• Gina Denny

Episode 2.7 - Protagonists

Updated: Jun 17

The episode opens with the guys hanging out in a coffee shop where two main things happen. 1. The barista has a crush on Marshall and he asks her out and 2. The same barista writes Barney’s name as “Swarley” on his cup. And the A-plot and the B-plot are both set up.

Ted and Robin tell Lily that Marshall has a date with someone new, and she says she isn’t “thrilled” about it, but he has every right to date.

In the next scene, Ted calls the bar and asks for “Swarley”, making Barney upset, but Marshall walks in with the barista, interrupting Ted’s prank. The barista’s name is Chloe, and Marshall really likes her, but the guys say she has “crazy eyes”. These “crazy eyes” are a “sign of future mental instability,” but Marshall doesn’t believe that “crazy eyes” are a thing.

So then Future Ted says, “you can’t outrun the crazy eyes forever” as the scene changes to Marshall getting a phone call from Chloe, who has apparently been calling nonstop while he’s in class. Then she tells a story of a midget who followed her, screamed at her, with a hump on his back and a limp and she almost got trampled by a horse… so now the audience thinks that maybe Chloe is dishonest, or delusional, or jealous and needy, or some combination of all of those. (and Barney gets called Swarley again)

Then Marshall and Chloe go upstairs to the apartment where Marshall gets her a drink. While he’s in the kitchen, there’s a small crashing sound and Chloe says she dropped her keys. Then Marshall brings her a drink and sees a picture - of him and Lily together - broken on the floor. Chloe asks if it’s Lily and Marshall accuses her of smashing it. Maybe he’s starting to believe she’s a little bit “crazy”, too. They’re about to kiss when …

Lily comes crashing out of the background, yelling for them to stop.

So Future Ted says that when we hear Lily’s side of the story, it’s still pretty crazy. So the story flashes back to the day Lily learned that Marshall is dating again. Lily and Robin are in the bar (where Barney is being called Swarley over and over again) and Lily is FUH-REAKING out. But, she does say she would stop freaking out if she knew Chloe was ugly. Robin tells her where to find Chloe (and we get another Swarley).

Lily goes to the coffee shop, asks for Chloe, and another barista says “Chloe just left, she has a pink umbrella.”

It’s raining outside, so Lily pulls her coat up over her head, with a backpack underneath it, forcing her to hunch over. While she’s trying to see Chloe’s face, she accidentally kicks a fire hydrant, developing a limp. Chloe is getting away, so Lily puts on a fake male voice and calls after her, telling her to turn around.

So now the audience knows that Chloe isn’t crazy. We heard Chloe’s side of the story, and we’ve now seen Lily’s side, and the two jive. Chloe told the story in the way that made the most sense to her, from her perspective, and it sounded a little bonkers. The audience believed she is dishonest and maybe even unstable, because the seed had been planted in our minds.

As the audience, though, we’re supposed to root for Lily and Marshall. This episode shows Lily as the villain in someone else’s story, and we see the interaction through that other person’s POV first.

This concept gets discussed a lot in fiction writing, that your side characters don’t see themselves as side characters. They are the protagonist of their own stories, it’s just that someone else’s story is a little more dramatic right now. Your villain probably doesn’t see themselves as a villain - Lily doesn’t see herself as an evil person, ruining Chloe’s chance at happiness and Marshall’s chance at moving on - even though they are your protagonist’s villain.

Okay, maybe you don’t even see your villain as a “villain” - they’re just an antagonist. They aren’t evil, they’re just working contrary to your hero’s goals. Lily is Chloe’s antagonist in this story, for sure.

But Chloe is also Lily’s, to some degree. Lily wants Marshall back, and Chloe stands in her way. If we hadn’t known Marshall and Lily’s backstory, would we have rooted for Lily? Probably not, I would say. Without the backstory of the heartbreak, she’s not really acting in a way that most people can sympathize with. She’s the “crazy ex-girlfriend” (for lack of a better term).

Robin tries to talk Lily out of her inappropriate stalker-like behavior (much like Ted talked Marshall out of some inappropriate stalker-like behavior a couple months ago).

The gang - minus Marshall - is hanging in the apartment and Ted turns on the radio (remember live radio, lol?) and the DJ dedicates a song to “Swarley” and Barney tries to reverse-psychology them into dropping this joke, but then he flips out and leaves.

Lily sneaks into the apartment later and finds a framed photo of her and Marshall and puts it out on the table, hoping to make Marshall feel guilty. But she hears Marshall’s keys in the door and accidentally drops it - again, Chloe isn’t the one who smashed the photo, so the audience is likely swaying towards Chloe at this moment. But immediately, as Marshall and Chloe walk in, he says, “Wow. You really did memorize all the words to ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.” which means she’s been singing that entire song to him on a first date.

So maybe she is a little difficult to be around. We didn’t get that particular tidbit earlier, the writers held it back until now. At this point, the audience is pretty well split between Lily and Chloe, as both are behaving badly.

Lily is still hiding in the apartment, she jumps out and stops Chloe from kissing Marshall. She’s upset and embarrassed and she leaves immediately. Marshall goes after her.

They sit on the front steps and Lily cries and apologizes and admits everything to Marshall, so Marshall believes that Chloe isn’t “crazy”.


Lily finally acts like the hero of the story - she tells Marshall to go back upstairs and finish his date. And she continues to admit some of the nonsensical things she’s done over the last two days. And Marshall realizes that he would rather be with Lily than Chloe, even though Lily tries to tell him to go three separate times.

They kiss, and they are back together.

Ted and Barney walk by, with another Swarley joke, and they see Marshall and Lily back together. They all go to the bar to celebrate. Then they go back upstairs and find Chloe sitting on the couch, with the apartment completely trashed. She lies and says she couldn’t find her keys, even though they’re on the table in front of her. She leaves after messing up Robin’s name. Barney tries to make “Roland” work to replace “Swarley” and nobody is having it (except for the laugh-track audience).

The tag on this episode is the best: Barney walks into the bar on a different day, everyone yells “SWARLEY!” and Carl the Bartender plays the Cheers theme song, ‘Where everybody knows your name’ and Barney turns and walks back out again.

Writing Prompt: Write Chloe’s rom-com story. If you haven’t watched this episode, then write a short story in which a well-known villain or antagonist tells their version of events. Why they were justified and why the hero was totally wrong all along.

Listen. to the episode here

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