Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: “The Habitation Configuration”

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After last week’s light but insubstantial episode, The Big Bang Theory delivers one of its best half-hours of the season with “The Habitation Configuration,” focusing on the Sheldon/Amy and Howard/Bernadette relationships for a story that makes significant forward movement for these characters. I didn’t care for last week’s episode as much as Robert (I enjoyed the review more than the episode), and it’s beginning to seem like Penny and Leonard work best in supporting roles. The other two couples just have more complicated dynamics than Pennard’s “nerd and blonde,” and this episode digs into those complexities to tell a surprisingly poignant and very funny story.

For a special episode of “Fun With Flags,” Dr. Sheldon Cooper invites his good friend Wil Wheaton on the show to discuss the flags of Star Trek, but first-time director Amy has problems with Wheaton’s performance. This puts Sheldon in the rare position where he’s caught between his girlfriend and his regular friend, and not just any friend, one with a connection to one of Sheldon’s most treasured pop-culture obsessions. When Wil calls Amy a pain in the ass, she’s offended that Sheldon won’t stand up for her, and it’s interesting to see how Sheldon reacts in a situation that has considerable emotional stakes. SPOILER ALERT: not very well. He can’t read Amy’s sarcasm when she says maybe she should leave and he can go have dinner with his friend, and he does exactly that. Sheldon has no concept that he’s done anything wrong until he tells Leonard the story and is told that his girlfriend is probably mad. She is, and Sheldon reacts to that just as poorly.

In his review last week, Robert said that the Up All Night cast could take three-camera lessons from this show, and that feels especially true during tonight’s episode. While the Sheldon and Amy drama unfolds, Howard and Bernadette are dealing with one of the complications of marriage: moving Howard out of his mother’s house. What starts off as the usual creepy co-dependence gag evolves into something much deeper by the end of the episode. Simon Helberg has become one of this show’s greatest assets, and the scene where Bernadette and Howard go to the Cheesecake Factory is a spotlight for his comedic talents. He has some great verbal sparring with Penny, who is firmly on Bernadette’s side of the argument, and he ultimately settles on a temper tantrum to get rid of her. He eventually decides to move out of his mom’s house, employing Raj and Leonard to help him pack up his stuff while making as many masturbation jokes as possible.

Sheldon tries to make Amy feel better by giving her a box set of Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs, which is definitely not the apology she wants. Sheldon has to put his contractual relationship with Amy above his love for Star Trek, and that’s a nearly impossible task for the good doctor. That is, until Penny starts dumping Long Island Iced Teas down his throat, finally igniting Sheldon’s affections for his girlfriend through the magic of alcohol. Penny isn’t a major player in this episode, but she’s the scene stealer, whether she’s talking about how horrible a waitress she is or deceiving Sheldon into getting shitfaced. Kaley Cuoco and Jim Parsons have developed particularly strong chemistry over the course of the series, and Penny and Sheldon have a more natural connection than Penny and Leonard. Curiously enough, the Sheldon/Amy plot doesn’t actually include Amy in the resolution. Rather, drunk Sheldon goes to Wil Wheaton’s house to stand up for his woman’s honor like a good Texan, threatening a fist fight before Wil apologizes. And then Sheldon vomits profusely because he just guzzled multiple Long Island Iced Teas.

The Howard/Bernadette story doesn’t get resolved as cleanly, with Howard returning to his mother’s house after he delivers an emotional monologue about how he took care of his mother after his father left, putting on magic shows so that she would be distracted from her loneliness. It’s an uncharacteristically dramatic moment for this show, adding much-needed definition to Howard’s relationship with his mother. Bernadette won’t let any husband of hers break his mama’s heart, and she switches into Howard’s mom mode as she forces him to pack up his things and move back in. It’s unfortunate that we’re not going to see Howard and Bernadette seriously living together, but there’s enough emotional payoff on the story that the backtracking can be excused.

Stray observations:

  • Sheldon only wears superhero shirts during “Fun With Flags,” first Green Lantern, then Hawkman.
  • Raj is barely in this episode, and I can’t say I missed him much.
  • I’m getting pretty tired of the Star Wars: Episode VII news, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to how Big Bang Theory takes the news.
  • “It’s called ‘Fun With Flags.’ They’re not at half-mast, nobody died, let’s try to keep it upbeat.”
  • “Once you explain who he is, many people recognize him.”
  • Bernadette: “Kitchen slammed again?” Penny: “No, I’m a terrible waitress, remember?”
  • “I’ve seen her burp you.”
  • Howard: “If these walls could talk…” Leonard: “They’d say, “Why does he touch himself so much?’”
  • “We’re not standing out by the U-Haul while you fondle yourself.”
  • Sheldon: “And for the record, I had a full pubis of hair by the time I was 19.” Penny: “And for the record…[Vomit sound.]”
  • “Just apologize, it will ‘warm her twaddle.’”
  • Wil: “Have you been drinking?” Sheldon: “Just tea. The best tea I’ve ever had.”