The Big Bang Theory: “The Locomotion Manipulation”
B+

The Big Bang Theory: “The Locomotion Manipulation”

B+

The Big Bang Theory

"The Locomotion Manipulation" 

Season 7, Episode 15

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The first 25 minutes of this episode are the usual Big Bang Theory fare. Sheldon is ignoring Amy, while Howard and Bernadette make her jealous with their public displays of affection, except now they’re all on a moving train instead of sitting around a living room table eating Thai food. There are also some jokes about Leonard not satisfying Penny sexually and a subplot pairing Raj with his veterinarian Yvette (played by Lost’s Tania Raymonde), but up until the 26-minute mark, everything is largely forgettable. Then the impossible happens, turning everything we know about this show upside down. Well, the highly improbable happens, dramatically changing the course of two characters while everything else remains largely untouched, but it’s still a really big moment.

In “The Locomotive Manipulation,” Sheldon Cooper kisses Amy Farrah-Fowler.

On the lips.

And likes it.

After putting Amy through meticulously-restored 1915 Pullman First Class Coach hell, Sheldon decides to give his girlfriend the kind of romantic evening she’s wanted for the past three years, taking a swig of wine (“grape juice that burns”), gazing into her eyes, and putting a kiss on her lips in a moment of ignorant passion. And then the real surprise happens: Sheldon keeps his lips there. He keeps them there and moves closer, putting his hands on Amy’s hips as if it were the most casual thing in the world. But for Sheldon Cooper, this is not the most casual thing. This is a huge thing. That one small step is a giant leap for his character, pushing him headfirst into the world of physical intimacy he always rejected.

When Sheldon returns home after his Valentine’s Day trip, he fills Leonard in on the wonderful events: “I made a new friend who likes trains as much as I do. I kissed Amy on the lips. And the conductor played his banjo for me.” When Leonard asks for more information, Sheldon starts talking about the conductor, not realizing that the kiss is what has tantalized his roommate and drawn his interest. Sheldon doesn’t make those kinds of distinctions. When Leonard asks if all those events are equal, he says that it never occurred to him to pick a favorite. He’ll need to gather additional data before he can come to that conclusion, and Leonard picks up on the subtext there even if Sheldon doesn’t.

After three years, the writers couldn’t stretch the Amy/Sheldon fauxmance much further without it snapping. The Big Kiss in this week’s episode completely reenergizes their relationship for the second half of the season, giving the writers a brand new landscape to explore with these two characters on the way to the finale. There are still plenty of things about relationships that Sheldon doesn’t understand, and the fact that he only discovers the joy of a kiss by lashing out after being denied selfish enjoyment shows that he still has issues compromising his wants for the interests of others. It’s not a surprise that the person Sheldon creates an instant connection with on the train is a person that behaves and thinks just like him, although Eric’s obsession with trains and social awkwardness are a result of an accident at his old job at UPS rather than a mix of genetics and social conditioning. Moving forward, it will be very interesting to see how the writers juggle Sheldon’s general selfishness with his sudden interest in physical affection from his girlfriend, because it’s unlikely that he’ll act like the typical man who is indifferent but looking for sex.

This season has done really great work keeping the momentum up, and while the Penny/Leonard storyline is a dud this week, the episode makes up for it by giving Raj some rare forward motion. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Penny and Leonard end up breaking it off at the end of the season because tensions have been high, and now that Raj no longer has his gender-selective muteness, he could potentially rekindle the tiny flame he lit with Penny back in the season 5 premiere. Raj and Penny have become pretty close friends, and his interests definitely overlap with hers more than Leonard’s do. I don’t know if the pair could sustain a lengthy storyline, but this show could definitely pull off a Penny and Raj romance. Penny has a tendency to fall for those she pities, and Raj can be quite lovable when he wants to be, so they should have no trouble falling for each other. Especially if alcohol finds its way into the picture, which is all but guaranteed. Hell, if Amy and Sheldon can finally make it happen, anyone can.

Stray observations:

  • At times, the scenes in the train car make this episode look like a single-camera show, and it’s a very different look that the series wears well. Big Bang would probably get more respect if it was single-camera.
  • Any train aficionados out there who could tell me if this is actually a 1915 Pullman First Class Coach in this episode? I doubt it, but it would be cool.
  • The best part of Leonard’s Valentine’s Day gift of Lakers tickets for Penny is that they come with permission to not take Leonard. They are so breaking up.
  • “We bust on each other! I wear dorky glasses; you might have a problem. It’s all for laughs.”
  • “See if you can guess this one: bang, splat, thud.” 

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