Since “How I Met Your Mother” wrapped about a month ago, I’ve been going back and rewatching the series from the beginning, trying to recall the times when I rooted actively for Robin and Ted to get together. Not only did I not recall just how long I held out hope these two would figure things out, I did not recall how spot on this sitcom, which grew to be extremely broad in its final couple of seasons, managed to depict what it was like to be a twentysomething and then thirtysomething who just didn’t have their shit together.
As I breeze through Season 4, I find myself knowingly nodding, rewinding and rewatching, and, in some instances, even stopping to write down something that strikes me (if you’re wondering where these other quotation posts are coming from, there is your answer). Be it my career, my love life, my friends, or simply growing older, there seems to be an episode for every occasion. Most of my identification went with the Robin storylines, but each of the gang seemed to have a moment that reminded me of one in my own life. So, if you are like me and enjoy syncing up your viewing with your state of mind, a few suggestions of episodes that don’t really involve Ted:
When a Guy Seems to Express Interest Then Abruptly Changes His Mind: Season 1, Episode 4 – “Return of the Shirt”
Ted is supposed to be the romantic hero of this show, but in this episode, Ted is actually kind of a dick. He seeks out an old ex, begs her for another chance and then, well, let’s just say he didn’t learn his lesson the first time around. What is great about this episode is they don’t try and rationalize Ted’s behavior. Lily rightfully informs him he is a jerk, and, thankfully, the girl he screws over ends up with a happy ending. It also includes this memorable Barney moment:
When You Think It Is a Good Idea to Call Your Ex – Season 1, Episode 18: “Nothing Good Happens After 2AM”
This is a pretty canonical episode of the series, as it is the moment when Ted has to choose between Victoria and Robin. As the episode title reminds us, late night decisions never seem to work out well, nor does trying to juggle multiple paramours at the same time. Just trust Korean Elvis:
When You Think You Need to Make Your Life More Granola-y – Season 3, Episode 2: “We’re Not From Here”
There are people in this world who make the hippie dippy lifestyle work for them, don’t get me wrong, but most of us think we need to live more enlightened lives, and we are not correct. We, in fact, realize we don’t need platitudes and self-help books. We need to be pragmatic, grow up, and make decisions based not on how we think the world should works, but how it actually works. Be warned though, your reality may be obscured by the presence of the pretty that is Enrique Iglesias.
When You Feel Like History Just Keeps Repeating Itself – Season 3, Episode 16: “Sandcastles In the Sand”
While I have never been a teenage pop star, let alone one in Canada, I would be remiss not to have a Robin Sparkles episode on this list. While this one pales in comparison to “Slap Bet” and “Let’s Go to the Mall”, Robin’s reaction to her old boyfriend Simon is somewhere most girls I know have been before. The outcome isn’t unfamiliar either. It is a tough lpill to swallow to see how much your high school ideal isn’t very…ideal, but Alan Thicke makes everything better.
When Your Career Bears No Resemblance to What You Thought It Would Be – Season 4, Episode 2: “The Best Burger in New York”
I think in this day and age, most folks have a couple of different careers that end up being false starts. But more and more of my friends seem to realize they are never finding their dream job–that there may be no such thing as a job that makes you happy. This episode, with its burger metaphor and a little help from Regis Philbin, taps into how frustrating that can feel.
When You Just Need a Break From All the Married People in Your Life So You Go Out and Have One Drink Too Many – Season 4, Episode 8: “Woooo!”
Being 30, most of my friends are married. I am very happy for them that they have found a life partner, but, fact of the matter is, I haven’t yet. While I wouldn’t trade these friends for the world, there are times when they have their lives so together and my life is such a mess that I need to let go, which usually leads to drinking, bad decision making, or seeking company from people I don’t normally hang out with. Sometimes my friends don’t quite get this impulse or how I get myself in the pickles I do, and all I can tell them is, “Woooo?”
If You Ever Have Lost or Lose a Parent – Season 6, Episode 14: “Last Words”
I certainly hope this doesn’t apply to most of you, but this is the most heart-wrenching episode of this series I have ever seen. Yes, the monologue Ted gives to the Mother about wanting those 45 days back is incredible, as his his final monologue about Tracy. When I am feeling melancholy, I go back to hear him tell Stella he is tired of waiting. But the truest, most heartfelt, sickeningly accurate scene I have ever seen on this show is the scene where Marshall listens to the final voicemail from his dad. I wish I could tell you I have some amazing last words from my dad, but I don’t. I don’t even remember what they were. My best guess is “good night”, since I didn’t see him before he died the following morning. I wish I could tell you I don’t maniacally end every conversation with my mother or my sister with “I love you”, just in case, but I do. This episode perfectly captures just how important those last words can be in a gut-wrenching monologue. I can’t find a good link, but perhaps that is for the best. I wish I could tell you I just watched and am now not writing this blog post and playing online poker whilst crying like a baby, but that wouldn’t be true either.
What I can tell you is that there are just some shows that provide the comfort and reflection I need in my life, and I am only now realizing how much “How I Met Your Mother” is one of them. There have always been Ted moments I relate to, but now I see my life in Robin or Marshall or one of Ted’s many dates. I used to have “Buffy Season 4” days (damn you, Parker episodes) or “Gilmore Girls when Rory goes off the reservation days”. Sometimes I have CJ Cregg days or Harriet Hayes days (but I never have Maggie from The Newsroom days, tyvm Mr. Sorkin). Now, I can have Robin days or Marshall days. I don’t really have Lily days, though I have brought countless photos of Alyson Hannigan’s various hair colors to my stylist. And Barney, well, there is no surprise there that I don’t have his days all that often, unless it is the frustration he feels always hanging out with couples.
As I continue my rewatch into the start of Season 5, I suspect I’ll come across more unforgotten “one of those days” episodes, but given how much the show waned in the last couple of years and how, thankfully, I am not 35 yet, I doubt there will be as many. Perhaps it is time to start stocking up for that next phase of life and what episodes I might need in my arsenal. If the first 30 years are any indication, I should be prepared for any and everything.