The Big Bang Theory: “The Classified Materials Turbulence”
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The Big Bang Theory: “The Classified Materials Turbulence”

Since I’m a clever critic-type whose job description requires me to find connections where none really exist, I’d like to talk about how the two halves of tonight’s Big Bang Theory fit neatly together. One half was about the creeping worry over what’s going to happen when festering waste materials get propelled into the air by a faulty mechanism. And the other was about a space-toilet.

The space-toilet half was the funny half, of course. It seems that Howard’s design for the human-waste-disposal unit on board the International Space Station has a significant flaw that will eventually produce a backflow problem, causing the vacuum motor to send the waste shooting into the living quarters once… well, once it hits the fan. (This will particularly be a problem for the Russians, with their hardy, potato-based diet.) The fun of the toilet-fixing scenes comes from Howard’s stricken expression throughout, coupled with Leonard and Raj’s ruthless ribbing and Sheldon’s attempts to explain why Leonard and Raj’s jokes are funny. Not surprisingly, Sheldon finds humor funnier once the frog has been dissected, so to speak. He gives a little short, creepy laugh—and at one point, a long smile, as he tells Howard that he’s not worried about the toilet problem because “my career’s not hanging in the balance.”

Of course, Howard’s career probably isn’t hanging in the balance either, even after the poop-explosion on the ISS. Chances are, the toilet incident will never get mentioned again, because hey, this The Big Bang Theory, where continuity is optional. But all that crap about the crap did make for a nice shadow-plot to the episode’s other, less-funny half, having to do with the Leonard-Stuart-Penny love triangle. As Stuart and Penny prepare to go on another date, Stuart asks Leonard for advice, and he responds by ignoring Stuart’s messages for days before finally telling him—minutes before the date—that he should act shy and reticent, and treat her as though she were fragile and unapproachable. (“That plays right into my wheelhouse,” Stuart marvels appreciatively.) And then Leonard gets to spend all night fretting, Howard-like, about what’s going to happen when his bad advice gets set in motion.

As it happens though, Leonard’s advice—plus a couple of bottles of wine—gets Stuart some hot make-out action in his car. Then Penny, in the heat of passion, moans Leonard’s name. And thus endeth the date.

If I’m only mildly enthusiastic about this episode, it’s because I feel like the love-triangle storyline is still in the process of becoming, and won’t really flower until next week’s season finale. Also, I’m sorry to see Stuart (potentially) gone so soon. I thought he made a nice foil for our regular geeks, given that he was more art-inclined than science-inclined.

Plus, as already noted, the Stuart stuff in this episode just wasn’t that funny to me. The most amusing scene related to the Stuart-Penny-Leonard half of “The Classified Materials Turbulence” had to do with Sheldon freaking out because Leonard wouldn’t take Stuart’s calls or check his voice mail messages. Sheldon’s right: You have to abide by the social contract and stay in communication, because if you don’t, all that junk builds up into a backlog and then… well, you know.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

-Did you know that calling a comic “mind-blowing” is a spoiler?

-For that matter, did you know there are three different kinds of “Code Red?”

-After my interview with Jim Parsons about shooting in front of an audience, I now wonder how they shoot the staircase scenes. I’m assuming a lot of cuts and set-redressing.

-“What did you do? Sneeze in her mouth? I did that to a girl once.”

-Howard’s mother’s meatloaf has been testing toilets for generations.

-“If you knew what you were doing, there wouldn’t be a space-toilet where my coffee table should be.”

-In India, a little cardboard in the pizza cheese is no biggie.

-“Have you read the new Flash? Because I have and it will knock your socks off! Good luck getting them back on.”

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