The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 5 review: The Workplace Proximity
The Big Bang Theory combines relationship trouble with monkey and laser fun this week...
This review contains spoilers.
7.5 The Workplace Proximity
When Amy comes to work at the boys’ university for a while, it kicks off a sequence of events that ends up with Sheldon being shut out in the hallway with a bag of mutton and Howard staying over with Raj and watching The Princess Bride. Only Leonard and Penny remain largely unaffected, their attempts to help mostly restricted to assuming, without hearing any of the details, that if Amy says Sheldon embarrassed her socially, she is obviously right and Sheldon is in the wrong.
That statement, and Penny and Leonard’s unquestioning assumption that Sheldon has indeed behaved inappropriately, demonstrates just how far Amy’s character has come since she was first introduced. Amy is much, much better in social situations than Sheldon; whether or not she is comfortable doing so, she is able to communicate in a polite and appropriate fashion with other members of her department. In contrast, in her early appearances, Amy was as bad as Sheldon if not worse, and regularly accidentally insulted Penny.
Some of the change is the result of the small changes made to her character after she became a series regular, particularly her slightly altered attitude to interpersonal relationships (rather than not desiring friendships or romantic relationships like Sheldon, she becomes a deeply lonely person who wants such relationships in her life, but has been unable to find them). Some of it, however, might be attributed to the amount of time Amy has spent with Penny and Bernadette, who presumably have demonstrated more effective ways to communicate with other people to her. It’s nice to see the show incorporate long-term character development like this, and Amy has certainly been a more interesting character since she moved on from being a female version of Sheldon about two thirds of the way through season four.
Much of this episode is entirely focused on Sheldon and Amy, but the B story, such as it is, revolves around Howard and Bernadette, who are having similar problems, set off by Sheldon’s lack of understanding of things your friend says that aren’t intended to be repeated to his wife. Both plots reach a point where it looks like they will be resolved with a heartfelt apology, but both guys stumble at the last hurdle. In Sheldon’s case he, as always, sees only Amy’s flaws, and not his own (and to be fair to him, she isn’t the most socially adept person herself, even now). In Howard’s case, he feeds Bernadette’s fears by preferring to spend time with Raj and the guys over her. Their story is a little underwritten, but it works all the same, largely because Bernadette’s fears are rooted in something that’s demonstrably true of Howard’s behaviour over the course of the show. We certainly see him spending a lot of time with his friends, so Bernadette’s concern that her prefers their company to hers may not be entirely unfounded.
As an episode revolving entirely around serious arguments between couples in long-term relationships, this all sounds pretty heavy, but it’s broken up with some decent jokes, continuing to fulfil the requirements of the ‘com’ part of ‘sitcom’. We especially liked the use of Amy’s monkey experiment to break up a mid-episode argument between her and Sheldon by showing Sheldon and the monkey’s identical reactions to a series of frightening images. Amy’s various monkey-torture experiments are always fun to watch. We also liked Amy’s idea of a steamy date night (Sheldon looking up phallic symbols in Renaissance art) but our favourite laugh-out-loud moment of the night was probably Bernadette’s response to Amy asking if she’s done such an experiment on humans. “You mean like death row inmates with nothing to lose?” says Bernadette. “No, that would be unethical.” It’s not a convincing denial. Evil Bernadette is our favourite Bernadette – we suspect that one day in the near future, she’ll just go for it and try for world domination. She’d be good at it, too.
Not all the jokes land – we were mildly uncomfortable with some of the Sri Lankan jokes. Later though, there is an implicit acknowledgement that ethnic humour is not always appreciated when Sheldon claims it’s the best kind of humour, in the process of demonstrating his characteristic total lack of understanding of other people. Overall, the hit to miss ratio in the jokes continues to favour the ‘hits’.
The Big Bang Theory is never especially strong on resolution, but this episode is even more unresolved than usual, with both Amy and Bernadette not speaking to their respective partners – whether or not this will be followed up in the next episode remains to be seen. The guys firing lasers at balloons at least provided a good sight gag to go out on, despite a vague notion that they probably shouldn’t be aiming the lasers at the door (mind you, these are the guys who accidentally blew up the elevator). We’ll have to wait until next week to find out if this is the beginning of an arc, or just a road-bump in the characters’ personal relationships.
Read Juliette's review of the previous episode, The Raiders Minimization, here.
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