In this week's episode, super-couple Marshall and Lily face competition for Best Couple Ever...from Barney and Robin! Is it possible that Marshall and Lily may need to take lessons from the former commitment-phobes?
Future Ted tells us that in the fall of 2009, a new couple had moved into the apartment directly above his and Robin's apartment. They hadn't yet met their new neighbors, but they could hear them constantly "playing the bagpipes." (If you're playing the How I Met Your Mother drinking game, take a shot for a newly coined euphemism!) Bagpipe music fills the apartment while Robin and Ted gripe about how loud they are. "You have neighbors!" Ted yells at the ceiling. "Shut the bagpipes up!" HA! Well played, show.
Ted heads to McLaren's to get away from the noise in his apartment, only to be joined by Barney, who drops a bombshell on Ted: Marshall and Lily are getting a divorce. Barney bases his news on the fact that he witnessed Lily asking Marshall to wash a dish after he was finished eating. "She makes him wash his dishes right away," Barney says, horrified. "I give them two, maybe three weeks, tops."
Ted knowingly tells Barney that he's suffering from New Relationship Smugness (which will be referred to as NRS from here on out). NRS manifests in the honeymoon stage, when the people in the new relationship think their romance is perfect and better than anyone else's. "Enjoy it," says Ted. "NRS doesn't last forever." Barney smirks. "It does when you're this awesome," he says.
Marshall comes in and sits with Ted and Barney. Ted fills him in on Barney's newest theory. Marshall doesn't see what the big deal is about having to wash his dishes and then proceeds to lay a verbal smackdown on Barney's NRS. Barney hits back with a simple question: "Do you mind if there is a sink full of dirty dishes?" Marshall says no, and Barney responds that in that case, it's Lily's problem, not Marshall's. "Yeah, but if I said that to her, it would just lead to a fight," Marshall says. "Ohhhhh," says Barney. "You fight. See, Robin and I never fight." He explains that every time it looks like they might have an argument, he leaves. "Can't fight if you're not there. That's what Gandhi taught us," he says. Turns out Robin isn't any more on board with fighting. Whenever Barney is upset with her, she distracts him by getting naked. Marshall says that whenever he and Lily have a disagreement, they just talk about it. Barney, for the sake of argument, spins a tale illustrating how he would handle the dishes situation if he were Lily's husband, which plays out for us in a brilliant fantasy sequence:
Fantasy!Barney comes home to an enthusiastic Fantasy!Lily, who makes out with him and then offers him a martini. After he drinks the martini, she asks him if he's going to wash the glass. "I'm glad you bring that up," he says. "No." Then he seats Fantasy!Lily on his lap and explains that the fact that she likes a clean sink doesn't make it his job to do it for her. "If I wanted a replica of the Sistine Chapel on my ceiling, would it be your job to paint it?" Fantasy!Lily follows Barney's spotty logic with no problem, then thanks him for explaining it to her, and then they make out again. Later, Fantasy!Barney closes the deal by telling Fantasy!Lily that when he gets home after a long day from work, he wants to shower her with love, not do the dishes. Fantasy!Lily immediately agrees to always do the dishes...but not before doing a sexy dance.
When Barney finishes his story, Ted is skeptical, but Marshall looks like he's just had a glass-shattering moment. "He's right," Marshall mutters. "I hate doing dishes right away!" Just then, Robin walks in and backs up Barney's claim that they never fight. "There was one small dispute, about which one of us is more awesome," she concedes. "We just called it a tie and had sex." She mentions that she's looking forward to a weekend of skiing with Barney, mostly because she can't stand listening to the neighbors' constant bagpiping. Ted says that he'll talk to them and ask them to keep it down.
After Barney and Robin leave, Marshall tells Ted that he thinks Barney is right, and he's going to stand up to Lily. Ted tells him that it'll go badly and lead to a huge fight. Marshall suggests a slap bet. (Callback to an earlier episode! Drink!)
Later, at Dowistrepla, Lily asks Marshall to wash his dishes. "Lily, I'm glad that you bring that up," says Marshall.
Cut to Ted's apartment, where Marshall shows up on Ted's doorstep, holding a pillow. "Can I stay here tonight?" he asks. Guess it didn't go so well. Ted slaps him (hee!), then lets him crash on the sofa.
Later, Ted and Marshall are hanging out at McLaren's, when two pod people who resemble Barney and Robin join them. They're acting suspiciously schmoopy after their ski weekend. "What the hell has gotten into you two?" Ted asks. They don't get a chance to delve too much into the situation, though, because Marshall is seriously pissed at Barney. He relays how the conversation with Lily went down. (Spoiler alert: It didn't quite go as rehearsed.)
Flashback to Dowistrepla, where Lily asks Marshall to wash his dish. "No," Marshall says, "and here's why." He sits down and pats his knee, but Lily just looks at him like he's a crazy person. "So, it's like this, okay? Yeah. Sure. You want me to go ahead and...and wash my dish. But maybe I want you to paint the ceiling. Maybe I should say, 'Yeah, okay, I'll wash my dish if you get up there and just paint naked babies on the ceiling!' It's just like..." And he trails off. Lily, who understandably is not following this train of thought at all, simply responds with, "Huh?"
Back at McLaren's, Ted and Barney have the same bewildered response. "I don't know what happened," says Marshall. "I'm a lawyer. I argue for a living! But when it comes to Lily, I just get all flustered!" Poor Marshall. I sympathize. I've had fights like that, too, where your logic makes so much sense in your head, but it sounds like nonsensical gibberish when you're actually trying to explain it. Barney asks about the "I'm tired from my day and just want to shower you with love" argument. "I...should have written that down," says Marshall.
Flashback to Dowistrepla. Marshall and Lily are still arguing, so Marshall attempts Barney's next tactic. Again, he fails miserably. "Lily, I...I make more money than you!" he yells. Oh dear. Lily gets very upset by this, and a flustered Marshall responds, "Dance for me!" From there, the fight mutates and becomes about all the issues in their relationship, including Lily's creepy Shining impression.
At McLaren's, Marshall decides that he should apologize to Lily. But Barney instigates him to fight even harder, and paints a picture of a world in which Marshall will always have clean dishes without ever having to actually wash them. Refueled, Marshall walks out for Round 2 with Lily just as Robin enters. She affectionately calls Barney "Barnstormer" and he calls her "Ro-Ro" (ugh), which creeps Ted out.
Robin asks Ted if he'd talked to their neighbors. He did, but it turns out that they're really old. Ted didn't have the heart to tell them to keep it down, so he simply "welcomed them to the building, had a hard candy, nodded politely at some racist comments and left."
Over the next few days, Barney and Robin get suspiciously more nauseating, while Lily and Marshall start to fight even more. Eventually, Lily even stops cooking for Marshall. Marshall is bitter that he and Lily have been dethroned as Best Couple by "Barnstormer" and "Ro-Ro." Ted reassures him that something is not right in Barney-Robin Land. "I know for a fact that Robin hates nicknames," says Ted. As he and Marshall listen to the Upstairs Old Couple bagpiping on the shower chair (hahahaha) in their bathroom, Ted has a flash of brilliance.
Cut to McLaren's, where Ted introduces Barney and Robin to their downstairs neighbor, Phil—who has heard Barney and Robin fighting like cats and dogs. Turns out Barney and Robin do fight—a lot. It started over the ski weekend, when a disagreement cropped up while they were on a ski lift. Barney couldn't escape and it was too cold for Robin to get naked (really, show? I thought Robin didn't get cold?), so they had to hash it out then and there. And the first fight brought back all of the other fights, and they've been arguing ever since.
Barney and Robin decide to head to Dowistrepla to ask Marshall and Lily for advice. Turns out that in comparison to Barney and Robin's high-drama fights (which include Barney handing Robin a knife, ripping open his shirt, and yelling "Stab me!"), the dishwashing debacle really wasn't all that horrible. Lily and Marshall make up on the spot. Barney and Robin don't understand how they resolved things so easily. Lily explains that love is more important that winning. She might as well be speaking a foreign language. "Seriously, what's the secret?" Robin asks. Lily tells them that the honeymoon period is over and now they have to start talking about real stuff, but that it's the best part of being in a relationship.
Barney and Robin leave. In the hallway, they try to figure out how to handle things now. "So what if we're not the best couple in the world?" Robin asks. "Totally," Barney agrees. "It's not a competition." Tell that to Lily and Marshall, who are popping champagne and shrieking, "We win!! Best couple in the world!"
So, thoughts? For me, this episode was the highlight of the season so far. Everyone was spot-on with their characters tonight, which was a relief after a few episodes with funky characterization and shoddy continuity. And it's the first solid Marshall-Lily plot we've gotten in a long time, so I was happy with that. Plus, a Slap Bet shoutout? Bare-chested NPH? Newly coined euphemisms? That immediately puts this episode in "classic" territory for me. But what did you all think? Did you love it? Hate it? Sound off in the comments!