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Biggest Unanswered Questions From How I Met Your Mother

From 2005 to 2014, fans listened along as Ted Mosby told his children the story of "How I Met Your Mother."

Though the intention of the nine-season sitcom was to showcase Ted's journey to meeting the mother of his children and love of his life, "How I Met Your Mother" became much more than that; it was a show about friendship, the complications of adulthood, and realizing that love isn't always linear and takes a lot of work.

There are many huge moments on "How I Met Your Mother," and with a show that runs as long as it did, with five main characters, there are going to be a lot of plotlines to follow. Because of this, certain storylines can never be wrapped up, leaving audiences with a few more detailed questions that weren't answered before the show's finale.

In the conclusion of "How I Met Your Mother," we find out that the mother, Tracy, has died, Ted gets back together with Robin, Barney becomes a full-time father, Marshall becomes a judge, and he and Lily have three kids. Despite the mixed reviews of the show's ending, we're still curious about the answers to some of these burning questions.

What was the mother's disease?

The show's foundation of watching Ted explain his love story to his kids was and is a really sweet idea. Tracy (Cristin Milioti) comes into the show at the end of the eighth season and is an incredible character and addition to the group of friends we know and love. It's clear the moment Ted (Josh Radnor) and Tracy meet that they're meant to be together, which is why it's such a tough blow when the audience finds out Tracy passed away six years before Ted tells his children the story of how they met. Ted is telling the story to his kids in 2030, and the mother died in 2024.

However, the issue here is not when she died, but how she died. Her illness is canonically unknown to the audience, though there has been a lot of fan speculation as to what specifically it was. There are theories that she died of cancer or another terminal illness because of how Ted says she "got sick" in the series finale. Her death was already controversial to fans because the entire show is about Ted meeting the kids' mother, just for her to die in the finale and him to go back to Robin. But because there's been no confirmation on the particulars of her death, fans were even more frustrated with the lack of plausibility that she just dies after nine seasons of build-up to the arrival of her character.

Where did Ted get the blue french horn in the finale?

In the pilot, Ted sees Robin (Cobie Smulders) and is smitten. The two strike up a conversation and go on an amazing first date, but Ted misses the signal to kiss Robin. Because of this, he decides to go back to the restaurant where they had their first date, Carmichaels, to steal the blue french horn that they talked about on the date and take it to her apartment. It becomes a symbol of their relationship throughout the show. Eventually, the blue french horn makes its way to the finale, when Ted shows up at Robin's apartment with the instrument as a symbol that he's really in love with her and finally wants them to be together.

Here's the real question: how did Ted get the blue french horn in the final episode? The first time he procures the french horn, the logistics are all laid out for the audience. But from that point on, Robin keeps the blue french horn on her mantle. Did Ted make another one himself? We can always just assume the restaurant replaces the piece of art after Ted steals it, but even so, what are the odds that Carmichaels would still be in business? Or that the restaurant's replacement of the blue french horn would be an exact lookalike? Even if these conditions all aligned, how terrible is Ted for stealing yet another piece of art from this restaurant? It's a cute gesture at the end of the series, but it doesn't make much sense.

Who helped Ted raise the kids?

At the point that Ted is telling the children the story in 2030, his daughter, Penny, is 15, and his son, Luke, is 13. That means when their mother died six years earlier in 2024, Penny was nine and Luke was seven. Ted is an architect, so working full time with two small children had to have been really difficult.

How was Ted able to do it? Did he hire a nanny? Did Barney, Marshall, and Lily take turns helping? It's likely they did help out some, but with all of their own kids at the top of their minds, it's doubtful that this was the main solution. After Robin and Ted get together, Robin surely becomes a motherly figure for Penny and Luke, but by then they're already old enough to somewhat take care of themselves. In the six years between Tracy dying and Ted telling his kids the story, what support did he receive — not only in those six years, but in the time that Tracy was sick, too?

Another option is that Ted found a way to raise them on his own as a single father. There's always the possibility that he put them in daycare while he worked and took care of Tracy and then did all the childcare. Any choice had to be a good one, because it's difficult to imagine Ted raising two children while dealing with the grief of his wife dying.

Who is Number 31?

In the end of "How I Met Your Mother," Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) goes for his "perfect month," which is sleeping with a new girl every day for 31 days. On the last day of the month, Barney has sex with a woman who he accidentally gets pregnant, and she ends up having the baby. Barney, consequently, becomes fully devoted to being a father, and harbors more love for his daughter Ellie than he does for anyone else. One thing fans never find out, though, is who the mother of Barney's daughter is. In other words, who is #31?

His life is permanently changed by this woman in an amazing way, but we have no idea who she is. Per Bustle, fans speculated that the identity of #31 might be Robin, but there were too many reasons why it isn't Robin — namely the fact that she isn't able to conceive children. As Kate Ward writes in Bustle, "It's upsetting, in a way, that a series that was already misogynistic enough to name one character 'Blah Blah Blah' ... continued to leave a key female character without a name."

Where did the pineapple come from?

One of the most famous references in "How I Met Your Mother" stems from Season 1, Episode 10, "The Pineapple Incident." Ted, after getting drunk, wakes up one morning with a pineapple, a woman in his bed, and no recollection of the night before. This incident is referenced several times throughout the series, but fans never got an answer as to where the pineapple came from — until a deleted scene from Season 9 provided one. Glamour revealed that while at the Captain's house, Ted sees a pineapple on his front stoop and asks him about it. The Captain tells Ted that it's a sea captain's symbol of hospitality, which he also uses at his townhouse in Manhattan.

This would perhaps explain where Ted picked up the pineapple. But since a lot of fans may not have seen the deleted scene, the pineapple incident was also resolved in the spinoff series, "How I Met Your Father." The Captain is featured and the explanation of the pineapple incident is given to the audience. In an interview with Variety, showrunner Isaac Aptaker said, in response to solving the pineapple incident, "Yeah, that was an unanswered question, one of the dangling ones [from 'How I Met Your Mother.'] That's actually to Craig and Carter's credit. They were like, 'What if we threw it in here?'"

What happened to Robin's friends?

This question is twofold. First, Robin had a whole life in Canada before her introduction to the "How I Met Your Mother" friend group. She was Robin Sparkles, for crying out loud. She had several people in her music videos that she seemed to be friends with, including co-star Jessica Glitter. What happened to them? When she moved, did she just forget about everyone? There was a clear rift between her and Jessica as seen in Season 6, Episode 9 ("Glitter"), but that's the only explanation we get.

It's surprising that she didn't even try to stay in touch with anyone from home, but that is at least believable. She moved to a new country and was changing her career, so maybe she wanted to have a fresh start with new people. What that doesn't explain is what happened to all of the friends she had before she joined Ted, Barney, Lily, and Marshall's group. There's no way that she just didn't have any friends between the time she moved to the United States and the time she met this friend group. Some may argue, "What if she was a loner and chose not to have any friends?" That's a fine argument, but when Ted first sees her at the bar she's having a conversation with another woman and they look extremely comfortable. Even if she was Robin's only friend, where did she go? Robin's friendship situation seems very odd.

Why did Tracy leave in the middle of the reception?

In Season 9, Episode 23, "Last Forever Part 1," Ted and Tracy meet for the first time while waiting for the train. Ted leaves the reception early and is dealing with a lot mentally as he's getting ready to move to Chicago for work. However, at the station, he sees Tracy. She has also left the reception and is waiting for the train. Ted thinks their meeting is fate, and he strikes up a conversation with her. This meeting is what the show has evidently been building toward for nine seasons, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

However, there's just one problem with this: why was Tracy at the station? She was paid to play in the band at Robin and Barney's wedding, so it doesn't make any sense that she left early. The audience knows Ted left early, because that's why he doesn't get to talk to Tracy at the reception in the first place. So what made Tracy leave early? Was it fate? Did she shirk her responsibilities to the band? Was she let go early for some reason? It doesn't make much sense, even though it does end up working out in Ted and Tracy's favor. Still, it would be nice to know why Tracy ended up leaving early, be it for a normal reason or not.

Who is Ted's soulmate?

Obviously, the main point of "How I Met Your Mother" is to show Ted's love story. Ted is big into destiny, soulmates, and fate working to bring people together romantically. Ted dates a lot of people throughout the show while looking for "the one," but the two biggest relationships he experiences are Robin, whom he does have a rocky start with but eventually ends up with, and Tracy, his wife and the mother of his children.

Because of his intense love for Robin and Tracy and the fact that he believes so deeply in soulmates, this begs the question: who is Ted's real soulmate? There's debate whether his soulmate was Tracy, whose early death allowed him to find love again with Robin, or actually Robin the whole time. Was loving Tracy another chapter on the way to getting back to Robin, while letting him get kids like he always wanted? An article from The Artifice rationalized it like this: "Ted never would have met Tracy if it weren't for Robin and Ted would never have ended up back with Robin if it weren't for Tracy ... Neither of them are 'the one' because Ted was never meant to be with one or the other. For no matter how long, or how short a time, Ted's destiny was to end up with both of them."

What happened to Lily's credit card debt?

Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) have their fair share of struggles throughout the show, both in their relationship and with the logistics of being adults. One issue has been Lily's credit card debt. After Lily and Marshall get married, Marshall works to graduate from law school and is up for two really different jobs, one of which is a high-paying corporate job. When he turns to Lily for advice, she admits that she has amassed a great deal of credit card debt and needs him to take the high-paying job so the two of them aren't in more debt on top of Marshall's student loans.

Marshall and Lily work through the emotional baggage of the credit card debt, but what is never explained is how they physically pay it off. Lily has 15 maxed-out credit cards that she's used to buy designer clothes and accessories. She's a teacher, and occasionally sells paintings on the side. With a teacher's salary and New York rent, plus the place they purchase in Dowisetrepla, there is no way they can realistically pay it off. This debt would ruin Lily's credit, and in tying herself to Marshall through marriage, ruin his finances too. It seems unrealistic that this is basically never mentioned again, because it's such a huge hurdle for the couple that could have been used for more plotlines down the road.

Did Marshall get mugged by a monkey?

In Season 5, Episode 19 ("Zoo or False"), Marshall has to explain to everyone that he was held at gunpoint in Central Park by a man who stole his wallet. However, the story quickly changes once Lily decides that she wants to get a gun to protect them. Marshall doesn't want Lily to purchase the gun, so he tells them he actually was at the Central Park Zoo, and the man who mugged him was actually a monkey, citing embarrassment as his reasoning for changing the story in the first place. Then he changes the story again to Ted and Barney, telling them that he made up the monkey so Lily would relax. But the story changes again when Robin wants him to come on the news, then shifts one more time once he figures out that Bobo the monkey was separated from his mate due to his accusation.

Ted's narration reveals that no one ever learned the truth of how Marshall was mugged, and because the story changes so many times, the audience never learns either. So which is it? Was Marshall mugged by a man or a monkey? There's certainly an argument that the initial story was true: he was mugged by a man and didn't want Lily to get a gun so he changed the story. However, knowing Marshall and the shenanigans he gets himself into, he very well could have been mugged by a monkey.

Why was Future Ted voiced by Bob Saget?

Fans of "How I Met Your Mother" recognize the voice behind the narration as that of late actor and comedian Bob Saget. Though Josh Radnor played Ted in the show, the story's narration to his children was done by Saget. The two voices were similar enough and different enough that it seemed plausible Saget could be an older Radnor.

Why, then, did they have Future Ted played and voiced by Radnor in the finale of the show? The answer to this was that the producers of "How I Met Your Mother" wanted Ted to sound older in the narration, and felt Saget would be a good voice for that job. But how would it have played out to see Ted with an entirely new face when he was older? Nine seasons was a long enough time for Radnor to age a bit, and adding in the gray hair and other effects helped make him look older so that the Saget voice was appropriate enough. But it wouldn't have been the same if Radnor's Ted wasn't the one showing up to Robin's apartment in the end, so logistically Saget's voice had to go.

What happened to Bernice from the bus stop?

When Ted and Tracy leave the reception early and have their fateful meeting while waiting for the train, there is another person waiting with them named Bernice (Judith Drake). Bernice is a huge help in encouraging Ted to talk to Tracy. Initially, she tries to convince him to go back to the reception and meet her there. Then, when Ted has given up hope, she points out Tracy standing at the station too, and tells him it's a universal sign to go talk to her. Ted is resistant at first, but ends up talking to her after Bernice wears him down.

What happened to Bernice after this? Given how sappy and romantic Ted is, he might have reached out to her or invited her to the wedding, which she wanted to sing at. It's pretty unbelievable that he wouldn't have tried to invite her or at least thank her for the part she played in the two of them ending up together. If not for her cajoling, it's likely Ted would have moved to Chicago, gone on with the original plan and never talked to Tracy in the first place. Arguably, without Bernice, Ted wouldn't have his two children either. Furthermore, if not for Tracy's death and his kids' encouragement, Ted might never gotten back together with Robin. Bernice should have known her impact, and we as an audience should have gotten to hear her sing at the wedding.