After a welcome re-appearance by Victoria earlier this season, Season 7 of How I Met Your Mother continues to mine its freshman year for material, calling back the so-called “Slutty Pumpkin” girl that we first glimpsed (from behind anyway) waaay back in November 2005 on the show’s sixth episode. It turns out that, from the front, the Slutty Pumpkin looks a heck of a lot like a certain girl-next-door from Capeside, MA, who went onto inspire the activities of Gotham City’s nocturnal detective before settling down with a one-time fighter pilot/stock car driver/self-absorbed sports agent and raising an adorable bit of tabloid fodder. I’m speaking, of course, about Katie Holmes, whose guest star stint was only slightly less awkward than the Nicole Scherzinger fiasco from last year. To their credit, the writers worked Holmes’ anti-chemistry into the story of “The Slutty Pumpkin Returns,” cleverly setting up Slutty Pumpkin girl (whose actual name is Naomi, by the way) and Ted as the world’s worst couple. How terrible are they together? So terrible that every kiss, every hug, heck, every pat on the back seems to cause Ted physical pain. Too often in the past, the show (and Josh Radnor himself) has had to work overtime to convince us that there’s a spark between Ted and his current flame that’s clearly not that there. So it’s a relief to know that, in this case anyway, that uncomfortably awkward feeling we get whenever we see Ted kiss a member of the opposite sex is entirely intentional.
Having spent the decade since his first sighting of the Slutty Pumpkin girl turning up at Halloween parties hoping to spot her again, Ted finally gets proactive about the situation, badgering the clerk at the costume rental store to give him the name and address for the girl that wore that ensemble ten years ago. Instead of ordering this creepy guy out of the store and calling the cops, the proprietor cheerily mentions that he’s not the first guy that’s shown up wanting to find the girl that got away. In fact, “three girls got proposals off my wife’s slutty artichoke costume.” (He goes on to add that two others disappeared and I start wondering if Ted should be calling the cops on this guy instead.) Showing up at her front door, Ted is surprised and delighted to discover that she remembers him from that Halloween party too. Later, they enjoy their first date on the exact spot where they locked eyes on each other ten years ago… on a small, dingy rooftop. Can you smell the love tonight? (On second thought, that may just be the dumpsters in the back alleyway.) Then Naomi has to go and spoil the mood by singing a verse or two from the song that was playing when they met, the Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week.” And if you thought Katie Holmes’ mouth does strange things when she speaks, just wait ‘til you see her faux-rap. Ted understandably looks a little frightened and attempts to stop that racket by smooshing his lips against hers. “It took me ten years, but I finally kissed her,” says Future Ted in voiceover. “And it was… terrible.” Heh.
Anyway, things keep going downhill for our young would-be lovers. A post-dinner snuggle session on a deck chair is marred by awkward hand-holding and a shoulder in the windpipe. Their second date make-out session proves even more awkward, featuring some of the “worst kissing of all time” and more shots of Holmes singing along to “One Week,” this time with extra butt wiggle to further stoke your nightmares. Ted realizes that he has to break up with her, but he’s egged on by his 15-year-old self to at least have sex with her first because “we made a deal we would always boink any chick that wants to boink us.” When he shows up at her place again on Halloween night fully intending to end things, the sight of her in her old Slutty Pumpkin costume -- and the fact that she reconstructed the costume he was wearing that night, a hanging chad -- causes him to utter the fateful words “I love you” instead. Awkward offscreen sex ensues and the duo turn up at the annual rooftop Halloween party where Naomi experiences a moment of clarity after downing a few of her patented Tootsie Roll cocktails and tells Ted flat-out, “We are terrible together” before vanishing back into the crowd. So you can all cross another name off the list of potential mothers… not that Holmes was every likely to stick around for longer than one episode anyway. That Suri isn’t going to raise herself, after all.
With Ted occupied with this week’s guest star and Kal Penn sitting this episode out most likely due to A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas promotional duties, that pushed Barney and Robin together for a B-plot that revealed a horrifying secret: Barney is 1/3 Canadian, courtesy of the Manitoban-born grandmother on his father’s side. Much Canuck-inspired humor ensued, which HIMYM generally excels at. (Best related line of the night: “This Canuck’s going to beat on you like the drummer from Yukon Blonde hopped up on Timbits.” It’s funny because we only understood half of it.) Eventually Robin presented Barney with a proposition: she’ll stop ribbing him about his Canadian heritage if he agrees to dress up as a proud officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the Halloween party. Ever the proud red-blooded American male, Barney can’t bring himself to lose to a Canadian, opting to re-enact Apollo Creed’s Rocky IV entrance instead. (Glad to see he still found a way to honor his duck tie bet, wrapping that accursed thing around his bare arm.) In a post-credits scene, his Canadian and American selves battle each other Superman III-style with the Mountie taking it on the chin repeatedly. This whole storyline just offered further proof that this show is just funnier when Robin and Barney aren’t stuck dating other people.
Meanwhile in the episode’s C-plot, Lily and Marshall were off in their own little suburban universe this week, having been gifted a big house in the ‘burbs by Lily’s grandparents. Amusingly addled by pregnancy brain, Lily initially thinks moving out of New York is a great idea and uses some aggressive double entendres to sell her hubby on the notion. But after accidentally rewarding a group of trick-or-treaters with a bottle of Pinot and a stapler, she realizes she’s not in the right state of mind to be making such a momentous life decision (also, the writers don’t want to have to come up with reasons to bus them in from the suburbs every episode) so they decide to stay put in their lovely Dowisetrepla apartment. Not much of a storyline, but at least they were spared from having to share the screen with Holmes.