Hulu’s How I Met Your Father is about a month old now, and while it hasn’t yet hit the quality of its predecessor, CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, it’s smart enough to tackle the pitfalls of modern dating and diversified its cast. Though the heart of each show is about the journey to finding true love, both celebrate the bonds between friends as they navigate complicated relationships in New York City. (And, both are narrated from the future with hindsight and humor.)
As we wait for the Hilary Duff-led How I Met Your Father to truly hit its stride, we’re revisiting some of the best episodes from How I Met Your Mother, before ya know, they totally blew it.
“Slutty Pumpkin” (1×06)
Before the will they/won’t they of Ted and Robin got tedious and boring, their immediate connection in the pilot episode sold them as a potential couple, even if Ted ruins it in the episode’s final moments. Six episodes later, “Slutty Pumpkin” acts as a do-over meeting for Ted and Robin. Ted lets fate take the reigns at a Halloween party on his building’s rooftop, convinced a woman he met years ago at the same party will return dressed as a Slutty Pumpkin, just like last time.
This episode is a great microcosm of Ted’s, and by default, the show’s, whole deal with fate. He’s so preoccupied with finding a fairy-tale romance that he becomes obsessed with the “how” of the meeting. Reconnecting with a girl he met at a party makes a great story, but he’s also not actually interested in the girl. “Slutty Pumpkin” is smart to not have the girl return; instead, the end of the episode features a nice rooftop moment between Ted and Robin, the more ideal connection that should have ended their first date. Here, they begin again as friends.—Katey Stoetzel
“The Pineapple Incident” (1×10)
Desperate to show he’s not an overthinker, Ted sets out to prove he’s still a functional human being while drunk. The next morning, Ted wakes to find a stranger in his bed and a pineapple on his nightstand and tries to piece together the events of the previous night. One of How I Met Your Mother’s earliest and most beloved episodes, “The Pineapple Incident” explores Ted’s vulnerable side to hilarious effect as he tries to understand cryptic clues hinting at his wild night out. Ted may not know where the pineapple came from, but that was never the point anyway—it was a narrative excuse to show Ted’s wilder side and a funnier one at that. –Claire Di Maio
“The Limo” (1×11)
New Year’s Eve is all about the parties, especially for a show set in New York. Clever then to make a New Year’s Eve episode of How I Met Your Mother take place exclusively inside a limo that Ted rents for his friends. It’s the show’s first bottle episode; characters enter and exit the limo as various shenanigans continue outside and the group tries to go from party to party in search of the best one.
Pretty much everyone is desperate to find the perfect party to have a midnight kiss at, with the romantic tension between Robin and Ted ramping up despite Robin’s boyfriend. At the end of the night, the group never makes it to the perfect party, ending the way all the best episodes of How I Met Your Mother end—with an emphasis that it’s not about where you are, but who you’re with that actually matters.—Katey Stoetzel
“Drumroll, Please” (1×13)
How I Met Your Mother did a great job balancing the fantasies of hopeless romantics with the realities of modern relationships and a great example of that is this Season 1 highlight where we meet one of the first romances that truly made an impact on Ted. Played with chipper promiscuity by Ashley Williams, Victoria starts as a challenge to the dream of falling in love at someone else’s wedding by seeing if she and Ted can make a lasting memory without tarnishing it with a failed relationship. Though it ends with the sweet sitcom ending of Ted finding Victoria at her bakery, “Drumroll, Please” still shows how there’s no bulletproof way of avoiding the risks of love at first sight. Ted and Victoria’s fleeting dance to “You Don’t Know Me” has plenty of weight to it even without knowing the fate of their sweet relationship. –Jon Winkler
“Slap Bet” (2×09)
Robin refuses to explain her hatred of shopping malls, and Marshall and Barney argue over the nature of Robin’s secret. Agreeing to a slap bet, where the winner will slap the loser as hard as they can, Marshall and Barney set out to find the truth.
“Slap Bet” is one of How I Met Your Mother’s best episodes for setting up two of its longest-running gags: the slap bet (of course!) and Robin’s history as a teenage pop star, “Robin Sparkles.” Spawning numerous slap-themed episodes and deep-dives into Robin’s discography over the course of the series, “Slap Bet” undoubtedly earns its spot on our best-of list. –Claire Di Maio
“Arrivederci, Fiero” (2×17)
How I Met Your Mother‘s strongest quality was always about its friendships. When an episode further explored those friendships, it always hit the mark. Season 2’s “Arrivederci, Fiero” may be about Marshall’s car but by using the car as a narrative device to show flashbacks to when each character solidified their friendships with each other, the episode became something more. It largely focuses on Marshall and Ted but one of the best moments was the flashback between Robin and Lily, featuring a time when they became friends.—Katey Stoetzel
“How I Met Everyone Else” (3×05)
The late Bob Saget narrated the series as Future Ted, and “How I Met Everyone Else” is perhaps his finest half-hour. Future Ted tells his children he can’t remember the name of a girlfriend from his past (Abigail Spencer) and refers to her as “Blah Blah.” In the present, Blah Blah asks the gang how they all met, and their stories begin to conflict. “How I Met Your Mother” utilizes flashbacks and Saget’s narration to hilarious effect in this episode, notably when Future Ted uses “eating sandwiches” as a euphemism for smoking marijuana with Marshall. Unlike the Season 1 incident with the pineapple, the writers later followed up with a mystery established in this episode: Future Ted remembers Blah Blah’s name six seasons later. –Claire Di Maio
It’s a Thanksgiving to remember: Ted and Robin worry their friendship is no longer intact, while Barney dreads the third slap from Marshall, who won the Slap Bet. This is another episode that uses Bob Saget’s narration to great effect—he reimagines Robin’s 40-something boyfriend as an elderly man—and allows Barney rare vulnerability as he cowers from Marshall. Perhaps the funniest thread through “Slapsgiving” is Robin and Ted’s joke saluting military jargon in everyday conversation. It’s majorly funny (Majorly Funny!), but you’ll have to see the episode to get a general idea (General Idea!). –Claire Di Maio
“Ten Sessions” (3×13)
After getting a back tattoo in the Season 3 premiere, Ted gets it removed but develops a crush on his dermatologist, Stella (Sarah Chalke). Ted asks her out for lunch, and Stella turns him down, saying she only gets two minutes for lunch. Ted then sets out to plan the perfect two-minute date. Though Ted’s romantic overtures seem a little pushy in retrospect, his efforts to woo Stella in two minutes are terrifically earnest. (“Ten Sessions” is also notable for featuring Britney Spears as Stella’s receptionist, who has an unrequited crush on Ted.) –Claire Di Maio
“Girls Versus Suits” (5×12)
How I Met Your Mother went all out for its 100th episode. Featuring celebrity cameos and an elaborate musical number, “Girls Versus Suits” follows Barney’s quest to choose between his beloved suits … and a woman who hates suits (Stacy Keibler). After consulting his tailor—Tim Gunn!—Barney chooses suits and imagines a song: “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit.” But “Girls Versus Suits” moves the series’ overall story forward by Ted telling the story of how he almost met the Mother: by dating her roommate (Rachel Bilson). It’s a tease that makes the Mother reveal feel so much closer, even though it’s still several seasons away. –Claire Di Maio
“Subway Wars” (6×04)
Everyone needs a win in “Subway Wars,” for reasons comical (Ted gets a bad review from a student) and sad (Marshall and Lily experience fertility issues). The gang debates over the fastest way to get downtown, and race via their favorite ways to travel.
Meanwhile, Robin sets out to become a “true New Yorker” based on standards set by her friends. From Marshall’s anti-transportation anthem “Marshall vs. the Machines” to Robin’s oddly specific tasks (she has to crush a cockroach with her bare hands), “Subway Wars” takes How I Met Your Mother’s most personal moments and adds a hilarious, if absurd, framing device. –Claire Di Maio
“Bad News” (6×13)
There’s misery around every corner: Marshall and Lily are still struggling to conceive, and Robin’s old colleague embarrasses her at her new job. “Bad News” requires a second viewing to appreciate it properly: there’s a visual countdown from 50 to 1 hidden throughout the episode.
Numbers appear everywhere, from lottery tickets to apartment addresses. As the countdown inches closer to 1, the gang’s luck begins to improve, but fortune turns again when the countdown reaches its end. “It’d be a spoiler to say anything else about Bad News,” but believe us when we say Jason Segel’s dialogue in the final scene was improvised, adding more anguish to one of the series’ saddest moments. –Claire Di Maio
“Tick Tick Tick” (7×10)
Robin and Barney are How I Met Your Mother’s most emotionally-guarded characters, but their feelings are front and center in “Tick Tick Tick.” The pair briefly reunite but decide they must tell their respective partners about their infidelity. Robin and Barney’s feelings become increasingly tangled throughout the episode as they sit with their guilt (and chemistry) at a party. Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders shine in this episode, with so much said just between glances and gestures. It’s the subtle moments that set How I Met Your Mother apart from its contemporaries, and that subtlety is used to devastating effect here. –Claire Di Maio
“How Your Mother Met Me” (9×16)
Cristin Milioti’s appearances as the Mother had been brief by this time, with her face only being revealed in the Season 8 finale, but she gets her moment to shine in the series 200th episode. “How Your Mother Met Me” revisits key scenes from the Mother’s point of view: the loss (and accidental return) of her yellow umbrella; sitting in the auditorium of Ted’s first day as a professor. The Mother never interacts with Ted in this episode, but we see why he would fall in love with her: she’s charming, musical, and sweetly dorky. (Who wouldn’t love a woman who makes an English muffin sing?) –Claire Di Maio
How I Met Your Father episodes drop Tuesdays on Hulu. How I Met Your Mother is streaming on Hulu and Prime Video.