We’ve already met Sheldon’s mom, a traditional Southern mom who had no expectations for Sheldon to excel academically. Leonard’s mother, guest star Christine Baranski, is the exact opposite. Leonard’s parents are both academics who write about their own sex lives (or lack thereof) from the perspectives of anthropology and neuroscience. Clearly, Beverly Hoffsteader’s neuroscientific perspective on sex for procreation is the only paper worth reading. She’s also a research psychologist, apparently, because her visit to Los Angeles is filled with instances of her holding a mirror to Leonard and his friends, pointing out that Penny’s desire to be an actress stems from the fact that her father never loved her because she wasn’t a boy; that Raj and Howard both suffer from a fear of intimacy with women that results in their respective selective mutism (which she finds very interesting) and residence at home (less interesting, as an adult Jewish male who still lives at home with his mother is actually quite common), and with which they cope by forming an ersatz homosexual relationship with one another; and that Leonard himself, despite his many accomplishments, can never live up to his mother’s expectations. Unlike his younger brother who is a law professor at Harvard and his older sister who is very close to curing diabetes, Leonard has no original research to his name, choosing instead to replicate others’ experiments. He can’t even make Bev’s tea correctly.
Sheldon, of course, loves Bev. In fact, he wishes that Bev had been his mother, praising the highly academic environment in which she raised her children and wistfully wishing that he’d had Leonard’s childhood filled with numerous EEGs, remarking, “If I wanted an EEG, I had to glue my own electrodes to my head.” As Sheldon grows closer to Bev, Leonard takes refuge in Penny’s apartment and the two of them cry about their insecurities, do a lot of shots and, eventually, wind up in bed together, until Leonard ruins the moment by talking about how their time in bed together is fueled solely by unresolved Oedipal and Electral desires. Penny kicks him out. If only he had listened to his mother’s earlier advice:
“If you want to have intercourse with that girl, find out what kind of cologne her father wears.” – Beverly Hoffsteader
Even though the introduction of Leonard’s mother as a destructive force is clearly hackneyed sitcom trope, I liked this episode a lot. I laughed more than I have at a number of BBT episodes, and most of that was because of Baranski and her delivery. I’m used to seeing her play oversexed divas, so to see her so completely out of character was a treat.
Other funny moments:
- Raj rocking out super hardcore to “Under the Bridge,” a song we all know should be way more toned down than that.
- “Why else would you grow a pancreas in a teenage gibbon?” – Beverly, about Leonard’s sister’s research
- Sheldon’s response to Bev’s outing of Howard and Raj’s “ersatz homosexual relationship:” “You went to the comic book store without me?”
- Bev and Sheldon doing karaoke, which is one of the most terrifyingly funny things I’ve seen on this show. Knowing how well Baranski can actually sing, doing so that badly must have been quite the exercise for her.
This is going to continue being the one show on which my wife and I disagree, because while I really dig Christine Baranski – I was a huge fan of Cybill – I found almost every moment she was onscreen completely obnoxious. There’s funny annoying and then there’s annoying annoying, and I’m not sure if Chuck Lorre and his writers know the difference. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, that this is just such a strange sitcom world to enter, but I think most of the laughs had to do with Baranski herself and not the cliché bullshit lines that she was fed.
On the other hand, I really liked the Leonard-Penny story, that their relationship has advanced enough that him getting kicked out of her bed isn’t such a big deal anymore – it would have been last season – and that they’ve become good enough friends to just get over bizarre drunken incidents. Or, in other words, I felt like Leonard was actually a character tonight and not just the straight man to Jim Parsons’ lunacy that he usually is.