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Season 1: How We Met the Gang
HAAAAVE YOU MET TED?
What Happened? HIMYM is the legendary love story of how the young architect (Josh Radnor) met his wife and the mother of his future children. But first get to know the gang: Ted's college roommate and best friend, Marshall (Jason Segel); Marshall's fiancée, Lily (Alyson Hannigan); and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), the type of cad who thinks the word fiancée is as odious as an STD. In the pilot, Ted sees Robin (Cobie Smulders) across the room at his favorite neighborhood bar, MacLaren's. The two go on a date (remember that blue French horn?), and at the end of it he proclaims, ''I think I'm in love with you.'' Spoiler alert from eight years ago: Robin is the aunt (as in, close family friend) of Ted's future kids, not their mother. Later in the season, Ted dates a beautiful baker, Victoria (Ashley Williams), but she moves to Germany for a culinary fellowship. (Second spoiler from eight years ago: She's not The Mother either.) As Lily's wedding to Marshall approaches, she gets cold feet and moves to San Francisco to attend an art institute. Meanwhile, Robin and Ted rekindle. The last scene of the season shows an exuberant Ted — Hooray! He bagged his kids' future aunt — consoling a devastated Marshall after Lily returns his ring.
Best Episode: ''The Pineapple Incident'' — Ted wakes up after a bender and has to piece together the events from the previous night. He gets to the bottom of every mystery — the sprained ankle, his burned jacket, the writing on his arm, the brunette in his bed — except for the pineapple on his nightstand. —Henry Goldblatt
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Season 2: How Lily Married Marshall
What Happened? Lily returns to New York just as Marshall is making the entire world jealous by bro-dating Joe Manganiello (Brad). (Don't worry: Marshmallow and Lilypad get back together by episode 7.) Ted finds out that his parents secretly split up two years ago — Dad is Steven Keaton from Family Ties! — and gets his first big break as an architect. (Shout-out to Spokane!) Robin and Ted's relationship is going great until they decide to move in together and realize their life goals (kids, marriage) aren't in sync. Barney goes on The Price Is Right to meet Bob Barker — the man he thinks is his father. He doesn't win a dad. Marshall and Lily marry at the end of the season (although, technically, they were married for 12 seconds off the coast of Atlantic City earlier in the season), and once the wedding is over Ted and Robin reveal to Barney that they've broken up.
Best Episode: ''Slap Bet'' — Robin is cagey about her past. Barney thinks she did porn; Marshall says no way. The two wager and Marshall wins, which gives him permission to slap Barney five times between now and the end of eternity. Turns out Robin's past is far more shameful: She was a Canadian teen pop star known as Robin Sparkles with one minor hit, ''Let's Go to the Mall,'' which Barney tracks down on (hello, 2006, nice to see you!) MySpace.
Best Sound Bite: ''I had to go all over Canada and sing this song in malls. For a whole year I lived off of Orange Juliuses and Wetzel's Pretzels.'' —Robin
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Season 3: How Ted Got a Tramp Stamp
What Happened? Robin returns from a vacation in Argentina with her new boyfriend, Gael — also known as ''Gail,'' ''Kyle,'' ''Girl,'' and ''Male Gail'' — played by Enrique Iglesias. To cope with his jealousy, Ted has a hard-living night out and wakes up with a butterfly tramp stamp, leading him to dermatologist Dr. Stella Zinman (Sarah Chalke, above), who removes his tattoo. Stella, a busy single mom, says she has only two minutes for lunch each day, so Ted plans the infamous two-minute date. Someone is sabotaging Barney's love life — turns out she's Britney Spears, a.k.a. Abby, the receptionist in Stella's clinic whom Barney bedded. When Barney and Robin are mistaken for a couple in episode 5, she denies it 16 times...yet she sleeps with him later in the season. Lily and Marshall channel Shelley Long and Tom Hanks and buy a money pit in the trendy NYC hood of Dowiesetrepla (Downwind of the Sewage Treatment Plant). We get our first glimpse of a certain yellow umbrella. Barney sees Robin Sparkles' follow-up, ''Sandcastles in the Sand,'' costarring Simon (James Van Der Beek). In the finale, Ted gets in a car accident and realizes he can't live without Stella. He proposes and she says...
Best Episode: ''The Bracket'' — It's March Madness and someone's trying to thwart Barney's pickups, so he sets up a bracket game of his past conquests to determine the culprit. Is it Oprah? (She's listed as one of Barney's conquests!) —Henry Goldblatt
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Season 4: How Ted Was Left at the Altar
What Happened? Newly engaged, Ted and Stella move full steam ahead...until they're forced to tackle thorny questions like where they will live. (Ugh, New Jersey?) On the big day, poor Ted is left at the altar and Stella gets back together with her daughter's father. Ted spends much of the season trying to rebound, and by the end he's been dumped, fired, and beaten up by a goat. Robin briefly moves to Japan to co-anchor a news show with a chimpanzee. Lily and Marshall decide to delay having children. (Not so in real life for Hannigan. Both she and Smulders were pregnant throughout the season, so the show used bowls of fruit and basketballs to hide their stomachs.) And Barney continues to pine silently for Robin, until their mutual feelings are revealed in the finale. Also in the season ender: Ted takes a teaching job — and Future Ted reveals that The Mother was once his student.
Best Episode: ''Three Days of Snow'' — An epic snowstorm brings major challenges: Ted and Barney get the keys to MacLaren's but learn that tending a bar is harder than they think. Lily and Marshall set aside their ''immature'' traditions, like meeting each other after a long trip with beer. Naturally, both have second thoughts, so after some help from their unofficial chauffeur Ranjit (Marshall Manesh), Robin, and a sunroof, Lily gets her keg and Marshall greets his wife at the airport...with a marching band. —Sandra Gonzalez
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Season 5: How Barney Dated Robin
What Happened? Season 5 kicks off with Barney trying something totally different: a relationship with Robin. Alas, the happily-ever-after is not meant to be...yet. After the breakup, Barney jumps right back into the dating scene, but a hurt Robin takes time before falling for Don (Benjamin Koldyke), her once-reviled co-anchor. They end things when he takes a job in Chicago...that she first turned down. But this season isn't all relationship drama: Marshall finds time to dole out the fourth slap of the slap bet on Thanksgiving, a.k.a. ''Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap,'' while Ted becomes an architecture professor and buys a fixer-upper where his family will eventually live. With no long-term girlfriend this season, he goes on an ill-fated date with Cindy (Rachel Bilson), who we learn is actually The Mother's roommate (and a future lesbian). Throughout, Lily and Marshall struggle with whether they are ready to start a family. The season wraps with Lily asking Marshall to ''put a baby in my belly.''
Best Sound Bite: ''You just gotta make [grading papers] fun. For example, every time I spot a grammatical error, I do a shot. I'm trashed right now, and I blame our public-school system.'' —Ted
Best Episode: ''Girls vs. Suits'' — Ted realizes it's not Cindy but her roommate who's perfect for him, and viewers get the most revealing glimpse of The Mother — her foot! — to date. MacLaren's hires a hot bartender (Stacy Keibler) who doesn't go for guys in suits. Barney tries to don T-shirts, but by episode's end he's got the whole cast singing an all-out love song to, what else, suits. —Erin Strecker
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Season 6: How Lily Got Pregnant
What Happened? It's a year of difficult decisions for the gang. Designing Goliath National Bank's headquarters puts Ted at odds with activist Zoey (Jennifer Morrison), with whom he's falling in love, even though she's married to ''The Captain'' (Kyle MacLachlan, above). Once she's divorced, the pair get together, but their bliss is short-lived when Ted chooses the building over the girl. Barney discovers the man he thought was his uncle Jerry (John Lithgow) is actually his father, and the two begin a tentative relationship. Barney matures further as he realizes he wants a girlfriend, in the form of Nora (Nazanin Boniadi), not just a hookup. Robin's new job at World Wide News with former cohost Sandy Rivers (Hannigan's real-life husband, Alexis Denisof) keeps her busy, but she's secretly longing for Barney. Lily and Marshall struggle with fertility issues before learning that Marshall's dad has unexpectedly passed away. Things end on a happier note when Lily discovers she's pregnant, and Marshall quits his job as a corporate lawyer. Even more shocking? In the finale, viewers find out it's Barney's wedding we've been flash-forwarding to all season.
Best Episode: ''Last Words'' — The show's darkest outing was also one of its best. When Marshall's dad dies, his friends head to Minnesota, doing everything they can to make him — and viewers — laugh. Marshall becomes obsessed with the fact that he didn't have a moving final conversation with his father, but a found voicemail gives him closure — and the rest of the gang the impetus to reach out to their own dads. And with that, HIMYM shows how deftly it can match slapstick with a hit to the heart. —Erin Strecker
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Season 7: How Barney Proposed to?
What Happened? Starting with a flash-forward to Barney's wedding to a mystery bride, the season tracks the nine months of Lily and Marshall's pregnancy. Between lady loves Nora and Quinn (Becki Newton), plus a meaningful night with Robin, Barney secures more girlfriends this season than Ted, who still can't find ''the one.'' Robin's romantic life goes through drastic ups and downs, too, from pining over Barney to accepting Kevin's (Kal Penn) proposal to rejecting Ted again. Yet her career soars, as she's promoted to co-anchor. Marshall and Lily deal with the fears and joys of impending parenthood (including a flirtation with the burbs). By season's end, Marvin Wait-for-It Eriksen is born, Ted drives into the sunset with runaway bride Victoria, and Barney proposes to Quinn — but in a startling flash-forward, Robin is revealed as Barney's future bride.
Best Sound Bite: ''I got my pregnancy boobs! I'm in that sweet spot where the chestal area knows I'm pregnant but hasn't told the downstairs neighbors.'' —Lily
Best Episode: ''Symphony of Illumination'' — Robin takes the narrative reins from Ted. She thinks she's pregnant after cheating with Barney, but they're both happy to discover it's a false alarm. Then comes the devastating news: Robin learns she can never have biological kids. What makes this episode so captivating is the peek we get at Robin's happy, fulfilled, and childless future. To give away the ending but keep us invested in the journey? That's one of HIMYM's greatest feats. —Maricela Gonzalez
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Season 8: How I Met Your Mother
What Happened? Baby Marvin dominates Lily's and Marshall's time and energy (leading to the dreaded ''eight or higher'' rule about listening to their friends' problems), but the rest of the gang are largely consumed with their own relationships anyway: Ted with Victoria, Robin with Nick (Michael Trucco), and Barney with Quinn. ''The Autumn of Breakups'' unravels all three and pushes Barney and Robin back together — until she rejects him. Barney runs into the arms of Robin's work nemesis, Patrice (the divine Ellen D. Williams), which actually proves to be a cover for an elaborate plan that sees Barney grandly propose to his true love. Ted's dating rut pushes him into the clutches of crazy fire-alarm puller Jeanette (Abby Elliott), who inspires the ingenious Dobler-Dahmer theory of romantic gestures. The Captain resurfaces and hires Lily as his art consultant, eventually persuading her to move with him to Rome for a year...just as Marshall gets a dream offer to be a judge in NYC. But nothing stands up to the final scene of the season: a pretty brunette (Cristin Milioti) toting a yellow umbrella and a guitar asking for ''one ticket to Farhampton, please.''
Best Episode: ''The Final Page Parts 1 and 2'' — It's the ooey-gooey center of the season. The outing has it all: a flashback to Barney getting hit by a bus, Peter Gallagher as Ted's old architecture professor, Seth Green as a Lily-and-Marshall-obsessed pal from college, a great assist from Patrice, several jinxes (including one that requires Ted to help with Barney's proposal plan), the opening of the GNB tower, and, of course, Barney's final play — and final page in his Playbook — titled ''The Robin.'' —Tanner Stransky