A subpar episode finds the boys battling Evil Wil Wheaton and the girls attempting to bond at a slumber party

By Adam B. Vary
Updated November 12, 2010 at 05:10 AM EST
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The Big Bang Theory

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On paper, this week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory seems nigh indestructible: Penny, Bernadette, and Amy Farrah Fowler team up for Big Bang‘s first all-female storyline. Evil Wil Wheaton returns, taunting the Big Bang boys by using his celebrity to cut in line for a special screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And the Penny and Leonard saga takes its first big step forward since the last time Wil Wheaton appeared on the show.

In practice, though, I thought this episode ended up somehow both overstuffed and undercooked; there were a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, yes, but neither storyline quite reached a satisfying conclusion, and yet many of the jokes felt tacked on and unnecessary. Call it “The November Sweeps Superfluity.”

The evening opened with Penny joining the boys for a screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a movie I have a hard time believing Penny’s never seen (Harrison Ford is so hunky!), but whatevs. The boys were actually just prepping for the impending screening of a print of Raiders featuring an additional 21 seconds of footage. (And because I know you were wondering, while The Colonial is not a real theater in Pasadena — the rare Big Bang geographical fabrication — Leonard’s evocation of “the submarine controversy” is, in fact, quite real.) Penny had no interest in joining them, of course, and neither did Howard’s girlfriend Bernadette. “That movie has melting faces,” she perkily explained. “It reminds me too much of the time I dropped that vial of flesh-eating bacteria into the Rhesus Monkey lab.” Bless.

When Amy Farrah Fowler — who had been planning on joining the boys for some Raiders action — heard about said girls night, she declared “I’m a girl” and invited herself to their shindig. Now, the comic possibilities of these three disparate women spending an evening together are legion. And I did appreciate Amy’s references to Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale, and had quite a guilty chuckle at her idea of a “Truth” question in Truth or Dare: “What is the circumference of your aureolas?” But Sheldon’s girl-slash-friend so dominated the evening that for the first time I began to understand why many of you haven’t so much enjoyed Amy’s presence on the show — a little of Ms. Farrah Fowler goes a rather long way. Save some Sultry Sunrise Red nail-polish, there was nothing about Penny and Bernadette that irritated Amy; the comedy here was a one-way street, a problem that haunted many of the Sheldon-centric episodes from last season, and the show has done a fabulous job of mitigating this season.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Amy’s socially oblivious prodding forcing Penny to face up to why she continues to hang out with Leonard, I’d have to call Big Bang‘s first all-girl sequence a bit of a bust (no pun intended). I imagine Kaley Cuoco’s post-injury immobility certainly didn’t help enliven the comedy — I’m fairly certain that was a body double walking behind Amy and Bernadette at the end — but, still, this should have been so much funnier than it was.

NEXT: Jim Parsons to the rescue! (Plus, did any of you spot Leonard’s chick-lit reading material?)

The boys’ storyline only fared marginally better. The Sheldon-doesn’t-get-sarcasm running gag kinda never paid off — when did they start keeping track? — and I truly could have done without knowing about Howard’s Stadium Pal. As for Evil Wil Wheaton: Really, cutting in line is the worst he can do? Not get Sheldon and Co. kicked out of the line? Or ask Howard, Leonard, and Raj to join him, leaving Sheldon alone outside? Or talk Sheldon into stealing the Raiders print cans only to turn the crowd against him? I found myself far more interested in his coterie of friends, who seemed like vaguely Bizarro World versions of Howard, Leonard, and Sheldon.

Still, if there ever was reason to be grateful for Jim Parsons, it was this episode; he simply sold the buhjeebus out of his lines, especially Sheldon’s repeated taunts to EWW. (My favorite: “Even at Star Trek conventions, they only let him in if he helps set up!“) He fielded Penny’s prank phone call with aplomb — I didn’t quite get what “I’m a total…buh…twad…” was supposed to mean until he put it all together. Parsons even made the most out of the rushed stealing-the-Raiders-print climax — which, thanks to the sight gag of Sheldon racing away from a marauding horde, finally explained why the episode was built around Indiana Jones in the first place. It’s not like the Big Bang guys have been heretofore huge Indy fans.

Put it this way: When your best, most sustained stretch of comedy revolves around a series of knock-knock jokes, you know this isn’t exactly the strongest episode in the caboodle.

Were you as underwhelmed by “The 21-Second Excitation” as I was, fellow Big Bang theorists? What evil deeds would you have had Evil Wil Wheaton do? Do you anticipate Penny, Bernadette, and Amy Farrah Fowler will be getting together again any time soon? And did the evening’s newfound focus on the state of Penny and Leonard portend a rekindling of their romance? I couldn’t have been the only one to notice that Leonard was reading Eat Pray Love while in line for Raiders, right?

EVER WISH EW.COM HAD A RADIO STATION? Quit living in the past, man or lady! In this week’s TV Insiders podcast, Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, and Michael Slezak grade the first week of Conan, pick the funniest Modern Family characters, and discuss the latest bitchy controversies on Survivor and Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

Episode Recaps

The Big Bang Theory

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

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