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The Girl Next Door

"How I Met Your Mother" Recap: The Not-So-Great Pumpkin

New York Magazine

The news that Katie Holmes would be playing the part of the Slutty Pumpkin was not greeted warmly by Vulture commenters. Perhaps the idea that this classic, mysterious character from season one would be entrusted to a Scientologist irked you. Or you, with good reason, hated Joey Potter — she of the withering glances, poor posture, and tendency to talk out the side of her mouth. We felt differently. Holmes’s strange life choices have actually turned her into something of an enigma, which suits the Slutty Pumpkin. And wasn’t there almost a wink to this casting of Mrs. Cruise as a vacant and sexless beauty? Holmes singing Barenaked Ladies was so unpredictably human and un-cultish that we may be overreacting with praise.

Anyway, as with Victoria, there was a sense that this reunion was rather rushed. Instead of bumping into Naomi on the roof where they met, Ted spotted the costume, got her name and address from the owner, and proceeded immediately to her apartment — only to discover that they had absolutely no chemistry together. Ted couldn’t get comfortable enough to properly snuggle. Her moans of pleasure reminded him of “the cows in Temple Grandin’s hug machine.” She overused the word “caress.” But when she broke out the old costume — and prepared a hanging chad to replicate Ted’s 2001 outfit — he found himself pulling a Shmosby and saying, “I love you.” Might we add: Though that pumpkin getup fit the description, with holes carved out in strategic places, nothing so shapeless can genuinely qualify as slutty. But it was almost funnier this way.

In a trick of unreliable narration, a "HIMYM" favorite, Naomi turned out to be just as apprehensive as Ted, even though he didn’t remember it that way. The one flaw with this reveal was that she did go to the trouble of re-creating their costumes, which would be unlikely if she was this disinterested. Also, her signature Tootsie Roll drink should have been nodded to more subtly. It was a callback that really called attention to itself.

But while the Slutty Pumpkin might have been the eye candy for the episode, Barney and Robin’s witty repartee made the evening. See, this is why we don’t want these two getting back together; they’re so much better as platonic equals. Robin announced to the gang: “You know who is on Facebook now? Everybody’s parents.” (Old news, Robin.) Turned out she befriended Barney’s nearly forgotten long-lost dad Jerome, who replied to her status update about Manitoba to say that his mother was born there, which makes Barney one quarter Canadian! His reaction is Star Wars–channeling horror. And from there, Robin mercilessly busted his chops, calling him “Canucklehead” and “hoser,” feeding him Canadian whiskey, and filling his wallet with loonies and toonies, all as payback for making fun of Canada since “Justin Bieber was knee high to a snow blower.” Barney’s rejoinder: “It’s federal currency and you people talk about it like it was a Hanna-Barbera character.”

If Robin’s to lay off, Barney needed to endure the final humiliation of dressing as a Mountie for Halloween. The tears in his eyes as he looked at himself in the mirror suggested he was suiting up to pull the trigger. Of course, he can’t do it. Maybe the ducky tie was punishment enough, but he ended up styled after Apollo Creed and making a fittingly obnoxious entrance to “Living in America.” Neil Patrick Harris’s gifts as a physical comedian extend to his remarkable agility. Also, though you won’t catch us missing Nora or Kevin, their absence was a bit conspicuous, no?

Finally, as commenters have noted, Marshall and Lily’s plotlines have been suffering in the wake of their pregnancy. Because pregnancy is boring. The only thing more boring than pregnancy is children. (Relax, Brooklyn. Speaking strictly about sitcoms here.) Cravings, hormones, labor faces — hokey as all get out. So Lily’s heretofore unknown grandparents offered to give Lily and Marshall their house, which is located in “the 'burbs.” When Lily told her friends of her plan to move, Robin jumped in to warn Marshall about pregnancy brain, which actually seemed like a believable thing separate from the high jinks it entailed last night. First off, like Marshall and Lily would make a snap decision to move away from their friends? Not to mention the mortgage they’re carrying, not to mention how normally this would be an entirely separate plot that would involve Ted, who also owns a house in “the 'burbs” and so perhaps might have some good advice?

But it’s no reason to ride the show too hard. Lily’s silly mix-ups — crying over melted ice cubes and staplers — were far-fetched, but it was just a goof. The writers tried to spice things up a little with Marshall’s double entendre-d response to Lily’s promises of a pinball machine that could go upstairs, downstairs, or in the back: “I’m coming … to terms with this decision.” Still, gone are the Marshall and Lily of yore. To prep for the return of the Slutty Pumpkin, we went back and watched a little of the original episode, and these two were sharp as tacks, doling out barbs and partying with the rest of the gang. But hey, things change. In the bigger picture, maybe their story line is all too real.

At least, taken together, this was a thematically sound episode, with everyone struggling to maintain their own identity. Ted thought he should be the hopeless romantic even if his libido dictated otherwise. Barney thought he should be American even if he is one fourth Canadian. And Lily thought she should relocate to “the 'burbs” now that she has a baby on the way. In the end, everyone came to their senses — well, except for Barney. Those Canada jokes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.