The List: My 28 favorite episodes from the 2009-10 season

Today is the final day of the 09-10 season wrap! Finally, right? To finish things off, I thought I’d list my favorite episodes of the season. These are not necessarily the best and I chose not to overdo it with the best of the best, so you’ll only see a max of two episodes from one series. And remember, this means that the episodes had to air between September 21, 2009 and May 26, 2010 (which means no dice for the last few episodes of Breaking Bad).

Okay? Okay.

28. How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving 2: Return of the Slap”: Season five of HIMYM was a total mess and oftentimes not even that enjoyable, but I love the slap bet mythology. To see Barney squirm throughout this episode because he knows a slap is coming was fantastic — almost as fantastic as the slap itself.

27. Fringe, “Over There”: The two-part Fringe finale delivered multiple satisfying character beats and mythological moments to create a wonderful finale that wrapped up a number of lingering storylines while opening up more for the future.

26. 30 Rock, “Don Geiss, America and Hope”: When I was writing my season wrap on the once-glorified, now-sorta-maligned NBC comedy, I realized that I liked it much, much more than I had previously thought. But even when I was partially disappointed with the season earlier on, I knew that I loved this episode. Kabletown with a K!

25. Smallville, “Salvation”: After a wonderful start, the Superman-to-be series muddled things up in the middle of the season. Thankfully, a finale full of solidly choreographed fights, nods to the comic mythology and Clark acting like the hero he should have been three years ago made it all better.

24. Modern Family, “Pilot”: There were probably better episodes of the ABC’s big hit comedy, but none of them stick in my mind quite like the first episode. I don’t remember laughing this much at a comedy pilot in years and even if my interest in the series waned over the season, I’d probably laugh just as much today.

23. Party Down, “Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday”: I couldn’t do this list without including an episode of Party Down and this is certainly the most successful episode of season two. It offers the usual comedy bits, but slows the funny down for a nice analysis of the characters’ feelings. Plus, Guttenberg is just flat-out weird — in a good way.

22. Parks and Recreation, “Telethon”: This Amy Poehler-penned effort gave every character their little moments in the sun while still keeping the focus on Poehler’s Leslie Knope. It contains the perfect mix of LOL humor and uncomfortable humor.

21. Treme, “Do You Know What It Means”: Thanks to academic responsibilities and other external issues, I fell behind on Treme after the third episode, but the world-building done in the pilot episode was tremendous and even though I still have trouble putting names to all the characters, I was already invested in their story after this first effort.

20. Lost, “Dr. Linus”: There were other episodes more important to the season’s endgame, but the more I think about Ben’s arc and his story within the flash-sideways universe, the more I love “Dr. Linus.” Emerson is fantastic, per usual.

19. Justified, “Pilot”: Much like Modern Family, there were probably other episodes of Justified that were better, but no one hit me as hard as the first. It’s another wonderful exercise in world-building, the dialogue is snappy and respect is completely paid to Elmore Leonard and his source material.

18. Glee, “Wheels”: This was the first episode that I believed Glee could be something more than a charming distraction from “real” television and a pipeline for FOX to make money. And although the series didn’t ever quite make good on the promise shown in this episode, I’m still holding out hope that it can return to this more subtle type of storytelling.

17. Chuck, “Chuck Versus the Other Guy”: This episode made all the frustrations with the previous 12 seem frivolous and proved why we all love Chuck in the first place. It could have served as a satisfying SERIES finale if necessary.

16. The Pacific, “Part Ten”: Somehow, amid a miniseries full of explosions, battle sequences and epic, violent shots, my favorite episode of The Pacific was the slower, reflective finale. It crystallized all the pain, strife, confusion, etc. we’d seen the characters go through in the previous nine hours and nailed all the character moments.

15. Community, “Modern Warfare”: The much-hyped paintball episode was worth all the hubbub. The shooting sequences were well-directed by Justin Lin, but there was still enough comedy to keep the episode feeling as organic and natural as possible within the confines of Greendale Community College.

14. 30 For 30, “Winning Time: Reggie Miller versus the New York Knicks”: I’m totally biased considering Reggie Miller was my boyhood hero, but this is one of the best sports docs I have ever seen. It’s full of life, tells the story in an interesting way and painfully reminds fans of both teams that despite all the greatness of the Pacers/Knicks series, neither ever won the title during the period.

13. Fringe, “Peter”: It was the episode that all Fringe fans had been waiting for, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t think it delivered on every level. Most fans had already figured out the reveals found within this episode, but the execution — and John Noble’s performance — were so good it didn’t even matter.

12. Mad Men, “The Gypsy and the Hobo”: It’s easy to forget about AMC’s first powerhouse drama series thanks to the long shadow now cast by its second, but this episode finally brought us the confrontation between Don and Betty that had been three years in the making. It was intense, emotional and a little bit uncomfortable, the perfect combustible combination.

11. Parks and Recreation, “Hunting Trip”: I said it in my season wrap, and I’ll say it again. The scene with Leslie giving her multiple excuses for why Ron was shot is comedy gold and perhaps my favorite moment in any comedy this season.

10. Community, “Contemporary American Poultry”: To have the gumption and balls to pull off an episode-long riff on “Goodfellas” without ever acknowledging it as such AND using said riff as a way to tell an honest story about the characters of Abed and Jeff is just. freaking. amazing.

9. House, “Broken”: This two-hour movie-like event set the stage for what could have been an excellent season of House. But even if the following episodes couldn’t live up to the greatness of this one, Hugh Laurie’s one-man powerhouse of a performance will never be forgotten.

8. Supernatural, “Swan Song”: I can’t recall another finale hitting me as hard as this one emotionally and “Swan Song” would have served as one of the best series finales in recent memory. Sadly, Supernatural is coming back and now has to top this totally satisfying effort.

7. Breaking Bad, “One Minute”: Breaking Bad has done a lot of crazy stuff in its short tenure on television, but at the time “One Minute” aired, I wasn’t sure they could top it. All the time spent with Hank early in the season completely paid off in one of the most exciting and tense sequences I’ve seen on television. Ever.

6. Glee, “Sectionals”: Despite a few minor issues, I thought the first half finale wrapped up all the important stories in a conclusive way while still introducing enough drive for the second half (though most of those things were mishandled later). It’s nice to remember the time when Coach Schuester wasn’t such a manwhore d-bag.

5. The Office, “Niagara”: Season six of The Office is an unmitigated disaster — even more so after going back and watching past seasons — but the one highlight will go down as a top moment in the series’ history. Though it suffers from the same padding issues that other one-hour Office eps do, it nails the beats between Jim and Pam perfectly.

4. Breaking Bad, “Fly”: The now-famous bottle episode is the perfect example of why Breaking Bad might just be the best drama series on television. Amid all the insanity, violence, drugs and scheming, the season comes to a halt in this episode that features two men in one room talking about the mistakes they’ve made. Wonderful stuff.

3. Friday Night Lights, “The Son”: I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the last time I cried this much watching one hour of television in my life. Zach Gilford is that good.

2. Mad Men, “Shut The Door. Have a Seat.”: After a season that focused heavily on the personal life of one Mr. Don Draper, the season three finale pushed his professional life to the forefront in an episode that was charming, fast-paced and really series-altering. Perhaps not the “best” episode of the season or series, but certainly the most fun.

1. Lost, “The End”: I couldn’t not. My favorite series of all-time ended in a way that I never imagined, but it was still hotly satisfying all the while. I never thought the final episode of Lost would make forget about all the questions I had because I always assumed it’d be answering them. However, in this case, I am so happy to be wrong.

Sound off in the comments below with your thoughts on my list and your favorites from this season!

4 thoughts on “The List: My 28 favorite episodes from the 2009-10 season

  1. I’d be willing to say that season five of HIMYM was uneven, but to call it a toal disaster is overly harsh, I think. It without a doubt had some lowpoints (“Hooked”, “Of Course”, “Last Cigarrette Ever”, and most of the early episodes where Barney and Robin were together), it also had a couple episodes that were among the series best.
    Slapsgiving 2 was funny at times (Marshall and the turkey, for example), and I do love the continuation of the Slap Bet storyline, but to me, that episode felt like a bit of a waste and was made for the soul purpose of the admittedly funny title. However, to use two of the five slaps on Thanksgiving epsiodes seemd out of proportion. I have to think the final slap will happen very near the end of the series, and I wanted one more slap that came out of nowhere, like the the second one. Instead, we;ve had two straight slaps that we knew were coming months in advance, and that happened in very similar episodes. I was never able to get over that, and definetly do not think it was the season’s best episode.

    I would have to go with Perfect Week. The show is generally funniest when it is Barney-centric, and this was a prime example. The baseball jokes were well-placed and well-paced, Jim Nantz gave one of the funniest guest performances I’ve ever seen, and the pitcher-catcher conversation between Barney and Ted was oine of my all-time favorite moments in the show.

    Honorable Mention: The Playbook, Rabbit or Duck, Duel Citizenship, The Window

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    1. Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion, but I have to disagree strongly. There were a number of moments in S5 that will be near the series’ best, but I don’t think many episodes that will. I can go with you on your argument about knowing when the slaps were coming, but that doesn’t make it any less funny for me.

      It’s interesting that you mention “Perfect Week” and “Playbook,” because they are two Barney-heavy episodes that more or less ruined all the work season four did to build Barney up into someone that is, you know, a person. While both of those episodes are funny in a vacuum, I hate what they mean in the sense that the writers had a beautiful opportunity with Barney and Robin and simply got bored with it just because they prefer to see Barney act the way he does in those two episodes. I’d rather have a little character development. Just a little!

      And again, I noted that these weren’t the “best” episodes, just my personal favorite. And “Slapsgiving” was the only HIMYM episode this season that I actually wanted to watch again right after the original airing.

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      1. The Barney and Robin dynamic just didn’t work, and I think the writers realized that, and got out of that jam before it screwed up the series. I glad they ended it as soon as they did. I don’t think they’ve neccesarily ruined the S4 development. Even during that, when Barney showed his feelings for Robin, he still continued his womanizing ways (The Naked Man, for example). There is nothing to fully disprove that he hasn’t changed as a person. There might be more to some of the ideas in Twin Beds than we were originally led to believe. Basically, I feel like there have probably been some sublte hints at what’s to come for Barney that we have intentionally been led to overlook because of episodes like Perfect Week. I think next season will be a Barney and Ted-centric season, with each taking big, somewhat parellel, steps forward, just as this season was largely centered on Robin more than anyone else (the weakest character of the five, and perhaps the reason for the season’s uneveness).

        And fair enough on the “favorite vs. best” note. I sort of overlooked that. “Perfect Week” was my favoite episode of the season, but I’ll admit it probably was not the best. I’m not sure what was, though.

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  2. No episodes from the latter half of 24? I’ll have to go back and watch all the episodes of 30 Rock from this season because although there were fewer memorable ones, I’d still say there were a bunch that simply made me laugh. A lot.

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