Garbage Island

HIMYM episode 6x17 (129)

Garbage Island
First aired:
February 21, 2011
Michael Shea
Tom Ruprecht
Barney's Blog

Images (10)

Marshall becomes obsessed with saving the environment, Ted runs into The Captain, and Robin tries to prove Barney has feelings for Nora.


Future Ted opens by telling his kids how in 2021, he ran into Wendy the Waitress at an airport in Hong Kong. To explain what she was doing there, he has to back up ten years.

Back in 2011, the gang and Zoey are at MacLaren's Pub, and Robin asks Barney how his laser tag date with Nora went. Even though Nora enjoyed herself and gave Barney her number, Barney thought it was a disaster, because she declined going out for drinks with him. Robin insists Barney likes Nora, but Barney keeps denying it, tearing up her number.

Ted explains to Wendy how he and Zoey met. In his story, he tells how Zoey was miserable married to The Captain, and after a huge fight The Captain stormed out and demanded a divorce. After some soul searching, the two found each other and started dating.

Once he's done, Zoey asks Ted if he managed to pick up a box of her things from her old apartment. Ted hasn't, because he's afraid of running into The Captain. Zoey tells him he can just pick it up from the building's door man, and Ted agrees to get it for her tomorrow.

Marshall leaves, complaining that he has a lot of useless work to get through. The gang lament that Marshall doesn't seem like his usual self, and Lily confirms that he's lost interest in a lot of the things he used to love... including sex.

The rest of the gang go home, leaving just Barney and Robin at the booth. Robin realizes Barney really does like Nora, given his reaction when she lets slip that Nora's got a date with someone else at Cafe L'amour.

Later that night at Marshall and Lily's apartment, Lily tries to persuade Marshall to come to bed, but Marshall is absorbed in a documentary about "Garbage Island", and decides he has to save the planet.

The next night, Ted arrives at Zoey's old apartment building to pick up her box from the doorman. In the lobby, Ted runs into The Captain, who assumes Ted is there to comfort him after his divorce. Unsure what to do, Ted agrees to come upstairs to his study.

At MacLaren's, Marshall is busy telling the entire gang (minus Ted) about Garbage Island, and has started a green initiative at MacLaren's. Wendy walks by, and overhearing their conversation, complains that she now has to carry 80 pounds of garbage to the recycling center every night, because of him. He also has plans to give a green initiative presentation at GNB; for only 12 million dollars, they can cut their carbon footprint in half. Barney tells him that if he does, all the board is going to hear is "12 million dollars" and fire him. Barney also said that Marshall would hear some muffled laughter, which he apologizes for in advance.

In his study, The Captain explains to Ted how he and Zoey actually split up: They had a happy life together, until an unknown scoundrel swooped in and stole Zoey's heart. Zoey admitted to The Captain that she was in love with someone else, and so The Captain stormed out. He returned, begging her not to leave, and after one last night together, Zoey left.

Ted arrives at MacLaren's and tells the gang what just happened, and now realizes he is the bad guy.

Later in their apartment, Lily tries to convince Marshall again to sleep with her. Marshall, concentrating on his recycling presentation for GNB, agrees that he will tomorrow night, after he's finished the presentation.

The next night at MacLaren's, when it's just Barney and Robin, Barney tells Robin he waited at Cafe L'amour all day, and Nora didn't show up. Robin admits that she made the entire date up, to prove that Barney really does like her. Barney continues to deny he has any feelings for Nora, so Robin offers to sleep with him tomorrow night; if he really doesn't have feelings for Nora, then he should jump at the opportunity.

Meanwhile, Marshall returns home and explains that the presentation didn't go well: They didn't approve of his proposal, and although he wasn't fired because of the recent death of his father, his boss fired Meeker, the only employee who agreed with Marshall. To make him feel better, Lily bought him a six-pack of beer, and threw the rings that came with it into the garbage. Upon hearing this, Marshall freaks out, running down to the dumpster to find them.

Ted realizes he forgot to grab Zoey's box from the doorman, so he returns to the building. As he enters the lobby, The Captain spots him, and they go back up to his study. The Captain reveals he knows who stole Zoey: The doorman. The Captain wants to go downstairs and attack him, but Ted manages to calm him down, convincing him that he'll find someone who'll make him happier than he was with Zoey. The Captain admits that it really doesn't matter who stole Zoey, so Ted reveals that he stole Zoey, and quickly runs from the building.

Barney arrives at Ted's apartment to see Robin. Robin is disappointed, because she thinks it means he's there for her and has given up on Nora. Barney quickly corrects her, saying he's there to get Nora's number.

At MacLaren's, Zoey tells Ted he did steal her, by being the sweet guy who would never steal her, but that doesn't mean he's the bad guy.

On the street in the dumpster, Marshall explains how his dad was always so proud of him for wanting to be an environmental lawyer, but never got to see him as more than a corporate stooge, and if they start a family now, Marshall will be stuck at GNB forever. Lily realizes this is why he's been putting off sleeping with her, and tells him if he wants to quit his job, then he should, and that they can put off having a family until they're both ready.

Meanwhile, Future Ted narrates how on that night, Meeker went to MacLaren's to confront Marshall for getting him fired. In doing so, he met Wendy, and the two bonded over their hatred of Marshall.

Ten years later, in 2021 at the Hong Kong airport, Meeker and Wendy are married with three kids and are going on their second honeymoon. Wendy asks Ted if he's still together with Zoey, but Ted says no, that "did not end well," but it was all for the best since now he's married to a wonderful woman with two kids.


  • Marshall's career conflict between environmental law and corporate law comes up again, having been addressed previously in several episodes, including Life Among the GorillasI'm Not That Guy, and The Chain of Screaming.
  • Robin lies to Barney about Nora having a date at Cafe L'amour. Marshall and Brad have dinner at Cafe L'amour in World's Greatest Couple.
  • Barney deduces that Robin hasn't had sex for 18 weeks. Robin has been single since breaking up with her last boyfriend, Max, in Architect of Destruction, which occurred exactly 18 weeks earlier.
  • When Ted runs into the Captain, the top and bottom halves of his face are alternatingly obscured in shadow, showing off his "murder eyes", first identified as the reason he looks creepy by Marshall in The Mermaid Theory.
  • The gang discuss Barney and Nora playing laser tag together on Valentine's Day, as seen in Desperation Day.

Future References (Contains Spoilers)

  • Marshall eventually quits his job in The Exploding Meatball Sub.
  • In reference to her divorce, Zoey says "Sometimes things have to fall apart to make way for better things." Ted repeats this to her when the Landmarks Preservation Committee rule against the Arcadian in Landmarks.
  • Ted tells Wendy the Waitress in 2021 that his relationship with Zoey did not end well, foreshadowing the events of Landmarks.


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

Memorable Quotes

Marshall: All right guys, I have to go. I have a big, meaningless stack of paperwork that I have to get off my desk to make room for tomorrow's big, meaningless stack of paperwork. But it's all worth it, you know, cause... at least I know I'm making the world a... place.
Marshall isn't satisfied with his job.

Robin: You like her, you should call her. (referring to Nora)
Barney: Call her?? Robin, 3 things: She had a nice face, her booty was in place, but Barney don't chase!
Lily: Argh! That is ridiculous, Barney, you know what? here is some advice:

((the noise that comes up when Barney is ignoring someone or uninterested)

Barney: Totally!

Lily: You should work at a carnival.
Barney: I tried; they're pretty strict with backgrounds.

Wendy: Hey, Ted
Ted: Hey. There she is. Wow.
Wendy: Wendy the Waitress.
Ted: Wendy the Waitress! I was just saying- What are you doing here?
Wendy: ...And three kids later, we decided to come here on our second honeymoon.
Ted: Wow. That's a pretty good omelet.
Wendy: Oh, and hey, what about you? You still with Zoey?
Ted: No, no, no. Wow, that did not end well. But it's all for the best, 'cause now I'm married to an amazing girl, we have two kids. It's actually a funny story of how we met. I was a best man at this wedding-
Wendy: Listen, Ted, it's great seeing you, but we got to run.
Ted: Okay, well, have a safe trip. It was great seeing you.
Ted runs into Wendy the Waitress in an airport in Hong Kong in 2021

Meeker: Are you guys-?
Wendy: Closed. (bottles fall out of the plastic bag)
Meeker: (helps Wendy pick up the bottles) Tough night?
Wendy: Yeah
Meeker: Sorry.
Wendy: It's not your fault. It's not anyone's fault, except for Marshall Eriksen.
Meeker: (looks at Wendy) What did you just say?
Wendy: I said it's Marshall Eriksen's fault. Why, do you know him?
Meeker: Know him? I hate that guy!
Wendy: Me too.

Robin: So, Barney, I hear you and Nora had a fun time at laser tag.
Barney: I don't know where you heard that. It was a disaster.
Robin: Not according to her.
Nora: Oh, my God, this was so much fun. We have to do this again.
Barney: We do, we have to. You want to grab a drink right now?
Nora: No, I'm kind of tired. But this is my number. Give me a call.
Barney: Absolutely.

Robin: Okay, yes, I am in a bit of a dry spell.
Barney: Hmm.
Robin: But I just started a new job, and dating's been on the back burner, and...
Barney: Shh. Child, listen. If you're really hurting for it, I'd be more than happy to throw you one.
Robin: Throw me one?
Barney: Yeah. We're exes. We're probably due for a backslide. Or we could just do it the normal way.
Robin: Oh, I see what's going on.
Barney: Yeah?
Barney: This is about Nora. You met a girl, you liked her, but then you missed your shot. And now you're trying to hook up with your ex-girlfriend to prove to yourself that you don't care.
Barney: Robin, you could not be more- What do you mean I missed my shot?
Robin: Nora met a guy.

Barney: With great penis comes great responsibility.
Robin: Okay, Mother Teresa, throw me one.
Barney: Sorry?
Robin: I would like it if you threw me one. Fastball, right down the middle. Actually, if I recall correctly, a slight curve.
Barney: Careful, Robin, I'll do it.
Robin: Oh, I don't think you will.
Barney: Hmm.
Robin: Because you don't want to screw things up with Nora. Hey, prove me wrong. Tomorrow night, my place.
Barney: Don't poke the dragon, Robin, 'cause the dragon will poke you back.

Barney: All right, Robin, give it to me.
Robin: Damn it, Barney, you failed my test! You know, I- I try to root for you. Even as your ex-girlfriend, when you meet someone, I'm like, "Yeah, Barney, go get her!" But you know what? Just forget it. You're never gonna change. I'm done trying to help you.
Barney: The number. Give me the number, 'cause I really can't tell, is that a seven or a nine?
Robin: It's a five, idiot.
Barney: A five? In what moon man language is that a five?
Robin: "Moon man language"? What does that even mean?
Barney: How am I supposed to see that's a five?
Robin: Look how you taped this up!
Barney: Fine, fine, fine. I have a phone call to make.
Robin: Barney. Go get her.

Notes and Trivia

Goofs and Errors

  • Marshall mentions that "Garbage Island" is twice the size of Texas. Robin responds by saying "in other words, 1/8th the size of Canada". In actuality, it's closer to 1/7th rather than 1/8th. Canada has an area of 9.985 million square kilometres while Texas is 696,241 square kilometres, making Canada 7.17 times twice the size of Texas.
  • In How I Met Everyone Else, Marshall is shown to be almost completely bald in the year 2020. However in the hologram at the end of the episode in 2021, Marshall is shown to have a reasonably complete head of hair. He is also shown to have a reasonable amount of hair in the flash-forward of The Exploding Meatball Sub, which happens 10 years later (in 2021). The flashfowards to 2020 and 2030 in Rally also show Marshall as bald.
    • It's possible Marshall had an experimental hair regeneration in 2021 which temporarily restored his hair, but Marshall's scalp rejected it resulting in him becoming bald again.

Allusions and Outside References

  • Barney mentions Prince, born in Minnesota like Marshall.
  • When Barney shushes Robin with his finger while at MacLaren's, this is a reference to the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber.
  • "Garbage Island" is a real thing, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located at the central North Pacific Ocean.
  • Barney's way of spacing out whenever women try to talk to him is reminiscent of the teacher's voice in Peanuts.
  • Barney's quote, "With great penis comes great responsibility," is a play on Ben Parker's famous words to Peter Parker in Spider-Man.
  • The Captain compares himself and Zoey to Greek gods Poseidon and Amphitrite, then refers to Scylla and Charybdis.
  • When The Captain is telling his version of how he lost Zoey, Ted spits out the brandy he is drinking, saying, "It's a damn good brandy." This is a reference to the 1990s TV series Twin Peaks, in which Kyle MacLachlan, who plays The Captain, also played the role of Special Agent Dale Cooper.
  • Marshall mentions Sting. And Arthur Hobbs also mentions Sting in Marshall's green initiative meeting.


Other Notes

  • Wendy the Waitress asks Ted if he is still with Zoey in 2020, meaning that she quits her job at MacLaren's when Ted's still dating Zoey. This turns out to be true, as this is the last episode she appears in.
  • Marshall talks with 'W's replacing 'R's after watching the Garbage Island Documentary.
  • Both Ted and the Captain begin the story of their relationship with Zoey with the phrase "Once upon a time..." Jennifer Morrison would later star in a series called Once Upon a Time the following fall.



How I Met Your Mother - 'Garbage Island' Podcast

How I Met Your Mother - 'Garbage Island' Podcast

Podcast for the episode

Featuring an interview with Bob Odenkirk, Carter Bays and Tom Ruprecht.


  • This episode premiered to 9.331 million viewers.[1]
  • Donna Bowman at the A.V. Club gave the episode an A-.[2] She praised MacLachlan's performance as The Captain, saying "When How I Met Your Mother premiered, none of us could have predicted that one of its high points would be the unlikely comic pairing of Kyle MacLachlan and Josh Radnor. Yet here we are in season six, with the Captain’s dialogue becoming ever more baroque and Ted’s position as his friend and cuckolder becoming ever more uncomfortable. And I love it."
  • DeAnn Walker at Television Without Pity gave the episode a B.[3]
  • Robert Canning at IGN gave the episode a 7 out of 10.[4] He did not enjoy the Ted-Zoey-Captain and Marshall-Lily plotlines, but enjoyed Barney and Robin's moments, saying " In such a straightforward, canned laughter kind of episode, it was good to have at least one storyline [Barney and Robin] deliver some genuine and even some surprising laughs."
  • The St. Petersburg Comic Review gave this episode 8 out of 10 stars. "...Barney and Nora had a fun time at laser tag."


External Links

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Desperation Day
Garbage Island
(all episodes)
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A Change of Heart