Marie and Debra Barone might be in-laws on Everybody Loves Raymond, but these two strong-willed characters hardly ever get along on the hit sitcom.
CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond might be named after the character of Raymond Barone, but the protagonist has almost nothing to do with one of the series’ central relationships: the antagonistic dynamic between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law Marie and Debra Barone, respectively.
Marie never quite approves of Debra, as a mother, a wife, a homemaker, a cook, or virtually anything else. Debra likewise never appreciates Marie, given her tendency to butt in wherever and whenever she’s not wanted. Overall, these two women might be relatives, but they’re hardly ever on warm terms with one another — a frequent source of stress for the people-pleasing Ray.
Debra: The Letter
Debra and Marie’s highly fraught relationship is featured prominently in the second season episode “The Letter” — one which finds neither party in a particularly flattering light.
After Marie interrupts a Tupperware party she had not been invited to, Debra decides this is the last straw and writes a scathing letter to her mother-in-law. The letter is inflammatory all around, but in particular, Debra’s claim that “just because we are family, and happen also to be neighbors, does not give you the right to constantly interfere in every aspect of my life” appears to cut Marie deeply.
Marie: Not Letting Debra Call Her “Mom”
The episode “Call Me Mom” highlights the difficult relationship between the Barones and Whelans. After Raymond takes to calling Debra’s mother, Lois, “om,” he tells Debra that she should feel comfortable calling Marie “mom,” too, after all these years.
But when Debra very awkwardly tries it out, Marie quickly shuts her down and tells her she doesn’t want her to do that. Considering how long they have been family, it’s an incredibly cold and hurtful move.
Debra: The Canister
By virtue of their stubborn need to prove each other wrong and their mutual refusal to acknowledge their mistakes, Marie and Debra often have some of the series’ ugliest fights. But few of them are as insulting as the one that takes place in “The Canister,” which finds Debra nearly gaslighting her mother-in-law.
Debra once borrowed a beloved canister of Marie’s, and Marie asks for her to return it. But after Debra wrongly insists she already did, she learns that, in fact, she didn’t. Rather than own up to her mistake, Debra then tries to get rid of the canister entirely, recruiting the rest of the family into her half-baked scheme.
Marie: Overstepping Thanksgiving Role
Marie prides herself not just on her cooking, but also being the one in control of ever situation. The first season’s Thanksgiving episode “Turkey or Fish” presents Marie with a scenario that stands in the way of both of those necessities.
Debra is in charge of Thanksgiving for the year and decides instead to make fish for the annual holiday meal. But Marie intervenes and shows up with a turkey of her own preparation — much to everyone’s delight, except Debra’s.
One of Debra’s most defining character traits is her inability to cook. That’s what makes the episode “Debra Makes Something Good” such a notable one in the series. That, and the fact that her skill at making the traditional dish braciole wounds Marie’s pride.
Marie is incredulous at Debra’s claims that she learned how to make the meal from a recipe, and is deeply hurt by Frank’s desire to go over to Debra’s house every time she makes it. As it turns out, braciole was what Marie cooked for Frank when they were early into their courtship, and it was the dish that made Frank want to marry her.
Marie: The Tupperware Party
The second season episode “The Letter” is one filled with a conflict that has no clear winners. Marie is known for her intrusive behavior, as she tends to just wander in across the street to see Raymond and Debra are up to.
But in this particular episode, Marie interrupts Debra’s private Tupperware party with her friends, ruining the event entirely. The whole ordeal leads to a big outburst and embarrasses all parties involved.
Debra: Lying About Raymond’s Health
Series finales are always difficult for sitcoms to land correctly, but Everybody Loves Raymond manages to do so in an episode full of heart and emotion. “The Finale” finds Ray undergoing a surgical procedure on his adenoids.
During the procedure, there is a complication in waking Raymond from the anesthesia. Marie is out of the room when the family is informed of this, and though Raymond is fine when she returns, Debra and the rest of the family intentionally keep her in the dark about the incident.
Marie: The DUI Incident
Given the many ways in which Marie spends virtually all of her free time needling at Debra, it was only a matter of time before Debra snapped in one way or another. But the resulting conflict and chaos that Marie causes in “The Shower” far and away takes the cake.
After Marie intervenes and commandeers Amy’s bridal shower, Debra winds up drinking too much and falling asleep behind the wheel of her parked car, which results in her arrest and losing her license. If Marie had just minded her own business for once, none of this would have happened.
Debra: Sabotaging A Christmas Photoshoot
The tension between the Barones and the Whelans is a recurring issue throughout the series’ run. But perhaps the most unforgivable transgression in the subtextual war of the in-laws takes place in the episode “The Christmas Picture.”
Ray intends to give Marie the Christmas present of her dreams — a beautiful family portrait for the holidays. Debra steps out of line and invites her own parents, insisting they be in the photo of the Barone clan, and souring the entire experience for Marie.
Marie Barone is someone who defines herself by her incredible cooking skills, her judgment of poor cooks, and her protectiveness of her own talents and recipes. All of that comes to a head in the episode “Marie’s Meatballs.”
After Debra asks Marie for the recipe for her famous meatballs, Marie reluctantly obliges. But of course, there’s a hitch: Marie intentionally sabotages the recipe with a secret wrong ingredient — tarragon.