The Big Bang Theory: “The Isolation Permutation”
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The Big Bang Theory: “The Isolation Permutation”

B+

The Big Bang Theory

“The Isolation Permutation”

Season 5, Episode 7

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A couple of weeks ago during “The Wiggly Finger Catalyst” recap, I wrote: “I wouldn’t mind watching an episode flesh out Amy’s desire to be one of Bernadette’s bridesmaids.” Someone was listening, because that’s the focus of this week’s episode, and it’s one of the season’s best. When Amy gets a little overbearing with her bridesmaid responsibilities, Bernadette and Penny don’t invite her to try on bridesmaid dresses, sending Amy into a spiral of self-doubt and hatred. She looks for comfort in Sheldon’s awkward, lanky arms, but we all know how well he does with intimacy. After largely operating in the background for most of this season, Mayim Bialik finally takes the spotlight this episode, proving why Amy is The Big Bang Theory’s most valuable asset. Here’s a breakdown of why:

1. Amy is tactless, yet endearing

Bialik has given Amy a desire to fit in with her female companions, but she doesn’t quite understand how to navigate social interactions. Whereas Sheldon is tactless and grating, it is this need to be accepted that makes Amy’s inability to approach subjects with subtlety and grace a charming quirk rather than a full-on annoyance. When Bernadette and Amy are fretting over dress choices, Amy offers the perfect solution: Wear the dresses from her cousin’s almost-wedding 12 years ago, when the entire party died from carbon monoxide poisoning the day before. They’re still in the bags! (The dresses, not the bodies.)

Amy reminds me of Buffy’s Anya in a lot of ways, slightly disassociated with reality, with just enough emotional instability to suggest that she might stab you with a scalpel if you mess with her on a bad day. When Leonard and Sheldon pick up a drunken Amy from a liquor store parking lot, she basically asks Sheldon what it would take for him to have sex with her. That kind of blatant honesty is refreshing in the sitcom environment, where entire plot lines are built around the secret feelings characters have for one another. Amy doesn’t have any secrets, but she also doesn’t have a filter, and hopefully, she never gets one.

2. Amy breaks Sheldon out of his shell

Sheldon is this show’s most recognizable face and is quickly becoming one of its biggest problems. The character has become a caricature in this latest season, but Amy is the person that tethers him to reality. Their conversation when Sheldon’s mom came to visit helped Sheldon realize that relationships have to mature over time, and forcing intimacy on him this episode puts him in a situation where he has little knowledge or control.

Amy proposes “one wild night of torrid lovemaking that soothes my soul and enflames my loins,” but Sheldon replies with a counterproposal: “I will gently stroke your head and repeat ‘Ah, who’s a good Amy?’” They compromise on a cuddle, leading to the hilariously uncomfortable moment of Amy and Sheldon on the couch, trying to figure out how their limbs connect. Amy throws her feet up on the couch, resting her head on Sheldon’s chest, and he just looks disappointed that he won’t be getting the hot beverage he’s been hinting at. Amy forces Sheldon to experience new things, even though they don’t seem to have any immediate lasting effect on his character. Hopefully that will change as their story continues, because Sheldon is going to have to evolve at some point.

3. Amy throws the rest of the cast off-guard

Beyond the unnerving dead wedding story, Amy finds other ways to creep out her lady friends, including tracking their menstrual cycles so they can be called “The Three Menstruateers.” Bernadette and Penny knew each other from work, but Amy is an unpredictable third party. The three women are friends out of circumstance, not necessarily by choice. Penny is the beautiful popular girl that never would have hung out with Amy in high school, while Bernadette is the “cute in the right light” girl that may have hung out with Amy in high school, but they were probably never all that close. As Amy illustrates with a freshly carved brain, Bernadette is the analytical, scientific left hemisphere, and Penny is the creative, spontaneous right hemisphere. Amy is the “the sad little tumor no one wants to go dress shopping with,” and her ability to boil down their relationship in that depressing but ultimately accurate image is what compels Bernadette to make Amy her Maid of Honor.  

Amy’s actions also have repercussions for the male half of the cast, specifically after her cuddle session with Sheldon. When Sheldon sees Leonard and Howard at lunch the next day, he orders, “The two of you need to get your women in line!” It’s Parsons' standout moment of the episode, and he appears legitimately furious at the two for the horror they’ve put him through. It’s also the kind of offensive demand you’d expect from Sheldon’s mom, and it’s great to see his roots show. It leads to a conversation at dinner where the group has to collectively decide what to do about the Amy situation, and Amy’s actions unite the male and female halves of the cast as they try to figure out a solution to a problem that they haven’t had to deal with on the series yet: female-on-female discrimination. Speaking of female-on-female…

4. Amy is a little gay

The gays aren’t very well-represented over at CBS, but they at least have a sort of representative in Amy, whose love of the female form doesn’t just stop at Penny. When she talks about bridesmaid traditions in other cultures, they all seem to involve the women getting naked and cleaning each other. Mayim Bialik may not be as attractive as Kaley Cuoco or Melissa Rauch, but I’m sure there are plenty of Big Bang Theory fans that would be willing to watch that bachelorette party.

Stray observations:

  • It’s great that Leonard does Sheldon’s “Penny Penny Penny” knock outside Amy’s door. He even gives himself a bit of a Sheldon voice.
  • Amy’s harp returns, this time when Amy sing-barks a cover of “Everybody Hurts.”
  • Raj is looking for a new quirky, affectation? How about his sudden, extensive knowledge of capped sleeves and sweetheart necklines?
  • Amy was once trapped in a Norwegian sauna with a horny otter as a practical joke. Everything makes sense now.
  • Amy’s middle name is Farrah. I really hope that’s as in Fawcett.
  •  “That cloud of odorless, deadly gas has a silver lining after all.”
  •  “Your skin is like alabaster. Do you even have pores?”
  • “It’s hard to make degenerative brain maladies, and yet somehow, you do it.”
  • “I’m just saying, second base is right there.”
  • “One of these things is not like the others; one of these things will die alone.”
  • “Not Penny beautiful, but beautiful.”

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