‘How I Met Your Mother’ – ‘The Slutty Pumpkin Returns’: Oh, Canada

Senior Television Writer
10.31.11 87 Comments


A review of tonight’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I’m as serious as a poutine shortage…

The mystery of the Slutty Pumpkin was an idea memorably introduced in the series’ sixth episode(*), and while the show hasn’t kept hinting at her identity for the last six-plus seasons, the longer we waited to get back to her, the harder it was going to be for the reality to live up to whatever image we had built up in our heads. And when the reality looks like Katie Holmes – or, rather, has the limited comic chops of Katie Holmes – it was all but guaranteed to disappoint.

(*) Side note: a few nights ago, I stumbled across a syndicated repeat of “Okay Awesome,” the show’s fifth episode – it’s the one where Marshall sneaks out from the couples wine tasting to hang with Ted and Barney at a club – and it reminded me of just how vibrant and clever and unforced this show was back in the day, and how even when it’s good these days, you can usually see the effort in a way you didn’t back then. Age happens to everyone (see Mark Hamill on “Chuck” last week), but I almost wish I hadn’t seen a vintage episode again until after the show was over. Also, in skimming my old blog (which started a couple of weeks into the first “HIMYM” season), I noticed that my blurb on “Okay Awesome” ended with the phrase “Good stuff, and if they can do episodes like this every week, I won’t care if we don’t meet the mom until season three.” Oh, Early 30s Alan. So naive. So optimistic. You and I need to have a chat as much as Ted and 15 Year Old Ted did.

You don’t get Katie Holmes because you expect her to be a gifted sitcom pro. You get her, like you got Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood and Katy Perry before her, because you hope she’ll give you a ratings bump. And, like those three singers, to varying degrees(**), “The Slutty Pumpkin Returns” had to write around her limitations. Given that the Slutty Pumpkin was sure to disappoint us as a character, I thought it was a clever decision to make this be a story about how the reality didn’t live up to Ted’s expectations, either. But as written and played by Holmes, she didn’t come across as the flaming hot mess that Ted kept telling us that she was. Their interactions were slightly awkward at most, and had to be sold as much more through some unconvincing Ted voiceover.  (Though my love of Barenaked Ladies may be coloring my view of the scene where she sings “One Week” to Ted.) By making Naomi less of a disappointment than the show kept claiming she was, the story wound up being more disappointing than it should have been.

(**) Perry was arguably the funniest of the three, not necessarily because of anything she did, but because her character was the funniest on the page (or part of the funniest situation).

Fortunately, the subplots were good, particularly Robin and Barney. I’ve long been on record that it’s hard for the show to go wrong with letting Cobie Smulders go full Canadian. And the show had a long enough history of Barney mocking Robin for her heritage that it didn’t seem like they were pulling a character trait out of thin air the way they did with the “everyone married their parents” gimmick from last week. Barney feels vastly superior to Canadians, and therefore would be horrified to find himself as part Canuck. Neil Patrick Harris’ tears as Barney dressed up in the Mountie costume and sang “Oh Canada” were marvelous. I just hope that the tag – a play on the sequence in “Superman III” where Bad Superman fights Good Clark Kent – isn’t the end of this. As with the duckie tie, it would be so much more satisfying if Robin kept taunting Barney with Canadian references for a long time to come, just as a reminder of how foolish his Apollo Creed costume was. (Much like his slap bet choice.)

Lily and Marshall’s ongoing city/suburbs conflict had the misfortune to air a few days after a similar, and funnier, “Happy Endings” subplot with Jane and Brad, but the concept of pregnancy brain was amusing, if silly – and also featuring some filthy but but not obnoxious double entendres (i.e., a vast improvement on pretty much any “2 Broke Girls” dialogue), like Marshall’s declaration that “I want to be inside this house so bad!” The only thing I wonder is whether Dowisetrepla is still the white elephant it was introduced as when Marshall foolishly bought it.

What did everybody else think?

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