S4E13: The Big Bang Theory has never been one for innovative story lines. Instead, it gives us interesting characters in standard situations, and lets them do funny and clever things. This is fine, and this is how most multi-camera sitcoms work, and usually it's funny. But for TBBT, the writers have either hit a wall or gotten lazy this season, because now, traits that made the show's characters interesting are either being overused or they're gone, and it's pretty hard to find an ounce of originality in any week's episodes. Despite "The Love Car Displacement" having a few enjoyable moments, the episode continued that unfortunate trend of sucking ass.
"Just to be clear, when you guys say 'spa,' does that mean the same thing as when regular people say it?"
"Pretty much, except we keep our shirts on in the sauna."
-Penny and Leonard
We open with the gang eating dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, and as usual, Sheldon is complaining about everything, despite being warned by Penny not to annoy the people who make your food (a good life lesson, by the way). We've seen this opening a thousands times before. The group's eating. Sheldon's upset. Blah blah, blah blah. For a moment, I thought that we might get an original kicker or something to make this cold open stand out a bit, but it ended up just being a joke about how Leonard lied to Sheldon about the California food code of ethics. A real shocker, eh?
Anyway, so the gang, for whatever reason, has been invited to host a panel called "Science Meets Society" up in Big Sur, Ca. Penny tags along as Amy's plus one, and we're set for an adventure outside of Pasadena. Exciting, right? Maybe since the writers are removing the characters from their usual routines, we'll see some interesting responses from our characters? Yes? Well, no actually. The opposite happens. Everything goes how you'd expect it to.
"Remember people, we're only as strong as our weakest bladder."
Sheldon takes care of planning the trip. OF COURSE, Sheldon takes care of planning the trip. Why would we approach this storyline any differently? He sits everyone down and goes through the plan, seating arrangements, bathroom breaks, etc. I'll be honest, this scene was kind of funny. After all, Sheldon was being Sheldon. But at the same time, that's why I found myself rolling my eyes after I chuckled for a moment. Yeah, Sheldon's funny when he plans, but remember that little ole saying, "Variety is the spice of life?" I think we could apply that right here. Things aren't that funny when you do the same damn thing every episode.
During the car ride, though, I enjoyed Sheldon's Star Wars lingo over the walkie-talkies they shared. Also, I thought one of the finer moments of "The Love Car Displacement" was when Howard and Bernadette sang "I Got You Babe" together. Howard annoys the crap out of me sometimes, but whenever he pulls down the sex-crazed weirdo front, I can see that he really is an alright dude. Plus, Bernadette is always adorable.
"Hey... Bernie? Please tell me that he's your gay cousin."
Oh, hey Rick Fox! For those who didn't recognize the 6'7" former NBA star, he guest starred as Bernadette's (or "Bernie," as he calls her) ex-boyfriend. (Fun fact: Rick Fox is actually an actor now who's had some recurring roles in television and film over the past few years). His introduction automatically makes Howard jealous, and in typical Howard fashion, he makes a big deal out of nothing. Was I the only one who didn't see any logic in his jealousy? Sure, Rick Fox is a gorgeous piece of man meat, and I'm sure Howard would feel a little intimidated, but up until this point, Bernadette hasn't done anything to justify Howard being jealous at all. With Howard being such a horn-dog, I found it difficult to believe Howard's mind would be anywhere other than "nap time" with Bernadette, anyway.
"Word of warning though. I'm prone to night terrors, so if I wake up kicking and screaming don't panic. Just pin me down and stroke my hair and I'll be fine."
Howard pisses off Bernadette, so Bernadette goes to Penny's room to sleep, but Penny can't handle sleeping with Amy, so Penny goes to Leonard/Sheldon's room, and Sheldon can't handle the potential for "coitus," so he heads to Raj's room, and Raj doesn't like that because he wants to watch Bridget Jones' Diary, so he leaves Sheldon and heads back to Leonard's room, interrupting Leonard and Penny's almost-going-to-have-sex-moment. Got all that? Whew.
Anyway, because this one of those standard sitcom plots (everyone leaves and goes to a hotel/lodge/someplace else and then some stuff happens in the middle of the night), the natural reliance for comedy falls on how the characters act in this situation. So how did TBBT handle it? Well, the characters acted exactly as we expected. Moments of it were fun, yeah (especially when Leonard deviously smiles and answers "no" to Sheldon's question about coitus), but other than that, there wasn't much that stuck out.
"I'm Doctor Sheldon Cooper, B.S., M.S., M.A., PhD., and S.C.D... O-M-G, right? (beat) Perhaps that joke was a little too hippy dippy for this crowd."
The next day at the panel, everybody's anger from the previous night comes out, which was the most enjoyable moment in the episode. After a hilarious opening line from Sheldon (see above), chaos erupts around him. I liked this because very rarely does TBBT have anyone act crazy other than Sheldon. But at this moment, the only sane person WAS Sheldon. And THAT is the type of character flips I want to see TBBT try more.
I don't think we're ever going to get past re-using old sitcom plots, but hopefully the writers compare the two major Sheldon moments this episode (the planning speech versus the panel scene). With the former, we witness something over-done and reused. Sure, it's a little funny, but not nearly as funny as that scene would've been back in say, season two. But in the latter, the last thing we expect to see Sheldon do is act calm, but that's exactly what he does. Because of that very simple change, his actions are even funnier and Jim Parsons explore Sheldon's worldview a little bit more.
After the fight, the gang heads home with everyone pissed off at one another. The kicker? Penny leaves early with Rick Fox. Oof, that's a tough one to take. Sorry, Leonard.
Finally, after another mediocre episode, I'm fairly confident that TBBT won't be returning to its early seasons' glory any time soon. And that, my friends, is the biggest bazinga of them all.