Monday, October 31, 2011

How I Met Your Mother: 'The Slutty Pumpkin Returns'

Quick Review: Forget the Pumpkin, the best part about this episode is the real truth about Barney.

Episode Synopsis: The Slutty Pumpkin, played by Katie Holmes, returns, after Ted has searched for her every year at the same costume party since the Halloween they met and he lost her phone number. -tvguide

Spoilers ahead, so watch the episode before you proceed.

Best Episode Moment: Robin telling Barney that he's actually one quarter Canadian.

Worst Episode Moment: Equating Lily being pregnant with a drunk chick. Look, pregnancy brain is real, but it doesn't completely destroy a person.

Best Character Interaction: Robin tormenting Barney about his Canadian heritage.

Worst Character Interaction: Ted and Naomi (aka The Slutty Pumpkin)

Best Character Progression: Naomi, actually having the smarts to break off her bad relationship with Ted.

Worst Character Regression: Ted pulling a classic Mosby, saying "I love you" way too soon. Didn't we get past this after the first episode?

Best Callback: You have to ask? It's an entire episode revisiting a one-off from season one.

Best Star Wars reference: Barney's reaction to learning he's part Canadian - "That's not true, that's impossible."

Best Superman III reference: Barney fighting his Canadian twin.

Best dawning realization: Barney realizing that he actually understands Robin's Canadian lingo.

Plot development they'll probably drop after an episode: Lily's pregnancy brain. Which is just as well considering that they have nothing constructive to do with Lily other that have her embody every pregnancy trope.

Plot development they better not drop after an episode: Again, Barney being Canadian. It might be the best thing so far about this season.

Any hint about The Mother? No, but I wonder how Ted managed to not screw it up.

Any hint about The Wedding? No, but if Robin has anything to do with it, there will be maple leaves everywhere.

Do we like Ted this episode? I think I might see the problem. Ted won't stop listening to his 15 year-old self. It's time for Ted to grow up and be a mature adult, and until he does, I just don't have it in me to root for him.

Overall Opinion of the Episode: Most shows won't revisit a one-off plot point from season one when they are well into their seventh. As we all know, HIMYM is no ordinary show, and at its best, it is worth watching and re-watching. Many of us, myself included, have the series on DVD and will just throw in a disk and hit play-all when the mood strikes. Especially anything from the first four seasons, when the series was at its best.

Thus, when we hear that we're finally going to see the 'Slutty Pumpkin,' we don't scratch our heads and ask who? We already know who she is, despite being an unseen character from the first season who is never mentioned again. It's a testament to both the show and the way it rewards longtime fans.

Of course, it could also be seen as a cynical attempt to bring back a lot of the love it's lost over the past few years. Rather than move forward in a new and creative direction, it has to constantly revisit it's past glories much like Al Bundy never lets anyone forget about the time he scored four touchdowns in a single high-school football game.

So what was it tonight? A fitting letdown. Of course after ten years the Slutty Pumpkin wouldn't live up to Ted's expectations, nor would Ted live up to hers. (Even if she was played by Katie Holmes.) What would have been just an awkward forgotten date was built up into an incredible what-might-have-been, and that's often how it works out in real-life. However, I'm disappointed that they didn't do much more than show that they were incompatible. In the end, it amounted to nothing, especially as Ted just went after the next girl he spotted.

I would have loved to see this plotline result in real character growth for Ted. This was an opportunity for Ted to become a man worthy of The Mother, to learn that chasing fantasies isn't going to lead anywhere, nor is listening to his fifteen-year-old self. It's time for him to act like a grown-up man in his thirties, and this was a perfect time for him to figure that out. Instead, they throw that opportunity away. Again.

But the worst sin this episode committed was against Lily. Yes, being pregnant changes you, and it can even affect brain chemistry, but it doesn't turn women into complete invalids. This show has never been kind to pregnant Lily, hitting every stereotype and doing them poorly, and this is so far the worse example. Like Ted and the Pumpkin, there were so many more ways to go with Lily being pregnant that would be funny and afford her some dignity. Instead, they treat her with as much respect as a "drunk chick."

However, the saving grace was with Barney's plot line. Having the former Canada hater suddenly one-quarter Canadian himself is a stroke of genius. Robin's glee at tormenting Barney was priceless. I especially loved when she replaced his money with Canadian coins.

Overall this episode is slightly better than a wash. The Barney plot was by far the best part of the show, but it was wasted potential all around.

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