• Gina Denny

Episode 1.17 - Life Among the Gorillas

Updated: Jun 16

This episode starts on Marshall as a kid, reading a book about an anthropologist studying gorillas. Then he takes her seminar and she tells him that the world will be destroyed by the time Marshall is an adult, giving us some of his backstory for his environmentalism.


Back in 2006, Marshall is starting his corporate job and Ted gets another care package from Victoria.


They tell us that Marshall is working for Barney’s company, a huge evil conglomerate, full of jerky dude bros. It’s clear Marshall is uncomfortable, but he needs the money. Marshall comes home to Lily and describes the jerks at work: they make fun of his lunch, of Lily’s cute little note, and his devotion to her. Lily tells Marshall that she’d be okay if he quit, but Barney puts a ton of pressure on Marshall to stay. Marshall decides to stay at the job, even though he hates it. Barney gives Marshall some questionable advice (shocking) to conform to his surroundings. Marshall decides this is an anthropological experiment, even though Lily points out that it’s peer pressure.



So Marshall starts to act like a gorilla, which in this context means he has to pretend to be a jerky dude-bro. Barney gives him advice on how to do it, and Marshall gives Barney a high-five so hard that Barney’s arm hurts and Marshall’s shirt comes untucked. Then Marshall is telling a really douchey story and wins over the esteem of the douches at work, but ends up kind of hating himself for it. Marshall’s gorilla-behavior carries over to his home life and Lily hates it and they start fighting about it and Marshall asks Lily to come hang out with the dudes from work. She hates it and them and they make fun of Lily and Marshall’s relationship. The dudes have made a deal that Marshall will have a well-paying job after graduation, and it pisses Lily off.


Ted is sitting in the bar with Robin and tells her that he left Victoria a message stating that he had sent a care package to Germany. Robin is smitten, but still offers some really sound advice. Ted accidentally hurts her feelings by pointing out how ironic it is that his old crush is helping with his new crush. A couple days later, Ted tells Robin that his relationship with Victoria is slowly dying and Robin is kind of supportive but mostly she looks like a cat trying to catch a canary. Ted decides to visit Victoria in Germany, but then he gets an email from her that really, really sounds like she’s going to dump him. Victoria blows Ted off and he turns to Robin for advice and Robin is very pleased. (Victoria is in Berlin and Ted is expecting her to call at 11pm his time, which is 5am her time.)


Ted goes out to hang with Marshall and Barney and Lily and the dude bros and admits that he is ready to break up with Victoria. Marshall says, “Trying to hang onto something that’s already gone… sounds like environmental law” and realizes that he has something worth hanging on to, so he puts Lily’s feelings first and decides to be a dork instead of a dude bro. Ted realizes some things are worth preserving… and then Robin invites him over at 2am.


Marshall goes through a whole spectrum of emotions at karaoke. He talks himself into being a jerk, into staying at the job he hates, into taking care of Lily, into putting Lily’s needs before his own, and into ostracizing himself at work.


Ted is waffling and he gets presented with a big decision: Robin has invited him over in the middle of the night. Every viewer has an opinion about what should happen next, this is an episode that if you were watching it live, you probably screamed at the black screen that cut in as soon as Ted uttered the last line.


They both are deciding who they’re going to be. These decisions are big. We watch Marshall talk himself into making his choice; but the episode ends before Ted can make his decision.


Writing Prompt: Put your main character in a new, unfamiliar setting. Pretend you’re writing a fish-out-of-water story with them, and then show how they work to adapt to the setting. Not just survive, but actively become part of their setting. Track what traits stay and which ones have to go. Which parts of your character are more important than the others, more important to them than survival in this new environment?



Listen to the episode here

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