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Sheldon's mom (Laurie Metcalf) pays a visit to the 'Big Bang' bunch, and the Sheldon, and the show, regress

By Adam B. Vary
Updated August 03, 2020 at 06:53 PM EDT
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Big Bang Metcalf Rhin
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Take out Amy Farrah Fowler, and all the references to Leonard’s girlfriend in India and Howard’s impending trip to space, and I think anyone would be forgiven for thinking this week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory was a Sheldon-centric rerun from season 3. There was no B or C storyline; just Sheldon’s born-again mother (the indispensable Laurie Metcalf) visiting from Texas en route to a Christian cruise, and spending her weekend in Pasadena solving everyone’s problems at the expense of spending time with her son. Naturally, after four-plus years as Penny’s friend, and over a year as Amy’s who-knows-what, Sheldon had emotionally evolved enough that he took this development in stride, comically startling his mom, and everyone else, with how open and generous he was with her time.

Oh wait. Strike that. Reverse it.

Look, I know that in the Land of the Traditional Multi-Camera Sitcom, we don’t really want our characters to change, or at least change too much, too fast. Karen remained a boozy snark-machine, Joey was always a big-hearted mimbo — I get it. But we also don’t really want them to regress either. And as much as I adore Sheldon’s persnickety nature, watching him devolve into a whingeing man-child, bitching about his mother not making him fried chicken or pecan pie, kept what had the potential to be a top-flight episode from ever taking off. Sheldon lived up to our worst expectations of him, especially since watching him try to sightsee with his mother could have been a source of some solid fish-out-of-water comedy. Instead, we got a sick Sheldon, sitting at a bus stop, feeling sorry for himself in the rain. Not exactly a laugh riot.

At least the writers were savvy enough to make clear where Sheldon inherited his disregard for the vagaries of politically correct society and his penchant for doling out unsolicited pearls of self-regarded wisdom. In the former column, Mama Cooper called Japanese pictograms “kung fu letters”; chuckled about Priya’s parents being upset that Leonard is white (“You never think about it going the other way”); remarked upon Raj’s drunken state by noting “I thought it was our Indians that had the occasional alcohol problem”; and referred to Catholics as “rosary rattlers.” Somehow, none of this was all that offensive nor all that funny, especially with Leonard’s half-hearted attempts at correcting her.

NEXT: Mama Cooper’s helpful relationship tips

Mama Cooper fared much better with her homespun words of wisdom for the Big Bang bunch. “You need to figure out if you’re in a relationship or if you’re just calling it one,” she told Leonard while discussing the Priya problem. “It’s like they say, a cat can have kittens in the oven, but that don’t make them biscuits.” To Raj, she spoke of the unusually tall Walmart girl — “Woman could hunt geese with a rake” — who ended up marrying a Harlem Globetrotter. And to Penny, she asked, kindly, “You think the reason you’re having trouble having a guy to settle down with is because you’re letting him ride the roller coaster without buying a ticket?” Mind you, no one’s problems were actually solved, but at least the guidance provided a guffaw or two.

BEST GEEKERY

There wasn’t any as such this week — although I did notice the Game of Thrones sword from last week hanging by the door. Instead, I guess the closest we got to geekery was Mama Cooper’s excitement about the Christian-themed activities awaiting her on her Born Again cruise in the Pacific. There was Jonah and the Whale Watching, the All You Can Eat Last Supper Buffet, and Gunning With God: “You write your sins on a clay pigeon, they fire them up in the air, and you pulverize them with a 12-gauge shotgun full of our Lord’s forgiveness.”

BEST SCIENCE

Sheldon was desperate to bring his mother to a lecture by Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, because, as he explained, “At the Q&A afterward, I’ve worked up a few Qs that will stump his sorry A.” Thankfully, I think for all our sakes, Amy went with Sheldon instead.

BEST LINES & EXCHANGES

Sheldon: Frankly, Mom, I’m encouraged to see how advanced your [cruise] group has become, willing to sail out into the ocean without fear of falling off the edge.

Mama Cooper: [Regarding Sheldon and Amy] You have any idea what’s going on with those two?

Leonard: It’s kind of like the Loch Ness monster. Maybe there’s something there, maybe there isn’t, we’ll probably never know. But sometimes it’s fun to creep yourself out thinking about it!

Leonard: [Discovering Raj at his doorstep, with a half-drunk six-pack of beer] Raj, what are you doing?

Raj: I couldn’t find you guys, so I bought six new friends. Three sadly are dead.

Mama Cooper: [To Penny, about her weakness for going too fast on first dates] Don’t beat yourself up. When I was your age, you could have me for a car ride and a bottle of strawberry wine.

Mama Cooper: [To Howard, about praying in the church they’re visiting] How about you?

Howard: Oh, me? No thanks, I’m good. I’m just trying not to burst into flames.

What did you make of “The Rhinitis Revelation,” fellow Big Bang theorists? Did you find it as hit-or-miss as I did? Were you intrigued by the notion of the elevator shaft becoming a missile silo? And don’t you think it’s high time we met Penny’s mom or Leonard’s dad?

On Twitter @adambvary

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Previously: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ season 5 coverage on PopWatch

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