• Gina Denny

2.18 - Portend

Updated: Jun 17

Ted and Robin are following through on their promise to move in together. Barney tries to convince them not to do it by putting together a quiz and then issuing Ted a series of challenges to overcome in order to win back his stuff (that Barney stole).

As Ted is settling in at Robin’s apartment, it becomes clear that Robin doesn’t want to make room for Ted or his stuff. They live differently, and neither of them is willing to change. They have different political opinions, and they aren't totally ready to have those conversations.

Barney is inordinately upset about Ted moving in with Robin, and is surprised by how beautiful Robin is without makeup on. He’s angry about Ted calling Robin in the middle of the evening. But in the end, Ted says he’s actually having fun with Barney. In the end, Barney also points out that Ted is having too much fun and that Ted referred to the apartment as “Robin’s” instead of “our place” or “home”.

Lily and Marshall are excited to have the apartment to themselves, but find it not as awesome as they hoped. Sitting naked isn’t that fun, having loud sex on the couch turns out to be awkward. Turns out they’re also not great at adulting without their Ravenclaw around.

All of this is foreshadowing future events:

- Ted and Robin are beginning their downward spiral. This moving day is the pressure point on their relationship, the squeeze that spells the end of things for them.

- Barney has a crush on Robin. He doesn’t fully realize it yet, but he can’t stand her being committed to someone else.

- Marshall and Lily aren’t totally settled in as adults; Marshall still has to graduate, has to start his career, Lily has only been back for six months or so. They need to spend some energy building themselves as a couple, not as part of a college relationship.

- Barney offers to rent the extra room, foreshadowing the rotating residency of that room

How do they pull this off, though?

Everything in this episode is a natural extension of what has come before it. Ted and Robin have been dating for nine months, this is not a crazy time for them to move in together. They don’t just decide not to move in together because of Barney. They have some surprising conversations that only arise out of trying to combine your life with another person’s.

Other totally natural things for their relationship to do at this point:

  • They could have rented a new place together

  • They could have moved into Ted’s, kicking Marshall and Lily out

  • They could get engaged

  • They could have been excited about moving in together

  • They could have had some fights, but ultimately resolved their problems.

A problem I often hear from writers is that “my characters have taken on a life of their own, I can’t control them!”

But you CAN control them. If Ted and Robin had moved in together, their inevitable break up wouldn’t have felt as natural. Or would have been more complicated to work out, story-wise.

This episode is the hinge point, not the episode where they break up. This episode needs to happen this way in order to foreshadow the coming resolution.

If you’ve gotten to the end of the story, and you don’t feel like you’ve earned it, you need to back up. It usually means that at one of your hinge points, you made the wrong choice. If you’re not sure what you want the end to be, try a couple different paths. Not just plotting, but actually writing out the dialog and the blocking and see how it feels.

If you’ve got a bunch of story written, and you know where you want it to go, but you feel like you can’t get there, it’s time to back up. Find a hinge point and change course.

Twist endings sound fun, but they’re really a lot more fun when your audience feels like they know what’s coming, or they at least know something’s coming.

Writing Prompt: Take a small thing and extrapolate it to become something more important. “Barney threw his Letterman-list card, causing the waitress to slip and drop a glass. We didn’t think it was that big of a deal until…”

Listen to the episode here

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