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May 06, 2011 at 09:20 AM EDT

I gotta say, The Big Bang Theory looks pretty great in high heels. For the first time ever, the women dominated the main story line from the word go — you can’t get much more feminine than an opening scene in a women’s restroom in a women’s shoe store — and the result opened the show up to a refreshingly funny new set of comic possibilities. The episode also ended up driving home once more just how smart the decision was to make Amy Farrah Fowler and Bernadette full-time characters — and, ironically, just how dangerously little Penny has had to do since they’ve shown up.

Take, for example, Amy’s scheme to take advantage of Priya’s invitation to Bernadette and Howard for a double date with her and Leonard as an opportunity for Bernadette to spy on Penny’s rival for Leonard’s affections. (Get all that?) Penny pretty much washed her hands of the operation before the opening credits had even rolled, choosing instead to spend most of the half-hour fixated on a pair of shoes so expensive, “if I buy them, I’ll have to rent my womb out to a gay couple.” She eventually did decide to play along, and suggested via text that Bernadette tell her dinner party her acting career is doing so well, she’s about to shoot a movie in Prague with Angelina Jolie — in 3-D, added Amy, to show that the studio really believes in it (which only proves Amy’s never heard of The Last Airbender). But Penny only got really involved after hearing that Priya and Leonard would be traveling to India that summer to meet Ma and Pa Koothrappali (so last week’s semi-cliffhanger about Priya hiding her boyfriend from her parents has been neatly resolved?), and even then, Amy was the one truly calling all the shots.

Mostly, Operation Priya Wouldn’t Want To Be Ya was a terrific showcase for Melissa Rauch as Bernadette. Self-diagnosed as a bad liar, it turns out it’s not so much the actual lying that gets Bernadette into trouble as the fact that she becomes righteously angry whenever anyone begins to question her story. And as we witnessed nine episodes ago in “The Love Car Displacement,” Bernadette is at her gut-busting funniest when she’s really pissed off. While the foursome played a game of Jenga (a sly metaphor for their dismantling of Bernadette’s story), the adorable microbiologist became increasingly irritated by Howard, Leonard, and Priya’s questions about how Penny came to be dating an astronaut, until she finally had to retreat to the bathroom to consult with Amy. Turns out, Amy had meant to text that Penny was (fake) dating an architect, not an astronaut (darn auto-correct), prompting a fabulously funny explosion of frustration from Bernadette: “IT WAS AN ARCHITECT?!” Bernadette eventually crumbled completely under the pressure and abruptly stormed off, but not before learning Priya and Leonard aren’t planning on getting engaged — “yet.”

Two quick thoughts before moving on to Raj’s attempt to cure his selective mutism: I suspect some of you may have noticed that the aforementioned escapades all felt a bit too Friends-like — Penny as the whimsical and materialistic Rachel, Amy as the wily and controlling Monica, Bernadette as the daffy and forthright Phoebe. I don’t disagree, but by the same token, you can’t really argue with a sure-fire formula for comedy, and Monica never quite had a scene like the one of Amy walking on high heels for the very first time. I also couldn’t help but wonder if the first Big Bang female-driven story line could have been about something other than a group of women hatching a plan to tear down another beautiful, successful woman. Then again, it’s not like the men on the show have ever suffered from a surfeit of nobility, so why should the ladies?

NEXT: Raj’s profound new comfort around the opposite sex

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