S4E18: Since The Big Bang Theory’s beginning, Penny and Leonard have been on again, off again all the time. The thing is, though, that we all know they will inevitably end up together. Not to say that Big Bang is incapable of surprising its viewers, but c’mon, even the fans of the show (like me) admit that its plot lines are pretty much everything we’ve seen before. That’s okay, though. Big Bang is an enjoyable show because it has created fun characters. As a viewer, I’m more interested in how these nutty characters act towards each other and how they handle certain situations within this world, regardless of whether or not I saw a similar plot line in Friends or Fraiser. So, in “The Prestidigitation Approximation,” even though the whole Priya-Leonard-Penny love triangle is that re-hashed sitcom plot, it’s still fun and at times, dare I say it, charming.
The bottom line? Big Bang delivered a nice, little enjoyable episode that, sure, had a few problems, but on the whole, delivered everything I expect from this show — and that’s to simply just entertain me for a half hour.
“Not knowing’s part of the fun. Was that your motto in community college?” -Sheldon
First, let’s start with the Sheldon, Raj and Howard sub-plot, which I thought was great. Howard has a simple card trick that Sheldon cannot figure out. He shows it to Sheldon and Raj at the lunch table, and at first, not knowing how it worked doesn’t seem to bother Sheldon too much, but with Sheldon being Sheldon, that quickly changes. Suddenly, he can’t get over the fact that he can’t figure it out. Slowly, he becomes obsessed with solving it — and whenever Sheldon gets obsessed, it’s hilarious. But unfortunately for him, it can’t be solved. As we learn at the near the end of the episode, the trick isn’t really a trick at all. Instead, Howard is just using Raj to cheat.
“So are you finally getting used to them doing it on a daily basis?” -Howard
“I’m not going out with him. He can sleep with whoever he wants.” -Penny
“Yeah, I was talking to Raj.” -Howard
Meanwhile, Priya and Leonard’s relationship is great. She’s doing what girlfriends tend to do, and that’s shape him up. Suddenly, he’s dressing well and wearing contacts (and running into things because he can’t really see with contacts, which was a pretty funny running gag throughout the episode). We also learned that Priya has been offered a job in Los Angeles, which Leonard is thrilled about and wants her to take. Quickly, though, we see the paradise doesn’t really last. Penny still hangs around the apartment and the guys pretty frequently, and Priya is a little bit jealous. She asks Leonard to talk to Penny about hanging out a little bit less, or in her words, “cut the cord.”
And, well, I liked this. Mainly because it’s the first time I can remember that I actually had a good time watching Leonard because he was actually doing more than just be the set up joke for Sheldon. Sure, forcing him to choose between Priya and Penny is a little blah and a little familiar from a story-telling perspective, but I’ll let it slide because maybe, just maybe, the writers are going to use Priya to finally get Leonard and Penny to just commit to one another, and then move on.
“Can’t a fella just ask his buddy to relocate, no questions asked?” -Leonard
So Leonard talks to Penny, and she’s very understanding of the situation. However, it’s very clear that Leonard doesn’t really want to eliminate Penny from his life. First, it takes him the majority of the episode to actually work up to telling her, and when he finally does, he’s not even the one who says it (she assumes that Priya doesn’t want her around). During this scene, I found myself surprisingly moved — even though I knew exactly what was going to happen. The credit should go to Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco because they took this scene, which could easily have fallen flat, and held it up. Beneath their comforting words for one another, there seemed to be an unsaid, mutual understanding that, really, this isn’t what either of them want but it’s what they feel like they must do. I was genuinely surprised because usually, Big Bang isn’t good at presenting its serious side as anything other than knee-bender moments in an episode.
“The wand is called showmanship and the beep is none of your business.” -Sheldon
Meanwhile, Sheldon utilizes everything within his power to try and figure out Howard’s trick. And, well, I just loved this whole exchange. Sheldon is at his best when his character is not in control of a situation. And the fact that something as small as a dumb little card trick could drive him to the point of insanity was really a riot. Sometimes, Sheldon is just mean for the sake of being mean — and that’s how he’s spent most of this season — but last night, he was mean, yes, but it was out of frustration. As the audience, we knew that he couldn’t figure out how Howard did it because, simply, Howard was cheating. But Sheldon couldn’t believe that. In his world, everything can be solved by science — which he believes so strongly that he’s not even willing to consider that Howard is probably screwing with him. Through this, his own innocence results in ignorance and then frustration. For the audience, like the rest of the episode, it’s a whole lot of fun.