy oh boy, how wrong I was: I had absolutely no idea what was coming.

The reason the slap bet situation came up was because the gang had discovered that Robin hated malls but gave no explanation for it. Marshall and Lily deduced that she had gotten married at a mall and had a secret husband, while Barney figured her shame was the result of having done porn. Ted, Robin’s boyfriend at the time, became kind of the middle man, tricking and pressuring her into telling him (and subsequently, because of his big mouth, the group) what the deal was. Robin lied about being married before resolving to keep quiet, until Barney arrived, in possession of a very revealing videotape…

First off, the slaps. I do love the very first one, right after Ted promises not to tell the group about Robin’s marriage lie. That was fantastic editing. Besides that, I honestly wish I could give you an in-depth explanation for why I love all of these slaps so much, but it doesn’t get deeper than, “One man hits another.” But let’s chalk it up to the actors’ admission of admiring physical comedy. They just find a way to make them look really, really funny.

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Then, there’s the other factor in the episode, the one that was originally its title: Robin Sparkles. I had no idea what to think when Barney played the first portion of the video, since there was no way that Robin would have done porn. Then when she played the rest, I kid you not, my mouth was just as open as the characters on the screen. Until this point, Robin had never seemed that extreme of a character. Despite her gun-toting, cigar-smoking, Scotch-loving ways, she still had a tinge of a girl-next-door persona for the time that she was primarily Ted’s obsession. (For me, she didn’t truly let go and become the kooky character I love until Season 4.) For the most part, I saw Robin as a regular girl—until this episode. The ’80s visuals. The outrageous facial expressions. The ridiculous Canadian pronunciations mixed into the lyrics. That laugh. It was all world-shattering.

“The Pineapple Incident” was an episode created while the show was still discovering its identity, and it was, by all accounts, full of normalcy. After “Slap Bet”, I knew from that point on that I could never again expect the ordinary with this show. This episode, with its slaps and its Sparkles, is single-handedly responsible for inspiring eight future episodes…and counting. For all of this, it deserves to be recognized as the single best episode of How I Met Your Mother.

Thanks for reading! Now let’s go to the mall. Today.

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