Episode 14 - The Thespian Catalyst
4 February 2011
Synopsis: Bernadette tells Raj that he is cute and he begins fantasising about her. Sheldon gives a lecture which is universally panned. Amy suggests he take acting lessons to enhance his ability to communicate.
The Good: These were two excellent ideas for stories. Raj can't really have a girlfriend as long as his selective-mutism is in place. So it seems entirely believable that he would fantasise about Bernadette, being one of the few women he spends time with. The first of the fantasies was fun to watch.
Meanwhile Sheldon was of course an insufferable teacher and the idea of him learning to act has so many comic possibilities. Amy continues to play a good role in his life. It's easier to accept that Sheldon would take advice from her than from those he perceives to be inferior to him. The teaching lesson with Penny certainly contained some smiles (see Comic Highlight) including the variation in his door knocking pattern to demonstrate desperation.
The teaching lesson took a nice twist when Sheldon revealed a one-act play he wrote about being taken away by Spock to the twenty-third century. I really liked the detail in the fantasy. Ten year old Sheldon wanted to be taken away by his hero to a place where his distinct intelligence would make him loved and not bullied. It's a perfect bit of escapism you can imagine almost any child coming up with. Penny shows good intelligence herself insisting that Sheldon play his mom in the scene to better learn how to act. She then points out that the script doesn't elaborate on the obvious emotions Sheldon's mother would feel at having her son taken away. Sheldon suddenly accesses those emotions and begins to cry.
I did like Sheldon pointing out that having transitioned from actor to teacher Penny's career was basically over. That was an apt point.
The Bad: That was such an opportunity to have a serious moment. I really thought for a moment the writers had found a wonderful way to humanise Sheldon and allow him to empathise with someone else's emotions for a second. Instead the scene trailed off for an easy laugh. It wasn't terrible but it was another wasted moment. The acting plot of course reached no real conclusion. Stories on this show rarely do. Will we return to the idea of Sheldon teaching? Not soon enough I imagine.
Similarly the Raj story didn't go anywhere. There was no attempt to address his loneliness or whether his fantasies actually had an impact on his friendship with Howard and Bernadette. Instead his second fantasy was just a lame copy of the first and the third a cheap Bollywood dance off to cover for the absence of plot.
Comic Highlight: Penny asks Sheldon to do some improv with her and pretends to be working in a shoe shop. She accost Sheldon as if he were a customer and asks how she can help him. "I'd like a frozen yogurt please?" It was such an odd response and yet very appropriate to his inflexible mind. He had clearly chosen what he was going to improvise, her choices were irrelevant.
In Conclusion: This is exactly what you would expect from the show: two good story ideas which go nowhere. The writers are far more interested in creating jokes around their initial concepts than actually bringing them to a conclusion. I think the show suffers because the best jokes come out of fully realised stories.
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