The Big Bang Theory Recap: ‘The Desperation Emanation’

S4E5: In my recap of last week’s The Big Bang Theory, I spent the majority of the time complaining that the show’s crew had gotten lazy. It was as if the writers came to the realization that they were writing for the number one show on television, and because viewers were pretty much guaranteed to watch every week, they stopped pushing themselves to make the show original. They began relying on typical sitcom plot lines and jokes, something they had managed to avoid in the previous three seasons.

But last night on “The Desperation Emanation,” I’m happy to say that The Big Bang Theory came back to its funny self and showed me what made me love the show in the first place.

Now, what makes The Big Bang Theory stand out from the other three-camera sitcoms currently on TV is the talent of the writers and actors. And when the show is at its best, the two entities transcend together perfectly. It’s as if in the writers room, Chuck Lore and Co. are watching the show happen in front of them, feeding the lines to Sheldon and Leonard on a subliminal level, and everything just clicks. For example, think of that moment in last night’s episode when Sheldon chases Leonard down the stairs, repeating his name over and over. In the writer’s room, that scene probably didn’t take too long to write, and look what happens? It results in one of the funniest scenes this season.

So, what caused The Big Bang Theory to get its act together? Well, and obviously this is all speculation, I think it has something to do with Kaley Cuoco — a.k.a. Penny — breaking her leg last month. She needed time to recover, so the writers were forced to rewrite a few episodes, and last night’s episode was the first that was Penny-less. This isn’t to say that Penny isn’t a funny character, nor that she isn’t needed in the show, but I think her absence forced the writers to rethink their approach. Or, in other words, go back to what made The Big Bang Theory good in the first place — and that’s the relationship between Sheldon and Leonard.

So far this season, Leonard has been a ghost. He’s one of the main characters of the show, but this season he’s been tossed to the side with episodes focusing on Sheldon or other characters and their own personal stuff, which doesn’t really affect their relationships with Leonard. But, when Big Bang is at its best, it’s when Sheldon looking to Leonard — who isn’t very good at social interaction in the first place — to understand how humans work and how they interact.

In last night’s episode, when Sheldon learns that Amy wants to take her relationship with him to then next level, he has nowhere to turn except to Leonard. And when he learns that he’s “screwed” (or in physicist terms, “joined to an object along an inclined plan wrapped helically around an axis”), his reaction — although it’s what we would expect Sheldon to do — is perfect. He does the logical thing and changes the address on the building (literally, he changes the numbers outside), deletes all of his online profiles, and genuinely tries to become invisible. This is funny because it’s not only a response to Amy, but moreover, it’s a response to Leonard. So the relationship between Leonard and Sheldon is at the forefront of The Big Bang Theory, and once again, it’s hilarious.

Also, just to note, this type of humor is what I like to see in Big Bang. Sheldon is one of the smartest people in the world, but he can’t get how emotion works because in his mind, everything is logical. So when he hides himself from the world to protect himself from Amy, it seems absurd to us, but perfectly acceptable to him. His logical approach doesn’t take in the account that — helloooo — Amy has been to the apartment before. Changing all of the apartment’s details doesn’t actually change the physical location. Basically, it’s just one of those times that Sheldon is so smart, he’s stupid.

But, enough about Sheldon. I must say that although I laughed a lot at “The Desperation Emanation,” the subplot was pretty lame. I like the idea that Leonard is lonely and wants to meet someone, and I even like the idea that he’d go to Howard for help because of their “girlfriend pact,” but the date scene just didn’t work. Bernadette was her funny, charming self, but this “bad date” scenario was something that we’ve seen millions and millions of times in sitcom television. Sometimes, Big Bang will use these standard sitcom plots and although they’re not the show’s finest moments, they do work. And mainly, it’s because the acting is so solid. But last night’s scene simply did not work. Joy — the woman wiping her armpits with the table napkins — was one of the worst characters in Big Bang’s history. There was nothing original about her. She was too loud, too in-your-face, and too disgusting. Personally, although Leonard is one lonely dude, I just don’t see him putting up with her, despite having the opportunity to get laid.

And so, even though last night’s episode didn’t feature Cuoco — and I can’t wait for her to return — it was nice that the writers were forced to take some type of risk without her in the ensemble. And when they took that risk, it succeeded. But, let’s just hope that when she returns, they don’t resume the lazy, standard sitcom writing from before.