We begin episode 19, roughly 2 months before Ted and Victoria split. Their relationship is still in its infancy and Ted tells Barney, Lily, and Marshall how much he is falling for Victoria, while they have drinks at MacLaren’s. Robin joins the group with exciting news. One of her news stories has been nominated for a local award and she wants everyone to go. Reluctant at first, the gang changes their minds when they hear there is going to be an open bar. Ted, still obsessing about Victoria, tells Robin to put him down for two seats even though it’s three months away. Flash forward three months and Ted is single and debating whether he should still go to the awards banquet because he hasn’t spoken with Robin in three weeks, thanks to the phone swap at her apartment. Marshall tries to convince Ted to attend the banquet because it is a great way to show Robin he still supports her as a friend. Barney has other ideas and tells Ted he should bring a gorgeous date to make Robin jealous. When Ted mentions two hours isn’t enough time find a date, Barney suggests hiring an escort. Barney tries to persuade Ted to overlook his initial judgement about taking a prostitute and is “lawyered” by Marshall. Eventually, Barney storms off out of frustration but quickly returns with a beautiful blonde woman named Mary, played by Erinn Bartlett.
Upstairs at the apartment, Robin is getting ready, while Lily naps on the couch. After Robin wakes her up, Lily tells Robin the school board took away her students “nap time”, leaving her exhausted because she would also partake in a nap. Robin asks Lily if it would be weird if she brought a date since Ted is still going to attend the banquet and Lily assures her Ted will be okay with it. Down at MacLaren’s, Barney introduces Mary to Ted and Ted immediately pulls Barney aside refusing to take a hooker to the banquet. Ted eventually agrees to give Mary a chance because only he, Marshall, and Barney will know she is a hooker and also because Barney paid Mary 500 dollars. Robin and Lily enter MacLaren’s with Robin’s date, Sandy Rivers. We find out through a flash back that Ted and Marshall watch Sandy every morning read the newspaper on air, and they think he is a joke because of it. Seeing Sandy causes Ted and Marshall to go into one of their “famous telepathic conversations”. Ted tells Marshall he hates Sandy and can’t believe Robin brought him. After Sandy tells Ted he is Robin’s date, Ted introduces them to his date, Mary.
Later at the awards banquet, Marshall, Barney, and Ted are worried everyone will find out Mary is a hooker. Lily and Mary return from the bathroom, questioning what happened by Marshall. Lily kisses Marshall and tells him nothing, except she borrowed Mary’s lipstick causing Marshall to wipe his mouth in disgust. Robin turns the conversation to Mary, asking her what she does for a living and Barney blurts out, “She’s a paralegal”, nervously.Mary answers questions about what a paralegal does and even mentions working at a downtown law firm to Marshall’s surprise. Impressed, Ted flirts with Mary, frustrating Robin even more. After Robin makes some comments about Ted’s infidelity, Ted turns his attention to belittling Sandy. Ted finds himself even more attracted to Mary after she compares Sandy’s hair to Darth Vader’s helmet.
Later when Robin is alone at the hotel bar, Ted sees an opportunity to apologize for everything, but Robin isn’t having it. After some back-and-forth, Ted abandons Robin, telling her he came to support her as a friend and is tried of trying. Ted rejoins the rest of the group at the table, where he and Mary discuss the hotel. Mary tells Ted the hotel is one of the nicer hotels she’s ever been in. Ted responds, telling Mary his architecture firm did the remodel and she should she the rooms. Mary hints she wishes they had a room. At that very moment, Barney saves the day by sliding a room key toward Mary and Ted, telling them to have a good time because it’s on him. Robin’s award category comes up and despite her story being what I can only assume is a fluff piece about “Pickles the Singing Dog”, she wins. During her acceptance speech, Robin thanks all her friends by name, except Ted. Robin returns to the table, award in hand, and asks Sandy is he wants to get a cab. Not wanting to be one-uped, Ted asks Mary if she wants to go upstairs causing Marshall to start another “telepathic conversation” with Ted, demanding to know what he is thinking. Ted confesses to Marshall he is trying to make Robin jealous and really likes Mary despite being a prostitute. After Lily interrupts Marshall telepathic conversation, he tells Ted to do whatever he wants.
On the elevator ride to their room, Ted asks Mary, nervously, if she ever hooked up with Barney. She responds with an emphatic, “There’s not enough money in the world.” Down at the banquet table, Lily is fast asleep on Marshall’s shoulder when Robin returns. She tells Marshall and Barney she sent Sandy home and was only trying to make Ted jealous. Marshall tells Robin Ted is upstairs trying to maker her jealous. Marshall in a panic, telepathically confesses to Lily that Mary is a prostitute. Lily jumps from her dreams, blurting, “Mary’s a prostitute?” Marshall again panics and points out Barney bought her for Ted. After Lily realizes she used her lipstick and Robin questions Ted’s recent judgement, Barney announces it is time to unveil tonight’s twist ending. Barney grabs the emcee, Vampire Lou, and has him read a card a loud. To everyone’s surprise, Vampire Lou reads that Mary is not a hooker and Mary doesn’t know Ted thinks she is a hooker! The table can’t believe what Barney has done and Barney giggles, telling them “if they don’t laugh, it just seems mean.”
On the walk to their hotel room, Ted tells Mary he feels like Richard Gere from Pretty Woman. Oblivious to what Ted is hinting at, Mary tells Ted he isn’t shy about his looks. Ted tries to tell Mary he has never been with a hooker, using the word “date” as code thinking she will understand. Again unaware of Ted’s intentions, Mary tells Ted she has been going on “dates” since she was 15. Outside of the room, Ted suggests the two of them have a few drinks and see what happens. Mary mentions that is a great idea as she had a long day with “clients riding her” and one guy was really “anal”. At the last minute, Ted realizes he can’t go through with it. He tells Mary he is amazed at how much he likes her but he can’t do this because she’s a hooker. Mary responds with “I’m a paralegal.” Ted retorts saying in a slightly sarcastic tone, “No, you’re a hooker.” Mary frustrated, assures Ted in an aggressive tone, “No, Ted. I’m a paralegal.” Realizing he is wrong, Ted finally accepts the fact Mary is a paralegal. A few days later, we find Barney, Marshall and Ted at MacLaren’s talking about Ted’s night with Mary. Laughing, Barney finally comes clean with Ted, telling him Mary really is a paralegal that lives in his building. Even at this point, Marshall thinks the whole thing is funny. Ted yells at Barney, asking why he would he even do that, he got slapped and Mary stormed off. It takes Barney a minute but he remembers his “point” and that was because Ted thought Mary was a “sure thing”, he stopped trying so hard and was going to have sex on the first date until he ruined it. Ted confesses he has the last laugh because he never checked out of the room Barney paid for. Before Ted leaves for his 3 o’clock massage, Ted asks Barney if he know how good it feels to pour Dom Perignon down the drain. Marshall looks at clearly upset Barney and tells him, “if you don’t laugh, it just seems mean.”
“Mary the Paralegal” is one of the best episodes of any season and my favorite episode from season one. The constant onslaught of quick one-liners get me every time. I do find it interesting at the beginning of the episode, Ted mentions one of the things he loves about Victoria is her favorite Otis Redding box set CD is the same as his. But Ted and Victoria were never shown with a Otis Redding song, he and Robin were in the pilot. There isn’t an important underlying message, just an amusingly horrible prank from Barney and Robin and Ted’s strained friendship. This episode has a lot of great moments in it, Marshall “lawyers” Barney three times, we learn about Sandy, a Star Wars reference, and “telepathic conversations”.
But my favorite scene is when Ted and Mary argue about her being a hooker. I still referencing this with my friends at work on a regular basis.
Cheers and here’s a picture of Yosemite Sandy.