How I Met Your Mother – “Duel Citizenship”

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“Duel Citizenship”

October 19th, 2009

So, this was pretty awesome, eh?

I don’t know if there’s many episodes of an American comedy series that likely work far better for Canadians than Americans, but I think this is probably one of those examples. Much of “Duel Citizenship” took the form of a pretty standard episode of the show, with Ted turning into an unwilling third wheel on a trip with Lily and Marshall, but the story of Robin’s need to consider becoming an American citizen turned into a love letter to Tim Hortons (which is a famous Canadian coffee chain, in case you weren’t aware) and in many ways another sign that this Robin’s character (and the show) has more of an appreciation for Canada than the jokes might initially indicate.

The result is a solid episode of How I Met Your Mother from the perspective of someone who finds the jokes to be at Canada’s expense, and a kind of fantastic episode for those of us who “get” the Canadian side of the storyline in a way that others cannot. All in all, it’s an episode I had a lot of fun with, albeit for the love of my country more than my love of the rest of the episode.

I want to make clear that the other part of this episode wasn’t without its charms: I thought the various Tantrum jokes were entertaining if a bit one-dimensional, and the idea of Lily and Marshall melding into one person was well-played by both Hannigan and Segel. However, the storyline suffered from the same joke being played over and over again (Lily’s overactive bladder) in a sequence that was about as good as something that repetitive can be. I think that they devised some nice wordplay for which Lily would desire to use the bathroom, and Hannigan played it like a champ, but it was a single joke that didn’t really go anywhere. Combine with a bed and breakfast that only reinforced the traditional third wheel thematic, and the greasy pizza joint not quite living up to the hype (it’s dirty, we knew that from the get-go), and you have a storyline that’s just sort of there. I thought the Kenny Rogers audio book gag was fun, but it tied things up into too nice of a bow, and the storyline was most effective when calling back to the Proclaimers tape stuck in the Fiero and other such continuity bits.

But on the other side of the episode was something legitimately compelling for us Canadians, as Barney decides to help Robin become an American citizen in order to avoid deportation for charges being laid as a result of a bar brawl at the Hoser Hut. On the one hand, the episode continues Barney’s crusade against Canada, as he points out that Americans are more patriotic, more belligerent, and far better at misidentifying celebrities. He believes this so strongly that he essentially tries to wipe the Canada out of Robin, only for Robin to see the Hoser Hut and fall right back into her old ways wailing away on “O Canada” and eventually joining a Women’s curling team on their journey to Toronto.

Up to that point, the show continues its depiction of Canada as a hockey-crazed nation of weird sports, but what’s interesting when the show arrives to Toronto is how things do suddenly shift. While Robin’s patriotism has often been considered a joke for the show (as Barney notes, they’ve had a lot of laughs from her being Canadian), in this moment we as the audience realize that Robin loves her country, and this isn’t entirely a laughing matter. The scene at Tim Hortons, earned via product placement considering the coffee franchise’s expansion into areas of the U.S. beyond the Northeast, was interesting because it carefully skirted that line between making fun of Canadians (Barney giving voice to criticism of the humorous images on our currency) and empowering Robin as a Canadian as she later admits to her nationality overweighing her appreciation of Barney for standing up for her.

Ultimately, the resolution of dual citizenship is almost too logical to have never been brought up earlier, but as an investigation of national pride and identity it’s a really intriguing episode of television. While Barney got to say his peace as we laughed along with his observations about Canada being a backwards country (even we Canadians find deprecation of the country entertaining), he also got his ass kicked but a kid in a hockey jersey and a group of tieless thugs. And, at the same time, when Robin returns to Canada and the clerk at Tim Hortons believes her to be American for not having seen the Leafs game and using American money, you realize that Robin is not so much a Canadian living in New York as she is a New Yorker who is Canadian, a position that allows her nationality to remain an important part of her character’s identity without dominating it. It’s a way to be able to maintain the status quo of Robin’s character while confirming, once and for all, that the writers (and Smulders herself) really do love this northern country of ours, even if there are times where it’s more convenient to depict us as a backwards nation that’s afraid of the dark.

Cultural Observations

  • Interesting that Americans will see Barney’s “This coffee is great” comment as sheer product placement, whereas Canadians are like “Damn right it is!”
  • I thought the couples stuff at the Crumpet Manor was a bit rote, but I did love “Do you enjoy sitting on a bench?”
  • I also loved Barney ripping open the curtain looking for a dramatic view of the Toronto skyline and just getting a brick wall – it not only made for a great laugh, but it also kept them from having to use a really cheap version of the Toronto skyline.
  • When I was in LA, it was a somewhat cool day for the area, but having come from Nova Scotia it was pretty warm to my brother and I so we had shorts on. We got onto a bus, and a girl sitting across from us had on a winter hat and gloves, and gave us a dirty and confused look: as such, I could totally relate to Robin’s lack of winter clothing in one of the opening scenes.
  • Barney’s run of jokes on the subject of studying turning into sexual innuendo was a bit too quippy (it was like Barney reciting a list of jokes rather than actually talking), but NPH is good enough to sell it.

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