The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 10 review: The Discovery Dissipation

Feature Juliette Harrisson 6 Dec 2013 - 16:21

The Big Bang Theory hits the reset button, but at least it's funny about it. Here's Juliette's review...

This review contains spoilers.

7.10 The Discovery Dissipation

In this week’s Big Bang Theory, the re-set button is pressed hard on Sheldon’s recent scientific discovery, but in a thoroughly entertaining way. Meanwhile, Howard and Bernadette affirm once more that they are a realistic happily married couple and don’t really want to live in the TV-fantasy of a marriage Raj lays out before them.

Academia is a nice area for sitcom characters to work in. The working hours, while intensive, are all over the place (more so in the humanities than the sciences, but still), so hanging out in your apartment or a coffee shop at random times of day isn’t completely impossible; there’s plenty of opportunities for exciting trips to conferences in exotic locations (and some academics really do bring their partners to these, though not usually a huge group of all their best friends), and no one really knows what it is that anyone else does, so an academic character can make huge steps in their field that are really exciting for them but that, realistically, no one else would ever expect to hear about.

There is a line, however. If your academic character is, for example, a medical researcher, they can’t find a cure for cancer. If they did, your show would transform into science fiction, because we haven’t discovered a cure for cancer, and if we did, everyone would know about it. You would be leaving the real world behind. The same is true of the physics in The Big Bang Theory. While the consequences of the discovery of a new element might not be as world-changing as a cure for cancer, such a discovery would still represent a pretty huge leap in our knowledge of physics and our understanding of the world we live in. Certainly, something worthy of an oft-mentioned Nobel prize is probably something that would be worth at least a small news item for the general public, and would be an enormous deal for physicists.

What this means is that, ultimately, neither Leonard nor Sheldon can be allowed to make a truly spectacular leap forward in their field. They can write papers and books and go to conferences and perform experiments like other scientists, but they can’t be allowed actually to discover something world-changing; so any time it appears that they have, the re-set button must be pressed. And so, in this episode, Sheldon’s accidental discovery of a new element from The Romance Resonance must be un-done, and for the second time in seven years, Sheldon is forced to put out a professionally embarrassing retraction because of something Leonard did, though this time Leonard had the best of intentions.

Fortunately, the episode is very funny, which makes the inevitable re-setting less annoying. The first half has a brief but rather sweet meditation on fame and its consequences. Granted, this is not a situation many of us can relate to, but Sheldon being under pressure from his boss to do something he doesn’t want to is relatable and the episode makes excellent use of Wil Wheaton in a more serious role than he usually plays on this show, talking about his own experiences. Then we get into the re-set and although the jokes are so predictable you can hear them coming (“I’ll get the vodka”) the cast are talented enough and there’s enough good-will for these characters that they work. Humour is, of course, subjective, but nearly all the jokes here landed for us.

The B plot of this episode features Raj staying over with Howard and Bernadette while there’s work being done on his building. Bernadette finds that Raj, the metrosexual man who loves cooking, unsurprisingly is more helpful around the house (and also more understanding and a better listener) than Howard, the man who didn’t move out from living with his mother until after he’d got married. Meanwhile, Howard experiences having a housewife from the 1950s making him packed lunches with encouraging notes in them. Ultimately, of course, Howard and Bernadette decide that Raj is the problem for making them both feel like they’re not trying hard enough and Raj has to go stay with Leonard and Sheldon.

So, re-set buttons all round. The constant re-setting was mildly frustrating when it came to Penny and Leonard’s relationship in the previous episode (and here, we liked Penny’s explanation of why she understood how Sheldon was feeling about his element being taken away, but the dating analogy seemed a bit harsh when Leonard was standing right there). This week, however, both stories worked, and let’s face it, sitcoms have to re-set most developments most of the time or their ‘situation’ would change too much and the show might not work any more.

We’ll just choose to see the whole situation as an homage to Star Trek and enjoy the funny, of which there was plenty this week – our favourite laugh-out-loud moment being Sheldon’s response to Leonard reassuring him that Raj’s dog is in a crate and can’t get out, “I have two words for you: Jurassic Park.” And with that, we’ll leave you to work out who Sheldon’s nine friends are (ten including Howard)…

(We’d suggest: Leonard, Penny, Amy, Raj, Wil Wheaton, Stephen Hawking, Professor Proton, Stuart, Bernadette, Howard).

Read Juliette's review of the previous episode, The Thanksgiving Decoupling, here.

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