• Gina Denny

2.19 - Presume

Updated: Jun 17

Let’s start with the b-plot, because it’s just flat-out funny. Robin is attending Lily’s bridal shower and buys her lingerie. Barney convinces her to upgrade it to a sex toy, neither of them knowing that this is more of a grandma-gives-you-a-cake-pan kind of bridal shower.

This is the kind of mistake anyone can make. Robin didn’t clarify what kind of bridal shower it was. We’ve all done something similar. Showing up to a Halloween party, thinking it’s a costume party. Showing up for a Christmas party, thinking ugly sweaters would be okay but it’s more of a cocktail event. This is a run of the mill, everyone makes this kind of mistake oopsie.

As Lily is opening presents, Robin panics and tries to have a telepathic conversation with Lily and it goes wrong. So, in a continuation of the panic, Robin swaps the cards on the packages, letting someone else take the blame for her sex toy gift. I do love how Future Ted gets Robin out of this illogical choice, just sort of hand-waving it away.

Lily finally gets to Robin’s gift, but it now has Grandma Lois’ tag on it. Grandma Lois is giving Lily an antique manual sewing machine and wants to make a little speech about it first. Her speech is full of double entendres that make Robin embarrassed and the audience laugh.

Lily opens it and is, rightfully, shocked and grossed out, thinking that her grandmother gave her a family heirloom sex toy and wants to teach her how to use it. Robin finally comes clean, and again, we relate to Robin. We would be just as embarrassed, if we were in her shoes.

But then, everyone reacts positively. They’ve all seen Sex and the City, they’ve all had robust sex lives, and it’s just not that embarrassing. By the end of the episode, we see that Lily is actually excited about this gift, so it turns out it was a good gift.

This is the easiest way to “redeem” mistakes: make them totally and completely relatable. We ALL could end up doing what Robin did, to a certain degree. And in the end, it wasn’t really a mistake at all.

Now the A-plot: The episode opens up with Ted saying that there will be no strippers at Marshall’s bachelor party and Barney insisting that there will be. Ted describes Barney’s ideal bachelor party and, frankly, it’s gross. They then have this funny bit where Ted tries to get Barney to agree to the no-strippers plan, but Barney keeps winking every time he agrees.

Step one in the redemption arc: soften the villainy. Barney is being gross and selfish, but he’s also being funny and charismatic.

Then Future Ted describes the main characters at “every” bachelor party: the groom, the best man, the guy who talks in cliches (Stuart, from season 1), the guy who disappears at the beginning of the night (Brad, from earlier this season), and Barney. There’s always a Barney. Barney continues to be gross.

Step two: make other people look bad, too. Stuart is being a wet blanket, Brad is being kinda immature. Barney is still gross, but this is a chance for the writers to say, “Hey. Everyone has flaws, right?”

When we come back to the bachelor party, Ted informs Barney that they are not, in fact, going to Atlantic City as Barney thought, but they are going to Foxwoods, CT. Ted lays out the details of the party and it sounds like a good night: a boxing match, a fancy hotel suite, a casino, super expensive steaks, etc. Turns out Barney knew about the switch, and the stripper is waiting for them in their hotel suite (TV magic, none of that makes any sense).

Step three: Barney is somehow two steps ahead of Ted, meaning he's exceedingly clever. The writers have made Barney gross and unappealing in a lot of ways, but here they dial up yet another of his charms. While one trait is dialed way down, they dial up the others to compensate for it.

The stripper’s performance seems exceedingly elaborate, she hurts herself, and demands that they take her to the hospital (again, this is TV nonsense; they should call her an ambulance and be done with it). Barney tries to claim he’s the best man again, calls the stripper a hooker, and gets on everyone’s nerves.

Step four: re-emphasize the villain’s villainy. This is NOT your run-of-the-mill, “everyone makes mistakes” oopsie. This is Barney’s fault, and it is a string of problems that could only have been caused by Barney’s very specific idiocy.

The stripper comes out of the hospital, announcing that her ankle is broken. Barney assumes that the show will go on, even though Marshall tries to give Treasure a break. She tells them why she’s a stripper and insists on doing the show.

Step five: put someone on the villain’s side. Listen. Barney is WRONG. But someone agrees with him? Okay?

Down at their fancy steak dinner, Barney can’t remember if he put out his cigar and dinner is interrupted by a fire in their hotel suite that gets them all kicked out.

Everyone meets up back at the bar and Marshall finally gets mad at Barney for ruining the night. He’s so mad that he doesn’t think he’s even inviting Barney to the wedding at all.

Step six: someone stands up to the villain and maybe takes it too far. Maybe. Barney’s been wrong all night long, but not even being allowed at the wedding? HARSH. The audience suddenly feels like maybe Barney’s being kicked around. Yeah, he’s messed up a lot, but he was funny and charismatic, he was clever, the stripper agreed with him, other people were being jerks, too. Why should he be singled out? Our hearts soften a tiny bit.

Then Lily comes in with the twist. She starts to reveal something about Barney and Barney tells her not to, but she plunges ahead. Over the summer, while Marshall and Lily were broken up, Barney flew out to San Francisco to tell Lily to go back to New York. He’s the reason they get back together and that he was stealing girls from Marshall in order to keep them together.

Step seven: Reveal that something the villain was doing has been completely misinterpreted. Absolutely taken out of context. Barney stealing Marshall’s dates and leaving when the conversation is a downer = Bad Friend. Barney preventing Marshall from sleeping with other women and convincing Lily to come home = Romantic Hero.

And then Ted says that Barney is really the best man.

Barney’s not redeemed for too long, though, because the funny wink thing from earlier in the episode comes around and is now kind of a jerk move. The episodic story lives on.

Writing Prompt: Fan fic time! Write a short story that redeems a villain/antagonist in one of your favorite stories.

Listen to the episode here

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