Episode 21 - The Plimpton Stimulation
23 January 2012
Synopsis: Sheldon's female friend Dr Plimpton is coming to stay much to everyone's surprise. She sleeps with Leonard much to Sheldon's disgust and then begins hitting on Raj and Howard.
The Good: You can't argue with good farce. Even in a short scene like the one we got at the end here it can generate tremendous easy laughter. Dr Plimpton tries to seduce Raj, Howard and Leonard at the same time leading to a really funny punch line (see Comic Highlight). But along the way the there was lots of fun to be had with Raj claiming "I bought a parrot" to try and keep Howard out and once he is apprised of the situation his "What the frak?!" was entirely appropriate.
Before that we had Leonard attempting to hint that he had had sex the previous night to a completely non-plussed Howard and Raj. Leonard's own happiness at having slept with her was amusing too after Sheldon accused him of "playing" with "his" friend. Before that Leonard had made such a fool of himself with his nervous chatter that Sheldon was forced to say "Get it together man!" That was a really nice line because it was entirely appropriate for Sheldon to say while of course echoing words that you can imagine a normal friend would have said to him anyway in that situation.
And working all the way backwards Sheldon was in his usual good form as he prepared for Dr Plimpton's arrival. I enjoyed his anal dislike for hotel keys: "as if one walks around with unassigned slots in one's wallet!" His ego was in glorious bloom with this nice bit of misdirection too "Listen one of the great minds of the twenty first century...is about to play host to one of the other great minds of the twenty first century." He continues in his comments to Leonard by reminding him that one day he may have to tell his biographer about this moment. To which Leonard of course replies "I have so many things to tell your biographer."
The Bad: Putting all the fun and games to one side for a second this was of course a missed opportunity. The problem was the writers couldn't decide who the story was really about. The first half of the episode was all about Sheldon as the writers exploited every amusing thing he could say about a female guest coming to stay. Then once Leonard slept with Dr Plimpton the episode became about him and how Penny would be affected by his dalliance. The unsophisticated nature of the writing means there is practically no emotional resonance to play with, summed up aptly by Leonard's pathetic (if honest) explanation to her at the end of the episode. And of course the episode also took a left turn after 17 minutes and turned into a plot about Dr Plimpton's nymphomania or lust for geeky guys depending on your interpretation.
If the writers had focussed on one of these plots the episode would have been much better. And I am no snob, I will take the laughs which a full on farcical nympho episode would have ludicrously thrown up. You would think with the similarities between The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men that a silly sex plot would have been easy to pull off. Or they could have chosen to focus on Leonard and Penny and show how the situation might affect both of them and their uncomfortable new friendship. Certainly having her talk to him so openly about it doesn't make their relationship seem very real. They have only just finished a very intimate relationship where they spent a lot of time together and she seems odd for calling him out on his behaviour in the way she did. Particularly as she showed no strong tinge of jealousy or hurt feelings.
Finally the writers could have focussed on Sheldon, as they love to do. It seems very odd that the plot was built up around "his" friend and houseguest yet we saw no conclusion at all to her stay. We have no idea how Sheldon feels about what developed including the fact that he seemed to have genuinely hurt feelings that "his" friend had been taken from him.
The Big Bang Theory continues to give off the feeling of a show written by committee. A whole scene was spent on Sheldon showing Dr Plimpton around her new bedroom which was totally unnecessary and was present only because the writers think Sheldon's fastidiousness is inherently hilarious. I would argue that it's much funnier when directed toward a particular plot point. Watch classic Frasier and you can see how many more laughs can be mined from farce. Watch classic Friends to see characters living together deal with friction over a new arrival. Now tell me this show couldn't be so much more.
On a separate note did Howard really break up with Bernadette? If he did that is another wasted plot.
Comic Highlight: Dr Plimpton suggests a sexual role play for her new friends where Raj is her landlord and Howard and Leonard are moving men and she has no money to pay any of them. The guys all recoil at the thought of a foursome where they would have to interact in any way. Raj suggests they all leave and pretend to be playing along. He ushers Leonard and Howard out of the door, locks it behind them and with a smooth and confident delivery turns around and says "So you say you can't pay your rent?"
In Conclusion: A fun episode with plenty to keep you chuckling. But wait for it...this could have been so much more.
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