The Big Bang Theory: “The Wiggly Finger Catalyst”
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The Big Bang Theory: “The Wiggly Finger Catalyst”

Raj finally overcomes his inability to speak to women without alcohol in “The Wiggly Finger Catalyst.” Unfortunately, it happens by having him date a girl that can’t hear. The Big Bang Theory becomes Deaf Joke Central when Raj gets a handicapped girlfriend that may be a gold digger, and the jokes would probably seem less offensive if they were actually funny. Most of the humor revolves around the characters trying to say something to Emily while interpreter Howard (huh?) gets distracted or signs something less appropriate than what was actually intended. The handicapped jokes feel like mini shark-jumps, trite attempts at humor that suggest the show is running out of creative steam. And the completely out-of-character subplot with Sheldon making all his trivial decisions with the roll of the Dungeons & Dragons dice doesn’t do much inspire confidence.

After last week’s almost Raj-less episode, he becomes the spotlight of this episode, and it’s no coincidence that the show takes a dip in quality with the shift in focus. Amy and Bernadette need to be a consistent presence on this series because the writers have exhausted their best material with just the core four and Penny. They have an expanded cast now; they need to be taking advantage of the story possibilities this offers. The episode starts with the four gathered around the Dungeons & Dragons board, a familiar scenario that sets up jokes about Howard’s mother and how Dungeons & Dragons players tend to not have girlfriends. Because those aren’t jokes we’ve heard before.

Raj is depressed because all of the guys are paired up, and the girls have picked up on his sadness, deciding to set Raj up on a date while giving themselves paraffin wax manicures in Penny’s apartment. It’s disappointing that the girls don’t take Bernadette’s suggestion of hooking Raj up with the woman with a husband about to die in a drug trial, because that’s not only twisted, but it would also incorporate Bernadette into the plot. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind watching an episode flesh out Amy’s desire to be one of Bernadette’s bridesmaids. It would be interesting to see the writing team tackle the feminine story concept, particularly in showing how the men react to something so far out of their comfort zone.

Alas, Bernadette and Amy don’t appear for the rest of the episode, and their unique opinions are never shared in regards to the Raj/Emily situation. Emily is Penny’s friend from spin class, so Penny takes the reins on the relationship, steering it to disaster when she finds out Emily is using Raj for his money. His Richie Rich amounts of money. After a few years with these guys, it’s reasonable that Penny would develop some sympathy for her lovable nerds, but it’s hard to believe that she would call Raj’s parents to get him out of his relationship with Emily. The Koothrappalis' ultimatum that Raj marry an Indian girl or lose his fortune doesn’t make sense considering Priya’s relationship with Leonard, especially after the moment where Leonard makes sure to give Priya a call after finding out how much money she has. The logic in this episode is strained, and nowhere more than in the Sheldon subplot.

Sheldon decides to make all trivial decisions (picking food off a menu, getting off the couch, using the bathroom, etc.) with the Dungeons & Dragons dice, allowing his mind to do what it does best: enlighten and amaze. Sheldon's obsessive need for control has previously shown him to be an incredibly picky and stubborn person; he would never give up power to something as unpredictable as dice. He wastes more time rolling than if he just ordered a hamburger and a milkshake, gotten off the couch, and emptied his bladder. The plot doesn’t sync with what’s been established about Sheldon’s character in the past. With what was established last week. It could be read as a deliberate move to direct people away from the Asperger’s/OCD hypotheses, showing that Sheldon is just a wacky nerd, not someone with a mental condition.    

Stray observations:

  • Poor Leonard. He’s back to being a non-character again this week.
  • Does anyone use the word “bazongas” anymore? Nerd or otherwise?
  • Howard can’t spell opalescent? No wonder he’s not a doctor.
  • Raj tried to start a boy band called Frankie Goes To Bollywood. Raj is just a pity factory.
  • When Raj goes to Penny’s apartment, there’s the usual superfluous reference to him being hammered to justify his ability to talk to her. He is clearly not hammered. Please get rid of this plot device. It is not funny anymore.
  • Of course Howard knows the ideal way to have sex with a cheesecake.
  • “When playing Chutes And Ladders, do you complain about all the chutes and all the ladders?”
  • “I assume we use this same wax later on to neaten up each others’ bikini regions.”
  • “Future grief-stricken widow is the one to beat.”
  • “Handicapped people are nice, Leonard. Everyone knows that.”
  • “About halfway between Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck.”
  • “It’s kind of impossible not to sneak up on deaf people.”
  • “He is cuter now that I know he’s rich.”
  • “Sometimes I put the TV on mute just to pretend she’s still with me.”
  •  “Don’t cheap out on the tip. We all know you’re loaded now.”

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