Episode 22 - The Wildebeest Implementation
6 May 2011
Synopsis: Priya and Leonard ask Howard and Bernadette to join them for dinner. Amy wants to use Bernadette as a spy to learn more about Priya. Amy texts Bernadette and tells her to claim that Penny is going to be in a film with Angelina Jolie and is dating an astronaut. Bernadette becomes increasingly uncomfortable having to defend this fabrication. Meanwhile Raj is feeling lonely and seeks out Sheldon's companionship. Sheldon is trying to perfect three person chess and encourages Raj to take some new pills which might help his social anxiety.
The Good: This was a fairly random episode with a bunch of competing jokes and ideas rattling around. Most of it was fine though it could have been a lot better.
At first I thought the writers were going to ignore the big bust up from last episode. However we then learnt that Leonard is going to visit India and meet Priya's parents which allayed my fears. To prove that she is not ashamed of him this is a very adequate solution. It also puts a timeline on Leonard's relationship with Priya, a kind of point of no return that I assume he won't cross.
I was also concerned that no one was going to react with appropriate shock that Penny had landed an actual acting job but then everyone was suitably surprised. I liked the simple way that situation unfolded. Penny suggested the lie in a simple flick of resentment but the less savvy Amy and Bernadette foolishly took her seriously. The transformation of Amy into a "typical" girl remains fun. Her pose for Leonard where she didn't move at all but expected a reaction from him was funny. I also like that she talked about her lonely childhood as motivation for why she now throws herself into the Penny-centric clique. Bernadette too was well characterised as a former Catholic school girl who became overwhelmed with the amount of lying she was having to do.
As usual Sheldon can be relied upon to sit in his own vacuum and be funny (see Comic Highlight). The way he can turn a simple interaction into comedy is testament to good writing:
S: "I like cows."
R: "That's not the point."
S: "It was its own point. Go on."
You can't help but smile at Raj nuding up in a coffee shop and Sheldon standing behind him saying "Oh there's no need to interact with me, I'm just here to observe." It was all so delightfully silly.
The Bad: As is often the case the writers hadn't constructed a purpose for this episode. Bernadette's snooping didn't really accomplish anything. The writing focuses on the joke (her lies) rather than the plot (the love triangle) and so we are left with a fairly pleasant if meaningless story. Similarly Raj's loneliness and selective mutism is addressed (the plot) but the writers don't really want to deal with it, they just head for the cheapest joke imaginable and have him strip off. This kind of decision making is what makes The Big Bang Theory a lightweight show but it is also why it has such a large audience.
The details were annoying though. Although the Priya-Leonard argument was mentioned, the Sheldon-Leonard argument was not. When I say "argument" I should clarify that we never actually saw one. It's just that Sheldon's behaviour was so outrageous (last episode) that Leonard loses ever more steam as a character for not standing up to him. Similarly he stammers and stutters when Priya asks why he is surprised that Penny didn't tell him about her new acting job. Well she's barely had one before so if she really got a movie role I think she would have told everyone.
Later on the writers go for the cheap joke and have Sheldon insist that any side effects from Raj's new drugs are irrelevant (because basically he is an idiot). But don't they work together in the same office? Shouldn't Sheldon have a strong opinion on Raj's competence and state of mind? That really was a cheap story and the writers shouldn't mess around with his selective mutism too much because one day that story could pay off.
Comic Highlight: Sheldon's attempts to create a three-person version of Chess was typically clever and inventive. It led to a string of fun jokes about new characters that might become a part of the game with new moves and consequences. As usual Sheldon continued to discuss the game even when Raj came to share his troubles: "How do you think people would feel about Prince Joey , the King's feeble minded but well meaning cousin?...The fun thing about Prince Joey is, every time he moves there's a one in five chance he'll kill himself!"
In Conclusion: The writers lost focus here and presented a fairly mediocre story. However the strong arc plot they have built up for the characters prevented this from feeling too irrelevant.
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