The Big Bang Theory: “The Good Guy Fluctuation”
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The Big Bang Theory: “The Good Guy Fluctuation”

Halloween is usually a lot more fun for the Big Bang crew than this episode would lead people to believe. It’s the day when the boys get to put on costumes and pretend to be the fictional characters they idolize, but no one dresses up this week, unless you count Sheldon throwing on some makeup and a tattered green shirt for the tag. The Halloween antics are relegated to a plot about the guys playing pranks on Sheldon to scare him, while the rest of the episode deals with a plot thread that is likely to be cut soon: Leonard and Priya’s romance.

The Sheldon material starts at meh and works its way to insufferable, and the Leonard-Priya storyline ran its course last season, stripping Leonard’s situation of any real tension or drama. There’s nothing offensively bad about this episode; it’s just a completely average installment that feels like a leftover story from the earlier seasons. Amy is mysteriously absent, and Bernadette only makes a short appearance toward the end of the episode for another “Bernadette is becoming Howard’s mother” joke.

“The Good Guy Fluctuation” begins with Sheldon working a late night (after 9 p.m.) in his office when a mysterious voice begins chanting his name. He walks out into the hall, where the lights go out, prompting the eerie glow of the back-up generator as the camera switches from fixed to handheld. Blood drips down the wall, and a glowing plastic skeleton flies at Sheldon, but all of that pales in comparison to the main event of the show: breaking the three-camera format and joining the ranks of contemporary sitcoms, even if only for 30 seconds. Kudos to director Mark Cendrowski for experimenting with the camera work, although it's utilized for fairly shallow comedy. Sheldon insists that Raj and Howard’s trick was ineffective, but he faints and pees his pants when Leonard sneaks up behind him wearing an alien mask.

Sheldon spends an inordinate amount of time flailing this week, and his story is almost exclusively built on physical comedy gags. We get it, writers: Jim Parsons can fall over really well. It still doesn’t make him pretending to get electrocuted all that funny, especially when he does it more than once. Sheldon vows his revenge in the comic shop, but no one cares because a hot girl just walked in, and she actually wants to buy a comic book. Alice (Courtney Ford) is a straight-up Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a gorgeous comic book fan with an affinity for Hellboy and her own independent autobiographical comic, inspired by Los Bros Hernandez, based on the cover. She gives Leonard her number to arrange a comic swap, and  Leonard forgets to mention the whole girlfriend thing because he’s not an idiot.

Sitting on the couch staring at a Jim Lee-drawn convention sketch of Leonard dressed as Thundercats’ Lion-O, Alice kisses Leonard, triggering the guilt that leads him to seek advice from Penny. With her giant bowl of Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese and a bottle of wine, Penny is clearly in a healthy enough emotional place for her ex-boyfriend to ask her opinion on how he can cheat on his current girlfriend. She has little patience for Leonard and emphasizes that there’s no guilt-free way for him to sleep with Alice without breaking up with Priya. Penny is over the Priya thing as much as we are, and she just wants to enjoy her bright orange mound of carbs without having to deal with how the nerd across the hall is getting more action than she is.

In between hiding a snake in Raj’s desk and shocking Howard with a high-voltage joy buzzer, Sheldon offers his advice to Leonard. Sheldon’s tips are more ambivalent than Penny’s but also more favorable, and he quotes Nietzche’s stance on morality as a societal construct intended to keep people subservient and stagnant. Leonard interprets this as permission, and he heads over to Alice’s. While making out on Alice’s couch, Leonard’s conscience gets the better of him and he admits to having a girlfriend, closing the book on Alice’s story as she shuts the door in his face.

During the tag, Leonard admits what happened to Priya over Skype, and she admits her own infidelity: She slept with her ex-boyfriend two weeks ago. Then Sheldon jumps out from under the couch cushions, finally exacting his juvenile revenge. The tag is the strongest part of the episode, not only because it actually gets a laugh from the “Sheldon got scared” plot, but because it plants the seeds for Leonard and Priya’s eagerly anticipated break-up. The ending doesn’t do much to help a lackluster episode, but it creates forward motion that will hopefully keep the momentum going through sweeps.

Stray observations:

  • Leonard’s paisley button-up and vest combo could be him dressing in a “Guy Trying to Not Get Laid” costume.
  • How much better would the Sheldon story be if Amy had helped him get his revenge?
  • Anyone have a theory on how One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is surprisingly applicable to the topic of sexual fidelity?
  • “It’s not suspicious that I’m fixating; it’s consistent with my personality.”
  • “It’s a rough month. Halloween and PMS hit at the same time.”
  • “Is it my tongue stud? ‘Cause if that freaks you out, you’re in a for a real surprise later.”

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