Desperation Day

HIMYM episode 6x16 (128)

First aired:
February 14, 2011
Pamela Fryman
Tami Sagher
Barney's Blog

Images (16)

With Valentine's day approaching, Lily visits Marshall in Minnesota. Ted, nervous about his first Valentine's Day with Zoey, leaves for Minnesota too. A single Robin protests the holiday with her co-workers, while Barney tries to take advantage of dateless women.


Ted and Zoey have started dating. Given that Zoey recently got divorced, Ted agrees to take things slowly. At MacLaren's Pub, his friends mock him for taking things so slow. Ted mentions that Zoey invited him to come over and bake cookies with her later that night. Robin tells him that "baking cookies" translates to "booty call", as girls will always make up a "respectable excuse" when making one.

With Marshall still in Minnesota, Lily has missed his company, and with Valentine's Day approaching they won't be able to stick to their tradition of watching Predator (Future Ted explains how in college, Marshall and Lily planned to watch Sleepless in Seattle on Valentine's Day, but his brothers taped over it with Predator, so they watched it anyway).

Barney explains that his favorite day of the year is the day before Valentine's Day, February 13th, a day he has dubbed "Desperation Day", and explains how it dates back thousands of years and how the looming specter of Valentine's Day causes single women to lower their standards.

Robin points out that not all single women freak out about Valentine's Day, and has plans to spend the day this year with her single co-workers celebrating the fact that they don't have a boyfriend.

The next night at The Apartment, Lily announces that she's going to visit Marshall in Minnesota, so he doesn't have to be alone on Valentine's Day. Barney asks if she's going a little crazy being alone, and Lily admits that she's started dressing up her body pillow in Marshall's clothing, and actually had dinner with it, naming it "Marshpillow".

Ted walks in, and Robin asks how "baking cookies" with Zoey went last night. Ted explains that he brought an overnight bag with him to Zoey's apartment, and she kicked him out for being too presumptuous about how the night would end.

Some time later, on Desperation Day, Lily arrives at the Eriksen's home to surprise Marshall, but when she sees him she realizes he's reverted to a teenager, playing video games all day and ignoring his personal hygiene. Judy asks for Lily's help getting rid of Marshall by taking him back to New York. Lily tries to talk to Marshall, reminding him of Valentine's Day in New York watching Predator, and telling him his mom is doing fine on her own, but nothing she says can convince him to leave. Finally, Lily just blurts out that Judy wants him to leave, but when Marshall asks Judy if it's true, she denies ever saying that.

Meanwhile, Zoey visits Ted at his apartment, and apologizes for over reacting; seeing the overnight bag made Zoey realize how serious their relationship is, and didn't know if she was ready for such a commitment. However, she's come to the decision that she is ready, and the two decide to have dinner at Ted's tomorrow on Valentine's night. However, the seriousness of their relationship and the pressure associated with it freaks Ted out, so he decides to visit Marshall in Minnesota until Valentine's Day is over.

While the rest of the gang are spending Desperation Day in Minnesota, Robin and Barney are spending it at MacLaren's. Robin is spending time celebrating single life and protesting Valentine's Day with her co-workers, Bev and Anna, and Barney is scoping out all the available women. Later, Nora arrives, another co-worker of Robin's, and Barney is instantly attracted to her, passing up an opportunity with another girl in order to talk to her. She initially rejects his flirting, but the two end up spending the night talking about laser tag and tomorrow's laser tag tournament.

Upset that Ted is in Minnesota to escape New York and not there to help her bring Marshall back, Lily tells them she's going home, as a last ditch attempt to get Marshall to come back. Marshall says he can't, and Lily leaves alone. Marshall tells Ted that since his dad's death, he feels lost, and asks Ted if Zoey's okay with him missing Valentine's Day. Ted reveals that his relationship with Zoey is complicated, and she doesn't know he's in Minnesota. Marshall tells him that running away from reality isn't going to solve anything, and in saying so realizes he's been doing the same thing. Finally, Marshall agrees that they need to drive back to New York.

When Valentine's Day arrives, Barney is at the laser tag tournament, and calls Robin (his partner) asking her where she is. She tells him "Happy Valentine's Day", and he turns to find Nora in laser tag gear, while Future Ted narrates that for the first time in his life, Barney found himself on a date on Valentine's Day.

Zoey arrives at The apartment with an overnight bag, and the two have dinner, celebrating Valentine's Day together. Marshall surprises Lily at their apartment, and the two spend Valentine's Day watching Predator.


  • Barney insists that Desperation Day is "a thing", much like he did with the Lemon Law in The Duel and the Mermaid Theory in The Mermaid Theory.
  • Robin herself makes up a "respectable excuse" to hide a booty call in Nothing Good Happens After 2 A.M., where she asks Ted to come try out her new juicer in the middle of the night.
  • Ted corrects Robin and Zoey that his British Morning Socks are not slippers. Ted has a habit of correcting people, first mentioned in Spoiler Alert.
  • When Lily says "Private Booty reporting for duty," Ted and Robin don't do their inside joke of saluting, first referenced in Slapsgiving. This may be because Lily wasn't using a homograph for "Private", but the actual military rank.
  • Barney gives the gang another fake history lesson about Desperation Day, set in ancient Rome. During the lesson, Saint Valentine (Ted) gives Saint Desperatius (Barney) a "high V".
  • Barney previously experimented with creating a holiday in Not a Father's Day.
  • Barney tells Nora about the 47th Semi-Annual Laser Tag tournament in Poughkeepsie, and Robin later sends her to be his partner in her place. He previously attempted to get Marshall to be his partner for it in Bad News.
  • Barney tries to get Nora to stay at the bar with a magic trick, making a dove appear out of thin air. Barney explains how he does this trick to Robin and Ted in Unpause, and his fondness for magic has come up in many previous episodes, including The Scorpion and the Toad, Ten Sessions, and Intervention.
  • Marshall has his own unusual pair of slipper socks, as seen in Architect of Destruction.

Future References (Contains Spoilers)


For a listing of all images on the wiki tagged as being from this episode, see Category:Desperation Day images.

Memorable Quotes

Barney: Loneliness. The looming specter of Valentine's Day fast approaching. The two key ingredients to my favorite day of the year, February 13th - Desperation Day.
Robin: That's not a thing.
Barney: It's a thing. Much like Valentine's Day itself, Desperation Day dates back thousands of years.
Barney explains the ancient origin of Desperation Day
Every woman wants a date on Valentine's Day. That neediness reaches its climax - what up - on February 13th. A magical night, when a 10 has the self esteem of a 4, and the depraved enthusiasm of a 2. Now, there's only one thing you can't do.
Robin: Please say "widows."
Barney: Wherever you are, or whoever you're under, you must get home alone by 11:59 p.m. Otherwise, you're on a date on Valentine's Day.
Robin: Barney, Desperation Day assumes that all single women freak out about Valentine's Day.Which we do not. Case in point: I will be spending February 13 with some lovely single ladies from work...
Barney: Trolls.
Robin: …who could care less about Valentine's Day.
Barney: Lying trolls.
Robin: And we will be celebrating the fact that we don't have to spend it with some dippy guy carting around roses and stuffed toys all night. Oh, no offense, Ted.
Ted: And none was taken until just then.

Marshall: I miss my Dad, Ted. I miss him so much. When I was a kid, we would spend the summers in the upper peninsula and every year we would only get to the cabin until the middle of the night. So, it'd be pitch black, in the middle of the woods and I could never see anything in front of the headlights. But I always felt so safe, because my Dad was driving. He was like some sort of superhero, he could just see way out into the darkness... And now he's just gone, and it's pitch black, and I can't see where I'm going. I can't see anything.
Marshall describes how he feels since his Dad died.

Marshall: Thanks a lot for coming out here Ted. Hey, are you sure it's okay with Zoey that you're here for Valentine's Day?
Ted: Well, I mean technically, she doesn't know yet... Things with Zoey are moving really fast, and the divorce just makes everything more complicated. I just needed to take a step back.
Marshall: You're not taking a step back, you're running away. And hiding out here is not going to solve anything. Holed up in Minnesota, because you're too scared to face reality... We've got to go back to New York, tonight. It's time. It's time to get back to real life. It's time to grow up.
Marshall realizes he needs to move forward.

Marvin Eriksen Sr.: Here's a secret: I couldn't see worth a damn either buddy. I just kept driving forward, hoping for the best...Look Out! heh heh gotcha
Marvin appears to Marshall to offer advice.

Barney: So, you were an Olympic gymnast?
Random girl: Silver medal.
Barney: Ooh, sorry. Gold's the only thing that really counts.
Random Girl: That's what my dad said.
Barney: And she sticks the landing.
Barney is taking advantage of a lonely girl on the bar.

Notes and Trivia

Goofs and Errors

  • Barney claims that it was forbidden under Ancient Roman law to get married, and Ted agrees with him. However, marriages under Roman law and within the Roman religion were permitted, it was Christian marriages and Christian practices that were forbidden.
  • St. Valentine and St. Desperatius use Roman numerals as numbers, but Roman Robin says 15, not XV.
  • Robin and Barney are eating Chinese, but in The Best Burger in New York, he says he doesn't like Chinese.
    • Barney's seen eating Chinese many times since that episode. But the funny thing is: every time the gang is eating Chinese food, Barney always picks up the food with the chopsticks and then drops it right before he puts it in his mouth.
  • When Marshall returns to New York, Lily reacts to him finally returning home. Marshall enters the scene from the left side, which means he was already home since their door is on the right.
  • When Ted goes to see Marshall in Minnesota, "Four hours later" shows on the screen. However, it would be impossible for Ted to get from MacLaren's to St. Cloud in four hours, since he would have had to book a flight, go to a New York airport, board a plane, take a 2.5-hour flight to Minneapolis, and drive for one hour to St. Cloud.
  • Barney plays laser tag, but was banned for life in Murtaugh.
    • Barney could have done something to buy his way back in
    • He could also have found a new place, to play laser tag
  • Lily says private booty and Ted and Robin don't continue their salute joke.
    • Ted and Robin only do this when it's unintended (e.g, "General Idea"). Presumably, they didn't because Lily was using private as an actual rank rather than a modifier.
  • Marshall and Ted are playing Super Mario Kart on a NES, which is impossible because that game was first released on the SNES.
  • During the flash-back when Marshall and Lily were going to watch Sleepless in Seattle, and they found it was Predator, You can hear Dutch (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) say his famous line: "If it bleeds, we can kill it", then you hear the Predator's clicking sound. Actually, when Dutch said the line, the team was setting up traps.
    • This isn't technically a goof because the screenwriters added on purpose the clicking sound, previously used by Barney, so that we could hear it as well.
  • Alyson Hannigan accidentally touches Jason Segel's private parts, but soon she takes her hand off to her own body.

Allusions and Outside References

  • Barney and Ted use the Roman numerals X and V (equivalent to 10 and 5), and Barney makes reference to Pompeii.
  • Marshall begins playing old video games, mentioning Dr. Mario and Super Mario Kart.
  • Numerous references are made to Predator, and Barney imitates its clicking sound when "hunting" women at the bar.
  • Marshall mentions he watched Sleepless in Seattle five times.
  • Barney claims to be Huey Lewis and tells Robin she's heard the news.
  • Barney claims Saint Valentine had a "best bro" - Saint Desperatius.
  • When Lily talks to Marshall in his room you can see a Loch Ness monster poster behind them.
  • The dirty t-shirt Marshall has on while at home in Minnesota says "Tarkenton Phys. Ed", Fran Tarkenton is one of the most famous quarterbacks for the Minnesota Vikings.
  • Robin when introducing her friends to Barney, she refers to him as a "high-functioning sociopath," a phrase which the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, in the BBC series Sherlock, has become popular with.


Other Notes

  • Desperation Day is discussed in article 54 of The Bro Code as an official Bro holiday, one of several days on which a Bro is required to go out with Bros.[1]
  • Marshall likes to have the crusts on his bread cut off, just like the lunch Lily made him in Life Among the Gorillas.



How I Met Your Mother - 'Desperation Day' Podcast

How I Met Your Mother - 'Desperation Day' Podcast

Podcast for the episode

Featuring an interview with Jennifer Morrison.


  • This episode premiered to 9.510 million viewers.[2]
  • Donna Bowman at the A.V. Club gave the episode an A-. [3] On looking at the entire season as a whole, she said "I think this season has been really, really good ... it’s often had the snappiness that delights me in its pacing, the intricate time-nesting tricks that delight me in its construction, the clever jokes and gags that make me laugh, the instances of character growth that add depth to these people we like to spend time with weekly, and the elegantly presented themes that present us with moments of recognition ... So when I finish watching “Desperation Day,” I am happy that I can report that the show is in fine shape."
  • DeAnn Walker at Television Without Pity gave the episode a B.[4]
  • Robert Canning at IGN gave the episode a 7 out of 10.[5] He felt the episode was too rushed, saying "With its five solid characters, How I Met Your Mother can sometimes have a difficult time of keeping everyone included in the storytelling. This is especially difficult when the characters are involved in solo outings or, you know, in another state. Desperation Day was one of those episodes, where too little time was given to the numerous storylines. The results were pleasant enough, but nothing was as effective as it might have been."
  • The St. Petersburg Comic Review gave this episode 8.5 out of 10. "...the appearance of Nora..."


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