The Big Bang Theory: “The Bon Voyage Reaction”
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The Big Bang Theory: “The Bon Voyage Reaction”

The second half of The Big Bang Theory’s sixth season has featured the show at its very best, addressing nearly every character problem to create a fantastic block of three-camera comedy. I’ve been predicting an end to Raj’s sober silence around women for the finale, and it arrives in “The Bon Voyage Reaction,” putting a stop to a joke that stopped being funny a long time ago. This is all thanks to Lucy, but not in the way you’d expect. Despite the fact that he considers staring at Lucy on a frozen video chat one of his top three dates ever, Raj thinks their relationship is at a level where she should meet his friends. Raj is at the point in his life where he’s aching for a serious relationship, and he’s adjusting to romance much faster than Lucy, whose anxiety is far more intense than his. He tries to put up the front that he’s willing to take it slow with Lucy, but once he finds a comfortable place, he immediately goes overboard.

Lucy is unsure about meeting Raj’s friends, so he suggests that she just meet one. After a fun scene where the group argues over who gets to meet her, Amy is chosen because of her former outsider status, and she’s an ideal third date until she starts talking about cutting Lucy’s brain open to find the source of her anxiety. Granted, she’s trying to calm down Raj, who is pushing Lucy into telling Amy how much she doesn’t like being pushed. When that initial get-together is a bust, Raj decides that Lucy just needs to meet his friends in a larger group, showing just how much he doesn’t understand the new woman in his life. He gets a break-up text at Leonard’s going away party, signaling the departure of Kate Micucci from the series, but opening new doors for Raj in different ways.

This episode has some well-timed Star Trek jokes as Sheldon tells Raj that he got over his social anxiety by imagining that everyone he meets is a Star Trek character. Raj is Uhura, and Leonard is an unnamed Red Shirt, which doesn’t bode well for him when he’s offered a place on a scientific expedition for Stephen Hawking. Red Shirts tend to die, you see, and Sheldon wants Leonard to believe he won’t survive four months on a boat. This is his way of telling Leonard that he’s both afraid of being alone and jealous of his success, presented as false concern wrapped in a whole lot of selfishness. Watching Star Trek Into Darkness last night, I realized why Sheldon Cooper is so obsessed with Mr. Spock. Both characters have difficulty processing human emotions and are patronized for it, and it’s easy to see a young Sheldon sitting in front of the television and finding a kindred spirit in the Vulcan.

Sheldon is banking on Leonard’s relationship with Penny to keep him at home, but Penny has no problem with Leonard going on the trip, especially if it’s as important to his career as it sounds. I’m glad the writers didn’t try to have Penny keep Leonard at home, and it shows how far their relationship has come since they reinstated it. Penny not only knows how to make Leonard feel better about leaving, but she also helps Sheldon get through his own feelings about Leonard’s departure, beginning by getting him to admit that he’s jealous. Once he’s able to do that, he’ll be able to fake a smile and pretend that he’s happy for his friend, and that’s what is really important at the moment.

Big Bang Theory likes to send people away during its season finales, because then the writers already have a story for next season when that character comes back. There isn’t really all that much drama surrounding Leonard and Penny’s situation, and the person that is most heavily impacted by the expedition is Leonard’s roommate, whom Penny has agreed to babysit while her boyfriend is away. Penny is a gold star friend in this episode, not only helping Leonard and Sheldon, but also giving Raj a shoulder to cry on after his break-up. I was nervous that the scene of Penny and Raj was going to be a repeat of the season four finale, but it was very much the opposite, with the two having a tender conversation before Penny realizes that Raj is sober and talking to her.

The Big Bang Theory’s sixth season ends with a huge moment for Raj as he breaks through his mental block that prevents him from speaking to women without alcohol, and as we’ve seen with Lucy, once Raj gets comfortable, he gets out of control. Now that he can talk, Raj won’t stop running his mouth, and the last line of the season goes to Amy, who asks: “Does he ever shut up?” For now, let’s just be glad that he’s talking at all. There’s plenty of time to shut him up in the future, because The Big Bang Theory isn’t going anywhere.

Stray observations:

  • Flashy clothes + Woody Allen swagger = Howard Wolowitz.
  • The writers have really tried to give Howard as many opportunities to mimic Raj’s voice as possible this season, and Simon Helberg always delivers.
  • Howard’s petty obsession with his space journey has been one of this season’s funniest recurring gags. The more times he tries to be important by mentioning space, the less impressive the trip becomes.
  • “On a ship? Aren’t they afraid Hawking will roll overboard?”
  • “Honey, if you’re going to screw things up, it’s going to be here, not while you’re away.”
  • Bernadette: “Hey, you don’t think I’m pretty enough to scare your girlfriend?” Howard: “Calm down, Bernie, you’re very scary.”
  • “I’m not jealous. I’m just very unhappy that good things are happening for him and not happening for me.”
  • “Wow. No wonder you didn’t get that toothpaste commercial.”
  • “Maybe your lifetime. I went to space.”

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