And here we have one of the best episodes of the show, right up there with "Slap Bet" and "The Pineapple Incident." Is the episode great? On its face, absolutely. But what really puts it over the top is an unnecessary, but completely instant-classic end tag as well as a bonus Web site and song that are made of pure love for the fans. Yes, "A+." You bet your ass it's A+. Nicely done, HIMYM.
SagetTed tells his kids (who don't appear this week) that back when they were younger, Ted and Marshall were really into college basketball. Aw, you mean they lost the fever as they got older? How sad, SagetTed. How sad. We go immediately from a nighttime shot of NYC to Ted and Marshall writing up their brackets on a giant chalkboard in the middle of the apartment living room. Lily and Robin walk in as SagetTed says that they were overtaken by NCAA March Madness. Which is also airing on CBS, by the way. Just sayin'. Robin asks what's up with the big blackboard. "Big board equals big luck!" Marshall bellows. Lily says the board looks familiar. She asks where they got it.
Side-whoosh to Marshall, entering Lily's classroom. A custodian is mopping. Marshall, holding flowers, says he's looking for his wife. But it's Saturday. The custodian calls Marshall a dumbass as he walks out. Ted creeps in and they steal the blackboard. We see them rolling it down a city street. "Big board!" Ted yells. "Big luck!" Marshall screams back. Oh, boys.
Back at the apartment, Ted and Marshall say they're part of a giant bracket pool on Staten Island where the prize is $100,000 stuffed in a duffel bag. Marshall is stoked that the duffel bag is included. Lily says they lose every year. Ted says that this year, they've been watching all the games and keeping track of all the stats. He says this isn't March Madness. It's "March Meticulously-Thought-Outness." Oh man, I'm so in over my head. I may be a dude, but I know nothing about college basketball or brackets. Maybe one of the Fug Girls could help a brother out. Barney, who just came in while Ted was talking, shows them his iPhone. One of Ted's teams already lost. Ted didn't know they were playing today. He sits down, defeated. Barney sits down and sets up the episode by telling everyone that something strange is happening. Wait for it...
The first story takes place at the hardware store. He explains that there are four kinds of women who go there alone: single, recently single, recently divorced, lesbian who will let Barney watch. "You could not be more evil," Lily tells him. Barney adds a fifth to the list: recently widowed. We whoosh to the hardware store. Barney is consoling a crying redhead who is wearing black. Barney says her husband is in a better place (better than the hardware store, at least). He offers to find her a sturdier ladder. Did he die from falling off a ladder? Barney explains that he came back only moments later. We see him carrying a big green ladder. "See? Skidproof!" he says. The woman slaps him in the face and walks off. Barney starts to tell a similar story that takes place in a pet store. Ted immediately fills in: single woman, mid-20s, looking for a canine replacement for her ex-boyfriend. "God bless ya Ted, you're reading my blog!" Barney says. Hee hee. Ted says he's really bored at work. We see Barney at the pet store holding a little white puppy named Ladybug. He goes to get a chew toy and when he returns, he gets the slap, even after presenting a little sweater that says, "Diamond in the Ruff." Did somebody take out a slap bet bounty on him? He starts to tell the story of a museum encounter and the whole gang wants to guess what Barney's pose was. Lily guesses he was pretending to be a young artist searching for a new muse. Nope. Marshall guesses he was a millionaire casing the joint. Nuh-uh. Robin guesses correctly: Barney was pretending to be going blind and trying to soak up all the beauty in the world. We see Barney at the museum, saying that he'll be blind soon and his audio guides will be all he has left. The woman feels sorry for him. Barney puts his hand all over her face and calls her beautiful. He offers to get her a headset and bumps into a nearby man to seal the story. When he comes back, Barney hovers his hands over the woman's boobs, but doesn't quite touch them. He says he loves the smell of art, too. And he gets slapped. Back at the apartment, he asks why this keeps happening. Lily thinks he may not lie as well as he thinks. Barney says he'd be in jail for perjury (and it's work-related).