Episode 20 - The Herb Garden Germination
8 April 2011
Synopsis: Amy tells Sheldon that she hears Bernadette is thinking of breaking up with Howard. Sheldon tells Leonard who tells Priya who tells Raj and so on. Sheldon and Amy become fascinated by how quickly the news has spread. They decide to start an experiment by floating the rumour that they slept together. As that gossip races around the group we learn that Howard plans on proposing to Bernadette and Raj has feelings for her.
The Good: I really enjoyed this. After last week's good work I was fearful that the show would head back to its formula but instead I was delightfully surprised.
The expansion of the gang to include Amy, Bernadette and Priya has been a huge boon for the show. Suddenly all four of the guys had an emotional involvement in the unfolding story and I don't remember many occasions when that was true. The soap opera has been so valuable that I very much like the Howard-Bernadette engagement even as I assume it won't actually lead to marriage. For a start this addressed their relationship problems (which were left hanging in 416) and scooped up Raj's feelings for Bernadette too (which I had assumed was just a throwaway story in 414). This should also lead to plenty of fun as the girls and guys make their wedding plans and discuss their own ideas about marriage and commitment. We don't even know why Bernadette said yes yet which could be an interesting story if the writers wanted to go there.
So much of what makes a live studio audience valuable is stories where the audience knows information which the characters don't. All the little lies and guarded reactions can suddenly become funny with the audience in the know and the character in the dark. This episode exploited that idea every chance it got and the result was a lot of fun. There were the obvious moments like Sheldon digging to see which piece of gossip had gotten through to Leonard or Raj's pathetic attempts to hide his interest in Bernadette. But there were also more character specific moments like Penny's hypocrisy over gossiping, Leonard's bathroom discussion with Priya and Raj's drunken attempts to create a bond with Bernadette. Every scene in the episode felt important for once. Aside from Sheldon voicing his train of thought every line was needed to fuel the different plot strands and build the intrigue surrounding Howard's proposal.
The Amy-Sheldon social experiment played a very nice role in stirring the pot too. Once more she plays a valuable role in finding plausible scientific excuses to engage him in social activity. The way the gossip spread around the gang felt organic and I liked the way it was never clear how their gossip might affect the ongoing Howard-Bernadette relationship rumours. Their mutual misunderstandings of how their two strands of gossip would be received was typically amusing too and I laughed out loud at Sheldon genuinely theorising to Amy that Bernadette had changed her mind because "your talk of my sexual prowess renewed her faith in love." I was also very pleased to see Amy and Sheldon smirking over the puns that their fake sexual escapade was creating and then Sheldon not understanding why blow-by-blow would be a pun. That felt far more true to Sheldon's naïve and disinterested attitude toward sex than he has displayed in some episodes (e.g. 415).
The Bad: The opening scene where Sheldon made a cruelly sarcastic joke to Brian Greene felt out of character. Or at least it did when Sheldon apologised and claimed it was a joke. I know he has been bringing out more bazinga's as the seasons have passed but this felt more like the writers trying to think of something funny to do with Greene rather than staying true to Sheldon's misunderstanding of social behaviour.
There was no time for it in this episode but you have to think that Leonard and Penny would have grilled Sheldon if he had really had sex. I suppose Raj's feelings toward Bernadette would ideally have been fleshed out in a previous episode before reappearing here.
Comic Highlight: Raj's smooth lines to the oblivious Bernadette was a fun scene. Then Penny came over to scold him for his disloyal behaviour. She also shares the news that Sheldon and Amy had sex. He is naturally shocked and exclaims "Shut your ass!" It's one of those lines that plays nicely on your expectation of what he's going to say. It also plays on the silly racial stereotypes which surround Raj, but funny nonetheless. He's the only one who we get to see have the expected reaction to this news and he asks "Did they know that's what they were doing when they were doing it!?"
In Conclusion: The producers seem to have embraced the need for recurring characters and ongoing stories and the results are very encouraging. I felt engaged for the whole episode and amused by almost everything. If the writers can inject a touch of real emotion into the inevitable breakups coming then I will be hugely impressed.
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