2.22 - Postpone
Updated: Jun 17
The wedding reception has finally arrived and while Ted and Robin are dancing, they discreetly mention, “Tomorrow, we can start telling people.”
Barney, of course, overhears this and wants to know what they’re going to tell people tomorrow. He is very chill about it and gives them their priva--
Barney needs to know what the secret is and he will stop at nothing to find out. Ted caves and starts telling the story, which flashes back to two weeks ago, when they walked into the apartment covered in spaghetti sauce and Lily didn’t have time to listen to their story.
The short version of this is: They broke up.
But Ted can’t tell a short version of a story to save his life, so this story takes forever to tell. And this is the principle we’re learning about this week: postponing a reveal, leaving tension unresolved until the last possible second.
Here are a few ways this episode achieved that:
Ted keeps getting interrupted. But the interruptions make sense in the setting they’re in. They’re at a wedding, so the videographer keeps coming over to get them to “give the new happy couple advice” and stuff. Ted and Barney and Robin are co-best men and maid of honor, so the couple keeps coming over to ask for help finding food. These interruptions match the setting and they line up with pre-established character traits/arcs.
Barney jumps to conclusions. Barney sees Robin drinking water and assumes she’s pregnant. Another interruption comes along right then, but the audience is right there with Barney, hoping to hear a confirmation or denial of the pregnancy, making those thirty seconds seem like an eternity.
There are multiple believable alternatives. They could be broken up. They could be pregnant. They could be moving to Argentina. They could be moving somewhere else. They could be moving in together. They could be getting married. All of them are presented at one point or another in the episode as possibilities, and any one of them would be a reasonable next step for the couple. None of these red herrings is out of line.
The truth is presented early and sidestepped. Early on (at 9:22, less than halfway into the episode), Barney guesses that they broke up, but Ted says, “Barney. The story isn’t over.” And Ted’s not lying. The story isn’t over, but … yeah. They broke up.
There are lots of reasons why you would want to spin something out like this. Lots of clean/sweet/whatever you want to call them romances rely on this tension, on not resolving or acting on those feelings until the very last possible second. Mysteries rely on red herrings and characters side-stepping the truth in order to keep the solution a … mystery… right until the end. If you’re super lucky, your publisher wants a sequel and you have to postpone the gratification of the big climax and resolution.
(sidenote: the title to this episode is genius - not only is it a play on the "something borrowed, something blue" quote that they started with the previous episode, but the blue french horn plays a big role, and everyone is blue and sad at the end)
Writing Prompt: Take one scene from your story where something pivotal happens (a first kiss, a breakup, a villainous reveal, a big conversation or confession, etc.). Interrupt that event as many times as possible, just to see how long you can postpone the pivotal moment.
Listen to the episode here