The Husband:

It happens every year. Just like the film industry, ideas seem to come in packs of two or three. In 2004, Lost fever infected the networks, and three deep mystery science-fiction shows were unveiled for the 2005-2006 season. Two made it a full season before being unceremoniously canceled (Invasion and Surface) while one didn’t even make it to midseason (Threshold). The quality of these shows are unimportant, because they were created to either capitalize on a trend or a repair a hole missing from the schedule. This works in the film world, too. In 1998, we had both Armageddon and Deep Impact. In the same year, we had both A Bug’s Life and Antz. In 2005 we had both Capote and Infamous (one was pushed back to 2006, can you guess which?). And this is not a new concept in Hollywood. I can trace back to most years started with the studio system and can point out virtually identical films coming out within the same few months. But with television this year, two things happened:

1. CBS tried once again to give us their version of what they think draws people into Grey’s Anatomy, but on their own network. That show is called Three Rivers.

2. After a staggering 15-year run, ER finally came to a close last season, and NBC frantically tried to recreate its medical drama glory. But this time, they decided split the show in two to hedge their bets but take up too much room on a schedule already reeling from one man named Jay Leno.

If you don’t feel like listening to my half-assed television history lesson for the remainder of this article, let me just break it down for you. So far, NBC’s Mercy has aired three episodes, NBC’s Trauma has aired two, and CBS’s Three Rivers has aired one. And how do they rank in terms of quality? The exact order I just put them in, with Mercy almost head-and-shoulders above Trauma and Three Rivers, with only a single episode, drudging the bottom of the lake.

The title is probably ironic.

The title is probably ironic.

So about that splitting ER into two parts. It’s really not at all complicated. Mercy is the character drama, and Trauma is the action show. Put together, these elements apparently made some of the best ER episodes of all time, but on their own, it can be a struggle. So far, however, Mercy is a remarkably competent (big praise, I know) slice-of-life story about the unsung heroes of hospitals — the nurses. This year they have come back in a big way, and while I haven’t seen an episode of similarly themed Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne (two other nurse dramas, unseen because I don’t have Showtime and I avoid networks like TNT and USA like the plague), I can tell you that it’s a refreshing change of pace. Surgeons get all the glory, but nurses are the backbone of any hospital. Taylor Schilling leads the show as former army nurse Veronica Callahan, and she is in the top five best new characters on television this season. Tough and hard-edged but sympathetic, she seems like a real woman doing an unappreciated job, and her quiet energy is such a welcome respite from the outwardly emotional hysterics that populate Seattle Grace and Oceanside Wellness. She is a true find, and her personal life storylines (her troubled marriage, her drunk family, her affair with Men In Trees‘s James Tupper) help the very reality-skewing Jersey City-set show and are handled by the writers with what at least appears to be a great deal of honesty.

I haven’t been able to get a handle of many of the remaining characters, but Guillermo Diaz (he of Weeds and Half Baked) does well playing against type, and while the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg as rookie nurse Chloe Payne brings the wrong kind of tone to the character, casting a lesser known and more sullen actress would have made the character completely unimportant. My favorite element, oddly enough, seems to be the reversal of roles, as James LeGros’s doctor character, Dan Harris, is mostly seen on the outskirts of storylines, much how most nurses are treated on nearly every other hospital drama. (You know how Nurse Olivia was just let go from Seattle Grace at Grey’s Anatomy? It took me a good thirty minutes to remember that she was the one who gave George syphilis after getting it from Karev way back in the early seasons.) And, almost more than anything, I appreciate the fleeting comparisons the show finds between Jersey City and the warzone of Iraq. Both are lost places in their own way, and it’s haunting without being obvious. This is definitely staying on my Season Pass list, and I hope that its unfortunate placement Wednesday at 10 (it belongs later, but thanks to The Jay Leno Show, half of NBC’s schedule seems misplaced.)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

Trauma, so far, is just a big, slick, expensive version of Emergency!, a spin-off of a spin-off (Dragnet to Adam-12 to…) which ran for several seasons back in the 1970s (six seasons plus a handful of TV movies). From the several episodes I’ve seen of that show (starring a young Kevin Tighe, a.k.a. Locke’s father on Lost), I really can’t see much of a difference between the two programs other than its location and its budget. I complained that I couldn’t get too much of a handle on Mercy‘s characters, but at least I can give you a general impression of their internal monologue. Not so on Trauma, which is as surface-level as one could get outside of a CW primetime soap. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is, so far, the only character with any personality (unfortunately, it’s a shitty one) and the rest get lost in the shuffle.

What Trauma has going for it, though, is a whole lot of money behind it, something that could cause it to be canceled very soon. Paired up with the fledgling Heroes, Trauma continues to represent how NBC is hemorrhaging money and viewers, and by not putting the show at a proper 10 p.m. spot, it’s getting crushed by the two CBS Chuck Lorre sitcoms. But oh man, does it ever get saved by its big action sequences. Nothing has been spared in the high-octane situations that structure the show, from the mostly unnecessary season opener that blew up part of a building to what can’t be cheap San Francisco location shooting. But with an HD DVR and a 52″ HD LCD Eco-Series Bravia television, I’ve never missed my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area more. I’m staying to watch this show just from how much is shot there, how [mostly] accurate the set-ups are, and even its inclusion of mayor Gavin Newsome’s actress wife in the supporting cast. My wife can tell you more about the show’s focus on North Beach, where she worked for two years.

My issue, though, is seemingly contradictory. The action is what makes the show work, but it’s a chore sitting through a single episode. It’s fun to yell out “Trauma!” whenever something terrible happens, but in the second episode, we had four separate cases of trauma including the Embarcadero Street Fair getting pummeled by a car piloted by a man having a stroke. This is enough for three episodes on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost a sidenote here. It’s too much action in a show that desperately needs it to survive. But goddamn, does it look expensive. And that expense kind of negates the verité style it’s going for, so I don’t know what to think anymore.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

Three Rivers has only aired one episode, and this is after it was heavily recast (which happened to Alex O’Loughlin’s last show Moonlight as well) as it was decided to air the second episode first. No matter, because the show helped drop CBS to one of its lowest-rated Sunday nights ever, being paired up with Cold Case. (All the family viewers and young professionals pretty much abandon the channel after The Amazing Race is over.) It’s not long for this world, and for good reason. It thinks that we want to be preached to right off the gate, and so this drama about an organ transplant facility in Pittsburgh just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to judge it based on one episode (and one that isn’t the damned pilot), but when a show starts off talking down to us, it’s not a good feeling. ABC’s Grey’s started off as a much frothier show (I would even call it a dramedy) and only later fell into its soapy rhythms, but Three Rivers doesn’t seem to have time for that. A major problem: I understand its decision to include the story about where the organs are coming from in order to humanize the situation, but it’s mostly unnecessary and I hope they abandon it, because it makes the characters back at the facility complete ciphers, just going through the procedural motions. Even O’Loughlin, as famed surgeon Andy Yablonski, isn’t enough to draw me back for much longer, and I once again fear that Alfre Woodard is one of the most misused actresses of her generation. It’s not the worst new drama of the season, nor is it the most obnoxious (so far, that seems to be the tonally misshapen The Forgotten), but if it doesn’t pick up soon, it will be canceled before I even give up on it. (Remember CBS’s hospital drama 3 Lbs.? No? It was on less than five years ago. Still don’t remember it? Exactly. But I watched all three episodes.)

So give Mercy a chance, and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Its cases, while mostly unoriginal, are handled delicately, and the characters feel like actual people. The other two shows? If you’re not into high-definition cinematography of San Francisco or learning about the intricacies of putting new hearts into pregnant women, they probably won’t work for you, either.

The Wife:
I worry about Mercy‘s necessity. Fundamentally, I like the show. And I really didn’t think I would. When NBC was promoting Mercy, they almost entirely glossed over the fact that this show is a narrative about an Iraq war veteran struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, instead using its promo time to make it look like some slick, glossy glorification of nursing (which indeed deserves such glory) and the bonds of female friendship. Case in point: even if Veronica’s background as a soldier was included, what I remember from those promos is the shots of the girls at the bar together, drinking and smiling.

The hurt backpack.

The hurt backpack.

I do think Mercy, as a show about a female Iraq war veteran, an Army nurse not unlike my mother (who once made her non-military living as an OR nurse), is utterly necessary. It is important for us to experience narratives of soldiers returning from conflicts overseas and to understand what it’s like for them to try to carry on with all the horror they’ve experienced. And it’s especially critical that this is a narrative about a female soldier. For all the women who fight for this country, too many artistic renderings of soldiers focus on the men and their experiences. I even applaud the decision to focus this story around the life of an Army medic, a crucial military position I think many forget about. My mother never (thankfully) saw conflict. But when I hear Veronica talk about setting up field hospitals, I can’t help but think of my mother. She knows how to do that, and has done so many times in her life. I’ve seen what those hospitals look like, as we always went to the family day at the end of the Army Reserve’s two-week summer training exercises where her medical unit practiced setting up those hospitals. So this character is perhaps doubly unique to me. I know the women that she is drawn from, my mother and her friends, and that alone makes her utterly real to me.
But although I think Veronica is a starkly unique character and its important for us to have a narrative of a female Iraq war veteran, I do think that gets lost in the way NBC advertised Mercy and its inevitable pigeonhole as just another medical show. I don’t care so much about the cases Veronica deals with, but I care deeply about her inability to share her wartime experiences with her no-longer-estranged husband. Seeing her hold his head in her hands so that he cannot face her when she talks about losing her friend in the field was truly effective, and I hope those of you who watch Mercy continue to tune in for those stunning portraits of a soldier coming home to a world she no longer knows how to navigate.

As for Trauma, the best parts of the show are screaming “Trauma!” when something traumatic happens, and realizing that I probably walked through the set dozens of times when I worked in North Beach. In fact, there was a scene filmed on Green St. between Grant and Broadway in the second episode that I know I’d walked through during tear-down one day when my coworker and I were heading up to North Beach Pizza for lunch. (I was extra impressed that they got a shot of the new location of North Beach Pizza, which only opened in April or May . . . directly across the street from its former location.) This scene happened to feature a homeless drug addict trying to scam the EMTs into giving him morphine, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if the show stumbled upon some of North Beach’s actual colorful homeless people. I will keep watching simply to see restaurants I used to frequent and, hopefully, a glimpse of Knifey Knife (a homeless woman who once threatened my friend at the bakery across from my old office with a pumpkin carving knife) and Charlotte (a kindly homeless woman who enjoyed wigs and often sat outside my office, complimenting me on my shoes). Hell, if one of my couriers, Junior, made it into B-roll on Anthony Bourdain’s San Francisco episode of No Reservations, he might even turn up in a long shot, riding his bike down Columbus.

There is really nothing good about Three Rivers.

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The Wife:

Sheldon gets an offer to go on an arctic expedition, and the whole gang is pretty excited about three months living free of Sheldon’s rules, until he invites them along with him to be his research team. (Not because he values their work or trusts them, but because he simply doesn’t want to interview other candidates and attempt to get to know them.) Even though I can’t really imagine how a physicist, an astrophysicist and a mechanical engineer, let alone theoretical physicist Sheldon, would be beneficial to a scientific expedition in the Arctic Circle, but the gang decides not to let the opportunity pass them by and they accept. But, of course, accepting an offer doesn’t mean that any of these guys are actually able to make their own choice, as Raj’s parents are strictly against him going, and Howard’s mother was only going to let him go to the Arctic Circle when she thought it was Arkansas and as for Leonard . . . well, Penny doesn’t really want him to go.

Nor does she really want Sheldon to use the walk-in, but what can you do?

Nor does she really want Sheldon to use the walk-in, but what can you do?

Now, Leonard is confused by her display of ambivalence toward his announcement that he’d be heading to the Arctic Circle, because he has no idea how to read her reaction. Here’s how to read it: it would have been nice to tell your only non-University friend that you were going on a three-month research trip. It doesn’t matter if she apparently secretly loves you or that you would totally pine for her while you’re gone (because you will, Leonard, you will). It’s just kind of something that humans do when they’re going to be away from other humans in their life for an extended period of time. Of course, Penny’s assertion that this would have been nice to know is layered with her apparent love for Leonard, proven in the gift of a lingering hug (at least 5 Mississippis long) and a Snuggie/Slanket . . . whatever they have to be called on non-infomercial television. But when Leonard questions Penny about what those things mean, she gives him the cold shoulder (Husband Note: HaHA! Cold shoulder. Because he’s going to the Arctic Circle!), and so he and the others go off the Arctic Circle, where they basically lead their regular lives but in snow pants and with reconstituted Thai food.

Things I thought were funny:

  • Sheldon’s attempts at pranks, which at this stage seem to consist of taking things and then asking someone to find them before then presenting them with said thing. He’s trying so hard to be a real boy.
  • A walk-in freezer really is a pretty good way to train yourself to perform tasks in a below zero environment.
  • “Everyone at the university knows I eat breakfast at 8 and move my bowels at 8:20.” – Sheldon

The Husband:

What a terribly awkward season finale. I even knew it was a season finale earlier yesterday, but the way that the episode seemed to essentially abandon its characters’ most interesting and recognizable quirks, it almost seemed like the end was an afterthought. What a better show would have done would be for it to work some of the Stuart “arc” into the finale and have a truly interesting dynamic between Penny and Leonard in re: their relationship, instead of the basement-level shrug of what actually occurred, as if neither of them had learned anything since the beginning of season 1.

But whatever. I laughed at Sheldon’s antics, even if, like the rest of the characters, he had been reduced to a single note, instead of the admirable work most of the actors do on a regular basis.

Chuck Lorre, I’m glad that your sitcoms do well, but can you please create something that has even a semblance of continuity and multi-episode storytelling? Or a personality?

The Wife:

I think this Sheldon quote basically sums up the episode’s B-story:

“Apparently, there is no law of diminishing comic returns with space poop.”

And indeed, this episode managed to sustain an entire story based on jokes about the malfunctioning Wallowitz Zero Gravity Human Waste Displacement System a.k.a. the space toilet Wallowitz invented. This is what the boys spend their time working on while Stuart takes Penny out on a second date, after soliciting advice from Leonard. Wallowitz advises that Leonard preserve his friendship with both parties by advising Stuart to do everything Leonard did, thus preventing him from hooking up with Penny but still maintaining a friendship. After awhile, Leonard starts to feel badly for sabotaging Stuart’s date with Penny and apologize for giving both parties bad advice (Penny asked him for some info on Stuart, as well), but Penny is loathe to discuss her date with Leonard at all, which makes him think Stuart did something unconscionable at his behest. So he heads to the comic book store, where he finds out that Stuart actually followed his advice to the T, which lead to Stuart and Penny making out . . . only to have Penny utter Leonard’s name whilst she and Stuart were getting hot and heavy, thus putting an awkward kibosh on any further Penny-Stuart contact. This, clearly, pleases Leonard a great deal.

You have no idea how much it upsets Sheldon to have a space toilet where his coffee table should be.

You have no idea how much it upsets Sheldon to have a space toilet where his coffee table should be.

So here’s my issue with that: I like Stuart, and I honestly think that his interest in non-comic art grounds him more to the real world and to the struggling artist’s world in which Penny lives. They’re still opposites, but with some commonality that would allow a relationship to function. I guess he’s not quite as cute as Johnny Galecki is, but when it comes down to it, neither of these guys are guys Penny would normally date, so comparing their physical attractiveness is a moot point. Her affection for Leonard surfacing while kissing Stuart only works in the sense that I believe she does have feelings for Leonard, in a besty-best-friends kind of way, which sometimes might be misinterpreted as meaning something else. When it comes down to it, though, I just don’t believe that Leonard and Penny would work. In fact, they both already know it won’t. And it’s because they lack any commonality other than eating takeout together with three people nerdier than they are. But I guess I have to suspend my disbelief as Leonard’s crush on Penny is essentially the impetus for her involvement with them in the first place and so many plots function because of his slight jealousy that she might love someone other than him. I know that the series will end, likely, with the two of them together, so why rush other romantic partners out of the picture so soon, when the series is not going anywhere for at least another season? Stephanie all but disappeared, doomed to wandering the physics lab with Barry Kripke and other forgotten characters. Must we banish Stuart to that cold, linoleum hell, too? I like Stuart. Please don’t let this be his end.

The Husband:

Raj for the win:


If you really want to clean up your karma, go get my frickin’ latte.

The Wife:

It’s “Anything Can Happen Thursday,” the third Thursday of the month where the gang tries to break Sheldon’s habitual nature by declaring that for one day of the entire month, anything can happen. And it indeed does: ordering Thai food instead of pizza, heading out to the comic book store, Penny joining them at the comic book store, Penny meeting store owner Stuart and going on a date with him, Sheldon cockblocking Penny by interrogating Stuart about who should succeed Batman . . . see! Anything can happen!

Because Penny takes a shining to Stuart, Leonard spends the rest of this episode moping about why Penny would be attracted to Stuart, but not to him, seeing as they’re basically the same person. I have an answer to that: Stuart is an artist. As such, he understands things outside of the realm of geekdom, and Penny probably feels that she, as a struggling actress, can relate to him on that level. He invites her to his art opening – and that’s just a little bit more in the realm of normalcy than Leonard and his friends can hope to obtain. (It probably helps, too, that he doesn’t live with Sheldon.) It’s really too bad that Sheldon goes and cockblocks this relationship, because I like Stuart, too. I hope he goes out with Penny again because he’d definitely be a welcome guest star.

Please give this man a multi-episode arc!

Please give this man a multi-episode arc!

To cope with Stuart’s presence in Penny’s life, Leonard breaks Friday night tradition and goes out to a bar with Raj and Howard, where he discovers the sad truth that, for all Howard’s ladies’ man bravado, he actually has no idea how to score with women. The only one of the three that gets a hook up is Raj who, after being trashed on Brandy Alexanders, hooks up with a big beautiful blonde. I am disappointed at the look of horror on his face the next morning when he wakes up in her arms because I’m not quite sure how to read the situation. That lady was certainly not fat or ugly. She was actually a really lovely girl, and totally proportional. I’m glad Raj settled back to sleep in her arms, because the idea of a dude who has to get drunk to talk to ladies balking at hooking up with a girl who isn’t model-thin would really piss me off. Still, why even have that look of discomfort? That actress was no bigger than Sarah Rue’s Stephanie, Leonard’s girlfriend that’s wandering around the parking lot of their apartment building, never to be seen again. And no one judged Stephanie for her size; why pass judgment on Raj’s hook-up? I dunno. Am I misreading that? Was he just looking to escape because he would have no idea what to say to her when not drunk? That’s the much nicer answer, because no one could hate a woman that pretty.

Funny things:

  • “Why don’t we call it Quanco and divide it into 19 hours of 17 minutes a piece?” – Sheldon, on how ridiculous he finds Anything Can Happen Thursday
  • The Wallowitz Coefficient: Neediness times dress size squared . . . okay . . . because of that line, I am now sure that Raj’s reaction to his hookup is because of her dress size. That’s fucking lame, and I now feel bad for thinking The Wallowitz Coefficient was even remotely funny.
  • “Like picking out a new cereal without knowing his fiber requirements . . . or his feelings for little marshmallows.” – Sheldon on picking out comic books for a thirteen-year-old boy he hasn’t met
  • The symphony of Wallowitz-Cooper “Got its” at the comic book store

The Husband:

I 100% back Sheldon up on quizzing Penny on what comic books her nephew may or may not like. I’m not much of a comic book reader, but I do occasionally delve into a graphic novel, and I know quite a bit about comic book mythology simply because of the company I keep. It’s not like one could just buy a thirteen-year-old boy any DVD within reach at Target, so why would comic books be any different? And Sheldon asked all the right questions. There are thousands of different stories out there, and they are absolutely intended for specific audiences.

Me, I would have said had the child not been a huge comic book fan, I would maybe start him off with some Green Lantern. I can’t really explain why, but it’s one of those great characters right in the middle of the pantheon of greats, and is a pretty good canvas on which to place your personality. But that may just be because my first memory of a comic book hero is Green Lantern.

And Stuart made the right decision to choose Hellblazer for the child, especially if he needs a bit more of an artistic stimulation and will branch out into the movie based on that series, Constantine.

But more importantly, Stuart himself. You will revel in the glory of Kevin Sussman, actor of Stuart, ex-boyfriend of Betty Suarez, and guardian of the wind!

(Go to duration 3:15 for earth-shattering awesomeness)

The Wife:

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.

Summer Glau, doing her best Olivia Wilde.

Summer Glau, doing her best Olivia Wilde.

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.

The Wife:

Wallowitz got a pretty meaty plot this week, in fact, the A-story, in which he hooks up with Leslie Winkle in the paintball shed and quickly becomes her sex slave. As everyone else’s departments suffer budget cuts, Leslie is able to manipulate the department budgets to get shiny new toys for Wallowitz. He’s too stoked on having an actual woman to have sex with to notice, though, until Leslie invites him to a wedding and threatens to cut him from a departmental trip to Geneva to see that Hadron Supercollider when he refuses. Howard, it turns out, really likes being a bought and paid for sex toy, and his mom doesn’t mind either, so long as Leslie is Jewish and they use protection. (She’s not, and I hope to God they do.) I often don’t like the disembodied voice of Howard’s overbearing Jewish mother, but I thought she was actually really funny in this episode, especially when Howard calls down to her that he needs her to rent him a tux, to which she replies, “What kind of sex are you kids having up there?” Awesome.

Moist.

Moist.

As for the B-plot, Penny accidentally fires a paintball gun at Sheldon’s hallowed couch seat. She then follows every awful sitcom trope one can follow surrounding a highly particular character such as Sheldon. She tries to fool him by simply turning over the cushion, but he knows something is wrong the minute he sits down. She offers to get the cushion dry cleaned, after which the gang has to find Sheldon a new place to sit. Watching Jim Pasons maneuver this scene totally saved this plot for me, especially because he made the little moaning noises my cat Marlowe makes when he encounters a new cat he doesn’t like. That is to say, he growls like an angry old man. Eventually, Sheldon decides to crouch in the spot where his seat cushion once was. Save for those noises, this plot was not funny at all for me. Although, it was timely, as I worked from home yesterday and took the opportunity to clean my house, including rearranging the seat cushions on the sofa. My husband immediately noticed his butt groove was missing. He glared at me.

Sheldon is not so easily sated when his own couch cushion returns, though. Somehow, dry cleaning has changed it intrinsically. In an effort to get the heat off Penny, Leonard decides to share a secret with Sheldon. The cashew chicken he picks up every Monday from Sheldon’s favorite Chinese place isn’t from Sheldon’s favorite Chinese place, because that closed two years ago. All this time, Leonard has been fooling Sheldon by switching out the containers of their takeout (which he bought 4,000 of before the restaurant closed and stores in his car, which must be amazingly roomy), so that it looks like it came from the old place. This is such a blow that Sheldon sinks back into the cushion he so abhors, wondering, “What is real? How can I know?” Indeed, Sheldon. It seems you must now experience the same questions of epistemics that we Lost fans have grown accustomed to.

Stray funny lines:

  • “Isn’t it nice when your good fortune makes others miserable?” – Leslie
  • “The mearow! – that sounded like an African civet cat.” – Sheldon


By the way, the African civet cat is not really a cat. Just in case you wanted to know.

The Husband:

Sigh. I actually thought this episode was quite funny, with a high laugh-per-minute ratio, despite its old school cliché plot. I think this show works best, as far as humor is concerned, when they take a tried-and-true story – for this one, I heard a Coen Brothers/Preston Sturges line from The Hudsucker Proxy in my head: “That gag’s got whiskas on it!” – and then gives it the Big Bang flavor. (Or an explosion of flavah!) Since I don’t think Chuck Lorre, nor the writers he hires for his shows, do a very good job in actually coming up with interesting, I don’t mind them scraping the bottom of the barrel now and then. Clearly, I don’t set the bar very high for his brand of comedy, so with this show I tend to go against my story-first-laughs-later stance in a bid to just simply cleanse my palate after the genius How I Met Your Mother and before whatever hour-long we are to watch next, which for the past couple months has been Secret Life Of The American Teenager.

That’s a good description for The Big Bang Theory – it’s a palate cleanser.