Last week’s cliffhanger left How I Met Your Mother’s audience wondering why Victoria, Ted’s pastry chef love interest that he cheated on with Robin while she was in Germany way back in season one, has returned to the show after being gone for five seasons. This episode opens with an unnecessary recap of who exactly Victoria is for die-hard fans, but newer fans must appreciate the quick catch-up. HIMYM writers’ ability to rehash old plots for new viewers while not boring viewers who have seen every episode is uncanny. Sure, I remember exactly who Victoria was, but casual long-term fans might not—and certainly not fans who picked the show up after it became a hit.
What the writers fail to explain in “The Ducky Tie” is that Victoria was almost the mother. Remember that HIMYM almost didn’t make it out of the first season and they were just going to stick with whomever Ted was dating at the time. Luckily they didn’t, because in all honesty the cupcake princess was not all that interesting.
The entire first part of this episode is the gang at dinner while Ted tells what happened after bumping into Victoria. They have a conversation about how Robin and Ted look cute together, but Ted interrupts saying they’re not together and says they still hangs out everyday and so does Barney (who also dated her). When a show can make fun of itself it can run the risk of the audience realizing how ridiculous the plots are, but HIMYM has always done so, and it makes for a series of honest laughs.
Ted’s serious story about Victoria and fate is broken up with Barney blatantly making fun of a ducky tie Marshall is wearing as well as expressing his distaste for hibachi grill restaurants, while they happen to be eating at one. Thanks to Barney’s desire to accept challenges and touch Lily’s pregnant breasts, he bets Marshall he is better than the hibachi cook in exchange for the chance to fondle Lily. The catch: if he loses he has to wear the ducky tie for an entire year. On an unrelated note, I think I had pajamas made out of the same duck pattern (not ashamed).
The interplay between a life-changing story and a silly bet keeps the story fresh and you emotionally invested. Even more importantly, it keeps the episode from turning into a something that would be way too serious for a sitcom. Usually it’s easy to pick out what plot in an episode is funnier/better/more engaging, but this episode had it all. “The Ducky Tie” quieted the laughter when it needed to before dropping a slapstick punch line with the capability to induce laughter for an entire minute straight.
At one point Ted asks, “What would our lives be right now if we just held on?” Truthfully, that is the beauty of HIMYM. The sitcom keeps everything on such a humorous level, but it isn’t afraid to explore the questions we all want. Future Ted always tells his children that everything happens for a reason, and sure enough plots always come full circle. When I first heard Victoria was coming back for this episode I was worried, but in the end she proves vital. After all the laughter this episode produced, it ended on incredibly important point. We just don’t know it yet.