|The Slutty Pumpkin (Katie Holmes) disappoints Ted|
(Josh Radnor), and the viewer feels his pain in a perfectly-
executed meta-casting gambit.
Last night, the writers attempted a very different callback, finally bringing the legend of the Slutty Pumpkin to fruition, after seven years for the viewer and ten years for Ted.
The result, in short, was disappointment. But the disappointment was skillfully deployed and the central idea of the entire episode. Read on...
After years of anticipation, how could the Slutty Pumpkin not disappoint? For Ted, when he met her at a 2001 Halloween party, he thought she could be the love of his life. The missed connection hit him so hard that he returned to the same lame Halloween party year after year, in hopes of spotting her again (the original episode being a very clever homage to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown).
Lo and behold, a decade later Ted gets a break and finds the shop from where the original costume was rented, which leads him, finally, right to her doorstep. The door opens, and it's...Katie Holmes.
For this role, in this episode all about something being built up huge only for it to turn out to be completely empty, Holmes was a masterful casting choice. What other actress could draw so much attention for landing the part? What other part could have a mass of fans' expectations through the roof? How better to unite viewer and Ted in the feeling of expectations mounted and dashed?
For her part, Holmes was pretty harmless in the role of a hottie that Ted should have every reason to be into but isn't. The chemistry wasn't there, and it wasn't earth-shatteringly catastrophic, and that was exactly the point. Heck, I even thought she was kind funny singing along to "One Week". Well, actually I kind of cringed-laughed, which, once again, was exactly the point.
For Ted at this point in his life, this was a strong lesson, and seems to be part of a pattern this season - Ted has to let a little bit of the romantic go and stop running gung-ho into every seemingly fateful encounter. He's in his mid-30s now, and finding life-long companionship is a mature quest.
Dramatically, of course, this serves to perfectly set up the jaded Mosby's serendipitous encounter with the Mother, restoring his faith and gaining him his kindred spirit in one fell swoop.
Elsewhere in the episode, we got our non-meta laughs from a very funny subplot about Robin discovering that Barney is part-Canadian*, as well as Lily contemplating major life decisions with "pregnancy brain".
* - Barney goes into a pop-culture shame spiral, at different times paying homage to The Empire Strikes Back, Rocky, and, in one of the weirdest endings the show has had to date, Superman III.
It was a strong outing overall, and always reassuring to see that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas know what they're doing when making monumental show decisions of their own.