From the minute the boys spied Summer Glau on the Pacific Coastliner (which is actually the Pacific Surfliner, for those hip to SoCal Amtrak), I thought I was going to hate this episode. I figured it would just be 22 minutes of Summer Glau looking uncomfortable as each of our geeks (minus Sheldon) took their turns hitting on her in awful and horrible ways, and while that’s what this episode basically was, it wasn’t horrible. It was actually kind of pleasant.
The boys are on that train, by the way, because they’re all going to a physics conference up in San Francisco, a city in which Penny loves to get trashed and ride on cable cars. Thanks, Chuck Lorre and company. Because it’s not like we up in the Bay Area have anything better to offer than great microbrews (that’s true!) and quaint, antiquated modes of transportation that have become iconic thanks to a product no actual human in the Bay Area eats. (That’s right, Rice-a-Roni. I’m talking about you. There’s too much good food up here to eat you, you bullshit side dish.) And Sheldon really, really loves trains. So one vote from Sheldon in favor of a train ride easily outweighs three votes from the others in favor of a flight from LAX to SFO. This is just an excuse for Sheldon to toss out numerous facts about trains, which, while irritating, were somehow endearing because Parsons played each of these lines like a little boy comparing his model train set to an actual train for the first time in his life.
The “plot” occurs when Sheldon realizes he’s forgotten his flash drive at home, which means he can’t print out his paper at the hotel and hand it to Nobel Prize-winning physicist George Smoot (who gets a cameo at the end of the episode), and he would really, really like to see Smoot’s face when he reads Sheldon’s paper, so Leonard’s suggestion of emailing Smoot the paper at a later date is out of the question. After Leonard convinces Sheldon not to jump off the train in Oxnard (which I wouldn’t recommend, either), taxiing back to their Pasadena apartment and then driving Leonard’s car up 101 to meet the train again in San Luis Obispo (a feat which would probably involve going about 95 in order to achieve), Sheldon calls Penny to ask her to retrieve the flash drive from his room and email the paper so he can later print it out and hand it to Smoot.
“It seems you are once again caught between a rock and a crazy place.” – Leonard, on Sheldon’s train-hopping plot to retrieve his flash drive
Meanwhile, Summer Glau boards the train and Raj and Howard decide that this is their one chance to try to put the moves on the Terminatrix.
“What would Summer Glau be doing riding the train?” – Howard
I have the same question, Howard.
Utilizing Sheldon’s train knowledge – as to where the booze is – Raj heads off to have a beer or two in the dining car, leaving Howard to attempt to talk to the actress. Even though he comes up with the perfect line (“It’s hot in here. It must be Summer!”), he can’t bring himself to actually talk to her, choosing instead to sit near her, trying to work up the courage. Freshly buzzed, Raj swoops in and steals Howard’s opening line, which Glau finds charming. He then proceeds to talk to her about Slumdog Millionaire (“Loosely based on my life.”) and his various knowledge of astronomy, which she actually finds quite impressive, until he starts talking about how jealous he is that she got to actually be in space when she was working on Firefly. Raj protests that he’s not a geek like Howard, and sends Howard off to get him a beer . . . which is when Howard realizes that Raj has been drinking non-alcoholic beer the whole time, a fact he promptly presents to Raj who freezes up and runs away, allowing Howard to take a chance with River Tam.
Howard then proceeds to talk Glau’s ear off with all the wrong things, including a dream where he was ice skating with her and then her legs tore off and she turned into a loaf of pumpernickel bread, which, by the way, comes from the German for “fart goblin.” I probably laughed harder at that dream sequence and the fart goblin comment than I have at most other jokes on this show. But then again, I like non-sequiturs and language humor, so that’s probably not totally surprising. Glau is really not thrilled to be hanging out with Howard, and its written all over her face. I’m honestly not sure how good of an actress she is because she wasn’t very good at being bored/terrified/disgusted by Howard, but someone the blank River Tam face of crazy worked decently here. But I’m really worried for who Summer Glau is as a person if she’s this boring (albeit hot) when playing herself. Nonetheless, she does let Howard take a picture with her for his Facebook page, but smashes his camera when he suggests they take pictures that would indicate they were involved romantically.
Leonard then tries his hand at wooing Summer Glau, but she abruptly exits the train as it stops in Santa Barbara. I now have another question: why would Summer Glau be taking the train to Santa Barbara? Did someone invite her to a party on Del Playa or something and she didn’t want her publicists to know about it? Plenty of celebrity types hang out in Santa Barbara from time to time, but they generally try to be as inconspicuous as possible. (Except Jeff Bridges. That dude showed up at UCSB all the freakin’ time. He hosted a screening of Tron and The Big Lebowski once. Another time, I saw him interview Tony Kushner.) And they’d never take public transportation in SB. Can you imagine being mauled by college students while on vacation? That would be no fun at all.
While Penny enters the inner sanctum of Sheldon’s room, she finds a box of letters from his grandmother and discovers that Sheldon’s pet name in his family is Moonpie. Penny tries to call him that, but Sheldon grows angry, growling into the phone with such vitriol:
“No one calls me Moonpie but Mee-maw!”
Penny refuses to go any further in following Sheldon’s precise instructions for finding his flash drive (which is hidden in a Chinese puzzle box of no sentimental value that Penny ultimately smashes) unless he tells her why his grandmother calls him Moonpie, the answer to which is easily the best line of the night:
“She calls me Moonpie because I’m nummy-nummy and she could just eat me up.”
From a truly dreary premise, this episode far exceeded my expectations, winding up in some truly funny goofiness involving fart goblins and the nicknames given to us by our respective mee-maws.