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'Slap Bet,' 'Naked Man' among best episodes of 'How I Met Your Mother'

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The long running CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” comes to an end tonight and we finally get to find out the answer to how Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) met the mother and see how the storyline of one of the best and most tight-knit group of friends on television comes to an end.

While there’s good reason to believe the one-hour finale tonight will end up as one of the legen…wait for it…dary episodes of the series’ catalogue, it’s time to pay tribute to some of the truly fantastic episodes that have come before it. It’s tough to come up with a small list of the best episodes of this truly wonderful series, because there have been so many classics, but here are five that particularly stood out.

“Pilot” Season 1, Episode 1

Choosing the pilot episode of “How I Met Your Mother” for this list might seem like a copout with all of the excellent episodes over its nine seasons, but going back recently and watching it I believe it really stands out as one of the best (I will add, though, that I typically feel this way about pilots). The pilot is our introduction to a series … it’s the “will we or won’t we” fall in love with this series and almost instantaneously do we fall in love with Ted, Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily. There are so many running bits from this series that debut in the pilot like Barney’s “have you met, Ted?” tagline to introduce women to Ted and the “Suit Up!” cry that became one of Barney’s many great catchphrases along the way. I believe the very first “legen…wait for it…dary” was uttered in this opener, as well. The first episode also introduced us to one of the great sitcom relationships in Ted and Robin, even if we knew how it would play out by the end of that episode with the shocker of an announcement that was “and that’s how I met your Aunt Robin.” The pilot was a perfect introduction to a group of friends we would welcome into our lives and cherish for the next decade.

“Arrivederci, Fiero” Season 2, Episode 17

The season two episode “Arrivederci, Fiero” is an excellent “How I Met Your Mother” episode for many, many reasons. The first and foremost reason is that it gives us the backstory on how Ted and Marshall truly became best friends over a college Christmas break road trip. These flashbacks, which really are a truly great and important aspect (along with the show’s usage of flashforwards) of ‘HIMYM,’ are among the best in the series. One of my favorite aspects of this episode is the running gag of Marshall’s Fiero having eaten his single of The Proclaimer’s ‘90s one-hit wonder “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and it being the only song him and Ted can listen to on their trip and the ups and downs that come with that, especially their epic renditions. One of the funniest storylines of the episode is how Barney is the only one of the group who absolutely hates the car, because of a terrifying experience learning to drive in it. Overall, “Arrivederci Fiero” is one of the great bonding episodes between this great group of friends.

“How Your Mother Met Me” Season 9, Episode 16

You know “How I Met Your Mother” is truly a wonderfully written show when they can add a new character in the final season, do an episode completely from that character’s point of view, with little interaction among the principle cast and become one of the series’ classics. That’s exactly what the show did with this season’s “How Your Mother Met Me.” I, like many fans, thought that we wouldn’t get the pleasure of seeing the mother of Ted’s children until the very last scene (or at least episode) of the series. The show’s creators did the right thing in introducing her to the audience in the season eight finale and then adding her to the cast for the final season in storylines either not involving Ted or through flashforwards with Ted. After the show introduced the perfectly casted Cristin Milioti as the mother, the next logical step was to do an episode on her storyline leading up to the present time. The episode, which started with tragedy, ended in a beautiful moment where “the mother” sings “La Vie en Rose” accompanied by her ukulele playing on her hotel balcony where Ted can hear, but not see, her. One of the most beautiful scenes of a series filled with them.

“Slap Bet” Season 2, Episode 9

“Slap Bet,” from the show’s second season (which could likely be considered the show’s best), is among the show’s funniest when it comes to pure laughs. It’s also generally the highest ranked episode of this series among fans and critics alike. It includes two long-running bits that fans absolutely adore: the slap bet that it takes its title from (and was just finished up in the series’ penultimate episode last week) and it was the debut of Robin’s teenage Canadian pop star alter-ego Robin Sparkles (which I do find a bit overrated). I’m sure “slap bet” was a thing long before this series, but ‘HIMYM’ is the reason why it’s now a huge part of the pop culture lexicon. The terror Barney feels when he believes Marshall is about to slap the hell out of him is among the funniest moments in this series’ long run, as is Barney’s exuberant enjoyment upon finding Robin’s past “Let’s Go to the Mall” music video.

“The Naked Man” Season 4, Episode 9

When it comes to downright hilarious episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” it can be very hard to choose. There’s, of course, “Slap Bet” and its offshoot “Slapsgiving.” There’s the epic “The Playbook” episode that probably is the first runner-up to my list. Then there’s the hilarity of “being too old for this … stuff” in “Murtaugh.” However, for my money, the funniest episode of ‘HIMYM’ is probably season four’s “The Naked Man.” It’s such a unique and out there concept that you know the writer of this episode, Joe Kelly, has to know somebody who has done this wildly inappropriate move in the past. The wild move, known simply as “The Naked Man,” is exactly what it implies … stripping down naked and hoping your date is so taken aback or amused by your confidence that she will throw you a bone. The ingenious move is Mitch’s (guest star Adam Paul), who pulls the move during a floundering date with Robin, in which Ted happens to walk in on him in the full buff. Ted doesn’t believe that the move could possibly work, but Mitch assures him “The Naked Man” works two out of three times and when Robin falls for it Barney, Ted and Lily all end up giving it a shot. Sure, enough it works two out of three times. There are obviously more important moments in “How I Met Your Mother” history, but “The Naked Man” had me in stitches for 30 straight minutes (even laughing through commercial breaks). The funniest part of the episode is when Ted and Barney discuss which naked poses they should strike upon their naked reveal.

The series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” can be seen locally on KTHV Conway Corp. channel 11 tonight at 7.

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