Things get ugly when the romantic couples turn to money talks and Sheldon and Raj go into a steam tunnel.

Big Bang Theory Recap
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

“I want us to be partners, equals, adults in a mature relationship.” —Bernadette

The Big Bang Theory wouldn’t know a mature relationship if it was locked in a steam tunnel with it. “The Expedition Approximation” confronted the issues of gender roles and financial concerns in a relationship—subjects that could be very welcome if done right, but sadly, they were not. The episode, instead, was just outright awkward and not that funny.

It started with Penny’s new job and her new clothes. Apparently this gig is quite the step up from the Cheesecake Factory, and as a pharmaceutical rep, she gets a company car. So without discussing this with Leonard, she sells her car—but don’t worry she made a pink, puffy paint picture frame to commemorate the gift he once gave her. He insists that she keep the cash from the car sale because it was something he purchased for her to be nice, but she won’t hear it; she now has a job that pays and doesn’t need his financial support, gift or not.

Leonard comes up with the idea to put the money into a joint account. Problem solved! Except… of course this snowballs into them picking faults with each other. She says Leonard is upset by the imbalance of the relationship now that she is no longer reliant on him. He says she’s just not accepting something nice he did for her because she has control issues. So they decide to turn to the experts: Howard and Bernadette.

Because Bernadette is the higher paid person in their relationship, she apparently controls Howard’s allowance—and gives him a sticker chore chart to boot. Again, this would have been a great opportunity for a comedic look at a modern-day couple. But no, it’s just Bernadette falling back on the nagging wife trope she’s recently been molded into.

The storyline ends with Leonard saying he would be okay if Penny makes more money because he’s used to seeing love as a wife emasculating her husband (Christine Baranski, I can’t even fault you for that).

Luckily, we have the Sheldon and Raj storyline to break up the awkward money talks. Sheldon’s new work in dark matter has Raj remembering that the government recently funded an experiment in abandoned salt mines. The condition in the mines can be rough: humid, over 100 degrees, dynamite explosions in the distance, 12 hours stays, and no toilets. (But only the last one is preventing Sheldon from agreeing.)

In order to see if they could handle the mines, Sheldon and Raj decide to do a trial run in the university’s steam tunnels. There are jokes about Star Trek Voyager, miners’ songs, Funyuns, and Miley Cyrus—which all land only because Raj and Sheldon are so great to watch together. (Why don’t they interact more?) They also have a sweet moment where Raj comforts Sheldon about his nervousness about dark matter until—ARGH—rats!

So in short: This episode had WAY TOO MANY rats, too much money talk, just enough Raj and Sheldon bromance, and not nearly enough Drunk Bernadette. Big Bang writers, please take note.

The Laughter Surplus

“Are they making fun of us? I miss the old days when I couldn’t tell.” –Sheldon

“I’m always busy. This mind is capable of advanced multitasking. Currently, I’m attempting to solve the Penrose Conjecture, I’m composing my Nobel acceptance speech for when I solve the Penrose Conjecture, and I’m wondering how mermaids have babies.” —Sheldon

“Don’t they lay eggs on a rock?” —Raj

“[Pause] Now I’ve got room for another thing.” —Sheldon

“I’ll just Google ‘hot, dark, and moist’ and see what comes up!” —Sheldon

“When I was an undergrad, I spent days in [a steam tunnel] pledging a sorority … they forgot I was there, but it really opened up my pores.” —Amy

“Admittedly this brushes up against my well-known aversions to heat, small places, going below floor level, dampness, hatches, ladders, darkness, echoes, and eliminating in Home Depot buckets. That last one is quite new, but I have a feeling that’s going to rocket to the top of the list.” —Sheldon

“Okay… How about a little Miley Cyrus next?” —Raj

“Who’s he?” —Sheldon

“So as Hannah Montana, Miley was a world famous pop star, but then she would take off her wig and go to school like a normal girl—which, I don’t have to tell you, at that age is its own headache.” —Raj

“That’s preposterous. How would she go unrecognized just by wearing a wig?” —Sheldon

“But you’re okay with Superman concealing his identity with a pair of glasses?” —Raj

“He doesn’t just put on a pair of glasses. He combs back his curlicue and affects a mild manner personality.” —Sheldon

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