Episode 22 - The Staircase Implementation
23 January 2012
Synopsis: Leonard asks Penny if he can stay the night with her after a row with Sheldon. He tells her the story of how he moved in with Sheldon and the elevator stopped working.
The Good: A terrific episode. It wasn't as emotionally resonant or as funny as it might have been but I have no complaints with a real good faith effort to apply actual characterisation to these characters.
First off I was delighted to see a flashback story; just to see The Big Bang Theory try something new was good. But the flashback is always a rich source for sit coms and this was no exception. The continuity involved in the flashback was excellent as well. The broken elevator, the roommate agreement and Babylon Five are all established parts of Leonard and Sheldon's relationship. As silly as the North Korean spy Joyce Kim might sound, she has been mentioned several times on the show and I was delighted to see this evidence of the writers believing in the integrity of their story.
The way the writing linked the broken elevator to Sheldon and Leonard's friendship was a very nice touch too. I'm impressed by the patience the writers have shown in saving that reveal till now. It wasn't as if Sheldon suddenly showed much empathy either, he just saw where Leonard had gone wrong, pointed it out and acted quickly. It was enough of an incident to make it clear why Leonard ultimately chose to stay put and deal with Sheldon's idiosyncrasies. But the writing refused to leave it there and actually had Leonard point out other benefits like the quality of other apartments and the cost (which was good logical stuff to hear).
Up to that point I thought they played out the Sheldon-Leonard dynamics with real skill. Throughout the flashback Sheldon wouldn't look anyone else in the eye. He kept twitching and looked thoroughly uncomfortable with human interaction. It was a lovely touch to indicate the change he has gone through now that he has to deal with other people every day. The fact that he had no furniture, in order to avoid company, but was quickly seduced by the comfort of the sofa was another solid moment. Leonard's character really shone through for once which was nice. He's a people pleaser and fell in step with Sheldon's questions quickly before trying to bring a bit of humour and cheekiness into the conversation. You could see an enthusiasm, optimism and backbone which have been worn down in the present.
It was interesting too to see that just by showing them together for a whole episode we saw more chemistry between Penny and Leonard than we did during their relationship. Well that's a bad exaggeration but it was nice to see them just hang out, be friends and have a comfortable dynamic.
And there was humour to spare too. Sheldon responds to Leonard's innocuous claim that he goes to the bathroom when he has to with an outrageous "I don't rent to hippies." Sheldon then shows him to his new room which has "DIE SHELDON DIE" painted in red on the walls. During the contract signing Sheldon puts in an amusing clause stating that if either of them invents time travel their first destination must be this moment. They wait for a few seconds before Sheldon concludes "That's disappointing." Howard and Raj arrive in suitably dated outfits and react as you would expect to Sheldon's eccentricities.
The Bad: Nothing obvious.
Comic Highlight: Leonard arrives and knocks on what he thinks is Sheldon's apartment. A tall black man dressed in woman's clothing answers. Leonard looks suitably confused and asks "Dr Cooper?" The man responds "No you want the crazy guy across the hall." A textbook example of when a studio audience can make a joke much funnier just by laughing.
In Conclusion: This isn't the show's best episode by any means. But it's one that does such a good job with continuity, characterisation and just changing the formula that it encourages me as a viewer to invest more in future episode. Great work.
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