Don’t let that sweet and cuddly photo from the end of last night’s Big Bang Theory fool you; this episode was packed to the rafters with one full bore fight after another, and, thank jeebus, the result was maybe the funniest ep of the season thus far. Which means I owe Pennard an apology. For weeks now, I’ve used this space to gripe and gripe and gripe about their peripheral, inconsistently funny, and obviously doomed relationship, but last night, for the first time, not only was Pennard the catalyst for most of the comedy, but I actually could picture these two crazy kids making it after all. (Speaking of shaky fall romances on CBS Monday sitcoms — and kids, consider this your SPOILER ALERT — let us take a quick moment of silence for the end of How I Met Your Mother‘s Robney last night, and let’s use that time to privately hope for the return of Fat Barney.) (Silence over.)
The verbal brawling began on Big Bang during the inaugural game of Research Lab, Sheldon’s DIY board game where “the physics is theoretical, but the fun is real!” Penny casually mentioned that her friend Justin, a budding musician from back home, was flying into LA and crashing on her couch for a few weeks. This was, by all appearances, the first Leonard had heard this news, and when Penny further allowed that Justin was an old fling — doing so by explaining that he’s “definitely not gay” — well, that was enough to flip Leonard’s lid something fierce. Which put Penny on the defense about her intelligence and independence. Which launched Sheldon on his gut-busting emotional regression, goaded by this simple, primal fear: Mommy and Daddy won’t stop fighting! Even when it’s just Daddy, fighting with himself!
Rice!”) It all proved too much for Sheldon. Already on tilt after Penny and Leonard’s continued fighting forced the boys to miss their screening of a digitally re-mastered Time Bandits, Sheldon exploded into a tour-de-force recreation of his ma and pa’s regular contretemps, climaxing with Sheldon-as-his-father exclaiming to Sheldon-as-his-mother, “I’ll tell you what makes Sheldon cry: That I let you name him Sheldon!“
Forced, as he so often is, to take matters into his own hands, Sheldon tried to cajole Penny into apologizing to Leonard by ambushing her while she waitressed at the Cheesecake Factory. Instead, he fussed over the misnomer “half sandwich” — “You can’t make a half sandwich. It’s not half of a whole sandwich, it’s just a small sandwich!” — and then managed to spill just about all of Leonard’s trivial complaints about her: Her temper, her poor driving, her stuffed animals. Which launched yet another round of fighting, driving poor Sheldon into the cold night, lost in a sea of perpetual discontent, as Raj and Howard were also locked in rancorous struggles, this time with their respective parents. (I far prefer Howard’s fight with his mom; yelling “I’m on the toilet!” pretty much trumps anything.)
With nowhere to turn, Sheldon sought the solace of what no doubt got him through those long, bitter nights as a kid in Texas: Nesting into a giant pile of comic books and robot toys. And it was at the comic book store that Penny and Leonard completed their journey as Sheldon’s surrogate parents, with Penny assuring Sheldon that, while she and Leonard may fight on occasion, “no matter what happens, we’ll always love you.” Awwww.
Best Leonard/Sheldon Exchange, Part One:
Leonard: We’re going to the movies
Sheldon: No we’re not. We’re standing in the hallway, suffering through an awkward encounter.
Line that locked in my campaign for Stuart to become a series regular: “I was thinking of closing early and going home, but, let’s face it, that’s just a slightly smaller, lonely room filled with comic books.”
Best Leonard/Sheldon Exchange, Part Two:
Leonard: He does this thing where he pretends he’s in an alternate dimension that occupies the same physical space we’re in, but he can’t perceive us.
Sheldon: Don’t flatter yourself, I’m just ignoring you.
So, Big Bang theorists, do you think Leonard was right to be upset at Penny for not consulting him before inviting Justin to crash on her couch? Or was Leonard simply out of line? Is there anyone else who could squeeze a bigger laugh out of squeezing an orange over a sno-cone than Jim Parsons? Would you play Research Lab if it were a bone fide board game? And now that the writers seem to have a better handle on them as a couple, are you pulling for Pennard to go the distance, or is their courtship still fated for utter failure?
Image Credit: CBS