Season Two Episode Descriptions and Writing Prompts
Episode Summary: The gang tries to help Marshall get over Lily. Barney takes him to a strip club, and Ted takes him to a Yankees game. Marshall finds a credit card trail that leads to Lily's hotel in the city, but the guys try to keep him from going to see her.
This Week P Stands For: Pickup, picking up where we left off
Stuff to Track: The chain of events that actually leads to him meeting the mother. This episode has step two: dating Robin
Writing Prompt: Brainstorm a bunch of ways that your character could get over their grief and which secondary character would introduce which method to your MC
Episode Summary: Barney teaches Marshall how to pick up women. When things start to go sour for an awkward Marshall, Barney steps in and wins the women over... for himself. Lily returns from her art experience. While helping her look for a new apartment, Ted gets sick of hearing about Lily's amazing summer in San Francisco.
This Week P Stands For: Perception (is reality)
Stuff to Track:
Writing Prompt: Write a scene full of dialog that can be interpreted two very different ways. The words your characters say must stay exactly the same, but the context, emphasis, and perspective will change the entire meaning.
Episode Summary: When Ted, Robin, and the gang spend the weekend with his parents, Ted is stunned when a family secret that changes things forever is unveiled at brunch. Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily find it difficult to control themselves when they are forced to spend time together with Ted's parents.
This Week P Stands For: Plop(ping you right into the middle of the story)
Stuff to Track: This is the only reference to anyone in Ted’s family being Catholic, it’s the first mention of Ted’s cousin Stacey, first mention of Virginia’s Frank
Writing Prompt: These both came from https://writing-prompt-s.tumblr.com/ Pick one, and write the story that leads up to this moment.
You made it to the semi-finals of a nationwide elite wizardry competition. The crowd loves you, and the esteemed judges regarded you as the dark horse of the competition, with your unorthodox approach. There’s just one problem; You don’t know how to use magic. You never did. Link.
You and your significant other are running for your lives from a slasher killer. Suddenly your partner ducks into a door and locks it behind them leaving you behind. You slump against the door preparing for the worst. The killer walks up and says “Wow what a jerk. You ok?” Link.
Episode Summary: After Robin insinuates that Ted's job is boring, Barney sets out to convince his buddy otherwise. As the guys test out the pick-up line, "Ted Mosby, Architect" on the ladies, they realize it really works. But when Robin hears that Ted is parading around town picking up girls, she is hot on his heels to discover the truth.
This Week P Stands For: Personalities
Stuff to Track: Brad shows up for the first time (as does Kara, but she’s a less important character throughout the series), the bouncer from Okay Awesome is back as a bouncer at the same club entrance (different club name)
Writing Prompt: What would your MC do if they knew they could get away with it, with no consequences?
Episode Summary: Lily moves into Barney's apartment. It works well at first, as Lily gets rid of Barney's conquests by pretending to be his wife. Barney throws her out when he's disappointed to find that they slept in his bed together without having sex.
This Week P Stands For: Pairings
Stuff to Track: PLEASE (again),
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.
Episode Summary: Barney takes it on himself to please Marshall's disgruntled law professor, while Lily gets a job at Ted's architecture firm and tries to teach his boss a big lesson.
This Week P Stands For: Preface
Stuff to Track:
Writing Prompt: Write an expository prologue for your story. Keep it to two pages, but give us all the cool information about your world and your character’s backstory, but in as dry a way as possible. Come back to this prologue (which should definitely not be in your book in this format!) as you revise to make sure all this stuff is on the page in a more natural way, using one of the four methods described in this podcast episode.
Episode Summary: Barney is mistakenly called Swarley at a coffee shop and his friends call him Swarley all day. Marshall starts dating a woman and they really hit it off, but Barney and Ted tell him he has to dump her because she has "crazy eyes".
Gina’s note: neither Darci nor I love the overuse of the derogatory term “crazy” in this episode. We’re gonna say it a lot, because it’s the crux of the episode. Please know that WE KNOW you shouldn’t refer to a woman as “crazy” and while we can make some excuses because this aired fifteen years ago, we also can recognize that characters like Ted, Marshall, and Barney could very well use this term, in this way, today, in the 2020s. It’s not the wokest of terms, but it is also extremely realistic usage from a character standpoint.
This Week P Stands For: Protagonist
Stuff to Track:
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.
Episode Summary: Marshall and Lily, together again, decide to elope to Atlantic City, and they gather Barney, Ted and Robin to take part in the wedding.
This Week P Stands For: Pared-Down Worldbuilding
Stuff to Track:
Writing Prompt: Write a short story in which your characters play a game that isn't universal. Describe the elements of the game that need to be explained, but keep the focus on the story itself.
Episode Summary: Barney uncovers Robin's secret past and the real reason behind her strong aversion to malls, which leads Barney and Marshall to make a bet.
This Week P Stands For: Payoffs - Red Herrings
Stuff to Track: Marshall gets five punitive slaps and uses the first right at the end of this episode (also - bonus points for all of Lily’s hair changes in the mini-flashbacks)
Writing Prompt: Pick one of the other theories Ted has in this episode (arrested at a mall, dumped at a mall, found out a traumatizing secret at a mall, traumatized via a freak accident at a mall, mauled at a mall) to be Robin’s true secret. Use different red herrings than this episode uses (retired porn star and married in a mall) and plot out a story with the same trajectory as the episode. Use the four steps we listed to throw your audience off-track for as long as possible (1. Brainstorm on the page 2. Put some outrageous possibilities on the page 3. Distract the audience immediately 4. Fudge reality a little bit at the last second)
Episode Summary: Barney's brother James (Wayne Brady) visits and Robin, the only one in the group who's never met him, is surprised. But James has a surprise for Barney that he finds hard to accept.
This Week P Stands For: Progressivism
Stuff to Track: Robin and Ted have single stamina at James’ wedding :( , plus another BIG spoilery foreshadow happens at the wedding, too
Writing Prompt: Adapted from 826Digital, a partner of WNDB. Spend 5 minutes writing about what LGBTQ labels mean in your story’s world. Identify your core cast of characters and spend some time delving into what these labels mean to your characters and how their identities manifest in the story, especially if they aren’t involved in a romance.
Episode Summary: Ted almost ruins Christmas for everyone when, still carrying around anger toward Lily over breaking the engagement, he calls her a horribly disgusting name.
This Week P Stands For: Profanity
Stuff to Track: Ted’s middle name!
Writing Prompt: Make a list of fake swear words. You can either use seasonal replacements (like "grinch") or you can use rhyming words like Dashner or come up with your own system.
Episode Summary: Robin wants to tell Ted she loves him, but she can't make the leap. Meanwhile, her sister visits and brings her boyfriend, and Robin doesn't react well when her sister says she's ready to lose her virginity.
This Week P Stands For: Performances
Stuff to Track: Barney & Ted’s “first time” stories are both referenced later one, and those references stay consistent.
Writing Prompt: Pick one of the reactions in this episode, any of them (maybe the moment everyone hears Barney’s real virginity story???) and describe it in prose without using any emotion-words.
Episode Summary: When Ted is constantly insulted by his former boss, who is now working for him on a project, he is told to fire the man, but he finds that a hard thing to do. Meanwhile, Barney offers Lily a lot of money to paint a nude portrait of him.
This Week P Stands For: Power Dynamics
Stuff to Track: This painting comes back around later
Writing Prompt: Pick a famous scene - one you know really well - and swap the power dynamics
Episode Summary: The group plans to watch the Super Bowl XLI when they are invited to a funeral on the same evening. They make plans to record the game and to not find out the score before watching it the following day.
This Week P Stands For: Prescient (Timeliness in Contemporary Fiction)
Stuff to Track: Doug is in Lily’s class, but he’s also in her class next year. Marshall gets upset about Ted inviting random girls to big events, an issue that comes up again in season 5. Barney’s gambling problem is explained.
Writing Prompt: Take an episode of a sitcom that is at least fifteen years old. Imagine it was set today. Write down all the ways the episode would have to change. Would cell phones derail the plot entirely? Would social media throw a new wrench into your characters’ drama? What has shifted culturally, especially if your audience is too young to remember the cultural dynamics of the time the episode originally aired?
Episode Summary: Ted finds a "lucky" penny, and even though bad luck starts to follow him, it may be the best thing to ever happen to him.
This Week P Stands For: Penny!
Stuff to Track: Robin & Ted are wearing the same clothes they were in 2.2 (Scorpion and Toad) when Ted found the titular penny, Ted’s future daughter is named Penny,
Writing Prompt: Play “but why” with your main character. Why is she the way she is? Answering “because that’s her personality” isn’t enough. Our personalities and choices are shaped by forces both external and internal. Why is Ted such a hopeless romantic? Because his parents were aloof and he’s jealous of Marshall’s love life. Why were Ted’s parents aloof? Because they shouldn’t have been together at all and it showed. How did this affect Ted? It made him desperate for affection and a needy dater/boyfriend for years. Etc.
Episode Summary: After Robin gives Ted grief over keeping all of his gifts from ex-girlfriends, Ted decides it's time to give them all away. However, the tides change when he finds that Robin has been holding on to items as well. Lily tells the whole group to come to her play. After Barney tells her it sucked, she tells him she would compliment a play he performed in regardless of how bad it was – Barney decides to prove her wrong.
This Week P Stands For: Pettiness
Stuff to Track: Robin’s aunt Maureen, the dogs are gone “on a trial basis”, Slap #2
Writing Prompt: Pick one of the fights from this episode: getting rid of knick-knacks, getting rid of dogs, supporting friends who make bad art, indulging friends in time-consuming hobbies and write a dialog about it that is open, honest, and fair. Remove the pettiness and see how the trajectory of the conversation (and the underlying relationship) shifts.
Episode Summary: Marshall's beloved 1988 Fiero dies just short of reaching the 200,000-mile mark, leading the gang to relive their greatest memories in the car.
This Week P Stands For: Propinquity
Stuff to Track: The “no food in the fiero” rule comes and goes throughout the series
Writing Prompt: Write the story of how your MC became best friends with their best friend. Not how they met, and not the interaction that kicks off your story necessarily. Just the event that cemented their friendship.
Episode Summary: As Ted and Robin hit a new milestone in their relationship, Barney does everything he can to derail their happiness. To do so, Barney steals the rental truck Ted is using for moving day, including all the belongings inside of it.
This Week P Stands For: Portend
Stuff to Track:
Writing Prompt: Take a small thing and extrapolate it to become something more important. “Barney threw his Letterman-list card, causing the waitress to slip and drop a glass. We didn’t think it was that big of a deal until…”
Guest Host: Christine Tyler, epic fantasy author, published short story writer, and illustrator.
Episode Summary: When Barney ruins Marshall's bachelor party plans, Lily reveals information about Barney that forces Marshall to rethink his best man choice.
This Week P Stands For: Presume
Stuff to Track: Stuart mentions that things aren’t going well at home, we revisit the events of episodes 1 - 7 of this season,
Writing Prompt: Fan fic time! Write a short story that redeems a villain/antagonist in one of your favorite stories.
Episode Summary: Barney is chosen as a contestant on The Price Is Right giving him the opportunity to fulfill one of his life wishes: to meet Bob Barker, who he delusionally believes to be his father.
This Week P Stands For: Prevaricate
Stuff to Track: Robin and Ted show up covered in marinara sauce, a detail that comes back around soon, Something is missing from Robin’s apartment when Lily stays there, Marshall is wearing a hat at the wedding
Writing Prompt: Your character wakes up with the ability to tell truth from lies. What happens in their day, what changes as they suddenly learn the truth about something that has been a lie their whole life?
Episode Summary: Lily and Marshall's wedding day arrives, but nothing goes as they had planned. Surprisingly, Barney steps in to save their once-in-a-lifetime moment. Meanwhile, Barney abuses his 'it's for the bride' superpower.
This Week P Stands For: Predictability
Stuff to Track: We finally find out why Marshall is wearing a hat at his wedding, appearances by Brad and Scooter, they actually booked the Van Smoot mansion from Best Prom Ever,
Writing Prompt: It’s actually a watching prompt. I want you to watch as many of these episodes as you can. We’ll list them in detail on the website, so you can find them easily. Make notes of which ones work for you and why, and which ones don’t work for you and why. Really pay attention to what makes a trope a “genre expectation” and what turns it into a cliche
Episode Summary: Barney overhears that Ted and Robin have a secret, leading him to wonder what it might be. When the secret is revealed, the truth stuns even Barney.
This Week P Stands For: Postponement
Stuff to Track: We finally know why Ted and Robin were covered in marinara and why the french horn was missing off Robin’s mantle when Lily was staying with her, the words they use to break up will all come back around.
Writing Prompt: Take one scene from your story where something pivotal happens (a first kiss, a breakup, a villainous reveal, a big conversation or confession, etc.). Interrupt that event as many times as possible, just to see how long you can postpone the pivotal moment.