While Howard and Bernadette fight about his mom, Amy Farrah Fowler nearly steals the show consoling Penny over Leonard's new flame
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In truth, just about everyone on The Big Bang Theory is an adorable geek — even comparative regular girl Penny (Kaley Cuoco). But Sheldon (Jim…

Last night’s The Big Bang Theory explored, among other things, the phenomena of primary, secondary, and tertiary friendships (specifically Howard’s, but by inference Penny’s too), a structure that could apply to many other aspects of the episode as well. Our primary story? Bernadette, finally fed up with Howard always running home to his mother, took a stand and made him choose: Her, or mommy dearest. Our secondary story? Well, we can’t really talk about it without first bringing up the tertiary story, namely Leonard rekindling his romance with Raj’s sister Priya (Aarti Mann), much to Raj’s chagrin. Which leads us back to the secondary story, Amy Farrah Fowler’s ministrations to Penny’s feelings after Penny met Priya — i.e. her competition for Leonard’s heart — for the first time (a sly nod to the fact that the last time Priya appeared on Big Bang, Penny was M.I.A. due to Kaley Cuoco’s busted leg).

Fascinatingly, while the primary story should have held my interest the most, it was Penny’s plotline that was the most compelling, thanks to some ace work by Cuoco and especially Mayim Bialik. The newest member of the Big Bang family has been blossoming of late (yup, that just happened), becoming as Amy might say logarithmically more confident and winning with each passing episode — and the writers are beginning to notice, too, scripting her the best, most surprising punchlines of the night. (More on this in a bit.)

Howard and Bernadette’s storyline, by contrast, was unfortunately all too predictable: After sex, Howard the Ultimate Mamma’s Boy leapt up to run home to tend to his mother (who else is going to fix her wig and draw on her eyebrows?); Bernadette was chagrinned, and demanded Howard choose her; after a moment of dithering, Howard wisely chose Bernadette and moved in; at which point Bernadette realized that Howard’s mom did as much for him as he did for her (who else is going to buy him string cheese, use hypoallergenic detergent when washing his underwear, and drive him to and from the dentist?); aaaaand Howard moved back in with his mom. I may be alone in this feeling, but after nearly four seasons, I’m kinda over Howard’s mom’s schtick — a recurring joke about a sex criminal breaking down her door, really? — so count me disappointed that Howard and Bernadette’s cohabitation lasted all of two scenes. (Hey, even Friends retired the Ugly Naked Guy eventually.)

And as for the tertiary storyline, given that Priya is also listed in the cast breakdown for next week’s episode (as is — shudder — Kripke), I hope for many more scenes of Raj impotently raging at his sister commingling with an utterly besotted Leonard. Which leads me, in fact, to a new feature of these Big Bang recaps: My picks for the best scene, science, geekery, and line and/or exchange. And in the spirit of the episode’s fetish for tripartition, for tonight, I’ll award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for each.

NEXT: Amy explains Penny’s shortcomings, and Sheldon explains the Hindu Code of Manu

BEST SCENE:

3rd Place: This might be a wee bit confusing, since it appears I’ll be going in reverse chronological order: The episode’s final scene, with Penny busting in on Sheldon’s Thai dinner (and video chat with Amy), still nursing her hurt over Leonard’s newfound romance with Priya, and realizing with a soft smile that, in their own odd and fastidious ways, Sheldon and Amy are actually quite good friends.

2nd Place: The first scene between Amy and Penny, in which Penny’s soft smile was perhaps a wee bit more patronizing towards Amy’s ham-fisted attempts at being Penny’s BFF, and in which we were introduced to the laugh-out-loud sight of “catty” Amy.

1st Place: The scene in the Cheesecake Factory in which Leonard and Priya come out as a couple; Raj tells them “I forboded you to have sex”; Sheldon breaks down the Hindu Code of Manu; and Raj says to his sister, “There it is, Priya. We’re Indian. We believe this stuff.” Oh, and upon Penny and Priya first meeting, Sheldon says the following to the latter: “If you’re experiencing any tension or awkwardness, it may stem from the fact that Leonard and Penny used to, if I may quote Howard, ‘Do the dance with no pants.'” (In case you were wondering, the fourth best line and/or exchange of the night.)

BEST SCIENCE:

3rd Place: The canvas bag hanging on Penny’s door declaiming “A woman can tell a lot from a guy by the size of his carbon footprint.” Maybe Leonard and Penny aren’t so mis-matched after all?

2nd Place: Sheldon telling Penny that her habit of popping into their apartment and diving into their evening meals is akin to the Plover, “a small scavenging bird that eats extra food from in between the teeth of crocodiles.”

1st Place: No contest: Amy’s determination to measure Penny’s brain while she’s crying with a portable electroencephalogram, and then stimulate the corresponding parts of the brain of a rhesus monkey. After Penny does eventually cry over Leonard, and Amy does indeed measure her brain, Amy proudly announces she was “able to make a rhesus monkey cry like a disgraced televangelist.”

BEST GEEKERY:

1st Place: Strangely, there was only a single nugget of geekery in last night’s episode substantial enough to even warrant an award, and that was Leonard and Priya’s spontaneous recitation of the tongue/tail exchange from Taming of the Shrew. And that was theater geekery, to boot — no wonder Sheldon and Raj looked so put out by it.

BEST LINES AND/OR EXCHANGES:

3rd Place: Sheldon, after going through how Hindu law forces Priya to obey Raj, and how “she will be reborn in the womb of a jackal and tormented by diseases” if she disobeys, wraps up with this observation: “If true, that seems like an awfully large gamble given that the prize is Leonard.”

2nd Place: Amy and Penny, after Amy’s met Priya for the first time (and Penny for the second time), while Priya and Leonard flirt nearby: Amy: “How are you holding up?” Penny: “I’m fine.” Amy: “Who are you kidding? She’s breathtaking.”

1st Place: Amy, while discussing the differences between Penny and Priya with regard to Leonard: “Well, granted, Penny, your secondary sexual characteristics are reasonably bodacious, but Priya is highly educated, she’s an accomplished professional, and she comes from the culture that literally wrote the book on neat ways to have sex.”

How did you feel about “The Cohabitation Formulation,” fellow Big Bang theorists? Were you underwhelmed by Howard and Bernadette’s domestic disagreement? Are you also maybe a little bit over Howard’s mother? Can all the Amy haters finally admit the character is growing on you? Do you think we’ll ever meet Leonard’s older, married sister (and if we do, who should play her)? And, quick show of hands, how many of you are pro-shirtless Howard, and how many are not-so-much-with-the-shirtless Howard?

Episode Recaps

In truth, just about everyone on The Big Bang Theory is an adorable geek — even comparative regular girl Penny (Kaley Cuoco). But Sheldon (Jim…
The Big Bang Theory

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

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