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 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.