Saturday, April 30, 2016

Assignment: Robert

Raymond (Ray Romano): I stood up for you ...

Robert (Brad Garrett): You stood up for me?

Raymond: What? Yeah.

Robert: Oh, come on, Raymond, if people are trashing me, you're right up front with the baton.

If you have been single past the time when people think you should be single, you're bound to be familiar with the theme of the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond that first aired on this night in 2001.

"Let's Fix Robert" was the title, and I suppose you can guess many of the elements of the plot. The general theme was that Robert (Brad Garrett) was unable to find a steady girlfriend — even though two of Robert's recent girlfriends were featured in the opening segment and figured prominently in the plot in general, his American sweetheart Amy (Monica Horan) and his Italian sweetheart Stefania (Alexandra "Alex" Meneses).

They met each other at the neighborhood pizza joint and began comparing notes on Robert. The notes were unfavorable, of course. Robert wasn't there to hear them, but his brother Ray (Ray Romano) was there — and the girls, having deduced that Ray's pizza was going to be consumed in part by Robert, tried to wreck his pizza before he could get out the door with it.

Word that Amy and Stefania had met got back to the Barone matriarch, Marie (the recently deceased Doris Roberts), who concluded it was the perfect opportunity to find out what Robert's relationship problem was.

Robert might never have known about it if he hadn't stumbled onto a gathering of the three one day when he entered his mother's kitchen and asked her to make him something to eat. She proceeded to hand him one of those lunch–sized bags of potato chips and give him the bum's rush, but she relented and took him in to the living room — where he found Amy and Stefania sitting side by side on the couch.

The purpose of the gathering, she told her son, was to discuss his issues. She had decided to let him sit in on the conversation because it would save her from having to go over all the points with him later.

That was bad enough — Robert said it was "horrifying beyond belief" to find his ex–girlfriends on the living room couch in his parents' home — but then his police partner Judy (Sherri Shepherd) showed up, and Robert objected. "She has nothing to do with me not giving you grandchildren," he protested.

"She spends 60 hours a week with you," Marie told Robert. "She has a lot to bring to the table."

They all had things to bring to the table. Each had her own complaint. Amy didn't like the way he ate her dessert when they went out to dinner. Stefania objected to his "frowny, frowny face ... it is annoying."

Judy appeared to be an ally at first, reminding the others that Robert had a demanding job as a police officer and needed his down time. But then she launched her own gripe about his love of onions. "He puts them on everything. There are other people," she told him.

"All areas you can be working on, dear," Marie told Robert.

Amy said she would be willing to put up with all Robert's other shortcomings if not for the biggest one — "his total fear of commitment." Stefania agreed. Judy was silent — probably because, as Robert's police partner, she required (and almost certainly received) a different kind of commitment from him.

For his part, Robert clearly felt ambushed — and, I would say, rightfully so. Anyway, he sought refuge at Ray and Debra's house, but Debra (Patricia Heaton) couldn't remain silent when Robert began moaning about spending his life alone.

Debra accused him of being alone because that is how he wanted it. He was looking for the perfect woman, she said, and he would never find her because no such thing exists.

Then she was floored when Robert told Debra that she was perfect.

That led to a delightful exchange between the three of them over whether Debra was perfect, and Robert finally convinced them he meant to say that Debra was perfect for Raymond. "I'm just hoping to be that lucky," he said.

To which Debra gave the classic response that people like Robert always get from people like Debra — "You will be."

Of course, those who watched Everybody Loves Raymond know that Robert and Amy eventually got married, but on this night in 2001 that outcome was still far from clear to the show's viewers. It may well have been an inspiration that was yet to come for the show's writers.

It was the outcome that Marie wanted, but on this night even she could not have known how everything would turn out. She was taking no chances. As the episode ended, she was working on what had apparently been a complaint that came up after Robert left — his ear hair.