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8. 'Sorry, Bro' (Season 4, episode 16)
In telling the story of how an adult Ted once again fell under the spell of his horrible college girlfriend Karen (Laura Prepon), "Sorry, Bro" captured a lot of the things that "HIMYM" did so well at its best. It found a universal truth of romance and friendship in the idea that every group of friends will at some point deeply disapprove of someone a member of the group is dating (and also that you can't always resist someone who is very bad for you). It captured the charm and scattered feeling of a late-night bull session in a bar, as the story of Ted and Karen became intertwined with the mystery of Marshall's missing pants. It neatly bent time and space, as we moved back and forth between Ted, Marshall and Lily's college days and the present, and it kept a close eye on continuity, with a background gag about Lily's ex-boyfriend Scooter becoming a waiter to please her. And it was loaded with throwaway story ideas that seemed enough to build entire episodes around, like Robin struggling to adjust to her new sleep schedule (and sleep-eating ribs) or Barney presenting the four reasons for having lunch with your ex. Oh, and it gave us college-age Marshall and Lily dressed up as The Ultimate Warrior and Hacksaw Jim Duggan (technically King Duggan), so it had that going for it. Which is nice.
- Alan Sepinwall