Episode 1.7 - Matchmaker
The theme of the episode is “there are some things science can’t explain” and I have to admit, it’s a pretty clever line to tie together two otherwise disparate storylines
Yes, there is the theme tying the two together, but what this episode really does is set up foils.
Marshall and Lily are believers.
Robin is a skeptic.
Ted is hopeful.
Barney is cynical.
This episode really revolves around two separate storylines: Marshall and Lily see a cockroach-mouse hybrid and are terrified of it, Robin doesn’t believe them. Barney and Ted go to visit a Matchmaker, where Barney doesn’t believe in her skills, but Ted does.
(fun side note: the matchmaker says there are eight fish in the sea for Ted, and while Ted has around 30 sexual partners over the course of this show, there are only eight women who have multi-episode arcs as his girlfriend)
In the end, Robin is the one who is convinced, but only because she sees the creature herself. Ted remains hopeful, even in the face of terrible news (and some jackassery of his own), but only after he has a very convincing conversation with the dermatologist that he had hoped the matchmaker would set him up with. She reminds him that this isn’t really about science and numbers, it’s about a feeling. Connection. He stays true to who he is, and so does Barney.
Barney is a foil for Ted through most of this series. We only believe that Ted is mature and responsible and a “good guy” because we see him contrasted with Barney.
So, let's talk about foils for a second. In storytelling, a "foil" is something that is used to contrast and compare against something else, usually to highlight the something else. It comes from an old jewelry-making term, in which jewelers would put foil on the back of a gemstone to make it more sparkly. A character's foil highlights his own traits.
Some more examples:
Gamora is a foil for Starlord - her serious, dispassionate nature amplifies his impulsivity and child-like nature.
Draco is a foil for Harry - they’re pure blood wizards from wealthy ancestral lines, but they chase after different things. Draco wants power and notoriety, Harry shrinks from the spotlight and wants safety and peace. Draco plays up his connections, Harry constantly forgets he even has them.
Rachel and Monica are foils - Monica could look like a hot mess, until you hold up early Rachel next to her; suddenly Monica looks like she’s got her life together
Boromir and Faramir are foils, but demonstrated separate from one another; Boromir’s failure doesn’t feel like a huge deal until it’s contrasted with Faramir’s eternal goodness.
Valjean and Javert are foils - one chooses to be lawful, the other chooses to be good, but somehow they’re always on opposite sides of any question.
Take one of the pairs we listed. Choose one of those characters to be your Main Character (even if they aren’t considered the main character of their story already). Then list all the qualities in the other character that foil this Main Character. So, if you’re looking at Rachel and Monica, list all the ways that Rachel’s traits emphasize Monica’s star status.
Here are the pairs again: Barney & Ted, Gamora & Starlord, Draco & Harry, Rachel & Monica, Boromir & Faramir, Valjean & Javert