The series premiere doesn’t feature any big clues about the mom, but every great love story has to start somewhere, and Ted’s tale begins here as he recounts to his kids how he became enamored with a brunette beauty at the bar. Pilot twist: She turns out to be… Aunt Robin, not the titular mother.
(Season 2, Episode 15)
Robin and Ted rush to catch a plane to Chicago, where he has a job interview for the New York branch of an architecture firm. They never make it, but it’s all part of destiny’s plan since the guy who got the job eventually had to move to Chicago, meaning Ted would have never met his future bride in the Big Apple.
(Season 3, Episode 12)
Has a yellow umbrella ever held so much meaning? Ted first finds the accessory after his future wife leaves it behind in a club. Although not many clues are offered about The Mother in the sitcom’s early seasons, the brightly colored brolly becomes a beacon and a telltale sign of her identity throughout the series.
“The Leap” / “Definitions”
(Season 4, Episode 24 / Season 5, Episode 1)
At the end of Season 4, Ted quite literally takes a leap and accepts a professor position at Columbia University. He fumbles through his first day on the job — misspelling the word “professor,” teaching in the wrong room — but there’s a glimmer of hope for Professor Mosby: His future wife is in that confused Economics class.
“Girls Vs. Suits”
(Season 5, Episode 12)
The milestone 100th episode is a big one for Ted and longtime fans. Not only do we learn that he and his future wife share a love for The Unicorns and T.C. Boyle, but we even get our first glimpse of the mother! Granted, it’s just an ankle, but you gotta start somewhere. (And as ankles go, it is a nice one.)
(Season 5, Episode 20)
At the start of each HIMYM episode, Ted’s future kids are seen with the same attentive expressions on the same cozy couch. Near the end of Season 5, we learn exactly when Ted purchased that house. The future looked grim for the structurally damaged home — especially the crumbling ceiling — but it only took a sledgehammer and a heart-to-heart with Marshall for Ted to decide this would be where he’d raise his kids.
(Season 6, Episode 1)
Although The Mother’s identity will remain a secret for two more seasons, the Season 6 premiere finally reveals where Ted will meet his future wife: at a wedding, ironically. It’s only a subtle hint, but it remains an important one for seasons to come.
(Season 7, Episode 20)
It’s not The Mother that we learn about in this Season 7 episode, but another important lady in Ted’s life: his baby daughter. In a flash-forward to 2015, Ted is seen holding his newborn girl, giving us some insight into just how soon Ted will marry and begin having kids.
(Season 8, Episode 1)
In a scene as infuriating as the entire film Serendipity, Ted stands just feet away from his eventual wife without realizing it. Shielded by her yellow umbrella and carrying a guitar case, we get the best visual yet of what Ted’s love looks like, as well as the exact whereabouts of their first meeting.
“Band or DJ?”
(Season 8, Episode 13)
If you forgot that Ted once dated a girl whose roommate played the bass guitar, the writers certainly didn’t. The bass-playing mystery girl re-enters Ted’s life when her band is booked to play Barney and Robin’s wedding after her ex-roomie Cindy (Rachel Bilson) recommends the group to Ted.
“The Time Travelers”
(Season 8, Episode 20)
In one of the sitcom’s most thought-provoking episodes, Ted imagines running to his future wife’s apartment and confessing his love to her: “Exactly 45 days from now, you and I are going to meet. We’re going to fall in love and we’re going to get married, and we’re going to have two kids. We’re going to love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away, but I’m here now, I guess because I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them.” The tear-jerking daydream isn’t real, but we move ever closer to finding out who The Mother really is — and when Ted will finally meet her in person.
(Season 8, Episode 24)
A season’s worth of major Mother hints finally culminated in the unveiling of the mother’s identity. Her time on screen isn’t long — after all, she only utters a mere six words while requesting a train ticket to Farhampton — but the brief appearance, which was eight (!) years in the making, is truly momentous. Welcome to the HIMYM family, new series regular Cristin Milioti!