<p><p><p><p>Leonard deals with his one-time high school tormentor, while Penny copes with her own bullying past</p></p></p></p>

By Adam B. Vary
December 09, 2011 at 10:11 AM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS
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If I were to guess about what transpired in The Big Bang Theory‘s writers’ room as this week’s episode was conceived, I’d imagine that at least one giant whiteboard was filled with shorthand stories of each writer’s worst experience with a bully. What with Leonard confronting (kinda) his old high school bully, and Penny confronting (sorta) the fact that she herself was a high school bully, I lost count of the different tales of bullying woe spun forth by the Big Bang boys and girls. And if the cast handled the topic with an almost touching level of realism — you got the feeling that for at least some of these actors, this subject may have hit a bit close to home — I remained ultimately a bit unsatisfied by the half-hour.

For the first part of the episode, Leonard hemmed and hawed over an unexpected invitation from his former tormentor Jimmy Speckerman to have a drink, while Sheldon recounted the various was in which Leonard had been tormented as a kid — though not by Jimmy. Someone once peed in Leonard’s Hawaiian punch, used his head to open a nut, and made him eat his arm hair. The pièce de résistance? Asked Sheldon of Jimmy, “Was he the one who wedgied you so hard, your testicle reascended and you spent your whole Christmas break waiting for it to come back down?”

The odd thing about these stories is that they sound so absurd in the abstract that they’re meant to be punchlines, but the very act of laughing at Leonard’s past misfortune kinda makes us in a way complicit in it. The same goes for Bernadette’s story about Tammy Bodnick stealing all her clothes at gym class and leaving an elf costume in her locker (“Worst part was it was too big”); or Amy recalling the time girls put Rogaine in her hand lotion and began calling her Gorilla Fingers Fowler. (Side note: Can Rogaine actually make hair grow on your hands?) Conversely, it’s hard to believe Penny couldn’t see just how not funny her story of tying up and blindfolding poor Cathy Geiger and leaving her in a cornfield overnight really was.

At least the ladies spent the rest of the night scrounging for clothes at a goodwill drop-off bin, Penny’s self-serving penance for her past misdeeds. Leonard and the fellas actually had to meet up with Jimmy (Lance Barber, The Comeback). At first, he feigned ignorance at his transgressions against Leonard. But after an exasperated Sheldon finally stood up (kinda) to Jimmy on Leonard’s behalf, he showed up plastered at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, gave a heartfelt-if-utterly-inebriated apology, and promptly passed out on their couch. In the morning, sober again, Jimmy was back to his old self, bogarting Leonard’s French toast and sneeringly calling him “Nancy.” It was a rather predictable turn of events all the way around, right up to Leonard finally barking at Jimmy to leave, pushing him, and then fleeing down the stairs with Sheldon.

NEXT PAGE: A too-sudden ending, and the sins of Dr. Saul Perlmutter

And then, suddenly, the show was over. There are occasionally episodes of Big Bang that make me feel like the writers simply ran out of time, where just as the action appears to be rounding third, up pops Chuck Lorre’s executive producer title card. This week’s episode was a classic example. It was just unsatisfying to have Leonard push Jimmy once and simply scamper away. I know the show’s thesis statement is supposed to be once a nerd, always a nerd, but as a nerd myself who weathered his own far, far, far less traumatizing bouts of unkind treatment by his adolescent peers, I just would’ve preferred to see Leonard and Sheldon use their smarts to undermine or outwit or even co-opt Jimmy.

BEST SCIENCE

While Leonard lost sleep over what to do about Jimmy’s invite to meet up, Sheldon took in the Nobel prize speeches via the Web: “Look at these men. They’ve managed to win the top science prize in the world, with no more understanding of the quantum underpinnings of the expansion of the early universe than God gave a goose.” Especially singled out: The very real 2011 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Saul Perlmutter, for apparently ripping off Einstein’s cosmological constant.

BEST GEEKERY

Slim pickings this week. The best I can do is Jimmy’s bone-headed idea for glasses that automatically make anything you watch into 3-D. But at least it set up this joke from Raj:  “That sounds amazing! First movie I’m watching: Annie.”

BEST LINES & EXCHANGES

Sheldon: You know the holidays are just around the corner. Maybe he just wants to see if he can lodge the other testicle up there.

Leonard: I told you, that was a different guy.

Penny: Well, that’s too bad. Could’ve spent New Year’s Eve waiting for the ball to drop.

Jimmy: [About him and Leonard in high school] We were practically a comedy team.

Howard: Like the Black Death and Europe.

Sheldon: [To Leonard] The man superglued Hershey’s Kisses to your nipples!

Raj: That’s funny, because those are the kind of kisses you want on your nipples.

Sheldon: You know what would be nice? As a symbolic gesture to all the bullies who tormented us for years, we open our home to Jimmy, and once he’s asleep, we kill him.

Sheldon: You did it Leonard! You stood up to your bully!

Leonard: And I feel pretty good about myself! Do you think we can outrun him?

Sheldon: I don’t need to outrun him. I just need to outrun you!

What did you make of “The Speckerman Recurrence,” fellow Big Bang theorists? Did you think it was slightly ironic that in an episode about confronting the petty tyrants who tormented our childhoods, Sheldon managed to be more high-handed that he’s been in months? (Then again, he was kinda spot on with observation: “Leonard, I platonically love you, man, but face it, you’re a mess.”) Do you think it’s healthy for the show to keep segregating the men and women? And since so much of the show was spent sharing stories of bullying, what’s your best/worst story? Here’s mine: In eighth grade science class, I once tried to inconspicuously read a story on Jurassic Park in, yes, Entertainment Weekly, only to have one of the popular boys say in a sing-song voice to the entire class, “Adam’s got a Playgirl!”

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