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Small Details Only True Fans Noticed In How I Met Your Mother

At first glance, How I Met Your Mother, which ran from 2005 for 2014 for nine seasons, seems like a pretty basic Friends knockoff, where a bunch of gorgeous people try to figure out life and love in amazing Manhattan apartments and neighborhood bars. However, as it turns out, How I Met Your Mother has a much more complicated narrative structure and overall mythology than anything else of its kind, as it's told through the eyes of an older Ted Mosby (voiced by Bob Saget) while he explains to his children how he met their mother.

Throughout the series, which follow younger Ted's (Josh Radnor) adventures through Manhattan alongside best friends Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel), Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), and Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), viewers are forced to find clues and solve mysteries to figure out the identity of the mother. However, until she shows up, the show is packed full of Easter eggs to help the viewers solve the ongoing mystery, and beyond that, it's full of funny little tidbits to keep fans busy and entertained during this long journey as Ted tries to meet the woman of his dreams. Here are just a few of the small details that only extraordinarily devoted fans noticed in How I Met Your Mother. This should come as no surprise, but spoilers for the entire series to follow!

An entire love story takes place in the background of How I Met Your Mother

Throughout the entire show, Robin's friends constantly make digs about her Canadian heritage, of which she's incredibly proud, and all of those jokes come to a head just as the series approaches its grand finale. In the season nine episode "The Rehearsal Dinner," Robin tries to argue that she always wanted her wedding to be in Canada, giving her friends the perfect opportunity to make a bunch of super obvious jokes. However, if you keep an eye on the background, there's a lot happening behind all of the Canada-centric jokes.

As the gang runs through a flashback of hackneyed, punny bits at their favorite pub, MacLaren's, you can watch as a couple in the background get engaged, get married, have a son, watch him graduate, all up until the point where the husband apparently passes away, leaving behind his grieving widow. Though this Up-style montage is clearly meant to show just how long Robin's friends spend making jokes at her expense, it's also a clever little Easter egg for sharp-eyed viewers, so make sure you look out for it next time you rewatch HIMYM's ninth season.

The saddest countdown of all time

You may not want to rewatch the season six episode "Bad News" very often, considering that it's the episode that closes with news of Marshall's father's death. However, if you do, you'll notice there's a huge hint leading to this incredibly sad moment — specifically, an episode-long countdown. As Marshall and Lily visit a fertility specialist in the hopes of having a baby, numbers tick down in the background from 50 all the way down to one, and while some numbers are extremely obvious, most of them are quite well-hidden, making it all the more challenging to find them.

When the counter arrives at one, Marshall, who's just come home to tell Lily that all of his tests went fine and that they'll be able to conceive, finds his wife in tears, only to discover that his dad had a heart attack and didn't make it. To make this moment even more stunning, Segel wasn't told in advance that the episode would end this way, and when he gets the news from his on-screen wife, it's the first time he's hearing it at all. This episode is hard to watch, but it also contains one of HIMYM's most emotional beats, as well as an amazing escalation of brilliant Easter eggs.

A famous extra once visited How I Met Your Mother

Throughout the series, the gang spends pretty much all of their spare time at MacLaren's, the pub underneath Ted, Marshall, and Lily's apartment, and apparently, the pub does pretty well for itself, since it's always packed with people. Of course, exactly like their predecessors on Friends and their permanent couch at Central Perk, Ted, Marshall, Barney, Lily, and Robin have their regular booth, and people are always passing them in the background. However, one episode features an incredibly famous — and uncredited — extra behind the gang's booth.

During the season seven episode "No Pressure," if you blink, you'll miss legendary late-night host Conan O'Brien lurking in MacLaren's. Though O'Brien, with his imposing height and signature red hair, is usually pretty easy to spot, he's only in the episode for a split second. Apparently, O'Brien won an uncredited role during an auction for charity, so next time you're rewatching HIMYM's seventh season, see if you can clock the TV show host wandering around MacLaren's.

The final slap arrives at the perfect time

During HIMYM's second season, one of the series' most famous running jokes, known as the "Slap Bet," takes shape when Barney and Marshall place bets on what mysterious secret Robin has been hiding from all of her friends. Ultimately, when Barney goes all in on his hunch that Robin used to work in the adult video industry, he loses the bet to Marshall when it turns out that Robin was once "Robin Sparkles," a teenage pop star in Canada, and Barney must allow Marshall to dole out five brutal slaps at the moment of his choosing (for all of eternity). Eventually, thanks to a series of other bets, that number increases to eight slaps, and when it comes to the final one, viewers — and Barney — spent years waiting to see when it would come to pass.

Earlier in the show, when Marshall gets three more slaps, he excitedly says that he thinks he'll "save them for a rainy day," and that's exactly what he does. In season nine's "End of the Aisle," Marshall slaps Barney one last time just before Barney and Robin make it down the aisle. As it happens, it rains on Barney and Robin's wedding day.

Two women named Tracy and two confused children

As Ted tells his children the all-encompassing, often meandering story of how he met their mother — which, awkwardly, is filled with stories about women he dated before meeting their mother — he fills his tale with clues that definitely mean more to his children than the audience, considering that they already know the ending. One of these completely freaks Ted's kids out, and the audience doesn't figure out why they react so strongly for years and years.

In the season one episode "Belly Full of Turkey," Ted makes the first of his many, many visits to a strip club, and he tells his kids that one of the strippers introduces herself as "Tracy." Both children are completely shocked, and though the audience thinks it's because they're horrified to hear that their dad frequented strip clubs back in the day, it's really because their mother's name is also Tracy, which viewers don't learn until the series finale. It takes the entire series to explain why, but eventually, their reaction makes sense. However, what doesn't really make sense is why Ted is telling his children about his adventures at the strip club in the first place.

Barney's little quirks are super specific

As one of the most unforgettable characters on television, Neil Patrick Harris' Barney Stinson is a womanizing, suave casanova, as well as a high-powered businessman (although, disturbingly, any time his friends ask for any specifics about his job, he won't respond), and there are a lot of tiny details that make up Barney's particularly unique personality. While some are obvious, some are a bit more obscure.

Even casual viewers of HIMYM know just how much Barney loves his suits — famously, he couldn't even give them up for a beautiful woman in season's five "Girls vs. Suits" — but his commitment to sharp dressing is even more fastidious than you might think. Always dressed to the nines, Barney wears a tie in nearly every episode, and when audiences get to see his Christmas tree, even that's decorated with tie ornaments. Another weirdly specific detail about Barney that comes straight from Harris, the man behind the suits, is that he can't use chopsticks. As Harris revealed in Vogue's "73 Questions" series, he gave Barney this one incredibly particular flaw, and if you rewatch any scene where the gang eats Chinese food, you'll notice Barney struggling with his chopsticks the entire time.

They certainly love their 'sandwiches'

As Ted recounts his misadventures to his kids, he engages in a lot of self-censorship, and when it comes to his college years, he uses a very particular euphemism to cover up some unsavory activities. Any time Ted references smoking a joint, he calls it a "eating a sandwich," and this running sight gag ends up providing some of the funniest moments in the entire series.

After making its debut in season two's "How I Met Everyone Else," the sandwich gag pops up time and time again, even when the main characters aren't involved. Sometimes, background characters can be spotted eating the enormous sandwiches, and longtime fans know that means they're enjoying something else entirely. One more tiny reference? The clock in the apartment above MacLaren's that nearly every character — save for Barney — lives in over the course of the show is always set to 4:20. The visual sandwich jokes are pretty obvious, but apparently, in the gang's apartment, it's always a good time to "eat a sandwich."

How I Met Your Mother is filled with bleak clues about the show's tragic ending

Though Ted finally meets his dream girl just as HIMYM comes to a close, Tracy, played by Cristin Milioti, ultimately passes away far too young from a mysterious and unnamed illness. Once you realize that Tracy is long gone by the time adult Ted sits his kids down to tell them his story, you notice a few pretty glaring moments — including one where a knowing Ted fantasizes about rushing to meet Tracy long before he actually does, as well as a heartbreaking comment Tracy makes about a mother not going to her daughter's wedding. However, some of these references are more subtle than others.

Throughout a few episodes where Marshall visits his father's gravestone in Minnesota, sharp-eyed viewers can spot a gravestone that says "Mother," and though that would be innocuous enough by itself, there's plenty more. The series frequently mentions that Ted's favorite book is Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, which is about a couple who can't be together until one of their spouses dies, echoing Ted's eventual reunion with Robin after Tracy's death. If that's not enough, there's a huge musical clue when Tracy and Ted end up in the same place at the same time at the beginning of season eight. The song playing is by Band of Horses, and appropriately, it's called "The Funeral." There's plenty more, but these are just a few to watch out for as you enjoy this normally lighthearted series.

Barney and Ted's unsettling arrangement actually happens

Though Robin is introduced as a romantic interest for Ted — and ends up with him at the very close of the series — she actually spends the bulk of her time with Barney, and the entire ninth season even focuses on their wedding. After dating both Barney and Ted on and off throughout the series, the two best friends end up with some serious tension between them as they vie for Robin's affections, at which point Barney comes up with a pretty unsettling proposition regarding who will eventually "get" Robin. (Naturally, Robin has no say in this discussion at all.)

While Robin is dating somebody else in the season five episode "Twin Beds," Ted and Barney misguidedly reignite their rivalry during a drunken night together, and eventually, Barney tells Ted that he wants Robin until she's 40 years old, and Ted can have her after that. Barney was definitely being shallow, but that's exactly what happens. In the series finale, Barney and Robin ultimately divorce, and Robin ends up with Ted years after the fact, fulfilling Barney's twisted, inadvertent prophecy.

Lily's belongings make their way throughout Manhattan

During the third season of HIMYM, Lily and Marshall set out to buy their own place, but an unexpected obstacle gets in their way — specifically, Lily's massive credit card debt, which she's been hiding from Marshall for years. To try and scrape money together, Marshall asks Lily to sell some of her designer clothes and shoes, and though she begs to keep her stuff, she does sell a lot of it thanks to Marshall's website, lilyandmarshallselltheirstuff.com.

One of those items, which you can spot on Lily multiple times — most notably in the pilot — is a small silver wishbone necklace, which, amazingly, pops up several seasons later in the show's sixth season. Years after Lily sells her stuff to buy a home, one of Ted's long-term girlfriends, Zoey (Jennifer Morrison), can clearly be seen wearing the same necklace, and in a show rife with this many Easter eggs, it seems incredibly likely that this was meant to be noticed.

Robin walks down the aisle to her own hit song

After the gang discovers that, in a previous life, Robin was once "Robin Sparkles," a Canadian teen pop sensation, the show doles out different Robin Sparkles music videos and songs throughout the series, and shortly after audiences are introduced to Robin's debut single "Let's Go to the Mall," they get to see her follow-up. In the show's third season, we finally get to see Robin Sparkles' second effort, "Sandcastles in the Sand," a maudlin love song about one of her first loves. But besides yet another ludicrous music video, "Sandcastles in the Sand" serves an important purpose, and it ultimately brings Barney and Robin together for the very first time.

"Sandcastles in the Sand," despite being an objectively terrible song, ends up following Barney and Robin all the way to the aisle. Years later, when the two get married, as Robin walks down the aisle to her future husband, an orchestral version of "Sandcastles in the Sand" plays as a reminder of the couple's first brush with romance and a clever Easter egg for any viewers with a particularly sharp ear.

The overall importance of 'La Vie en Rose' in How I Met Your Mother

Throughout the show, the classic French song "La Vie en Rose," which was first made famous by Edith Piaf and has been covered by everybody from Louis Armstrong to Lady Gaga, pops up quite frequently, and it becomes an important theme for Ted's connection to Tracy. As Ted tells his children, he heard Tracy sing the song "a million times" as she lulled the kids to bed, but he also tells them the first time he ever heard it — when Tracy played it on a ukulele next to Ted's hotel room at Barney and Robin's wedding — was his favorite.

That performance might be the first time Ted hears his future wife sing "La Vie En Rose," but the audience has heard it before ... way back in the first season. When Robin and Ted kiss on New Year's Eve in season one, the song plays, which brings its mythology full circle within the context of the show. Beyond that, it's pretty easy to see the symbolism of this particular song. Ted, a hopeless romantic, sees everything through rose-colored glasses. However, the fact that "La Vie en Rose" not only bookends the series but is associated with the two women that Ted finds his happy ending with is extraordinarily significant and a perfectly romantic Easter egg.