Betty Lynn explained how Thelma Lou became Barney Fife's great love
There was no plan to bring Thelma Lou back until Betty Lynn got cast.
"You know you're the only girl I care anything about,' Barney Fife tells Thelma Lou on a Mayberry dance floor.
The frequently fumbling deputy goes on, "You're the only one I really" — his mouth kind of gulps around the next word — "love."
"What!" Thelma Lou exclaims.
"I said you're the only I love!" Barney says, this time the word coming out insistently, louder and prouder.
"I can't hear you!" Thelma Lou teases.
"You're the only girl I love!" Barney shouts at the top of his lungs. The music around them stops and everyone on the dancefloor turns to see the scene the deputy is causing, only to soon break into applause as Thelma Lou beams at Barney.
This adorable scene where Barney first declares his love for Thelma Lou arrives in the fourth season of The Andy Griffith Show during an episode called "Fun Girls."
In it, Barney and Andy reunite with a wild pair of gal pals, Daphne and Skippy. The Fun Girls' attentions to the sheriff and deputy stir confusion in their longtime girlfriends, Helen Crump and Thelma Lou. But while we've told you time and again about the love story of Andy and Helen, we've maybe neglected to take a long look at the love shared between Barney and Thelma Lou.
Thelma Lou is introduced as a potential sweetheart for Barney in the first season of the show during the episode "Cyrano Andy." In the opening scene, Barney, Andy and Thelma Lou are singing a song called "Seeing Nellie Home," and if you happen to know the bluegrass song, then you might've caught a little foreshadowing of this song selection.
Look to the lyrics and you can see that "Seeing Nellie Home" is about a man whose dream of finding love is renewed: "On my life new hopes were dawning / and these hopes have lived and grown." Why? Because he was "seeing Nellie home," and feeling completely carried away with the possibility of being thrown into this new love.
That's the predicament in which Barney's soon found himself during "Cyrano Andy." He walks Thelma Lou home from Andy's house, but he's so tongue-tied, he prattles on in a boring way instead of successfully wooing this woman who’s already winning his heart.
Luckily, after a lot of hilarity, Andy helps Barney and Thelma Lou make it to the end of this first episode in each other's arms, as Andy sings another bluegrass tune about finding new love.
However, even though it was love at first sight for Barney and Thelma Lou, fans know that doesn't mean it was smooth sailing for Mayberry's newest couple.
In the second season, the couple breaks up and Barney even immediately starts seeing someone else in the fifth episode "Barney on the Rebound." It doesn’t take long for the deputy to go back to Andy for more romantic meddling, and again, Andy helps Barney reunite with Thelma Lou by episode's end.
From this point on, Barney and Thelma Lou are pretty steady, and by the third season, they're even the ones helping Andy navigate a break up in "Barney Mends a Broken Heart." Then they set him up with a slew of new potential partners in "A Wife for Andy."
Together, they make a great team, even if their intentions are always better than their execution.
Over the course of the series, she becomes the perfect partner for Barney, just as Andy was the perfect partner at work. Appearing in 26 episodes, Thelma Lou is right there for Barney, through thick and thin. As Barney's soulmate, she was a sweet and stable force in the twitchy deputy's Mayberry life.
In an interview with ArtistChronicle, Betty Lynn once explained that The Andy Griffith Show didn't necessarily plan to give Barney Fife a love like Thelma Lou that lasted. That kind of just happened, the way true love often does.
The actress said she came in to audition for Thelma Lou for "Cyrano Andy," and after that, the other television series to which she was contracted was canceled and she became available any time The Andy Griffith Show called her up.
"I didn't have any contract," Betty Lynn said, explaining that her appearances on The Andy Griffith Show simply came along, one episode at a time, building out the love story of Thelma Lou and Barney bit by bit.
But it was easy to see how everybody on the show would become a fan of Betty Lynn's work and ask her back. Knotts praised her as a fine actress, and she said their affection for one another both on and offscreen was mutual.
"They called me in occasionally," Betty Lynn said. "And I got to play opposite Don Knotts, who I loved."