• Gina Denny

Episode 2.5 - Pairings

Updated: Jun 17

There are three couples in this episode competing for the title.

  1. Robin and Ted - things are going great for them. So great, in fact, that they are completely boring and this episode isn’t about them at all.

  2. Lily and Barney - Lily is desperate for a place to stay while her dingy, dangerous apartment is being repaired (literally, the entire apartment is being repaired since she accidentally tore down an entire wall) and she stays with Barney, pretending to be his wife to drive off one-night stands, and accidentally behaves like a girlfriend a little bit.

  3. Marshall and Brad - two bros who both got dumped recently, trying to navigate the very couple-dependent social scene of their late twenties.

Three different pairs, two of which are new to us as the audience.

Noticeably absent is the pairing of Marshall and Lily - the two never even speak to each other in this episode. The writers have done a good job of keeping them apart, even though the audience sees both of them pining for the other. In our minds, they’re “together”. But on the screen, they never cross paths. Two episodes in a row, the voiceover implying that this one took place over the course of two weeks, so at least three weeks of the two of them not spending any time together.

Lily stays at Barney’s apartment and accidentally “makes changes”. (She buys groceries and cooks breakfast). Barney shows her around his disgustingly misogynistic apartment, bragging about how it keeps clingy women away. However, one morning a very clingy woman stays, unbothered by his toxic nonsense. Lily walks in and the woman freaks out, assuming Barney is married.

Barney then asks Lily to stay with him and pretend to be his wife to scare off clingy women. Lily agrees, but on the condition that they redecorate with some feminine touches. Once they’re done, Lily lays on the bed watching Letterman. Barney stays and hangs out for a few minutes, but they end up falling asleep together. This causes Barney to freak out and kick Lily out, but she takes all the feminine touches with her.

Meanwhile, Marshall misses being able to do “couple things” like concerts and brunch. While I argue that neither of these things is inherently “coupley,” he is struggling all the same. Ted and Robin won’t spend time with him, so he’s forced to find a friend to go with him. He could have asked a date, but he’s part of the actual World’s Greatest Couple still; he just doesn’t realize it.

So Marshall and his friend Brad go to an Alanis Morissette concert, then they go to brunch. Then they go to a Broadway musical and a steakhouse… and it’s starting to feel like they’re becoming a couple. Then Brad asks Marshall to accompany him to a wedding in Vermont at a romantic B&B. Marshall fears that this is becoming a relationship and he “dumps” Brad, only to find out that Brad had already gotten back together with Kara and had “dumped” Marshall.

Throughout all this, Robin and Ted just make fun of Marshall (not cool, guys, not cool).

So who is the World’s Greatest Couple? Is it the opposite-attract friends-to-roommates? Or the bros who miss their girlfriends? Or the actual couple who mock others’ happiness? Or is it the couple who’s currently avoiding each other?

All of them are contenders, but what makes this episode fun is the dynamic between Lily and Barney. They don’t interact much (later in the series, Lily even leaves for five straight weeks because of a dirty joke Barney makes). Marshall’s storyline is fun, sure, but it also wraps up pretty cleanly at the end of this episode. Brad and Marshall are colleagues and won’t see each other for several years after graduation, but Barney and Lily will see each other several times a week. Showing them grow closer together, with a valid reason for it, changes the group dynamic. It lays the foundation for a big reveal that we’ll see near the end of this season, and it expands more about each of their characters. Showing them in this new setting reveals more about them than we could have found out through their normal routines.

Writing Prompt: Take two characters who don’t interact much in your story. Write a scene with just the two of them, exploring how they would interact together.

Listen to the episode here

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