The continuing story Ted is telling his kids about how he met their mother picks up in 2020, when his gang of friends were largely the same as at Robin and Barney's wedding, except... Ted and their mother still have not made it to the altar, despite both of the kids already having been born, the delay due to timing issues and wedding priorities. Marshall finally receives that much wanted call telling him that he has been offered a judgeship. It's a few years after Robin and Barney's divorce, with Barney having returned to his carousing ways. A major event that occurred in carrying out the new plays in his playbook ended up having what would be the most profound change in his mentality. The "except" part concerns Robin, who is now largely out of their lives, despite the six of them vowing that they would be there for each other for all the big events. Ted looks back once again to his initial meeting with their mother and why it seemed like destiny to be with her, before he concludes the story with what he believes is its moral. His kids, however, believe there is another underlying reason why he told them the story, a reason he may not even fully realize yet.
Ted and Tracey finally get married, where the gang, who had separated, were reunited. Barney attempt to get a perfect month, ending in a disaster. But could it be just what he needed? Lily and Marshall, with three kids, decide to move out of New York City.
As the years go on, changes cause the group to drift apart, but they reunite one more time for Ted's wedding. Meanwhile, a monumental event causes Barney to finally change his ways.
- 2018: Back at MacLaren's, Barney is excited that he, Ted and Lily are hanging out again -- they're waiting for Marshall. He's screaming with excitement, declaring the earliest he's going to allow any of them to go home is 2 a.m. Lily says 10 p.m., Ted -- who is not wearing a wedding ring and says if he leaves now he could go put the kids to bed -- says 9:45. Barney shouts, "The gang is back!" Lily says they're all there except for Robin. Barney says anytime someone talks about something sad, they're going to stay out another hour. Ted says they're just hanging out and it's not a big moment. But Marshall shows up and announces that he got a call that a judge in Queens is retiring, so he's going to be a judge.
It gets to 1:45 a.m. and Ted agrees that the night was "legendary," as Barney predicted. Ted wants to go get sleep before the kids wake him up in less than four and a half hours. Marshall rules that Ted stays. Barney says they're family, and will stay together, but he starts to chase a woman half his age and Lily stops him and asks if he's changed even a little. Barney says that even if it seemed like he was capable of "going the distance, but if it wasn't going to happen with Robin, then it's not going to happen with anyone."
He goes on to say he's not going to be "a guy who meets a girl and, from the first time I see her is, just" he gets up and mockingly says to a random woman at the bar, "'You are the love of my life. Everything I have, and everything I am is yours. Forever.'"
"Really?" the woman asks? Barney says no, he's just making a point. Barney says that's just not him and asks if he can just be who he is. Marshall, or "Judge Fudge," is asked for a ruling.
"I'll allow it," he says.
2019: Marshall, Lily, The Mother and Ted are at Robots vs. Wrestlers when Marshall asks Ted and The Mother if they're ever going to tie the knot. Ted says they'll get around to it and tease each other about who wants a big wedding. Barney shows up and says this is a day of tragedy. He tells a sad story. He reminds them of his "perfect week" -- seven girls in seven nights -- then tells them he decided to try for a "perfect month." He put together a brand new playbook, with new plays. He got the perfect month, but Girl Number 31 is pregnant.
Jim Nantz shows up, but has no advice for Barney, telling him he's on his own this time. Barney says he's too old. He was about to enter his "Clooney Years." He says his life is over.
2020: Ted is showing his young daughter Penny the Goliath National Bank building when Robin shows up unexpectedly and says hi. She says her job keeps her busy and Ted says she's also pretty famous. A bus passes by with Robin's face on an ad for "The World" on her news network. Penny tells her, "I like you, bus lady." Robin says she likes her, too, but asks her never to call her that again. Lily says Robin is missing yet another big moment -- they're in the waiting room for Barney's baby to be born. A nurse comes out and congratulates Barney, who said Number 31 wouldn't let him into the delivery room. He thinks the nurse is congratulating him because the blood work came back and he's actually not the father, then wishes everyone a "Happy Not-a-Father's Day!" But she tells him he has a baby girl and invites him to go see her. Barney goes to the nursery and meets his daughter, Ellie.
He holds the baby and looks at her face, stunned, and says, "Your are the love of my life. Everything I have, and everything I am is yours. Forever." He kisses the baby on the forehead.
Later, we see Ted in his house with The Mother, and he asks her to give him her engagement ring back. He says he has to re-propose because five years has passed since the first proposal. He asks her if she'll marry him on Thursday. She says yes, and they kiss.
It's Ted's wedding day. At the bar, "After only seven years and two kids," Ted asks Lily, Marshall and Barney if he's rushing into this. Barney lays his head on the table. He's so tired. The baby isn't sleeping. Ted says they're staying out until 3 a.m. and Barney shouts, "9:45!" Lily tells Barney she's proud of him, because now that he's a dad it's like he's a totally different person. Just then, he sees two hot young girls walk by and follows them to the bar. They ask him if he wants to do some shots.
"Before lunch on the a Thursday," Barney asks. "It's like you're trying to make bad decisions!" He tells them to go home, put on some decent clothes and take a good look at their lives. "And call your parents, they're probably worried sick!"
Lily says she's officially seen everything -- but then Robin walks in.
Robin apologizes for having missed a couple of big moments and Lily gives her a hug, telling the guys, "Nobody let her out of your site!" Robin congratulates Barney on his kid. They hug. Robin hugs Marshall, too, who says he'll be running for state Supreme Court. Robin then goes to Ted and tells him that even though she RSVP'd no, "someone pretty persuasive talked me into it." Ted looks up at the door of the bar and The Mother walks in, holding a camera. She says she knows it's bad luck to see the bride in her dress, but Ted says it's worth it. They kiss and she says she wants to take a picture of the gang. The huddle around the booth and she captures the moment.
Marshall asks some "kids" in the next booth and tells them "all kinds of stuff" happened right in that very bar.
Lily makes a toast and starts crying almost immediately when she says she loves everyone there.
"Secondly, to Ted" she starts, before Ted asks her not to say it, but she does anyway, " Evelyn Mosby
" a man with more emotional endurance than anyone I know. It was a long, difficult road. Thank God we finally got here."
Ted then tells us and the kids Lily was right and the road was long and difficult, but he's glad it was because if he hadn't gone through hell to get there, "the lesson might not have been as clear." He says he knew he had to love their mother as much as he could for as long as he could. He carried the lesson with him through every fight they had and every other moment.
He says he carried it with him when she got sick.
"Even then, in what can only be called the worst of times, all I could do was thank God -- thank every god there is or ever was or will be, and the whole universe and anyone else I could possibly thank -- that I saw that beautiful girl on that train platform, and that I had the guts to stand up, walk over to her, tap her on the shoulder, open my mouth and speak."
Back on the train platform: Ted introduces himself an remembers that she's Cindy's ex-roommate, and The Mother knows him as "the professor," and tells him she was in his "Econ 305" class -- which he taught once because he was in the wrong classroom. He realizes the yellow umbrella they're standing under is his. He says it even has his initials, "T.M.: Ted Mosby."
"Yeah," she says, "look again, Ted Mosby. Those are my initials: Tracy McConnell."
But she remembers having lost her umbrella for a few years. She starts to say she went to this dance club, and Ted finishes her sentence, saying, "On St. Patrick's Day." And he tells her she left it there, and she repeats it. And he tells her she never thought she'd see it again, "And I never thought I'd see it again," she repeats.
"Funny how sometimes you just find things," she says. They keep talking and smiling.
2030: We see a graying Ted now sitting across from his kids, saying, "And that, kids, is how I met your mother."
"That's it?" his daughter asks, saying she isn't buying it. She decides to "look at the facts" and notes that he made them sit down and listen to this story about how he met their mom, "Yet, mom's hardly in the story.
"No, this is a story about how you're totally in love with Aunt Robin," she says, suggesting that he is thinking about asking her out and wants to know if they're OK with it.
Ted rejects the idea, starting to say, "The point of the story is that"
And Penny cuts him off again, saying, "Is that you totally, totally, totally have the hots for Aunt Robin."
He denies it again, and she insists, "Yes, you do."
"You're grounded," Ted says, also grounding his son who says, "Wow, you are totally into Aunt Robin."
Ted says that even if he were interested in Robin in that way, he wouldn't do anything about it because he has them to think about.
"Dad, we love Aunt Robin," Penny says, adding with a smile, "C'mon, dad. Mom's been gone for six years now. It's time."
They tells him they want him to call Robin and ask her out on a date.
He picks up the phone, but hangs it up as an idea has popped into his head.
We next see Robin walking her five not-very-obedient dogs back into her apartment. Her buzzer goes off. The security camera in the TV isn't responding, so she goes and opens the window.
Looking down, she sees Ted standing there on the sidewalk and he holds up the blue French horn.