S4E16: The Big Bang Theory isn't busting down any doors with its originality. It's a multi-camera sitcom that does gags we've seen before, but what makes it fun and successful is its lovable characters. Most of this season, the writers have gone down a different path with the characters than in previous seasons. Through that, they lost a lot of what made the show entertaining originally, but the past few episodes have found their groove again. I don't know what happened; maybe after the failed attempts of the first half of the season, the writers now understand more of what works and what doesn't within this world, but regardless, "The Cohabitation Formulation" was another pretty good episode in a string of pretty good episodes.
"Howard's going to sleep here tonight; he had a fight with his mother." -Leonard
"Did you offer him a hot beverage?" -Sheldon
That praise in the introduction said, one of my least favorite running gags that TBBT does is the whole "Howard and his Mom" deal and that's how we started tonight. Bernadette wants Howard to move in with her, but he's not so sure. He doesn't want to abandon his mother, because he feels like his mother needs him (in reality, it's the other way around, but we'll get to that later). It's a fair request, considering that after each time Howard and Bernadette have sex, Howard takes off for home and never spends the night. This makes Bernadette feel used, despite that not being Howard's intentions.
Now, I'm not the biggest fan of this gag because of one major reason: Howard is a total horn ball. I bought the fact that he had some type of Oedipal complex with his mother when he was single, but since he and Bernadette started dating, he still is awfully clingy to his mother. That doesn't really make sense within the context of Howard's character, because frankly, before Bernadette came around, all the dude could talk about was having sex and wanting a girlfriend. Now, he's presented with an opportunity to live with a girl that he really, really likes (which will present lots of opportunities for sex), but he is afraid of it? And the reason is because of his mother? I don't know. It just didn't seem to click for me.
"Priya, 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.'"-Sheldon
Meanwhile, Priya is back into the picture and she and Leonard have decided to pick up right where they left off. They all go out to eat and Penny is their waitress -- which, really, is a little awkward, despite Penny claiming it isn't. As a viewer, it's nice to see Leonard get a bit of an upper-hand on Penny, considering he's been hung up on her for the entire series run. We then cut to Penny's apartment, where Amy showed up to comfort her, despite Penny still saying she was fine.
I thought that the writers handled this part of the plot successfully, because in Big Bang's history, any time an episode shows too much of a Leonard relationship, it just doesn't seem to click. I don't know if it's just because Leonard always comes off as an uninteresting douche (this is not to say that he's a bad boyfriend, it's just that when a character is sweet and nice all the time, as a viewer, it's not very enthralling). So the writers depicted most of Leonard and Priya's relationship from Penny/Sheldon/Amy's point of view and let us wonder what they were doing and how they were interacting. Sure, this meant Priya wasn't on screen perhaps as much as we would've liked (she's a nice addition to the cast), but I think it was more important for the writers to focus on what the episode's plot needed, versus just giving us another funny character.
"I choose you!" -Howard
Back to Howard and Bernadette, and as you can see from the quote above, Howard ended up choosing Bernadette. After another fight with his mother (which, gosh, maybe I'm just missing something, but any time Howard yells at his mother and vice versa, I am annoyed), he moves in with Bernadette. Right away, it appears that it is a great decision, because they have some wonderful sex with lots of "weird noises" (which we learned is a good thing), but immediately after, Howard expects Bernadette to treat him just like his mother -- cook for him, do his laundry, buy the groceries, etc. So, Bernadette throws him out and Howard moves back home.
This was a plot twist that I (and many of you) saw coming, and it completed the lackluster Howard/Bernadette/Mother love triangle plot, but at the same time, it was nice to see the writers try to change something up with Howard's character. Maybe my beef from earlier surrounding Howard's Oedipal complex will continue to be explored, and Howard will continue to go back to his mother for reasons unknown to the audience. Maybe as viewers we aren't supposed to understand why he is so attached to his mother. Regardless, seeing the writers push themselves in this manner was nice and perhaps is a reason why the show seems to be returning to its better self.
"I'll make tea." -Sheldon
"Sweetie it's okay, I don't want tea." -Penny
"Sorry. It's not optional." -Sheldon
Penny admits that she is actually upset about the Priya-Leonard situation. Big surprise, huh? She breaks down and starts crying and, surprisingly, the two people who help her most are the characters we least expect: Sheldon and Amy. The three of them (well, two plus Amy on the computer) sit in Sheldon's living room and share a nice moment of mutual support.
I'm so thankful that the show has gone away from making Sheldon a complete asshole. Sure, he's still a jerk, but for much of this season, the writers have made him ruthless. Before, he was an asshole because he didn't really understand how to properly interact with people, but this season, he was just being mean to others for no other reason than just to be mean. Through this process, the character lost a bit of his innocent charm from previous seasons where, even though he might not say the nicest things, we understood that he genuinely didn't want to hurt other people. Seeing him as the only member of the group there to comfort Penny was a nice, sweet touch, and if they continue with these moments from Sheldon, Big Bang could very well regain some of its old charm.