The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 4 review: The Raiders Minimization
Christine Baranski guests as Leonard's mother in this week's consistently funny episode of The Big Bang Theory...
This review contains spoilers.
7.4 The Raiders Minimization
This week’s The Big Bang Theory sees Leonard and Sheldon dealing once again with the fact that their girlfriends’ interests are different to their own, as Leonard tries to manipulate Penny into privileging his interests over hers, and Sheldon tries to get revenge on Amy for spoiling Raiders of the Lost Ark by spoiling something she loves. Meanwhile Raj and Stuart decide to branch out in their attempts to find partners of their own and try online dating.
Penny and Leonard’s story opens strongly, sags a bit in the middle, then picks up again with a great ending. Their initial dilemma is effective for being completely unsolvable; Penny has to read Leonard’s mother’s book for her class, but at the same time, the last thing anyone would want is for their girlfriend to read about all their most embarrassing childhood traumas, so Leonard’s objection is equally understandable. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed when this genuinely interesting plot devolves into the tired old trope of a guy emotionally manipulating his girlfriend into doing what he wants, with ‘what he wants’ consisting of watching what he enjoys on TV and having sex at work. It’s worth it, though, for the conclusion, which is also fairly unoriginal, but no less funny for it.
Amy and Sheldon’s story is also sparked by a situation in which both are a little bit in the wrong (albeit Sheldon, as usual, slightly more so). Amy should know her boyfriend well enough to know that pointing out a narrative flaw in his favourite movie will upset him, and she could have simply faked more enthusiasm for the film in the first place. On the other hand, Sheldon did ask her for her opinion, and as usual, his retribution is completely disproportionate, though very funny to watch – his frustrated admission that Pride and Prejudice is a masterpiece is great. He eventually resorts to pointing out the historical inaccuracies in Little House on the Prairie (which, we feel the need to point out since we’re a geek website and we care about these things, is a completely different sort of issue to the narrative weakness Amy finds in Raiders of the Lost Ark. All historical fiction includes some historical inaccuracy of one kind or another, and does Sheldon really think archaeology professors in the 1940s were anything like Indiana Jones?). Thankfully, Amy works out what’s happening and talks it out with him, though it’s hard not to feel a little sad that she thought her boyfriend was doing something nice for her for once when, of course, he wasn’t.
Raj and Stuart’s story is slight but sweet. The Big Bang Theory has tackled the subject of online dating before, but in previous appearances it’s always been the butt of the joke, used as a last resort or as a prank. Previously, the show has depicted one character setting up another rather than anyone choosing to do it themselves; Sheldon created an online dating profile for Penny in season two’s The Barbarian Sublimation and, of course, this is how Sheldon and Amy met, with his profile created for him by Howard and Raj while she only wrote hers to keep her mother happy.
The most refreshing thing about the treatment of online dating here is that it is treated perfectly seriously as a method for single people to meet other single people, rather than as a fringe practice used only by the truly sad and/or insane. Raj and Stuart are, of course, painfully shy, geeky people, and generally representative of the type of character TV likes to associate with online dating, but that’s because those are their established characteristics. While their shyness around women may be one of the reasons they’re trying it out, at no point does the narrative – or the laugh track – ask us to judge them for participating in online dating. Rather, the humour comes from the more sympathetic viewpoint of laughing with them at some of the painful aspects of the experience, rather than laughing at them for doing it at all (and from a classic bit of bad-photo-face acting). This is rather unusual for a sitcom, and very nice to see. It also puts Raj in the new position of being the member of the pair who’s better with girls.
Overall, another consistently funny episode. Our laugh-out-loud moment of the night is probably Penny’s observation that, “Oh my god, you still go left!” but Raj’s most attractive feature (“My parents’ money”) was pretty funny too. Ultimately, any episode that includes a guest spot from Christine Baranski as Leonard’s mother is a good episode.
Read Juliette's review of the previous episode, The Scavenger Vortex, here.
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