We'll just come right out and say it: No TV show feels complete without at least one flashback episode. Even though it often feels like we already know these characters better than they know themselves, it's so amusing to get a glimpse of what they were like before the pilot. Sure, they may have briefly mentioned old memories or told stories about their past in a couple of scenes, but it's just not the same as getting to watch their stories unfold firsthand — complete with the outdated hairstyles and weird outfits that we once thought were cool.
These flashbacks are always a treat because they do more than just fill plot holes. They give us a deeper look at the characters we've grown to love by revealing past relationships, childhood traumas, and other life-changing events that helped mold them into who they are. They also reveal surprising new connections, offer clarity when it comes to characters' motives, and even address questions that have been left unanswered for way too long (like when we finally found out what happened to that elevator on The Big Bang Theory!). These flashbacks can range from a ten-second cut to a five-minute memory, but we've found that the most meaningful ones extend for an entire episode (FYI, we're not talking about recycled scenes from previous seasons. We're talking legit, never-before-seen footage that may or may not feature at least one hideous wig).
If you think you've got a super embarrassing story about losing your virginity, trust us when we say that the cringe-worthy stories from this episode will make you think again. After Jess admits that Teddy took her virginity, it inspires the others to have a contest to see who has the most embarrassing first-time story.
Jess starts with her first failed attempts, which actually involved trying to hook up with a guy in a kids' playground and getting stuck half-naked in a tiny castle (the guy realized that he's gay and there was a dead guy there with them, FYI). But the winner, of course, was poor Schmidt, who used so much lubricant that he blinded his partner and slipped everywhere... with Nick in the room. It's worth noting, though, that this episode also marks the first time that Jess and Nick slept together. So of course, this one holds a special place in our hearts.
On this episode, Buffy tries to get Spike to reveal how he killed two slayers. And as a result, we get to see Spike's backstory unfold as he remembers the time when he first met Drusilla, Angel, and Darla. In 1880, before he turned, he was actually a calm and soft-spoken poet with darker hair and little confidence. But he was picked on by everyone, including his love interest Cecily. Not long after she rejected him, he met and was sired by Drusilla (which, yes, is a continuity error because he once called Angel his sire).
When he becomes a vampire, he starts to go by "Spike" and he embraces his new nature. In fact, he loves it so much that he seeks out violence and goes after Slayers to prove his strength. As for how he managed to defeat two of them, he claimed: "Every Slayer has a death wish." Fast-forward to the present day, where he openly confesses his feelings for Buffy and gets rejected in the same hurtful way that Cecily did. This time, he plans to kill a third Slayer, but we're reminded once again that this vampire has a heart because when he sees Buffy in tears, he stops himself and comforts her instead. Despite his wild antics, there was always a little trace of William left in him.
Well, we can't include the Buffy flashback episode without mentioning its epic counterpart, "Darla." As Darla suffers a mental breakdown in the present day, her flashback begins in 1609, when she was a human sex worker dying of syphilis. While on her deathbed, she gets a visit from someone who goes by "The Master" and he saves her by turning her into a vampire. By 1760, she's met and fallen in love with Angel, whom she ends up choosing over the Master. But sadly for her, she doesn't get her happily ever after.
Darla's arc didn't tug at our heartstrings like Spike's did, especially since she's a soulless and evil being who tried to push Angel to the dark side. Still, it was intriguing to see her backstory (particularly her history with Angel). It was also nice to see The Master from Buffy season one again.
This was definitely one of the show's more memorable and heartwarming episodes. In 1985, when Will was still in the closet and attending Columbia with Grace, the two were a couple. And on one particular Thanksgiving, they were planning on having sex. But when Grace snuck into Will's room to do the deed in her parents' house, he panicked and said they should wait for the right time. To make matters even more awkward, he accidentally proposed to Grace and she said yes. It turned out to be the push that Will needed to finally come out to her. Plus, who could forget Karen and her past three lovers that she turned down at the time - including former tennis player Martina Navratilova!
When Khadijah wins an award for her work at Flavor magazine, her friends think back to the days when her publication was still in its beginning stages. At the time, Kyle had an afro, Overton still had hair on his head, and Max and Regine actually lived under the same roof. Khadijah's cousin Synclaire also moved into town from Minnesota with her life-sized troll doll and she met Overton for the first time (who was instantly smitten). She came pretty close to being kicked out, but after hitting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with her car and landing Khadijah her very first cover story for Flavor, that all changed. To say that they've come a long way feels like an understatement!
As Martin struggled to come up with new ideas for his radio show, Gina gave him the brilliant idea of discussing how they first met. There was one problem, though: Both of them seem to remember things very differently and in their respective versions, they're clearly self-promoting. Gina suggests that Martin was a meek and helpless guy trying to win her over, while Martin claims that he wowed an entire audience (including Gina) with his saxophone playing.
Thankfully, their friend Tommy was also there and he recounted the true story. Martin tried to show off to his friends by hitting on Gina (because, of course, ladies love it when you eat things off their plate to "save them extra calories"). But when she brushed him off, he completely embarrassed himself trying to get her number. It wasn't so surprising to see that Martin was just as melodramatic and bold back in the day, but the way that he and Gina met definitely set the tone for the rest of their relationship.
When Rachel stumbles upon an old prom video, she and the rest of the group decide to watch it together. And what we see is a much heavier Monica and her BFF Rachel, whose nose looks bigger than usual. When Rachel's date fails to show up, Ross's mom talks him into taking Rachel to the prom himself. But after he gets all dressed up, her date arrives late and they leave without him. It was heartbreaking to see the look on Ross's face when he realized that he wouldn't get to take Rachel. But in the present-day, as Rachel watched, she was so moved that she went and kissed Ross. It turned out that he always had feelings for her and it gave us all the feels.
This episode gave the line "Don't tell me what I can't do!" a whole new meaning, didn't it? Though technically, every Lost episode is kind of a flashback ep. Way before John Locke became a confident man of faith, he was a crippled outsider who got paralyzed from the waist down because of a ruthless father. To add insult to injury, his dad conned him into giving up a kidney, he lost his girlfriend, and he got denied after trying to join the walkabout tour because of his disability. This backstory helped put so much into perspective, but perhaps the biggest highlight was the flashback where John wakes up on the beach and wiggles his toes. His reaction was priceless!
Whoever wrote this episode deserves an award for blending dark themes and holiday cheer so perfectly. As the Winchester brothers try to "celebrate" Christmas, they have to deal with two dangerous pagan gods. When the boys continue to track them down, Sam recalls a few moments from his childhood with Dean. And not surprisingly, Dean was just as protective of his little brother who always looked up to him. However, there was a shift in Sam after he learned that his dad and brother weren't being honest with him.
That tension, along with his newfound knowledge about monsters being real, had such a huge impact on Sam life and it's still noticeable in the present day. With Dean celebrating his last Christmas before he dies and goes to Hell, Sam is forced yet again to accept something he can't really control. But on a brighter note, he makes an effort to give Dean the kind of Christmas he'd always tried to give Sam as a kid. It's so touching how it all came full circle!
As Christopher's new fiancé, Sherry, is giving birth to her child, Lorelai gets nostalgic and thinks back to the time when she had their first child, Rory. The episode takes us back to the 16-year-old Lorelai, who was just as sarcastic and witty back then. Her parents (especially Emily) seem a bit uptight and strict (telling your daughter to go run around the block to lose a few pounds and fit into a dress is definitely going overboard). So when Lorelai decides to leave home after learning about her pregnancy, a part of us can understand why.
However, if this flashback has revealed anything, it's that Emily and Richard aren't actually as awful as Lorelai made them out to be. They were far from perfect, but they were still caring and loving parents who wanted what was best for their little girl. It's why we were so crushed when we saw the look on Emily's face as she read Lorelai's letter stating her daughter and granddaughter were gone for good. But it was quite refreshing to see the whole story for ourselves, rather than to hear it from the single mom who clearly still harbors some resentment towards her 'rents for how it all went down.
When Leonard and Sheldon get into a huge argument over setting their thermostat, Leonard goes over to Penny's and asks to sleep on her couch. When she mentions that he's nuts for putting up with Sheldon all the time, he goes back to the story of how they first met and explains why he stayed. At one point, not too long after he moved in, he was dating Joyce Kim. Sheldon actually kicked her out of the apartment on one occasion, which seemed awful at first. But then he discovered that Joyce was actually a North Korean spy trying to seduce Leonard for information about his classified project.
The second part of his story, however, was even better because he finally revealed how that elevator broke down. Leonard tried to mix some rocket fuel for the rocket that Howard built (who, BTW, had a 'fro!). But then Sheldon noticed that Leonard made an error and the fuel started smoking. In a panic, both of them put it in the elevator to confine it, but Sheldon, knowing that it would explode in seconds, got Leonard out of the elevator and closed it before it happened. He wound up saving Leonard's life and didn't even tell the landlord what really went down. These definitely sound like legit reasons to put up with Sheldon.
We know, we know - much of what plays out in this episode is stuff that we already knew by that point. Some fans and critics have even argued that "Legacy" was unnecessary and a huge let-down. But as for us, we actually enjoyed seeing Emily as the younger Amanda Clarke, as well the birth of her amazing friendship with Nolan. We still can't get over Jack's hair or the fact that Nolan's wardrobe lacked brighter colors and blazers, but it was amazing to see how far Emily had come and how much her personality changed (kudos to Emily VanCamp on her performance!). It's also worth mentioning that the episode had a pretty epic flashback within a flashback that featured Victoria and David's first encounter, which would soon lead to their affair.
During this episode, Peter and Neal take a walk down memory lane after they discover that Vincent was responsible for Kate's death. Peter needs all the info he can get in order to catch him, and so Neal reveals how he became an expert con artist and connected with Vincent along the way. We go back eight years, to a time when Pete had a weird mustache and Neal actually rocked casual clothes and tousled hair. But guys, this doesn't even compare to Mozzie's blonde hair and goatee.
Mozzie and Neal first meet over a card game, where Neal actually winds up conning the hustler. And Mozzie is so impressed that he wants to partner up with Neal for the ultimate con, which would target billionaire Vincent Adler. The plan involved Neal getting in Vincent's good graces, and this was when he met and fell for Vincent's assistant, Kate. As for Peter, he was a newbie FBI agent at the time and he'd been trying to catch Neal after he landed the case. We're betting he'd have never guessed that he would become close friends with Neal.
Rarely did we ever see episodes that focused solely on the backstory of one character, but "Company Man," which put the spotlight on Mr. Bennet, was a refreshing look at one of the most interesting and complex characters. As the Bennet family gets held hostage, we see flashbacks that reveal quite a bit about Mr. Bennet's character and his mysterious job.
We learn that he actually worked with Hiro's dad for the Company and that he and Claude were once partners. On the surface level, it always seemed like Mr. Bennet valued his work above all else. But it's soon revealed that his true loyalties lie with his family — even though he hasn't always succeeded at showing it. It's why he risked his own life to protect his daughter, Claire.
Those awesome flashbacks gave us insight on how Dr. House got that limp and how he was with his ex-girlfriend, Stacy. As he gives his lecture on diagnostics in the present day, he presents three different cases where a patient is complaining about pain. And in the process, we actually get flashbacks of a time when House had severe pain in his leg and diagnosed himself with muscle death.
At the time, both Stacy and Dr. Cuddy encouraged House to amputate his leg, but he refused. So when he went into cardiac arrest and got put into a chemically induced coma, Stacy went against House's wishes and decided to remove the dead tissue from his leg without amputating it. As he shared all this, his audience grew even larger, including both students and doctors. To be quite honest, we would've joined the class ourselves.
After watching a scary movie, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche sat around their kitchen table to honor their longtime tradition of sharing a cheesecake. But even better, as they ate, they reminisced the time when that tradition was born and how they all first met. Rose and Blanche first met in a supermarket where later Dorothy and her mom went in for an interview. They all got accepted as new roommates, but things seemed to be going downhill from there because they weren't getting along.
After the girls have one of their most heated arguments, Rose launches into one of her tales about St. Olaf, which immediately breaks the tension and causes everyone to laugh. One of them happened to be holding cheesecake at the time. They realize that being roommates might not be so bad after all. Such an adorable backstory!
It's the episode that finally revealed how Barney got his "Suit Up!" catchphrase. As he and the gang participate in Game Night, Lily mentions that she ran into Barney's first love, Shannon. Though he initially denies even knowing her, he eventually opens out about his past. But it's only after the entire group shares their embarrassing stories when he spills the details about his relationship and how it changed him.
It turns out that the clean-shaven womanizer used to be a hippie with a ponytail. When he dated Shannon, he was a loyal boyfriend who wore his heart on his sleeve. And apparently, the two had plans to join the Peace Corps and go to Nicaragua. But that all changed when Shannon cheated on him with a wealthier guy who was dressed in a fancy business suit. That alone - and a random "Suit Up!" flyer - actually caused him to re-evaluate his life. So he got rid of the ponytail and facial hair and opted for suits. It's no surprise that in the present day, he goes straight back to Shannon and hooks up with her.
On this epic flashback episode, Walter reveals that his son Peter is from an alternate universe and explains what happened to his real son. It all started back in 1985 when Walter was in his 30s and theorizing about parallel universes. He collaborated with William and invented a device that allowed them to observe the other world. But even though it was primarily for military officials, Walter used it to try and find a cure for his son's disease.
While spying on his doppelgänger, "Walternate," (who also happened to be working on a cure for alternate Peter), Walter's real son died from the genetic disease. But then Walternate wound up making a true cure, which eventually led to Walter traveling to that parallel universe and stealing the other Peter. This entire episode was pretty eye-opening, but it was especially fascinating to see what Walter was like in the '80s.
This episode stands out as one of the best because it's so beautifully written and it showed such a relatable and meaningful storyline. Here, we saw a much younger Beth and how she fell in love with ballet. While her father was very supportive and hopeful, her mother Carol (portrayed by Phylicia Rashad, whose performance was perfection, by the way) was much more strict and practical. Unfortunately, Beth wasn't good enough to be the best in her class, and so her parents decided to put her on a different path. Still, her late father kept her inspired with the sweetest story about the first time she danced in Jamaica. She was only a toddler, or as Abe described her: "Our little island girl, who danced before she walked."
The flashbacks definitely helped explain why Beth wanted to switch careers and become a dance teacher. We're a bit skeptical, though, seeing as to how she hasn't danced in so many years./p>
When season five premiered, it jumped ahead four years after the end of season four, meaning we missed out on a lot before Lucas published his best-seller and started dating Lindsey. Thankfully, though, on season five, we got to see what really happened between him and Peyton (and Brooke). After he proposed to Peyton, she basically turned him down and suggested that they wait. But this wasn't the answer he was hoping to hear, so he ended things for good. The craziest part, though, is that Lucas and Brooke almost hooked up again when they hung out later on in New York.
The two pretended to be engaged so they could get free drinks at restaurants all night, so of course, they got completely wasted. But when Brooke tried to drop Lucas off and catch a cab home, he asked her to stay and even kissed her. Brooke didn't give in that easily, though. Instead, she pulled away and advised Lucas to focus his energy on something productive to help get his mind off Peyton. We are so proud of how she matured!