The Big Bang Theory has been hitting a great stride in these final episodes of the season, and last night’s episode was the show operating in tip-top shape. Howard finally told his mom he was engaged to Bernadette, while Penny and Priya finally broke the ice between them over Leonard’s sexual proclivities — developments that not only advanced major plotlines in big and rather unexpected ways, but they also gave Howard and Penny a spotlight they hadn’t seen in months. Simon Helberg and Kaley Cuoco at long last had a chance to show off what they can do best — nebbishy neuroses mixed with go-for-broke pratfalls, and finely honed, light comedic timing, respectively. And there still was time for two terrifically funny subplots: one, Sheldon’s panicked germaphobia, sparked first by accidentally drinking from Leonard’s water glass, and then brought to a high boil when Howard’s mother was rushed to the hospital after her son had told her he was engaged to a Catholic girl. (Turns out it was just a case of food poisoning, and Howard’s mom thinks Bernadette is “lovely” and “wonderful,” and her son is lucky to have her.) And two, Raj’s delightful campaign to torment Sheldon (over his ribald commentary during games of
Magic: The Gathering Mystic Warlords from Ka’a, as I have been corrected in the comments) and Leonard (over Priya’s budding friendship with Penny). It was all so fun and so funny, with a killer climactic line from Bernadette, that I scarcely noticed Amy Farrah Fowler, my personal season 4 MVP, was MIA.
I also loved the small human character moments in the episode, like Sheldon mentioning that his Aunt Ruth actually died of an infection after visiting the hospital, which rooted his fear of hospitals in something concrete and real. Penny’s private chuckle at the fact that she’s actually friends with a horn-dog like Howard gave voice to exactly the thing about her that’s vexed me for years now, and just as deftly batted it away; I also enjoyed how quickly she scooted Sheldon over to the hospital by playing on his adoration of fearless superheroes. (This woman knows what makes Sheldon Cooper tick.) And when Howard brought up his absent father, it reminded me that his pretty creepy codependent relationship with his mother isn’t just abstract, sitcom-oddball behavior.
Normally in these recaps, I single out the episode’s best scene, science, and geekery before diving into the best lines and exchanges. This week, though, I’m doing things a bit differently. No one scene stands out for me over the others. Sheldon rattling off diseases was as scientific as things got, and Magic: The Gathering is so early-to-mid-1990s. Nope, this episode was an A-grade example of classic setup-punchline sitcom writing at its sharpest. Exchange after exchange crackled with smart wordplay and quippery, so much so that I can’t just single out a few examples. So on the following page, I’ve listed my top 15 favorite lines and exchanges from last night’s episode:
NEXT: Sheldon and Penny talk jibber jabber, and Howard explains his family’s medical history