Episode 7 - The Apology Insufficiency
22 February 2011
Synopsis: Howard is asked to join a team working on Defence Department satellites. The FBI are required to do a background check and come to interview Howard's friends. Sheldon accidentally tells Agent Page (Eliza Dushku) about the Mars Rover incident (208) and his clearance is not granted. He unexpectedly feels guilty about this and tries to make things right.
The Good: The biggest surprise here is that the writers remember and acknowledge their most outlandish plot decision when Howard crashed the Mars Rover while trying to impress a woman (208). I'm pleased by the consistency as it rewards long term viewers and helps build up the world which the characters live in as credible (though see The Bad). Sheldon's decision to offer Howard his spot on the couch is another victory for continuity. The writing has so consistently made that spot a core component of Sheldon's character that the offer to Howard came across as a genuinely meaningful sacrifice on Sheldon's part.
As ever Sheldon stands out as a character of rare comic potential and manages the rare trick of elevating the writing he is given. Agent Page's authority and beauty had reduced both Raj and Leonard to their silly extremes of behaviour where as Sheldon was unmoved. His complete lack of intimidation or interest in her meant he stood out as a character. Not just in the sense that his scene was funnier but that it was just more interesting to watch. His lack of socially normal behaviour make him endlessly unpredictable, you just don't know quite how he is going to react to each new situation. In this case lines about childhood flaming bags of poop and broken DVD cases become genuinely funny and enjoyable because of his delivery and the contrast with his friends' reactions. It's easy to see from scenes like that why the writers focus so much effort and attention on him.
The Bad: However it remains detrimental to the show as a whole. Not only did a Howard plot become about Sheldon but it managed to ignore the most intriguing part of the story, Sheldon having feelings of guilt, and instead focus entirely on the act of apology.
This ignores so many issues within the story. Why does Sheldon feel guilt? Is Howard now more than an acquaintance as he once called him (313)? Or indeed the plot could have just focussed on Sheldon and his developing attachment to those around him and how he feels about that. Once more Raj's obvious love of America was demonstrated and if he has been in the country for seven years then why hasn't he applied for citizenship yet?
The scenes with Sheldon confronting Agent Page and then chatting to Penny suffered because they had little purpose. They were attempts to exploit Sheldon's ability to get laughs but they failed. Sheldon works at his best when he organically interacts with the outside world as he did in the original interview. Once the writing tries to force him into funny scenes things become less amusing.
Leonard hitting on women with his new found confidence could have been much funnier. I thought they rushed from the opening scene into his interview with Page and didn't get all they could from it.
It's worth mentioning that the Mars Rover plot brings up a giant hole in the internal logic of the show. At the time I said it was very damaging for Howard to destroy a million-dollar government project and escape with no consequences. Now Sheldon actually confesses the crime to the FBI and nothing is done about it. When Howard finds out he ought to be quaking in his boots about being arrested and imprisoned for such shockingly irresponsible and criminal behaviour. This might have been a piece of continuity to steer clear of.
It took me a while of watching Dollhouse before I finally agreed with everyone else that Eliza Dushku has a very limited range as an actress. Her over-emoted performance here did nothing to change my mind.
Comic Highlight: Although Sheldon had several fun moments it was actually a more subtle moment that was the funniest. When Agent Page comes to interview Raj he is reading one of the Twilight books. He sits down on the couch with her and gently moves the book out of her line of sight. A nice simple gag which worked.
In Conclusion: Yet another story told in the wrong way by a team of writers too obsessed with Sheldon. However it is easy to see why they are obsessed.
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