The Wife:

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

Im betting Pennys dad was a Stetson man.

I'm betting Penny's dad was a Stetson man.

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.

The Husband:

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.

The Wife:

I think this episode was a nice character study for Penny, and ultimately one of the things I’ve appreciated about the show’s second season is that they’ve decided to treat Penny as a character rather than just window dressing. We know she’s not the most sensible person, so for her to be behind on her bills is not something out of character for her at all. And her situation is understandable: she’s behind on her rent because she had to take shorter shifts at the restaurant because her car broke down and she can’t afford to get it fixed. Sheldon, who really has no need for most of the money he possesses, decides to help Penny out by letter her have however much money she wants from his snake jar, and offers to let her pay him back whenever. The scene where she hesitates about taking the money (constantly taking a little more, and then putting some back, and then taking a lot more, and then putting it all back, and then taking some) is probably the funniest material Kaley Cuoco has ever been given, and it was refreshing to let the girl have some of the physical comedy for once.

Penny: Wow, you’ve got a lot of money in there.
Sheldon: That’s why it’s guarded by snakes.

But Penny had a lot more to do that just that. It turns out, she’s kind of psycho about borrowing money from people. Despite his protestations, Penny becomes increasingly worried that she won’t be able to pay Sheldon back the money she owes him in a timely manner, causing her to constantly defend anything she does, like the purchase of a beret or the decision to have takeout with the guys. (“I’ve been eating at the restaurant four nights this week. I can have take out if I want to! I deserve it!” And then taking her takeout to her apartment where she won’t be judged for eating it.) Noticing her bizarre behavior, Leonard goes to tell Penny that, truly, despite the numerous things Sheldon does care about (his seat on the couch, forks with four tines, the appropriate way to make friends, etc.), the one thing he really doesn’t care about at all is money. He goes through her bills with her and offers to help her find ways to cut corners, since the money Sheldon lent her only went so far as to pay her rent and buy her takeout that she returned home to eat by candlelight. While going through her bills, Leonard finds out that Penny is so in debt because she paid a bunch of her ex Kurt’s court fees and he hasn’t paid her back.

I mean, seriously, he is that big of a douchebag.

I mean, seriously, he is that big of a douchebag.

Ever the hero, Leonard sees this as his opportunity to help Penny and enlists his friends to help him politely intimidate Kurt into ponying up. Kurt’s first response is that Penny will get her money when she gets it, which is a good enough answer for Raj, Sheldon and Howard, who all bail, but Leonard stays behind to try to reason with the man once more, and winds up coming home with the words “I owe Penny $1,800″ sharpied to his forehead. But it seems Leonard’s method worked, as Penny pops up at their door the next day to give Sheldon the money he was owed. Out of the blue, she says, Kurt turned up with what he owed her and said he felt guilty. A beanie-wearing Leonard goads and prods to see if perhaps Kurt revealed why he had a sudden change of heart, but alas Kurt never said, leaving Leonard to be the unsung hero about whom minstrels will sing ballads. Even worse: Penny sees Kurt’s act of kindness as a sign that he’s turned over a new leaf and starts to date him again.

I actually liked this episode quite a bit. Giving Penny a plot and some comedy of her own was a pretty inspired move for this show, and what’s more is that the mechanics of her plot didn’t rely on Sheldon’s idiosyncrasies, something we all know the show relies to heavily upon. He had his funny moments, especially in the cold open when everyone leaves for the movie without him and he announces, brightly, “They were right. That was the only solution.” I wish I’d written down his ballad for Leonard at the end, though. It was pretty precious.

Other things I enjoyed:

  • When Howard wears a yellow shirt with his yellow pants, he looks like the Man in the Yellow Hat. Minus the hat.
  • It really is getting harder and harder to be a bad Jew when the price of MuShu pork keeps going up like that.
  • A nice little meta moment from Penny about her fallback plan should the whole “being a movie star” thing not work out: “Being a TV star.”
  • I especially enjoyed Sheldon’s aversion to Twizzlers. Thanks an article I read about the great Twizzler vs. Red Vine faceoff on YumSugar, I spent all of last summer surveying people from various areas of the country about their preference for either Twizzlers or Red Vines. Red Vines, the superior of the two licorice candies, is more popular on the West Coast, with Twizzlers being king on the East Coast. The Midwest varies due to distributors, but many people I surveyed from the Eastern Seaboard had never even heard of Red Vines. This totally blew my mind because it finally explained why my New York-raised father preferred those plasticy-tasting weird-ass Twizzlers over delicious, soft cherry-tasting Red Vines that my mother and I (both California raised) loved so much. If anyone wants to weigh in on which of these licorice candies they prefer, feel free to do so in the comments and be sure to identify which region of the country you’re from.

The Wife:

I think Big Bang Theory redeemed itself with me a little bit this week. I was really upset last week for the Kripke thing, but this week the show took the opportunity to right that wrong by showing just how well-adjusted Kripke is, despite his speech impediment, and how incredibly socially awkward Sheldon is, with all his enunciation and propriety and aversion to whistling. Sheldon decides that he wants to befriend Kripke in order to gain access to the OpenScience computer system that Kripke is in charge of scheduling. If he becomes Kripke’s friend, Sheldon posits, he will be able to use that relationship to get special access to the computer. However, Sheldon has no idea how to make friends. He leaves messages for Kripke as though he is dictating a letter and gets no response. After a failed attempt at using a social science approach to the problem (surveying his friends to find out what traits they admired in him so he could exploit those traits to attract new friends), he is certain that he can distill the essence of friendmaking into an algorithim so that his scientific mind can logically comprehend the process, a feat he achieves after finding a children’s book called Sam the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo and befriending a little girl at the bookstore, which Leonard puts a stop to before anyone should start to think that Sheldon was trying to kidnap and molest said little girl.

Sam the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo, are you?

Sam the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo, are you?

After revealing his friendmaking process flow chart, Sheldon calls Kripke to set up an activity that they mutually enjoy. However, after three attempts he finds none, and Howard realizes Sheldon is stuck in a loop, doomed to continue asking for alternatives and getting nowhere. Howard writes a loop counter to get Sheldon to the friend-made conclusion of his chart by suggesting that the friend-maker settles for the least disagreeable of the suggested activities. In this case, it’s rock climbing. While Kripke is a breeze at this (and several other sport activities he had mentioned in his phone call with Sheldon), Sheldon is woefully inept. He makes it halfway up before realizing how high he is and passing out, left to dangle from the rope in a pose that I think Tyra Banks would have approved of were he on a Top Model challenge.

When Sheldon and Kripke return from their man date, Sheldon realizes that maintaining 4 distinct friendships is already too daunting for him so if he wants to be friends with Kripke and use the OpenScience computer, he will have to break up with one of his other friends. Leonard knows it won’t be him because they’re roommates (although he really does miss whistling, something which Sheldon forbids). Howard prays it will be him, but Sheldon decides to keep him, even though he only has a Master’s degree. Penny is sure Sheldon will kick her out because she’s not a sciency type, but, to her surprise, he kicks out Raj, because the answers to his survey were truly disturbing. Raj, it seems, picked the wrong amino acid as Sheldon’s favorite. As Kripke takes his place at the coffee table after getting up to floss the Indian food out of his teeth (a somewhat odd admission, but I certainly don’t think this was gross enough to elicity the chorus of ewwws from the laugh track; wouldn’t you want to make sure old flavors were out of your mouth before eating new flavors?), Sheldon asks if he can use the OpenScience computer, but Kripke tells him he has no control over that whatsoever. Realizing that his entire friendship quest has been futile, Sheldon kicks Kripke out and reinstates Raj, solely because Raj likes monkeys.

I liked this episode well-enough, but there was nothing about it that really made me laugh. I really should make a point to watch this show before How I Met Your Mother, as CBS intended, because when you watch it after, BBT is always kind of a letdown. But, hey, at least we’re back to making fun of socially awkward Sheldons and not people with severe speech impediments.

The Wife:

Who doesn’t love killer robots? I mean, I’m pretty sure televised killer robot battles no longer happen, but that doesn’t mean that making a killer robot isn’t every mechanical engineers wet fuckin’ dream. (All the mechanical engineers I know would love nothing more than to make an army of killer robots. Maybe I just know some really fucked up people.) And no, Sheldon, it is not wrong to say that you love your killer robot, MONT-E, because I love him, too. Even if you all named him MONT-E just to say his name in your best WALL-E voice.



The killer robot story, however, is more of the B-story in this episode, with Penny’s harsh criticism of Wallowitz and his subsequent spiral into depression being more of the A-story, at least in my mind. He has hit on her one too many times, forcing her to reveal the harsh truth that he isn’t going to get any women acting the way he does. Of course, Penny doesn’t say it nearly as nicely as I did. Her exact words in summation of all of her previous points or irritation: “You’re going to grow old and die alone.” Wow. Holy fuck that’s harsh! I mean, Penny is part of their group. She is, for all intents and purposes, Howard’s friend. Don’t we try to make the truth seem a little less harsh? Wouldn’t a simple but honest “Howard, the way you talk to women is creepy. Stop doing that and maybe some women will start to like you more” have sufficed? I don’t know. Maybe there’s no really good way to tell someone that they’re creepy losers, but there has to be something better than what Penny said. I honestly didn’t know she could be that mean, but, like Raj said, maybe she is a killer robot on the inside.

Because of Penny’s condemnation, Wallowitz withdraws from the group and stops going to work. He won’t even help the guys practice for their killer robot competition, which becomes problematic when a rival robo-producer named Barry with a severe speech impediment challenges them to a private duel. Sheldon, believing that accepting the duel is the appropriate social reaction, accepts, despite Leonard’s warnings that they don’t actually have anyone to make MONT-E strong enough for battle against Barry’s machine because their chief engineer is AWOL because he’s pathetic and creepy and can’t get girls.

“We’re all pathetic and creepy and can’t get girls. That’s why we fight robots.” – Barry

Only when Barry said it, all of the alveolar approximants (those are “r”s to ya’ll) came out as labial-velar approximants (those would be “w”s). Now, that’s a pretty common speech impediment, but its usually never that pronounced by adulthood. Children with speech impediments are generally recommended to see a speech therapist/speech pathologist to help them learn how to correct that mispronunciation. Without speech therapy, they go through life consistently being made fun of by other children (the cruelest people on the planet, children are) and face a lifetime of difficulties communicating. I feel passionately about words and language and would not wish for anyone to feel as though they could not adequately communicate with their peers. I do know a couple of adults who still exhibit problems with lateral and bilabial approximents, but its subtle and only someone with a trained ear would notice. To play up that speech impediment as though its funny is simply not. I was fucking horrifed by this character. Horrified. What kind of parent would allow their child to go through life with an uncorrected severe speech impediment? (Maybe that’s how he got started fighting robots, though.) And furthermore, who the hell, in 2009, still thinks its funny to make fun of the way someone talks? And I don’t mean casually mocking someone’s accent. That’s different, because we all know that people have different region accents and for me to, say, casually joke about how my good friend from Michigan says stuff is a way to show her I pay attention to her and love her. I also poke fun at the way another very good friend (who is also a linguist) says “horror” as though its pronounced “harrar” because she was born on the East Coast even though she moved to California when she was very young. It’s just so bizarre that its the one word she has that’s accented, and that’s worth joking about. Why? Because I care. And because I pay attention to her when she talks.  But to include a character with a severe speech impediment simply for the purpose of making fun of him? That crosses a line. That’s not something you make fun of.

In a last-ditch effort to get Howard back, Leonard begs Penny to apologize to him. She comes over and does so, but not very sincerely. Wallowitz, who actually is kind of cute when he’s very disheveled and his hair isn’t flat-ironed in that ridiculous Beatles ‘do, tries to put on a brave face, but breaks down behind the door just after asking Penny to leave. Instead of storming out, she comes back in to his bedroom and lends a sympathetic ear as Howard recounts all of his bad experiences with women – even back in his grade school days when his method of hitting on girls was actually quite cute and sincere. He once wrote a cover of “My Girl” for Marci Grossman, a girl he had a crush on in 6th grade, and sang it in the talent show. Marci, however, was not flattered, and spit in his hair after the show. Although Penny was unnecessarily harsh at the beginning of this episode, I really liked this scene between Howard and her. It must have been great for actor Simon Helberg to bring some amount of depth to Howard, and it also occurred to me that he didn’t get to sing at all in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog, which is just wrong, because he has a perfectly nice voice. I guess he was too busy then, making things moist. But in true Howard fashion, he mistakes Penny’s newfound sincerity and admission that she likes a vulnerable Howard as a chance to kiss her, and she lands a sucker punch straight between the eyes.

Meanwhile, the rest of the gang pit MONT-E against Barry’s robot, which has a flamethrower attached to it. They try to flee, but Barry’s bot is too advanced and when Howard and Penny arrive home after the battle, they find that the damage is irreparable. Sheldon, feeling responsible for MONT-E’s loss, wants to throw a small, tasteful funeral. (“I’ll read. Leonard, you’ll play your cello.”) This irritates Penny, and she once again says something insensitive, sending Sheldon to his room in tears. She goes off to apologize immediately, lest the situation spiral out of control, but I’m left wondering this: is Penny becoming the new Sheldon, but meaner and with less tact? Her actions in this episode actually reminded me more of him than of her. It’s odd.

It was interesting to see TBBT try to balance humor with tenderness, and I’m not entirely sure it succeeded. It’s got a long way to go if it wants to actually contain things like feelings within its narratives. Maybe Chuck Lorre and his writers should watch a few episodes of the show in the time slot immediately following this one to learn how to do that a little better.

The Husband:

It’s been seven years since Comedy Central’s BattleBots was canceled (co-hosted by comedian and Last Comic Standing contestant Bill Dwyer, and as I see now had appearances by then-unknown comics Arj Barker and the Sklar Brothers), but I still get all kinds of creamy when killer robots are mentioned, and I’m not even an engineer. Not in any sense of the word. I remember Vlad the Impaler fucking shit up like it was yesterday. And I was pleased to learn, in reading up on Grant Imahara a few weeks ago while I was on a Mythbusters kick, was very pleased to find out that not only did he compete, but Mythbusters hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage were also competitors at one point. (BattleBots filmed mostly in San Francisco, so I should have just automatically assumed these evil geniuses were involved somehow. Especially since Grant’s specialty on Mythbusters is robot-building.)

So that’s why I had to watch MONT-E breaking through Leonard and Sheldon’s door more than once, because it makes me that happy. As usual, I’m easily amused by the smallest things.

The Wife:

The gang is jealous of the success of McArthur Genius grant winner Dave Underhill, a thirty-something physicist who looks, as my sister-in-law observed, like the poor man’s Dane Cook. (My husband’s retort: “Dane Cook is the poor man’s Dane Cook.”) In short, not only is Dave Underhill a genius, but he’s also pretty good looking in a douchebaggy sort of way.

“The guy was just at the right place at the right time with the right paradigm shifting theory of the universe.” – Leonard

Dave saunters over to the guys’ table and asks Leonard if he’d like to assist him with some experiments. Thrilled to work with the rockstar of their university, Leonard accepts. Quickly, he becomes just as cool as Dave. Well, sort of. He and Dave hang out a lot outside the lab, but most of Dave’s cool scientist activities involve things that cause Leonard bodily harm. For example, even just sitting on Dave’s motorcycle without the motor on, Leonard somehow manages to break his foot. Penny spies Leonard hanging with Dave on the night of the foot injury and immediately takes a liking to Dave. As she helps Dave escort Leonard up the stairs, she starts flirting with Dave, telling him how much into science she is. Dave asks her to go for a ride on his bike once Leonard is safely delivered to his apartment and so begins their brief affair, much to Leonard’s chagrin.

Wow, you really do look like Dane Cook.

Wow, you really do look like Dane Cook.

“Science is my lady.” – Leonard

Leonard doesn’t understand why Penny would be interested in Dave, especially because she broke up with Leonard because she said he was “too smart for her.” After seeing her tool around the lab with Dave, Leonard eventually confronts her, citing that Dave is a bajillion times smarter than Leonard could ever hope to be, thus making Dave far too smart for Penny. Penny informs Leonard that Dave may be a genius, but he’s not very smart at all. Turns out, he was cheating on his wife, which Penny discovered when she found nude pictures of said wife on Dave’s phone. Penny may not be much, but one thing she’s not is a homewrecker.

In the B-plot, Penny announces that she has purchased Christmas gifts for Leonard and Sheldon. This disturbs Sheldon, who has a strictly non-gift giving policy because he doesn’t participate in pagan holidays. Or something. The spirit of giving is reciprocity, he claims, so for Penny to say that she does not need a gift from Sheldon in return is an unacceptable answer to Sheldon. Pressured to find a gift for Penny, he drags Raj and Howard to a faux Bath & Body Works to help him find a present for her. Raj and Howard posit that Sheldon can’t go wrong getting her bath items, a standard but always appreciated/needed gift in the world of women. Assuming the bath item gift hypothesis is correct, Sheldon then begins to agonize over the size of the gift basket he should get for Penny, wondering why each basket size portends for their relationship. Ultimately, Sheldon decides to buy one of each size gift basket. He will wait to open Penny’s gift and then, feigning intestinal distress, excuse himself, look up the value of the gift online and then select the appropriate valued gift basket to present to her.

Assuming, your hypothesis is correct . . .

Assuming, your hypothesis is correct . . .

Fresh from her talk with Leonard about Dave, Penny appears fresh and happy on Christmas morning, ready to watch Leonard and Sheldon open their gifts. When Sheldon opens his, he is confused to find a napkin, until Penny tells him to turn it over, on which he finds written: “To Sheldon, Live Long and Prosper. – Leonard Nimoy.”

Sheldon is overcome, especially when Penny tells him that she’s sorry it’s not a more pristine napkin, but she didn’t get a chance to get a fresh one before she asked Nimoy to sign the napkin he had wiped his mouth on. Now, not only does Sheldon have Nimoy’s autograph, but his DNA.

“All I need is a healthy ovum and I can grow my own Leonard Nimoy!” –Sheldon

As Sheldon excuses himself, Penny sits down with Leonard to exchange gifts, both of which end up being jokes about the pairs’ mutual infatuation with Dave Underhill. For Leonard, Penny bought him motorcycle lessons. For Penny, Leonard bought a children’s chemistry set. (I actually bought a children’s chemistry set for a friend in high school who is now well on her way to being a biochemist. Children’s chemistry sets are fun gifts, yo.)

Leonard, Sheldons hugging me!

Leonard, Sheldon's hugging me!

Knowing that Penny has given him something completely invaluable, Sheldon has no choice but to give her every single giftbasket he had purchased. Feeling that’s not enough, he runs over to awkwardly hug Penny, a moment that actually filled me with a great amount of joy and pride. That little girl from the Midwest without much of a brain for book smarts has actually succeeded in teaching Sheldon to be slightly more human. The gift exchange was certainly the best part of this episode, to be sure. It showed us heart and character and the set-up to that event utilized the ensemble and the guest star brilliantly. BBT has never been a show I look to for more than a few laughs and my own need to geek out about things (and sometimes my need to bitch and moan about the stuff these guys geek out about), but this week, it actually took the time to explore the relationships between the characters, furthering the strange friendship between Penny and Sheldon that can only get stranger from here and cementing the very real friendship that’s been blossoming over the course of the second season. The end of this episode was great, and very genuine.

Some wardrobe notes, which I feel need to start being included because there are so many good geeky tees on BBT:

1. What is up with everyone and their mom having that green inverted tree and bird shirt? I know it’s based on tee designs from Atticus, but the one featured in BBT is mass produced from somewhere. Target? I think I’ve seen it at Target. Anyway, my best friend has this shirt in black, and it’s also on one of the guys in Cinemark Theaters and AT&T’s “Happy the Hedgehog” commercial shorts. It’s everywhere.
2. Sheldon’s bars and tone shirt from the opening of this episode? Awesome.
3. Penny’s dolman sleeve sweater with the butterflies was really lovely. I must find it in time for my sister-in-law’s birthday next April . . . that’s enough lead time, right?

The Wife:

“The Vartabedian Conundrum” revolved around Leonard’s inability to recognize the fact that his girlfriend, Stephanie, has taken the relationship further than he thought it would. Unbeknownst to him, she is actually living with him.

The evidence:

  • Sheldon proposes that Stephanie should now be considered a roommate under the live-in girlfriend clause that Leonard signed in their roommate agreement, which states that a guest shall be considered a roommate and is therefore subject to the rules and regulations stipulated in the roommate agreement (including a re-divisioning of the shelves and door of the refrigerator and a new bathroom schedule) if said guest stays overnight more than a certain number of days within a month, the only one of which I specifically remember is “all the weekends in one month plus more than 4 weekdays.”
  • Penny points out that Stephanie has been hanging her clothes in Leonard’s closet, has brought her own floral sheets for his bed and has removed his bat signal in order to make room for her jewelry box.

Furthermore, if shes going to be a roommate, we should ask her to pay some of the rent. And not just in sexual favors.

Furthermore, if she's going to be a roommate, we should ask her to pay some of the rent. And not just in sexual favors.

It is the removal of the bat signal that finally convinces Leonard that Stephanie has gone a little further than he’d be comfortable with. However, he realizes the reason for not noticing is that whenever he wants to talk about the relationship, Stephanie changes the subject with sex. Leonard just can’t seem to broach the subject, despite Penny, Howard and Raj’s urgings to tell Stephanie to ease up a little bit – all of those suggestions, might I add, are voiced upon seeing Leonard wearing something Stephanie has bought him, including a pair of itchy wool-blend trousers and a bird sweater that I thought was actually pretty cool. When Leonard finally starts to talk to Stephanie (after a failed attempt to get the point across via text message), she beats him to the punch and curtails his request, thus returning us to the good ol’ status quo and ensuring yet another week of Sarah Rue.

Also in this episode, Sheldon likes having Stephanie around so he can solicit free medical advice. Stephanie hates this so much that she tells Sheldon he has a problem with his larynx, forcing him to spend the second half of the episode silent, which drives him to create a Stephen Hawking-type voice box in his computer. This was my favorite part of the episode. And Leonard’s bird sweater. Actually, Sheldon had some pretty good shirts in this episode, too. I’m fond of the one with multiple recording devices screen-printed on it, as well as the optical illusion shirt with neon tuning forks.

The boys also refused to tell Stephanie that Leonard and Penny used to date. Considering they went on all of two dates, I don’t see why this admission, especially if the circumstances were adequately explained, would have caused any problems between Leonard and Stephanie. Stephanie’s not one of the doctors on Grey’s. I’m sure she’d have just shrugged it off and continued to control Leonard with sex.

The Husband:

The optical illusion “neon tuning forks” to which my wife refers is more specifically known as a blivet (and also, according to Wikipedia, a poiuyt, which I just realized by typing it out is actually just a nerdy typography joke), and they’ve been fucking with my mind since I first saw one in second grade. They were probably one of the many things that gave me math nightmares in the following grade, instigated by the stress of timed multiplication table competitions. (Eat shit, Mrs. Steinquist.)

Also, the real issue about telling Stephanie that Leonard and Penny used to date is not so much the issue that they went on two dates, but that Leonard was absolutely smitten with Penny for the entirety of season one, and kind of still is. That’s more of an “emotional affair” situation than anything else, which I consider far more problematic and awkward.

Whatever. Stephanie seems cool with it anyway.

And I want that bird sweater.

A Note from The Wife: Though the great powers of the Internet, I’ve found out that Leonard’s awesome bird sweater is by Modern Amusement. While I have not found the actual sweater, my favorite online store,, sells some of their tees and some other sweaters and hoodies. You’re welcome!

The Wife:

Sheldon approves of Leonard’s new girlfriend and does everything in his power to keep Stephanie’s interest in Leonard, mostly out of his admiration for her as a surgeon.

“If you fail at this relationship, and history suggests you will, we lose the medical officer we’ve needed for our landing party.”

You see, Leonard is Captain Kirk, Sheldon is Spock (clearly), Howard is Scotty, Raj is one of those Red Shirts who gets killed first and Stephanie is Bones. Which is great, in theory. Hey, far be it from me to put out the fire of one’s pop culture fantasies (says the girl who names her pets after literary figures). Except The Big Bang Theory isn’t Star Trek. And I’m pretty sure the one thing Kirk never fucked was Bones. (I’m imagining a fanfic right now: “Damnit, Jim! I’m a doctor! Not a homosexual!”)

Sheldon’s attempts to establish Leonard as the alpha male involve him tagging along on dates with Stephanie (why? just to exploit his character’s social awkwardness), which ultimately leads to Sheldon convincing Leonard to show his dominance by opening a jar of white asparagus for Sheldon, which Leonard cannot do. He resorts to tapping the jar on the counter to loosen the seal, only to break the thing open and impale himself with a shard of glass, which sends him to Stephanie’s emergency room for some stitches. This, of course, is after Leonard vomits on the steak Sheldon was defrosting in the sink.

Fearing the trip to the ER would be the death knell in the relationship, Sheldon hacks Leonard’s Facebook page and changes Leonard’s status to “In a Relationship.” The gang fears that changing his status first may be an even worse move than anything else, until they see that Stephanie has confirmed that she is in a relationship with Leonard Hoffsteader, which makes Leonard giddily smile, “I have a girlfriend.”

I just picked this photo because Sarah Rue looked pretty. Its not even from this episode.

I just picked this photo because Sarah Rue looked pretty. It's not even from this episode.

I liked the plot this week, and the acknowledgement that Facebook really is how we judge the official-ness of a relationship these days. But I have two issues with this episode:

1. For the first time, I’ve noticed that the stairwell in the apartment building in Los Angeles is brick-lined. Brick architecture on a major fault line is a major building code violation. We just don’t really have brick buildings in California. It’s because they fall down easily in earthquakes. That said, when we do have a brick building, it’s usually really old and was build before 1920 by someone who had no idea that California was basically constantly moving. All brick structures in the state of California have to be reinforced with steel struts to make them earthquake safe. The apartment building on The Big Bang Theory does not appear to be reinforced. I worry about the safety of the residents in even the tiniest of earthquakes. And I now think that the brick detail was put in by someone who wanted the show to have a more New York-sitcommy feel. In California, bricks just don’t make sense. I’m really struggling with this choice considering the designer has to live in L.A. I just don’t understand.

2. I don’t hate laugh track sitcoms, but the laugh track in this episode really bothered me, especially when Sheldon is grilling Penny for information about her brief relationship with Leonard at the beginning of the episode. The audio folks really overdid it on this one. They found a laugh track that made it seem like every part of Sheldon and Penny’s repartee was the best, most shockingly inappropriate zinger they’d ever heard. It had hoots, hollers and gasps. I’m frankly surprised they didn’t just go for a track of someone screaming, “Oh, no you didn’t!” Seriously, this laugh track was that close to being recorded at a Maury taping. I don’t mind a little laugh track where appropriate, but this was absurd. It took me out of the story and made me unable to suspend my disbelief because the sounds I was hearing were just so jarring.

The Husband:

I think that, for those people who don’t really like The Big Bang Theory (and it’s really not that arguable of a position, since the show is really all that great), they should at least be shown the movie theatre scene with Sheldon disrupting Leonard/Stephanie’s date by searching for the perfect acoustic “sweet spot” of the theatre. Simply cutting away from Sheldon, then hearing him shout “AH! AH! OHHHH!” then cutting back to him sitting in another corner of the screen scaring any number of theatre patrons is on the most rudimentary level of stupid funny, almost Pythonesque in its silliness.

It may not turn anyone onto the show, but they at least deserve to be given as big a laugh as that scene gave me.

Otherwise, I found the episode kind of obnoxious. There was just a point where I simply couldn’t believe that Sheldon could be so ignorant of his negative effect on the Leonard/Stephanie relationship. Even the most extreme of personalities would be able to assess their surroundings and know how annoying they’re being…


The Wife:

I’m happy to see yet another member of the gang get an episode devoted to his story arc. This time, its Moist . . . er . . . Wallowitz, who continues his quest to attract a mate by inviting hot doctor Stephanie to “drive a car on Mars.” While making out with Stephanie, Howard gets the Mars Rover stuck in a ditch, a problem he requires the technical help of his PhD-holding friends to ameliorate. Leonard is saddled with the task of driving Stephanie home, while Raj and Sheldon stay behind to help maneuver the Rover out of said ditch. Unable to maneuver the Rover, Howard and Co. decide to wipe the lab’s data for that day so that Howard cannot be held responsible for the Rover’s malfunction. They also wipe the security tapes.

While Wallowitz has been solving the Rover problem, his date Stephanie has moved on to making out with Leonard (while talking about how nice Howard is). The two then start dating, and Wallowitz gives Leonard the silent treatment when he finds out . . . after days of his regular incessant calls assuming that a girl he has been on one date with will immediately want to join his family and meet his mother. Tired of the silent treatment, Leonard and Stephanie decide to make it up to Howard by inviting him on a double date with Stephanie’s cheap roommate who’s currently looking for a rebound screw.

Shall we make a peace offering of a rebound screw? Yes, I do believe thats the perfect gift.

"Shall we make a peace offering of a rebound screw?" "Yes, I do believe that's the perfect gift."

So, Howard still gets a lady in the end, even if Leonard stole his original date, which is a nice second prize for lovelorn Wallowitz. Unfortunately, the day he ditched the Mars Rover was the day it sent back information of the first signs of intelligent life on Mars, and because there was massive data loss at the NASA lab, no one can take credit for the discovery. That’s really too bad for Wallowitz, because discovering life on Mars would definitely give him some street cred with the ladies and bragging rights for at least a week, or until Sheldon decides to point out that discovering something by driving a car on Mars is not real science. (Kinda like looking through a telescope and noticing something, isn’t it?)

As for the title, apparently, the Lizard-Spock expansion of Rock, Paper, Scissors has been around on the interwebs for quite some time. Sheldon’s rules are as follows:

“Scissors cut paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitate lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock and, as it’s always been, rock crushes scissors.”

And here, for good measure, is a handy illustration from over at Sam Kass’s Blog:


The Husband:

It was good to see Sara Rue on television again.

The previous sentence is actually a very odd one, as I have a strange affinity for actress Sara Rue and yet did not watch one episode of her ABC show Less Than Perfect, which lasted for four seasons. (Holy shit, really? Four? And I couldn’t muster up the energy to see one? Keep in mind I didn’t have a television during my freshman year of college. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

I don’t know. I just think she’s really cute, and was also interested in her weight-loss journey. I thought she was fine to begin with, but then she lost a bit too much weight and didn’t even look like herself.

One of those girls is not like the other . . .

One of those girls is not like the other . . .

So over the last couple years, she seems to have found a nice, healthy, beautiful middle ground. I look forward to the rest of her episodes.

The Wife:

I really enjoyed the Sheldon-Penny War of 2008, not only because I felt like this plotline was an adequate exploration of Sheldon’s various and sundry personality quirks, but also because it really helped push forward something I think the show has consistently been improving upon: making Penny a character.

I’ve written before about how, in the first season, I had to keep reminding myself why I was watching this show. Sure, it had some great jokes, but I found the concept so repelling, especially because the one female character in this universe (until the addition of Leslie Winkle) was so . . . painfully . . . dumb, stereotypical and characterless. But quickly, season two has given Penny an actual personality, substance and moved her from the realm of the stereotype into the realm of normalcy. As EW recently observed, we have to sympathize with her now, because she’s our guide to the geek world. She represents those of us who aren’t quite so geeky. (Which is what the show should have done with her at first, instead of trying to make her into some lame superfoil/object of lust.)

So to see Penny break down the systems Sheldon has so rigorously constructed for his life and attempt to show him how people in the real world (who do not suffer from such intense obsessive compulsive disorders) function was an amazing feat for her character. She grew by leaps and bounds for me tonight and I’m happy to see Kaley Cuoco really have to stretch herself in this role beyond looking pretty and blinking in disbelief, as her part often requires.

The Sheldon-Penny War of 2008 begins when she attempts to eat one of his onion rings, causing the rest of the gang to panic as though she had just touched a time-release button to detonate a nuclear bomb. Even when she puts the onion ring back, Sheldon knows and announces that this is her second strike, the first of which occurred unbeknownst to her when she sent Sheldon a Lolcat, which he, strangely, does not find funny. (I wonder, would it be funny if the Lolcat were singing the “Soft Kitty” lullaby Sheldon loves so much? I bet it would be . . .) Howard and Leonard congratulate Penny, in part, on being accepted by Sheldon as a member of the group and thus subject to his bizarre rules. (I clapped my hands with glee when Howard initiated her the way the freaks do in Tod Browning’s Freaks: “We accept her! One of us! One of us!”) When she sits in his seat and refuses to move, Sheldon announces this act as her third strike against him, a move with leads to her banishment from the apartment.

In retaliation, Penny banishes Sheldon from The Cheesecake Factory, proclaiming her service section as “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Sheldon.” Sheldon forces Penny to serve him by talking to her manager, and she strikes back by disrupting his Saturday night laundry ritual, which must occur every Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. Despite Howard’s warning that Sheldon is “one lab accident away from being a super villain,” Penny refuses to relent, even when Sheldon manages to do his laundry by any means necessary, those means being hanging Penny’s wet laundry from the power lines outside their building.

“When you understand the laws of physics, anything is possible.” – Sheldon

Leonard, hoping to end the war that’s making everyone’s lives miserable, secretly hands Penny Sheldon’s kryptonite: his mother’s phone number. Mrs. Cooper then calls and forces her son to apologize to Penny and rescind her strikes, thereby ending the war.

The B story for this episode involved something I can’t believe more men haven’t yet caught on to: the hypnotic powers of America’s Next Top Model. When Penny introduces Raj and Howard to the show and points out that the girls all live in a house somewhere in LA, Wallowitz wonders how it is possible that he lives within driving distance of a house filled with beautiful women. I immediately wondered why Howard hadn’t tried to find the Playboy Mansion, which also seems like a plausible place to pick up babes, but then he noted that the crushing blow to a young model’s self-esteem when kicked out of ANTM house would drive her to desperation and straight to a waiting Howard. He and Raj thus set out to find the house, hiring aerospace satellites to photograph it and locate it on Google Earth (Registered Trademark).

Uh, hello there, model wannabes. Is one of you Mrs. Wallowitz?

Uh, hello there, model wannabes. Is one of you Mrs. Wallowitz?

When they arrive, finally, at the house, pretending to be cable repairmen, they’re greeted by ANTM Cycle 11’s Analeigh and Samantha the Retarded Troll Doll. I presume that the Analeigh won an acting challenge that was never aired and chose Sam as her companion for the win. This leads me ultimately to one question: Why, Tyra, why would you deprive me of the glory that is a Top Model acting challenge? They’re never good! And that’s precisely why I want to see them! I hope footage of said missing acting challenge ends up on YouTube somewhere in the world, because I really need that kind of ridiculous.

The Husband:

Oh, honey, I’m definitely not the only male hypnotized by HIMYM. There was apparently a secret sect at my university that would gather wherever they could to watch the show, and only truly discussed it amongst themselves. I didn’t watch ANTM at the time – at least, not when I lived on-campus – so I was not privy to the specific conversations at said gatherings, but while many males may not talk openly with non-fans about the show, they weren’t ashamed of it, either.

But one fact is true: I don’t know any jock or “Alpha Male” who watches the show or has admitted to it. Usually it’s theater kids (of both sexual preferences), those who go to the same school as their sister/cousin, stoners and surfers. At least at my SoCal university.

Point is, many straight men have caught onto the hypnotic power of ANTM, but only The Big Bang Theory is willing to admit it. (And monologist Mike Daisey. He admits to watching it, too, and he’s straight/married.)

The Wife:

This episode was so far my favorite, most quotable episode of the season that exploited character traits in a good, constructive way (unlike the “Sheldon can’t drive” episode, which you all know I hated). Sheldon and Leonard are recruited to speak to incoming graduate students to in turn recruit more candidates for the theoretical and applied physics departments. (Thought: shouldn’t these students have already chosen if they are to be theoretical or applied physicists? I have to choose in my personal statement if I’m interested in Renaissance Drama or feminist critical theory or the body in literature, so they clearly should have had to make that choice, too.) Sheldon’s advice to the prospective students is to give up now because they will never be as great as he is:

“I was 14 and had already achieved more than many of you could hope to, in spite of my nine o’clock bed time.”

After the recruitment lecture, a cute strawberry blonde approaches Sheldon. She has memorized his work and wants to spend more time with him. Once she agrees to buy him a meal on one of his designated eating nights (Mondays are for Pad Thai, for instance), Sheldon effectively invites a stalker into his life. Ramona Nowitski (Riki Lindhome), however, is a somewhat benevolent stalker, acting as Sheldon’s pesky muse, bringing him food and groceries and trimming his toenails so that he can constantly work on his new, unfinished theorem about neutrinos. When Leonard sees Sheldon without his customary breakfast, working in the cafeteria, he asks:

Leonard: Are you experimenting with nutritional suppositories again?
Sheldon: Not in these pants.

No one but me has deigned to touch your omelette, master.

No one but me has deigned to touch your omelette, master.

And then Ramona appears with an omelette, prepared by gloved professionals only, just the way Sheldon likes it. Unfortunately, Sheldon learns, Ramona’s loyalty and persistence can also have negative effects: she refuses to let him participate in his ritual Halo nights and paintball Saturdays, citing his own work as incentive to keep going. Eventually, he turns to Penny to help rid himself of Ramona the Pest. (This surely is an intentional Beverly Cleary joke, yes?)

“Apparently, I’m in some kind of relationship and I understand you are an expert at ending them” – Sheldon, to Penny

Sheldon, for the last time, Im not a prostitute.

Sheldon, for the last time, I'm not a prostitute.

Penny is unable to help Sheldon free himself from Ramona, and he turns to Leonard, desperately tapping out Morse code on the wall between their rooms while Ramona sleeps on the couch. (By the way, Leonard doesn’t know Morse code.) Sheldon attempts to invoke “The Skynet Clause” in their relationship, which Leonard shoots down because Ramona is not a suddenly sentient race of killbots that Sheldon designed. Sheldon then attempts to invoke “The Body Snatchers Clause” in their friendship, which Leonard also shoots down because Ramona is not an alien pod person (or so we think). Finally, after Ramona has been awakened and drags Sheldon back to his room, he tries a last-ditch effort with the “Godzilla Clause,” to which Leonard replies, “She’s not destroying Tokyo!”

Eventually, Sheldon finishes his paper and inadvertently discovers the only way to get rid of Ramona. She suggests that, because she pushed him to finish the theorem, it should be named “The Cooper-Nowitski Theorem,” which Sheldon instantly refuses. As he should. That bitch didn’t theorize about shit. And so the grad student runs out of the building ashamed that her cheap ploy to get her name on some actual good research failed. (Honey, ain’t nobody with a Doctorate wanna share they credit with someone who doesn’t even have a Master’s.) Sheldon doesn’t seem to learn much about people, however, as the stalker process begins anew at the end of the episode with yet another cute redheaded grad student. (So, Sheldon has a thing for redheads, eh?)

A hypenated theorem name? Simply put, no.

A hypenated theorem name? Simply put, no.

Two more bits I liked from this episode:

1. Sheldon’s fear of going to unknown restaurants because he is terrified of running into a three-tined fork.

Leonard: Sheldon lives in fear of the three-tined fork.
Sheldon: Four tines is a fork. Three tines is a trident. One is for eating, one if for ruling the seven seas.

Legit, Sheldon. Legit.

2. The gang’s discussion of Sheldon’s sexuality. Penny asks the boys what Sheldon’s “deal” is, and they inform her they always assumed he didn’t have a “deal” and that he was asexual in some manner. I liked Wallowitz’s theory the best:

“Over the years, we’ve developed many theories. I personally am a fan of mitosis.”

Apparently, Wallowitz and I are correct, as the coda to this episode showed us what would happen if Sheldon ate too much Thai food: he would simply divide into two complete Sheldons, fully formed, prompting Leonard to declare, as he wakes from his nightmare, “No more Thai food.”

The Husband:

I think we’re finally starting to see a show my wife and I are completely split upon episode-after-episode, because I thought everything with Ramona was repetitive and pretty lame, leaving most of the good bits to Leonard and only Leonard. I prefer my Big Bang Theory episodes to stay firmly planted in the main cast – unless, of course, you have an actor that’ll transcend their underwritten role, much like D.J. Qualls or Laurie Metcalf last season – otherwise you run the risk of the show exposes its very tense seams.

I did appreciate Sheldon’s problems with three-tined forks, as I too think they completely suck. I’d prefer to use a plastic or potato-based four-tined one than something that looks like it’s designed to spear hay.


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