“Game Night” begins with future Ted telling us Marshall unbeatable at games. The group appoints Marshall as the game night moderator and he takes this as meaning he can invent games for the group to play. The gang is at MacLaren’s as usual when Marshall discusses his newest game, Marshgammon and the gang talks about how excited they are for Victoria to partake in game night. When Robin leaves to get a drink, Ted asks the group to avoid mentioning he and Robin’s past because he hasn’t told Victoria. Ted also asks Lily and Marshall not to interrogate his new girlfriend. Later at the apartment, the group, now joined by Victoria, sit around a Candy Land board while Marshall explains the rules. Everyone including myself are confused by the rules, except you have to take a drink of your alcoholic beverage anytime you ask “what?”. It becomes clear within the first few minutes of playing that Marshgammon is designed to ask Victoria questions about her personal life. As Marshgammon continues, Lily mentions to Barney she met a woman named Shannon that knew Barney. Barney tries to act like he doesn’t know a Shannon but his strange behavior suggest otherwise. Lily mentions having a video tape for Barney from Shannon and goes to find it after Barney demands to know where the tape is. Barney takes the tape into the kitchen and unspools it. Returning to the group calmly, Lily tells everyone the tape she gave Barney was Ted’s graduation and she still has the tape. Lily puts the tape in the VCR and we see a hippie-looking Barney with long hair, crying. Hippie Barney speaks as if he is taking to Shannon and begins to sing a song about lost love. Present day Barney snatches the tape and storms out of the apartment.
Two hours later, Barney returns to the group having drinks at MacLaren’s. Barney confesses to the group he wasn’t always “awesome” and tells the group his most embarrassing moment was on the tape. Marshall suggests Barney share his story because it might help him get over it. Barney tells Marshall he should go first and Marshall begins to tell his most embarrassing story. Marshall was visiting Lily’s kindergarten class but the class was empty. Marshall goes to use the class bathroom, unaware it is shared with another class. A kid opens the second door, scaring Marshall and causing him to run into Lily’s classroom. With his pants still around his ankles, Marshall trips and falls in front of Lily and her class returning from recess. Back in the present, Lily mentions her class still calls Marshall “funny butt”. Barney accepts Marshall’s offer and begins his story. We flash back to 1998 where Hippie Barney is working in a coffee shop with his girlfriend, Shannon, played by Katie Walder. Barney and Shannon are talking about joining the Peace Corps when a businessman in a suit walks up to the register and orders a drink from Barney. The businessman compliments Barney on dating Shannon and asks if he is having sex with her. Barney tells the man he and Shannon are saving themselves. The man tells Barney he needs to get a good job that pays a lot of money because girls will thrown themselves at him and walks away. Five weeks later, Barney is waiting for Shannon to leave for the Peace Corps but she stands him up.
Present day Barney stops the story and tells the group he doesn’t think he can go on but might be persuaded with another story from the group. Robin starts to tell the story about her falling into horse poop from “Return of the Shirt” but Barney stops her because everyone already knows it. Victoria offers up her most embarrassing moment and this is one of the few times future Ted refuses to tell his children what happened. Barney deems Victoria’s offering worth and continues his story. Hippie Barney returns to the coffee shop to look for Shannon. Hippie Barney finds Shannon at the coffee house and she tells him her dad is still supporting her and won’t let her join the Peace Corps. Shannon tells Barney it is his dream to join the Peace Corps and to follow it, their love will survive him being away for two years. While walking on the street, Hippie Barney decides to head back to the coffee house to convince Shannon to come with him but as he nears the shop, he spots Shannon and an older man arguing. Hippie Barney assumes the older man is Shannon’s father and decides to confront him but is stopped in his tracks when Shannon and her dad start making out.
Again present day Barney pauses the story to ask for another offering. Lily steps up to the plate and talks about the time Marshall’s mom called her to check on some cookies she mailed them. Marshall enters the apartment just as Lily and his mother finish their conversation. Having the apartment to themselves, Lily and Marshall start having sex on the floor. Little did they know, Marshall’s mother was still on the phone and listened to the entire performance. Present day Barney chuckles at Lily and Marshall and returns to his story. Hippie Barney rushes into the coffee house and is pulled aside by Shannon. When Barney asks why Shannon is making out with her dad, she comes clean. The older man is not her father, it is Greg and Shannon has been dating him for a few weeks. Shannon tells Barney she’s over her “granola” phase and wants Barney to join the Peace Corps so they could break up. Shannon ends their conversation by telling Barney to join the Peace Corps and forget about her. Later that night, Hippie Barney records the video that was previous watched by the gang and mails it to Shannon.
A week later, Shannon returns to the coffee shop to pick up her last paycheck and is confronted by Hippie Barney. Hippie Barney asks if she got his tape and Greg appears before Barney. Greg, played by Mark Derwin, is revealed to be the businessman from the beginning of Barney’s story. Greg tells Barney she received the tape and starts making fun of Hippie Barney by singing the song from the tape. Humiliated and confused, Hippie Barney wanders the streets of New York when a flyer advertising a suit sale and saying “SUIT UP!” across the top is shoved into his chest. Hippie Barney is shown cutting his hair, shaving his soul patch and putting on a suit presumably for the first time.
Present day Barney tells the gang the story isn’t over but he wants Ted to tell a story. Ted begins to tell the “green testicle” story from college but Barney interrupts demanding to hear the “Re-return” that he mentioned at the beginning of the episode. Ted agrees to tell the story and confesses to Victoria he tried to date Robin in the past. The “Re-return” flashes back to the night of the pilot episode. As you remember, Ted had a couple of opportunities to kiss Robin but failed both times and the story ended with the group at MacLaren’s, only the story didn’t really end there. Ted, Barney and Ranjit continued to drink after Lily and Marshall went to the apartment. Ted, filled to the brim with liquid courage, announces to Ranjit and Barney he is going to go back to Robin’s apartment and kiss her. Ted, Ranjit and Barney stumble to Robin’s door and just as Ted is about to knock, he pukes on Robin’s custom made Scherbatsky doormat. Robin hears all the commotion and the trio split before she opens the door. Present day Barney thanks Ted for finally telling the “Re-return” and sarcastically agrees he should never have told Victoria the story. Barney tells the group he saw Shannon one more time, earlier that night.
After Barney stormed out of the apartment with the video tape, he went to Shannon’s apartment and told her she changed him into the Barney he is today. Shannon invites Barney into her apartment and they catch up. Barney tells the group Shannon has a little boy named Max and that could have been his son. Reaching out to Barney, Lily tries to console him and instead is met with a surprisingly chipper Barney. Barney tells the group he is happy with how “awesome” he is and would kill himself if he had Shannon’s life and ther cherry on top is that he finally had sex with Shannon.
Every time I watch “Game Night” I’m amazed at how good the episode is. Very rarely do I list the episode as one of my favorites but it truly is. I love how we get to learn a little of Barney’s mysterious past and that he tricks the rest of the gang into telling their most embarrassing stories. I am so very curious to find out the details of Victoria’s story but I don’t think that will ever happen. I like how the episode tries to show that with the right group of friends, embarrassing stories are nothing to be ashamed of. I think there is an interesting moment during the ending montage where Barney is shown sitting at a bar drinking alone and then hitting on a girl at the bar. For that split second where Barney is alone, he looks like he is reflecting on his life and how he might really bothered by his talk with Shannon.
My favorite scene is when Barney is about to leave the group at MacLaren’s and says, “Ladies, Gentleman, Ted.”