Episode 2.4 - Personalities
Updated: Jun 17
At the opening of this episode, Ted is telling the guys and Robin is telling Lily that they’ve had their first big fight as a couple. Ted tells the guys that it’s related to his work. At work, he’s required to work on a skyscraper project and the skyscraper is egregiously phallic. Robin tells Lily the fight didn’t end because she literally just walked away from it.
The episode backs up a little bit and shows the start of the fight. Robin is being condescending and refuses to listen. Then she manages to insult “Field of Dreams” and the guys take this as the worst insult of all. The stunned silences from all the guys, edited in without any other context, is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Robin has a big emotional breakthrough where she realizes she’s not a good girlfriend and she needs to learn how to listen. Meanwhile, Ted is crying about Field of Dreams.
Marshall says “Forget Robin, you’re hanging with us tonight” and that he’s taking the guys to a law school party. Barney is gonna go to Foxy Boxing instead, and Ted is going to go do his boring job. Barney insists that women think architects are hot. Ted says he can’t imagine “the architect thing” working on anyone, ever.
Barney and Marshall leave and Ted walks up to a beautiful woman and asks her, “What would you say if a guy told you he was an architect?” She responds with, “Architects are hot. How do you think Mike Brady scored a babe like Carol?” and the scene fades out.
Robin and Lily enter the bar - we aren’t given a specific on the timeframes here, but they’re looking for Ted so Robin can apologize. Robin wonders out loud, “I wonder where Ted went” and the friend of the beautiful woman asks, “Ted Mosby? The architect?” and Robin is like, “Uh… yeah. Actually…” The woman proceeds to tell Robin that Ted is SO COOL and that he said a bunch of stuff that barely sounds like Ted, but then he left with the beautiful woman from earlier.
Robin is happy about this - she calls it a win-win. Ted got to vent and maybe he’ll come home to her later tonight so she can have the fun part of a relationship without all the work. She’s not worried because she’s sure the girl is fat (whomp.) but the friend pipes up with, “She’s a kickboxing instructor. Her ass looks better than my face.” so now Robin is gonna swing by Marshall’s law school party to check in on Ted and the kickboxing woman.
At the law school party, some dude is wearing just his undies and a belt made of beer bottles. Future!Ted jokes that this guy is now a Supreme Court Justice. This joke was funnier before Brett Kavanaugh was a household name. Joe Manganiello guest stars as a 3L who tells Robin that Ted was here earlier. There’s another flashback scene in which Ted says a lot of things that don’t sound a lot like Ted.
Someone asks Marshall where Lily is, Marshall starts to share his heartbreak, but the 3Ls all start talking shop.
Robin asks Brad (Joe Manganiello’s character) if he knows where Ted went and there’s another small flashback, where the kickboxing woman invites Ted to a club and Ted responds in a very non-Ted-ish kind of way. Robin finally agrees that this is bad and that she’s gonna suck it up and listen to Ted’s stupid stories and she and Lily rush out to the dance club while Robin is calling Ted. Ted doesn’t answer but she calls Marshall and Marshall says “Ted’s not here, he’s working.” and Robin now believes Ted is cheating on her.
They arrive at the club - which is the same club front from last season, and it’s the same bouncer that kept Robin out of Okay, Awesome. The bouncer says Ted was here, and he overheard Ted flirting with the kickboxing woman (whom he knows from book club, so it’s not so weird that he takes notice of this conversation) and offering to give her a piggyback ride home.
Now, for anyone who hasn’t caught up with what’s happening, Marshall comes out of the club and says in a voice that is full of irony, “You proved that the architect thing works. Come on. Aren’t you worried that a certain somebody is going to find out you’re doing this, this isn’t you.” Robin gives her clutch to the bouncer as a bribe for the kickboxing woman’s address. The bouncer gives her up.
Robin and Lily head over to kick the woman’s ass, forgetting that she’s a kickboxing instructor. The apartment is unlocked, so they decide to sneak in and Robin has an epiphany. “I took the nicest guy in the world and turned him into a cheater.”
They sneak in, hear a shower running, and find…
Barney. He says Ted is at work and then he tells Robin how he got here. The episode flashes back to the bar, where Barney interrupts the conversation with the kickboxing woman and her friend. Then it shows Barney having all the cheesy conversations that “Ted” had all night and Marshall confronting him.
Robin hates feeling jealous and crazy. She walks around, thinking how much easier it is to be alone and not be vulnerable. So she gets donuts and coffee for Ted while he’s working late. She says she wants to hear about his job, “I love being the person you bitch to.” Ted shows her the building they’re working on, and she confirms the phallic nature of the building, but then Ted shows her the sketch of the building he designed. He tells his kids that this is the first time he’s ever shared his work with someone, and the audience learns that Ted’s design somehow becomes the building that gets erected in Spokane.
More foreshadowing: Not like it’ll ever come to anything. I dunno… it might come to something.
Most of this episode makes NO SENSE, but the audience is hooked because the writers gave you JUST ENOUGH to think this crazy set of events could happen. All through this episode, Ted behaves in very, very, very un-Ted-like ways. If you’re a regular watcher of the show, you watch the whole time, thinking, “how can this be happening, how can Ted be making this mistake???” but all along, Ted’s behavior is saying a bunch of gobbledygook that he would never, ever say.
The audience knows something is up way before the reveal. Long before we know that it’s really Barney, we know that something is going on. Your bullshit detector is up, and you’re looking for ways to reconcile all this. This really only works because Ted and Barney are both so well-defined prior to this episode.
You can’t break a character until it’s solidly established. Their personalities have to be well-defined. You have to know what they would do, to be able to show them behaving “wrong”. If they had done this early in season one, it wouldn’t have worked. We wouldn’t know Ted well enough to be suspicious, it would’ve felt like the rug was being ripped out from beneath us. Instead, this feels surprising but inevitable.
In the flashbacks, if Ted had been behaving like Ted, it would’ve felt like a fake-out when it’s revealed to be Barney. The character had to be broken for the audience to know what was up.
Thank you to our guest podcasters this week, Amy Standage, writing as L.L. Standage and Anika Arrington.