Slap Bets in ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ Ranked
Slapping isn’t normally a routine part of a friendship, but How I Met Your Mother’s Marshall Eriksen is no normal man. One of the many reasons is he grew up with several other large Scandinavian boys, all slapping each other silly over frivolous wagers. Hence, the legen— wait for it —dary Slap Bet was born.
Over the course of the series, the gang slaps each other in a total of 11 slapping incidents (sometimes consisting of multiple slaps in a row, which we’ll count as one) as a result of such gambles. Of course, the primary slap bet is won by Marshall against Barney over whether Robin used to do porn (she was, in fact, a Canadian teen pop star, which we can all agree is much more embarrassing), earning him five slaps, but other bets and negotiations turned How I Met Your Mother into a veritable slapstravaganza.
But not all slaps are created equal. A good slap has three important ingredients: surprise, anticipation and a sense of justice. Some slaps fell short in some areas, others in others and there can be only one GOAT (and we’re not talking about Missy).
The Final Slap
You might think the last slap would be among the most dramatic, but Marshall slings the Vanilla Thunder for a noble reason — to stop Barney from bailing on his wedding. It goes completely against the slapping spirit. There’s simply no room for positivity in a slap bet.
Ted Slaps Marshall
As we all expected, Ted has no slap game. It might be because he felt bad for Marshall, who was thrown out by Lily after losing a bet that he could get away with not doing the dishes and subsequently shows up on Ted’s doorstep pillow in hand, but it’s the weakest slap of the series.
Barney’s Three Slaps
After initially thinking he won the slap bet after all and being awarded three slaps for the apparent misunderstanding, Barney wastes them all immediately. This is a pretty poignant symbol of where his character is in his arc — all about that instant gratification, regardless of the laws of decency or, you know, law — but it’s a waste all the same.
The Second Official Slap
Marshall doles out his second official slap toward the end of the second season, when Barney stages an intentionally terrible one-man show after being forced to endure a play Lily is in. She argues that it’s what friends do for each other, but it just feels empty. Either you agree with Barney and he had a perfectly valid point, or you agree with Lily, in which case it was still something Barney clearly put a lot of work into. It was just mean, with no spirit of the slap.
The Ducky Tie
By the seventh season, a non-slap bet has forced Barney to wear a ridiculous avian for a year, but he agrees to take three additional slaps to get out of it, two of which Marshall gives right then and there, joking about “saving those bad boys for a rainy day” before issuing the second. The slaps are strong, but he loses points for waste — and he knows it.
The Premature Slapulation
After watching the truly confusingly porny interlude to Robin’s first music video, Barney delivers a perfectly adequate slap. It appears to be nothing special, but he does make that brawny man whimper like a little girl, so that’s gotta count for something.
The First Slap
The first slap of the series is administered by Marshall during the first wacky stages of the slap bet, and it’s a classic slap. The slappiest slap that ever slapped. The platonic ideal of a slap.
The First Official Slap
Once the slap bet has been officially resolved and Barney has agreed to five slaps to be delivered at any point in the future, Marshall gives him a backhand that his viking ancestors would envy. He even picks up a bottle of soda first, apparently just to show he can do both at once. Those are some massive slap balls.
The Slap of a Million Exploding Suns
Marshall spends an entire episode building up the mythology of this slap, so if nothing else, it’s certainly the most stylish. It’s entirely possible that there were no camera tricks, and it actually occurred in slow-motion. By this point in the series, though, Barney has accepted his fate with gentlemanly decorum, so it’s almost a letdown. Almost.
Revenge of the Slap
The second Slapsgiving is an almost perfect slap. The torture Barney endures after Marshall announces his intention to transfer slapping privileges to one of their friends for the day is almost too much bear, and the brief respite Barney feels when Marshall pretends to call it off before slapping him literally into the ground is the most satisfying possible resolution. But it’s only almost perfect.
This slap has got it all: An actual countdown featuring the most aggravating beeping in the sound-effects catalog, the lowering of everyone’s guard after Lily declares that “Thanksgiving is a day of peace” and the righteousness of Marshall slapping the smirk off Barney’s face after he gloats too much and Lily reverses her decision in the nick of time. And who could forget the bop that is “You Just Got Slapped”?
There it is, ladies, gentlemen, and other: the perfect slap.