Howard finally tells his mother he's engaged to Bernadette, while the show engages in a feast of first-rate punchlines

By Adam B. Vary
Updated May 13, 2011 at 12:04 PM EDT
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Monty Brinton/CBS

The Big Bang Theory

S4 E23
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  • TV Show
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  • CBS
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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

Penny: Hey, do me a favor, and take table 7?

Bernadette: You mean the one with my 118-pound, rock-hard stud of a fiancé who’s prone to canker sores and pink eye?

Sheldon, after drinking Leonard’s water: The backwash into this glass is every pathogen that calls your mouth home sweet home. Not to mention the visitors who arrive on the dancing tongue of your subtropical girlfriend.

Priya: Howard, you’ve got to tell your mother [you’re engaged]!

Howard: Hey, have you told your parents you’re dating this short glass of skim milk here?

Sheldon, returning from the bar, where he ventured to disinfect his mouth: I gargled with tequila, I may have swallowed a tiny bit.

Leonard: Are you all right?

Sheldon: Fine. Thank you for asking. I love you so much.

Leonard: Have you met Bernadette’s parents?

Howard: You mean Adolf and Eva?

Howard, to his mother, in the bathroom: I’ve got some news.

Howard’s mother: I hope it’s good news, because I’ve got nothing but disappointment in here.

Sheldon, to Penny, after she giggles: Is there a station coming up where I can board your giggling train of thought?

Penny: I don’t get to hear your jibber jabber.

Sheldon: Jibber jabber? I don’t jibber jabber.

Penny: What are you doing at work these days?

Sheldon: Oh. I’m working on time-dependent backgrounds in string theory. Specifically quantum field theory in D-dimensional de Sitter space.

Penny: Okay, c’mon, even you’ve got to admit that’s jibber jabber.

Sheldon: Interesting. Do you know where the phrase jibber jabber comes from?

Penny: Oh my god, you’re about to jibber jabber about jibber jabber.

Leonard: Fine, I’ll tell Howard you won’t come [to the hospital] because you’re concerned about your own welfare over his.

Sheldon: I would think he would know that.

Leonard: Is there a history of heart disease in your family?

Howard: My family is the history of heart disease.

Howard: Ever since my dad left, I’ve been the whole world to my mother. She’d be threatened by any woman who can give me what she can’t.

Bernadette: You mean sexual intercourse?

Howard: Well, when you say it like that, you make it sound creepy.

Priya: What happened?

Bernadette: Howard’s mother had a heart attack because I have sex with him and she can’t!

Bernadette: How can we be together if the thought of us getting married might kill your mother?

Howard: It’s the circle of life, sweetie! One day our son will marry someone and it will kill you!

Doctor, about Howard’s mom: She’d like to see the little Catholic girl first.

Bernadette: Me? Why me?

Howard: Jews have been asking that for centuries, there’s no real good answer.

Sheldon, having stumbled into a quarantined room in the hospital: Oh what fresh hell is this?

Howard: Where are you going?

Bernadette, sounding exactly like his mother: To the toilet! Is that okay with you?!

Howard: Is it just me, or does she sound sexy when she’s angry?

There is so much more where that came from, too — I haven’t even mentioned any of Raj’s exchanges. So what did you think about “The Engagement Reaction,” fellow Big Bang theorists? Were you happy to see Howard and Penny actually had something to do? What were some of your favorite lines and exchanges?

Episode Recaps

The Big Bang Theory

Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Raj, and Wolowitz, Amy, Bernadette—the gang keeps growing. Bazinga!

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  • 12
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