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:

It was only a matter of time before Leslie Winkle grew tired of Howard Wallowitz, and that time has come. Strangely, although they claimed to be friends with benefits, Howard is quite crushed by Leslie’s rejection and so Sheldon suggests that the gang take him to Vegas to make him forget his troubles (“You know, I’m given to understand that there’s an entire city in Nevada devoted specifically to help people like Howard forget their problems. They replace them with new problems such as alcoholism, gambling addiction and sexually transmitted diseases.”). Raj and Leonard head off to Vegas with Howard, while Sheldon stays behind to enjoy eating the kind of meal he can only enjoy when all of his friends are gone, an Indian paneer dish that Raj wouldn’t eat because he detests the food of his homeland and that Howard and Leonard couldn’t eat due to their respective allergies to peanuts and lactose. But Sheldon’s peaceful evening eating Indian food alone is ruined when he realizes he doesn’t have the keys to his apartment and has to squat at Penny’s until he super comes to let him in. The super never arrives, though, and Penny offers to let Sheldon sleep on her couch, which he refuses because “I have no intentions of living out E.M. Snickering’s beloved children’s book, The Tall Man from Cornwall,” in which a tall man tries to sleep on something too short for him, which Sheldon proceeds to demonstrate according to the rhyme. Penny allows him to sleep on her bed while she takes the couch, but when he can’t fall asleep, there arises my favorite thing in the Big Bang Theory canon: “Soft Kitty.”

Yes, he makes her sing him “Soft Kitty.” I never, ever, ever will tire of hearing a lullaby about a very touchable kitten sung to a grown man. Ever. In fact, I like this song so much that I will occasionally sing it to my cats. In fact, I’m going to post the first appearance of “Soft Kitty” on this show just because I want to press play:

In Vegas, Howard doesn’t really want to leave his room, preferring to cyberstalk Leslie and bemoan the end of their relationship while Raj and Leonard play video poker and drink cocktails. Raj is approached by a prostitute, which gives him the idea to hire a prostitute to make Wallowitz feel better. They decide to pay her for the Jewish girlfriend experience, and once they convince Howard to join them at the buffet, she reels him in by complaining that the caterers should have put out a brisket. After some time with “Esther Rosenblatt,” Howard approaches his friends to admit that they hired a prostitute for him, and, when they do, he expresses his total and complete gratitude.

Would it kill them to lay out a nice brisket?

Would it kill them to lay out a nice brisket?

There’s also a nice bit at the end of this episode that I hope gets followed up on. When Leonard returns from Vegas, he sees Sheldon coming out of Penny’s apartment, proclaiming that he now understands more about being friends with benefits (because Penny explained it to him), which clearly makes Leonard think that somehow, inexplicably, his social awkward friend has stolen his dreamgirl.

A couple of funny lines:

  • “Do you kind of look like a shiny Sheldon?” – Raj, in re: Sheldon’s resemblance to C-3PO in Sci-Fi 20 Questions
  • “You’re the milk thief! Leonard thought I was crazy, but I knew that carton felt light!” – Sheldon, in re: Penny occasionally entering their apartment to borrow sundries while they’re not home

And a bone to pick:

Seriously, BBT writers? You are writing a show about alleged geeks and geekery, and yet you insist on calling Twitter posts “Twitters” instead of “Tweets,” which is the actual term? You fucking fail on that count.

The Husband:

I have a different gripe as to where the BBT writers failed, and that would be during Sci-Fi 20 Questions. You are writing a show about alleged geeks and geekery, and yet you insist on them choosing easy, internationally recognized characters C-3PO and Mr. Spock. Come on, man. Even a minor Star Wars geek would pick somebody like, say, Wedge Antilles or Bail Organa. And this isn’t at all going into the Star Wars universe outside of the movies, where the guessing could actually get difficult. But C-3PO? A four-year-old could have guessed that. And people who hate Star Trek can guess Mr. Spock. Penny’s been hanging with these guys for a long enough time that Spock should have been one of her first guesses.


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.



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.

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.