The Exploding Meatball Sub

HIMYM episode 6x20 (132)

First aired:
April 11, 2011
Pamela Fryman
Stephen Lloyd

Images (6)

Marshall's change of career upsets both Lily and Barney. Zoey's steps to stop Ted's GNB headquarters project causes problems between them.


Zoey continuing her attempt to sabotage Ted's project is driving a wedge between them. Ted's friends are disturbed by how often he and Zoey argue with each other, a polar opposite of Lily and Marshall’s relationship, where the two always seem to be in support of each other. Ted and Lily argue throughout the episode about whose relationship is better. However, Ted begins to feel Lily is right and is growing tired of his constant feuding with Zoey; he is also especially annoyed that Zoey had requested the Arcadian be listed as a landmark, which could scrap his entire project if accepted. When Ted argues again with Zoey about his dream to build a skyscraper in New York, he begins thinking he needs to break up with her. However, Ted realizes he has grown fond of their arguing, and instead kisses her. Future Ted muses on which type of relationship is better, but promptly decides a supportive one is best, a fact his younger self would have to learn the hard way.

Marshall has been growing increasingly displeased with his job at GNB, and is considering quitting soon to get a job with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Lily assures him that he has her full support no matter what, despite Barney pointing out Marshall’s new job would have considerably less pay. Lily’s resolve is tested, however, when Marshall later quits GNB and begins work at the NRDC, but only in a volunteer position (as all the paid positions have been filled). Marshall later offers his home to host an NRDC fundraiser, and Lily takes Ted to pick up a guest from the airport. When they arrive, however, Lily reveals she has grown fed up with Marshall’s plans, as he doesn't appear to be thinking about their future and has also stopped trying to have a baby with her. She promptly leaves to head to Spain, a trip she had been hoping to take with Marshall but may now seem impossible. Later, at the fundraiser, Ted attempts to tell Marshall about Lily, but she makes a surprise return and assures Marshall again he has her support. Ted’s glance at her causes Lily to begin to reveal her doubts, but Marshall thanks Lily for her support and states that he will begin looking for another job with pay.

Robin discusses Graduation Goggles with the gang. She says that as soon as you are about to leave, quit or break up with someone or something, you start to enjoy everything you hated about it before because you realise that it will all be gone once you leave. Examples of Graduation Goggles were: when Robin was going to break up with Scooby, she started to enjoy his dog-like kissing; when Marshall was about to quit GNB, he began to like the paperwork, dirty jokes etc, and when Ted almost broke up with Zoey, he began to like being challenged again. Robin said that you can't trust Graduation Goggles, because you will grow to hate them again.

Upon hearing Marshall’s decision to quit GNB, Barney is considerably shaken, prompting Robin to wonder if it is because of Barney’s recent estrangement from his father. After Robin witnesses Barney tearing up his office, the two finally talk about it. Barney explains the real reason, leaving Robin in disbelief as it is over a trivial incident: some time ago, Marshall had pointed out some marinara sauce on Barney’s clothes while eating a meatball sub. Extremely irked by this comment, Barney spent months plotting his revenge, designing an exploding meatball sub to give to Marshall. Marshall had quit on the day Barney had planned to have Marshall receive the sub, prompting Barney’s anguish.

In the end, ten years later, Barney is shown apparently on his death bed, with his grieving friends beside him. Barney tells Marshall to eat a meatball sub he has as his last request; the sub promptly explodes in Marshall’s face, and Barney reveals he isn’t actually sick, laughing at his success, as it was all a ruse to get Marshall to take the sub. When Ted points out some marinara sauce on Barney’s clothes, Barney begins eyeing Ted in the same vengeful way he had with Marshall.


  • Marshall's dilemma of choosing between his dream of being an environmental lawyer and going into corporate law to make money appears in many episodes, including Life Among the GorillasI'm Not That Guy​​, and The Chain of Screaming​​.
  • Barney uses white-boards to plan his schemes in Milk and Shelter Island​​.
  • Barney mistakenly describes aspects of other countries when talking about Lily and Marshall's potential trip to Spain. He mixes up France and Sweden in Woooo!​​.
  • In the flashforward to the meatball sub exploding, Robin delivers the glare that Ted describes in Robin 101​​.
  • Ted tells Lily that she and Marshall have morphed into "one giant, hermaphroditic blob". He describes them in a similar way in Duel Citizenship, and their codependence is first addressed in Showdown​​.
  • Marshall quitting his job and moving away from corporate law is alluded to by Future Ted in Natural History.
  • Robin dates Scooby in A Change of Heart​​.
  • Lily advises Marshall to quit his job at GNB in Garbage Island, where she also agreed to hold off on starting a family.

Future References (Contains Spoilers)

  • In the flashforward, Barney and Robin are seen without wedding rings, foreshadowing their divorce, which is revealed in Last Forever - Part One. (It would also have been impossible for Barney to fool his wife about being fatally ill.)


  • Barney telling Robin why he is upset.
  • Barney in his death bed.
  • Barney burning Marshall's picture.
  • Barney experimenting on the exploding meatball sub.
  • Ted and Lily driving to the airport.
  • Barney trashing his office.
  • Marshall covered in marinara sauce.
For a listing of all images on the wiki tagged as being from this episode, see Category:The Exploding Meatball Sub images.

Memorable Quotes

Barney: Wile E. Coyote wasn’t trying to sleep with the Road Runner.
Robin: Or maybe he was.

Barney: Well then you're not going to be able to pay for that trip to Spain that you've been planning. Say goodbye to riding around in gondolas, and eating bratwurst, and seeing the pyramids.
Robin: I don't think you know what Spain is.
Barney: Well, I know that a trip there costs some serious Lira.
Ted: It's Dinero.
Barney: Where? I want his autograph!
Barney's poor grasp of geography strikes again. Except that Ted is also wrong: the currency of Spain has been Euro since 1999 and was previously Peseta - 'dinero' is Spanish for 'money'

Ted: Lily, the problem with having giant Japanese anime eyes is that they're easy to read. And yours are saying, "What about my trip to Spain, deadbeat?"
Lily: Ted, the problem with having a woman's mouth is that your feminine pout gives away your true feelings. And yours is saying, "Oh, Zoey, why I can't I be on top just this once?"

Ted: (says incomprehensible words in Spanish)
Man: I'm sorry. I don't speak....whatever it is you're speaking.
Ted: Um, he speaks perfect English.
Lily: Yeah, I know.
Ted: Then why did you ask me to come?
Lily: So you can drive him to the fundraiser. Supporting Marshall this much is driving me crazy. I'm going to Spain my flight leaves in 45 minutes. Adios, muchacho.
Ted: Wait, what do you mean you're going to Spain?
Lily: You were right. If I hear myself say "Baby, you have my full support" one more time, I swear I'm gonna murder someone!
Ted: What are you gonna tell Marshall, huh? And when are you coming back?
Lily: I honestly haven't thought it all the way through, and I don't intend to. All I know is that I'm a ticking time bomb, and if I don't do something for me right away, I swear I'm gonna explode!
Ted: Wow, that's an evocative metaphor to use for your nonthreatening, totally patriotic emotions. (distracting the guards) U.S.A! Okay, Lily, I get it. Marshall's been asking a lot lately. But the thing to do is tell him you've had enough.
Lily: I've never been good at that. And now, ever since his dad died, I feel like it's my job to just be fine with everything. But I'm not. I'm not fine that he volunteers our apartment for a giant fundraiser, and that he's not thinking about how we're gonna pay any of our bills, and that, apparently, we've given up on trying to have kids.
Ted: (teary-eyed) Lil...
Lily: Look, I'm sorry, Ted. I just, I gotta do this. (leaves)
Ted finds out and tries to talk Lily out of going to Spain.

Notes and Trivia

Goofs and Errors

  • When Ted and Zoey are in bed and she says "i thought you'd like it" ted seems to answer "Who licks that?" instead of "Who likes that?"
  • In the end of the episode when Barney is in his "deathbed", he is not in a pajama suit.
    • The absence of a pajama suit can be ruled as the evolution of his character.
  • In The Best Burger in New York​​, Barney insists on not having Chinese since he does not like it. Later in this episode he asks Robin if she wants Chinese for lunch.
    • In the time between it is possible he started to like Chinese food.
    • This was part of Barney's master plan that was finally realized in Ducky Tie​​. Throughout the series Barney is seen eating Chinese food usually failing while using chopsticks. Barney is also very childish so it would not be below him to say he didn't like it instead of just saying he wasn't in the mood.
  • While Ted's Spanish is hilariously bad, The Naked Man​​ had him saying that his favorite poet is Pablo Neruda, and reading a book of his poems, entirely in Spanish, hinting that he did, in fact, know the language.
    • The book wasn't entirely in Spanish. The page on the right in that fragment was in English, properly the translation of the Spanish text, so it could be that Ted only know the meaning of the poems due the translations.
    • It's also not that uncommon for a person to have a good understanding of spoken or written foreign language, but at the same time to be quite poor at speaking it.
  • When talking about Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner, Robin says "she wants it" (referring to the Road Runner). However, the Road Runner is male, so Robin should've said "he".
    • Maybe in Canada the Road Runner is a she, which would add an additional level of depth to why Wile wants to catch the Road Runner so badly. (as plausible as the 70s arriving late in Canada).
  • The handwritings on the whiteboard are different. The one below "ideas" that's already written, and the one that Barney wrote himself.
  • When the meatball sub explodes in the flash forward, Barney is completely underneath his bed covers, so no marinara sauce would have gotten on his pajamas.

    Barney plotting revenge for Marshall.

Allusions and Outside References


Other Notes



  • This episode premiered to 6.804 million viewers.[1]
  • Donna Bowman at the A.V. Club gave the episode a B+.[2]
  • Angel Cohn at Television Without Pity gave the episode a C.[3]
  • Robert Canning at IGN gave the episode a 6.5 out of 10.[4]
  • The St. Petersburg Comic Review gave this episode 7 out of 10 stars. "...why is Ted dating the group's archenemy?"


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