The Big Bang Theory: “The 43 Peculiarity”
D+

The Big Bang Theory: “The 43 Peculiarity”

At the end of this week’s The Big Bang Theory, the Chuck Lorre Productions vanity card comes on screen with three simple words that perfectly encapsulate the amount of effort that went into “The 43 Peculiarity”: “I got nothing.” After last week’s episode utilized the entire cast exceptionally well, this week’s story feels like a rejected plot from before Amy and Bernadette appeared on this show. Sheldon is acting weird, Raj and Howard team up to find out why, and Leonard is jealous of Penny. We’ve seen variations of all these stories before, and the complete absence of Amy and Bernadette makes it feel extra lazy, like the writers are just not willing to work with the more complicated status quo this show has developed in the past two years. 

Everyday at 2:45 p.m., Sheldon disappears for 20 minutes, and Howard and Raj really want to find out what he’s doing. That’s the entire story. They go to his office and ask his assistant Alex about it (yay, she’s sticking around!), but she has no information other than that she needs to stop wearing corduroy pants because they’re too loud. Howard and Raj follow Sheldon to the mystery room he goes to every day and listen at the door, where there’s some queer fear as Raj faces Howard straight-on rather than turning his head the other way to listen. When they get into the room, they find the number 43 written on a chalkboard, a prime number that drives them to various conclusions except the one that is actually correct.

The Raj/Howard pairing is one of my least favorite elements of the early seasons, and Bernadette is the best thing to happen to Howard’s character since tight pants. There’s really nothing of substance in their plot this week until the very end, when Sheldon rigs their hidden camera so that they think he’s created his Frisbee-sized wormhole generator. When he throws the fake interdimensional alien on the table in front of Howard and Raj, Sheldon explains that he has trouble dealing with certain social situations and that he needs 20 minutes of each day to simply unwind and escape the pressures of the world. It’s a rare moment of vulnerability from Sheldon that isn’t entirely in character, but maybe he’s actually beginning to mature as a person. More likely than not, the writers probably saw that Jim Parsons is good at hackey sack, so they created a story about how Sheldon hackey sacks as a way to relax and is trying to beat his high score of 43.

“We’re still dating right?” It’s a question that Leonard asks multiple times throughout this episode, and by the end, you just want Penny to say no. Instead, she accidentally says she loves him, opening up that can of worms. It begins with a harmless text message from the British guy she’s working on a school project with, which sends Leonard down an insecurity spiral that ends with him acting like a jealous jackass. While trying to catch a look at the mystery man (Alphas’ Ryan Cartwright using his actual accent), Leonard turns to Sheldon for comfort, which is the absolute worst idea possible. All Sheldon does is point out Leonard’s exceeding mediocrity, so when the Brit leaves Penny’s apartment, Leonard goes chasing after him so he can word vomit some crap about Penny’s boyfriend being in a scientist gang or some other nonsense. Penny is at the top of the stairs watching the whole thing, and when Leonard sees her, he asks again, “We’re still dating right?”

While Penny is working with a platonic schoolmate, Leonard is being blatantly flirted with by Alex, who has started sending him text messages with emoticons, but he’s completely oblivious. The writers are trying to say something about how Leonard underestimates his own charisma, but Alex in general comes across as a way to put Leonard on more equal footing with Penny. Now that she’s going to school in hopes of becoming a more complete package, Penny is even more out of Leonard’s league, but she’s chosen him so he needs to start having more confidence in her decision.

Leonard is jealous all the time and Penny can’t handle it, and that’s when she lets the L-word slip, giving Leonard the boost of confidence that he needs. Last week I said that Penny and Leonard work best as supporting players, and when they’re put in the spotlight, the romantic subplots take a turn for the juvenile. It looks like their relationship is going to be long term, so hopefully the writers will eventually stop looking at old episodes of Saved By The Bell for story inspiration. And just where the hell are Amy and Bernadette? This show needs to recognize its strengths and put them forward if it doesn’t want to become a repetitive mess.

Stray observations:

  • CBS released this video today of the Big Bang cast and crew performing a “Call Me Maybe” flash mob during the taping of an episode. It’s a fun little video, and it’s always interesting to see the live studio audience.
  • There’s no way it took Sheldon two years to build a Lego Death Star. He probably didn’t leave his house until it was completed.
  • “It’s a Frisbee sized wormhole. You could block it with a Frisbee. Calm down.”
  • “All I know is corduroy makes too much noise, and I have to go find quieter pants.”
  • “He could be having the time of his life while she thinks she’s a chicken pecking for corn.” Hey, blow job joke!
  • “Do you use up all your thinking at work and then have none left over for when you get home?”

More TV Club