‘The Big Bang Theory’ Recap: The Series Proves Its Strength of Character(s)

TBBTS5E19: The latter half of this season of The Big Bang Theory has been quite good, especially when you think about how this show had pretty much forgot who it was by the end of Season Four. With the last nine episodes or so, Big Bang has made its characters a priority. It’s never done that before. My roommate pointed out something at the end of last night’s episode, “The Weekend Vortex.” He asked, “Until this season, have Big Bang’s characters changed at all since the beginning of the show?” I thought for a moment, and realized he was right: Big Bang’s characters, aside from Penny and Leonard’s on-and-off again relationship, didn’t really grow emotionally at all in the show’s first four seasons. Rather, it was just a string of funny situations in which this group of oddballs could participate.

That’s what’s made the development of this season (well, the latter half) and the characters so appealing. We’re finally entertaining plots where there’s some real stakes, like just how much of a jerk can Sheldon be before his friends stop giving him the “Oh, Sheldon, you crazy” schtick and actually stop being friends with him, or Penny and Leonard are actually talking about their relationship in a responsible, not-13-years-old way, or Raj spends his sad, lonely nights alone talking to the girl in his phone named Siri. “The Weekend Vortex” encompassed all these themes for a wonderful episode that continues to push Big Bang in an exciting direction.

“The called the cops because of the smell. They thought we were dead.” -Leonard

To start things off, Leonard and Raj decide that it’d be totally awesome to have a totally awesome weekend full of totally awesome video gaming, Star Wars-style, just like they used to “back in the day” (a couple of years ago). Sheldon, of course, loves the idea and immediately volunteers to join their 48-hour excursion of exploring the galaxy with lightsabers – except he forgot one small thing. He promised Amy (who had taken “all the appropriate steps” of the relationship agreement) that he’d attend her Aunt’s birthday party. 

Sheldon is super bummed, so being the self-serving jerk that he is, he decides that he must find a way out of the weekend so he can join the gaming extravaganza (“She’s 93! She won’t know if I’m there!”). This simple conflict of having to do something that you don’t want to do for your significant other is a quite fun concept for Sheldon’s character to deal with. Even though he knows what the right thing is (Amy’s aunt’s b-day bash), he still struggles tremendously to get out of it. And what makes this interesting is that his decision has direct consequences that he cares about. He’s hurting Amy.

“You’re right. I’m smart as a whip. I should be able to figure this out.” -Sheldon

The guys want Sheldon to bail on the party too, encouraging him to be his own man and not be whipped *iPhone app whip noise*. But that’s easy for them to say, because they’re not bailing on their girlfriends. Sheldon eventually comes up with the idea that if he brings his laptop, due to the wonders of technology, he can join the Star Wars action no problem through the tubes of the internet. He tells this to Amy the moment he gets in the car, and she’s (rightfully) hurt. She tells him that if he doesn’t want to come and wants her to show up to a family event without a boyfriend again, he doesn’t have to go. And because Sheldon has no concept of passive aggression, he receives her aside as genuine, takes her up on it and joins the guys for the gaming marathon. Mayim Bialik acted the hell out of this scene, as we saw her crushed by Sheldon’s selfish intentions, but too insecure to do anything about it.

“Back in Omaha, there are two different restaurants that I’m not allowed into. Both Chili’s.” -Penny

So Amy goes to Penny for relationship advice, and we continue to see just how much Sheldon hurt Amy. She says that in the past, she’s made boyfriends up to please her family, and she was so excited to show Sheldon off. Penny suggests that Amy make a “big scene,” so the two head across the hall and share their disappointment. They find the group (which Bernadette had actually joined, by pressuring Howie *iPhone app whip noise*) in the middle of their marathon, and proceed to make that “big scene.” And at this point, Raj – yes, Raj! – has had enough. In the middle of Amy’s “big scene,” Raj has one himself. He tells everyone that the weekend was supposed to be like the good ol’ days, or in other words, the pre-girlfriend days. 

Suddenly, the focus is off Amy and Sheldon, off Howie and Bernie, off the “beta test” of Leonard and Penny, and we’re left with Raj: someone who can’t talk to women, but who took solace with other guys who have similar bad track records, yet now, he’s the only one left. This might have been Kunal Nayyar’s best moment in the series so far, and hell, perhaps one of the most poignant scenes in Big Bang’s history. If the show can continue to evoke these types of emotions, while still making great jokes, we’ve got an exciting end of the season coming our way.