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:

I’ve been really excited for the new season of The Amazing Race, and not just because it’s awesome and its even awesomer that CBS decided to reward my newfound appreciation for The Big Bang Theory by giving it to me during the winter. Those things were exciting enough, true. But nothing was more exciting to find out that screenwriter Mike White and his gay dad Mel would be competing on the race. Now, a screenwriter is not exactly a celebrity. As we learned in last year’s writers’ strike, no one thinks of writers even as people, really. So to see a screenwriter and actor like Mike White on the show sort of ups the ante a bit, its not going to be a major problem like, say, if an actor’s actor like Alec Baldwin wanted to be on TAR. Anyway, the point is that I am a Mike White fan, and I vowed to root for him and his father until they get kicked off, which, if Mel’s groin injury is any indication, might not be too far off.

The teams this season, who raced across Los Alamitos air base to grab their bags and drive themselves to LAX before jetting to lovely Switzerland, are as follows:

  • Christine and Jodi, two blonde flight attendants who think they will have an advantage being part of the travel industry (soon to be proven wrong)
  • Tammy and Victor, a brother and sister team of Harvard-educated lawyers
  • Margie and Luke, a mother and son team, the latter of whom is Deaf and proudly does not read lips (me either!)
  • Steve and Linda, married self-proclaimed “hicks from the sticks”
  • Kisha and Jen, sisters who were both college athletes
  • Preston and Jennifer, a dating couple from South Carolina that I didn’t write down anything interesting about
  • Brad and Victoria, that badass older couple – their words, not mine (although they were soon to be proven correct)
  • Mel and Mike, gay activist dad and bi screenwriter son (My husband and I find it confusing that CBS is touting the gay angle, even though Mike White is openly bi, thus proving that even in a world that openly accepts gays, no one knows what to do with bisexual people)
  • Amanda and Kris, a dating couple that I also didn’t write down anything interesting about
  • Mark and Michael, a pair of brothers of small stature who are both professional stuntmen (see? also people in the Industry who aren’t celebrities — very cool)
  • Jaime and Cara, friends, redheads and former NFL cheerleaders (Miami Dolphins, specifically)

As the teams decided to fly to Switzerland via Zurich or Milan, the show got some new graphics, which were pretty great-looking. Mike and Mel, Steve and Linda, Kisha and Jen, Preston and Jennifer and Amanda and Kris all took the southern route (and a later flight) to Milan, only to later take a 90 min train ride to Locarno, whereas Christine and Jodi, Tammy and Victor, Mark and Michael, Brad and Victoria and Margie and Luke took the Northern route (and earlier flight) to Zurich, which is about 2.5 hours from Locarno by car. Nothing much happened during the travel segments here, other than Christine and Jodi following some native Swiss persons advice to switch trains that ended up getting them majorly lost (there’s that thing about being proven wrong), while Preston and Jennifer missed their train from Milan Malpensa entirely, turning them into “that couple who fights all the time.”

Once in Locarno, teams had to search on foot for the Church of San Antonio, where they would sign up for their departure times the next day. After arriving, everyone got to camp out in some haystacks for the night, which seemed pretty cool, although infinitely less fun than the “camp” I went to in Italy, which, by the way, was a hotel. From their roll in the hay, the teams were then sent to the Vercaza Dam, where they were faced with a Road Block in which one teammate would have to bungee jump off the dam, which looked very cool, but also very scary. As I explained to my husband while watching this, I would be happy to bungee jump, but, like off the Harbour Bridge in Sydney. I don’t want to bungee jump into a rocky ravine surrounded by concrete and sharp things. I mean, I could die either way if something went wrong, but I’d rather hit water, you know?

Mike White, auditioning for a live action turn as Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

Mike White, auditioning for a live action turn as Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

Once teams completed the Road Block, it was on to Interlaken, a wonderful town in Switzerland that is, in fact, between lakes. I love that at any given point in Switzerland, you’re going to have to be prepared to speak one of three languages: German, Italian or French. I was prepared for Livigno and Locarno when I went there, as they’re largely Italian speaking. (Dear racers: guess what isn’t Spanish? Italian. Stop saying “Gracias” to everyone.) And then I went to Geneva, where everyone speaks French. And then I had an adventure in Interlaken at a buffet where I couldn’t figure out what most of the food was. (I got nudlen and hoped for the best. To this day, I think it was made of babies.*) Once in Interlaken, teams were not given a Detour, but a group challenge which involved amusing the bell ringing locals (I totally forgot about Interlaken and its bells until I saw them!) by hauling 4 50-lb wheels of cheese down a very steep, muddy hill on traditional cheese-carrying boards.

As it happens, those cheese-carrying boards are either not very strong or no one did it correctly (save for Brad and Victoria, see my note about being proven right), because most participants ended up sliding down the hill on wheels of cheese, or sliding down on the broken cheeseboards, or sliding down on their ass with a cheese wheel in their lap. Nothing is more hilarious than watching an old gay man scoot down a hill with a wheel of cheese in his lap. (Today I learned that doing yoga won’t help you lift a 50 lb. wheel of cheese and carry it down a hill.) Except maybe then hearing that man say, “Don’t let a cheese hit me!” Or watching shots of runaway cheeses. Okay, actually, all of this was hilarious. I wish that had happened to me when I was in Switzerland.

Ah, yes, the great Swiss cheese sled.

Ah, yes, the great Swiss cheese sled.

Once they completed their arduous cheese challenge, racers headed to Stheckelburg where they had to follow the dulcet tones of yodelers in order to locate the Pit Stop. Amazingly, the team with only one hearing person was the first to check in, and mother and son won a week in Puerta Vallarta, announced in a truly moving way as Phil Koeghan signed to Luke that they were, indeed, team number one.
2nd: Tammy and Victor
3rd: Mark and Michael
4th: Mike and Mel
5th: Amanda and Kris
6th: Brad and Victoria
7th: Jaime and Cara
8th: Kisha and Jen
9th: Steve and Linda
10th: Christine and Jodi
Phileminated: Preston and Jennifer

I’m not sorry to see Preston and Jennifer go, as I know nothing about them and don’t find them interesting. I feel the same about Amanda and Kris, except Kris is marginally more interesting now that I know he can carry two 50 lb cheese on his shoulders. I’m also slightly concerned with the way Steve and Linda are being portrayed. I’m happy that they’ll continue to see a country other than the state of Virginia for another day, but I’m worried about Steve’s bullying and Linda’s incredible emotional weakness. I’m sure this is just me being overly sensitive, but it feels like they’re being punished in some way for never having been able to travel. There are lots of other contestants who have earnestly wanted to use the race to see the world, and I don’t think they’re getting quite as much negative light as Steve and Linda. Maybe it’s not the show at all and it’s just how they portray themselves. After all, they’re the ones calling themselves the Hicks from the Sticks and intentionally wearing so much brown that they constantly look unwashed.

Whatever. I like most of the other teams, except Christine and Jodi. I haven’t made up my mind about the Redheads yet. Anyway, I’m rooting for my gays. Go Mike and Mel!

*Just kidding! I know that they were noodles . . . made from babies.

The Husband:

All I could think during the cheese-rolling challenge was this following trailer to This Is Spinal Tap.

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.