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The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory is a comedy about two physicists Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper who live and work together in Pasadena, California. They live a comfortable geeky existence until attractive wannabe actress Penny moves in across the hall. CBS 2007-???

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Episode 21 - The Agreement Dissection

22 June 2016

Credit CBS

Synopsis: Sheldon is furious that Leonard and Priya were sharing the shower when he needed to pee. He brings them the roommate agreement to complain but Priya dismisses his claims. The guys then eat Greek food on Pizza night to further enrage Sheldon. He joins Penny, Bernadette and Amy on a girls night to get away. Amy gets very drunk and kisses him. He ignores that but takes her advice on how to deal with Priya. The next day he threatens to tell Priya's parents about her new relationship unless Leonard signs a new and improved roommate agreement. 

The Good: This was fascinating and a perfect example of what is right and wrong with The Big Bang Theory.

So much of this was good. I really liked that Priya was built up as a likeable, normal person. She is the one who is happy for Sheldon to pee. She disarms Sheldon's roommate agreement in a friendly if firm way and then laughs and jokes with Leonard's friends. It's fairly obvious that she won't be a permanent fixture on the show but there's no reason she can't be presented in a normal, believable way.

That introduction set up the main body of the episode with Sheldon heading out with the girls. I am a big advocate for Sheldon being put in new situations and ideally with new people. The writers protect Sheldon's character too so that he never looked like he was enjoying all the drinking and socialising. Instead he could just frown at them and the humour came from that contrast. I always enjoy his matter of fact explanation of things as when he describes Cotillion as a process where young people are given "all the social graces and dance skills needed to function in eighteenth century Vienna."

It also helped that we have gotten to know Penny's new circle of friends so that the interactions all meant something within the ongoing story arcs. The Priya bashing and Bernadette's engagement were both present but the main focus was Amy's growing socialisation and interest in Sheldon. We have seen her growing comfort both with him and sexuality develop to the point where their interactions were really entertaining. His response of "I don't know how to process that" was pitch perfect to her comment that he was "like a sexy toddler." Naturally the girls bring up the questions of girls and kissing (neither of which interest him) and Amy plays the physical comedy beautifully, offering him her kissy face and then opening one eye to check if he is interested. As the taxi takes them to go dancing he turns and says "What happened to you?" which again felt like exactly what he should be asking when viewing her drunken behaviour. The use of Sheldon's Texan background to explain his dancing skills was good. He played it well again, looking proficient but unenthused.

The subsequent kiss back at the apartment inched Sheldon closer to the day when he might acknowledge sex as a part of his life but for now he remains uninterested. I liked that a lot as he got to just ignore the implications of it and focus instead on his own needs, heeding her advice about Leonard and Priya. That of course led up to the climax of the episode where Sheldon gave the pair an ultimatum. Either Leonard agrees to a new pro-Sheldon roommate agreement or he would tell Priya's parents about their relationship. It was appropriately clever, selfish and ruthless. It also brought out the right change in tone from Leonard and Priya where they seemed genuinely panicked and upset.

The Bad: When that moment hit I was thrilled. The show has developed this new soap opera element this season which has benefitted the show hugely. Here was a great example of what can be done with clearly defined characters. Sheldon is so selfish that he would rather destroy someone else's relationship than have to live with a few inconveniences. Suddenly the drama of the moment was perfectly setup and Priya was forced to expose the fact that she perhaps doesn't see a long term future with Leonard the way he does.

So what was wrong with this? (I am willing to take this back if it is addressed next episode but I fear it won't be). Sheldon delivers the final word telling Priya that she may have studied at Cambridge but he studied at Starfleet Academy. The audience cheers and he marches off triumphant. The problem is that Sheldon isn't the hero of the story. Sheldon is the selfish bastard who brazenly admitted to Leonard that his own happiness is more important than anything else. He essentially ruined Leonard's relationship so that he can eat and pee when he likes. It was a cowardly act. A selfish act. A mean act. It was the act of a bad guy. The final final scene was Sheldon making up with Amy and acting as if Leonard's relationship problems were yet another petty nuisance which he had to endure.

That tone is all wrong. Leonard is the suffering hero in this story. I know the writers and fans don't want him to be but that's what human decency leads you to believe. I began to feel like The Big Bang Theory is an experiment in writing a sit com the wrong way round. Try to imagine this episode if the focus had been on Leonard and not Sheldon. Imagine if instead of following Sheldon's night out we had followed Leonard. Let's say he, Howard, Raj and Priya were the ones who went dancing or just stayed in and played a board game perhaps. Imagine if Leonard and Priya went to bed all happy and content and then the next morning they run into Sheldon and his evil scheme. Suddenly that final scene wouldn't be about Starfleet Academy and Sheldon's wit, it would be about Priya revealing so brutally what she really thinks of the relationship.

The story as it stands leaves the characters in awkward positions. Priya ordered Leonard to hand over his own rights as a tenant (basically) to Sheldon or lose her a girlfriend. That should have been an even more shocking moment than it was. Leonard should feel doubly betrayed. In fact he should be so upset that he can't live with Sheldon anymore. It was a such a despicable act that I'm not sure the show can adequately portray the aftermath unless Sheldon is forced to see that what he did was wrong.

The smoking monkey was perhaps a joke too far for this episode. Normally I would see it as typically creative and weird but the episode was already full of fun and Ricky rather stole focus that could have been used elsewhere.

Comic Highlight: Priya argues that the roommate agreement is vague about what constitutes a bathroom emergency:
P: "If Leonard forgot to trim his nose hair, could he barge in while you were showering?"
S: "Irrelevant! Leonard doesn't trim his nose hair. He thinks because he's short nobody can see up there."

In Conclusion: This really was a good episode until those final few moments. The writing is sharp and the characters are entirely believable despite all the silly things they say. And yet the creative team betray their morality in those final moments. Sheldon is the reason the show is successful but he is also selfish and mean. That needs to be addressed or all this good work can be quickly undone.

('DiggThis)

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  • I really enjoyed Sheldon crushing Priya, and being the unknowing hero by saving Leonard from that cold woman, revealing her true feelings.

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Gilbert, 21/06/2016 10:31am (3 years ago)

  • I thoroughly agree with your critique on the final moments of this episode. They were funny but unexpectedly brutal on Leonard, who as you say is the suffering hero. Its all very well making Sheldon the insufferable and impossible person he is but the end did push his character into the realm of just being spiteful and hurtful. Not the right thing to do for Sheldon at all. Poor Leonard!

    Posted by willy2fly, 25/10/2011 1:50pm (8 years ago)

  • Wonderful review. Congrats.

    Posted by Lucia, 02/05/2011 1:31am (9 years ago)

  • I really appreciate the comments guys. And Michael you are right that the guys were mean to Sheldon in eating Greek food on pizza night just to upset him.

    To be fair the cruellness of his ultimatum was made much worse by Priya's response to it. If Priya had laughed it off then doubtless it would have been easier to shrug and see it as another of Sheldon's silly schemes. But in succeeding he was exposed in a way I doubt the writers really thought through.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 02/05/2011 12:56am (9 years ago)

  • This is a fantastic review!
    After watching, I couldn't quite figure out why the ep bothered me so much.
    "The audience cheers and he marches off triumphant. The problem is that Sheldon isn't the hero of the story." This beautifully describes the fatal flaw in the show and I don't have a word to add...

    Posted by The G man, 01/05/2011 7:33pm (9 years ago)

  • Not only was your review delightful to read (which isn't new exactly), this time you also drew my attention to a flaw of my own hypocritical mind.

    You are absolutely right in your "Bad" segment, and I missed that. Even more, I still don't feel that way, even if see Leonards behavior in general closer to myself as Sheldons.

    I think, my personal feelings about the characters of the show clearly impacted my moral sensors here.

    We were told and shown not to like Priya by her acting, her attitude towards Penny and also Penny's dislike of Priya for harvesting the "social seeds" she planted and fertilized in Leonard.
    Even her "let the man pee" this episode felt more like condescension.

    Secondly, the geek posse went too far by mocking Sheldon with the Greek food. Over the years, I've grown accustomed to Sheldons often cruel behavior as it is unperceived by him.

    So in his functioning world there was suddenly a huge disturbance of the force. And other than in the card trick scenario, I wanted Sheldon to get his revenge and being successful.

    So maybe I am morally broken, but I couldn't feel too bad over a destroyed relationship that wasn't meant to be forever anyway, and in addition it raises the odds for Leonard and Penny.

    Posted by Michael, 01/05/2011 7:00pm (9 years ago)

  • I honestly must say, I am flabbergasted.
    The new episode instantly made it to my top 3 list of TBBT episodes and that for manifold reasons.

    -It showed some progress and a direction for things to come, and the upcoming breakup got a really great background.

    -All happening things made sense and were in character, even if I didn't get the sense of the korean cab driver or the smoking ape.

    -The acting was great, especially Jim Parsons. Having done a lot of dancing lessons myself, I truly was impressed. I really don't know how he pulled it off, but he realistically portrayed a guy who is actually good at dancing without being able or willing of "getting in the mood". And throughout the whole episode, Sheldons "insecurity" for being beaten was nearly tangible.
    In addition, the drunken Amy was absolutely adorable.

    A rather nerdy reason:
    Having seen Sheldon dance in the beginning of the first season (and not too bad there, either), I always disliked the mismatch with his 3rd season statement:

    "Penny, while I subscribe to the ‘many worlds’ theory which pots the existence of an infinite number of Sheldons in an infinite number of universes, I assure you, in none of them am I dancing."

    This episode dissolves this problem with giving both reason to Sheldons dancing skills and his denial of ever doing so.

    In general, the plot worked very well in my opinion. We have the normal situation with the "bullying" Sheldon, a funny and comprehensible "disturbance of the force", the humanely over-exploiting from the as of now villains and finally a truly Sheldon-worthy revenge, setting the old basic parameters back in place.

    And of course, brilliance squared was the only possible reaction of Sheldon to a kiss:

    "Fascinating!"

    Posted by Michael, 29/04/2011 6:23pm (9 years ago)

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