The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 13 review: The Occupation Recalibration

Review Juliette Harrisson 10 Jan 2014 - 16:58

Bringing the supporting cast centre-stage works wonders for the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory...

This review contains spoilers.

7.13 The Occupation Recalibration

I was pretty harsh on The Big Bang Theory last week. I’m happy to say this week’s outing was much stronger and seems to be moving the show out of the cycle it appeared to have got stuck in last episode – with one glaring exception that may or may not be resolved in the weeks to come.

The two B plots of this episode (it’s hard to say which was more slight) were structured according to the successful formula the show has adopted for much of this season – one old and generally fruitful pairing (Howard and Raj, with the addition of Amy) and one fresh, new pairing. Bernadette and Stuart is a great idea, purely on the basis that this particular combination of characters is so new there’s scope for new jokes and new stories. The specific plot they’re given is very thin, and not especially hilarious, but it’s amusing enough (especially the disconnect between Bernadette’s angry tone and her words in her final scene, something Melissa Rauch always does well) and it’s rather heart-warming to see her stand up for poor Stuart. Amy, meanwhile, gets to be the desired person with a boyfriend and a social life rejecting someone she feels sorry for, placing her in the opposite position to the one she occupied during her early seasons with Penny and Bernadette, so that’s satisfying, if not especially hilarious either.

It’s nice to see Amy and Bernadette firmly cement their places among the cast as well. Although they’ve both been regulars for some time, it was only in the first episode of this season that they had their first plot with each other, i.e. without an original cast member, so to see Amy share a story with Raj and Howard (and even take Sheldon’s place at the lunch table) and Bernadette share a plot with the ever under-used Stuart demonstrates a confidence in these characters and their place in the show’s world that’s good to see.

The big story in this episode, though, is Penny, Leonard and Sheldon. Penny and Leonard’s fight from the previous episode is resolved astoundingly quickly. It seems Leonard’s hesitation was, in fact, purely down to Penny’s intoxicated state so with that in mind, it’s actually quite refreshing to see a sitcom character behave in a reasonable and mature manner – Penny fully understands why Leonard didn’t want to accept her proposal in the state she was in. The only problem with this very sensible conversation is that it has little drama to it and what was built up to be a major dramatic issue in the previous episode, as so often happens in this show, turns out to be almost nothing. If you’re not going to do anything with it, why bother with a cliff-hanger?

Thankfully, all of last episode’s drama hasn’t entirely come to nothing, as Penny has taken something from her experiences and has decided to quit her job at the Cheesecake Factory. We’ve yet to see where this will lead for her, but hopefully it will open up a whole new bag of stories involving her acting career, and save the series from the repetitive state it was threatening to fall into. After watching this character struggle and get nowhere for so long, it would be wonderful if this were the start of something really exciting for Penny.

Leonard, too, has learned and is trying to be more supportive, but he accidentally lets slip what he really thinks, leading to (another) confrontation about their future. And here’s where the series leaves us hanging once again. Yet again Leonard and Penny talk about their future and what it might hold, but make no actual decisions. The scene is saved by Sheldon assuming they’re all in some kind of co-dependent relationship and that he’ll be living with them forever, which is genuinely funny. It’s hard to accept yet another argument on this subject with no resolution though. As Sheldon cries out in frustration, ‘What is going on with you two? Are you ever going to get married?’ the audience is right there with him.

It may be that the series writers simply want to give this issue more space than is available in a show that lasts under 21 minutes, and we’ll return to the topic next week. Or it may be that the whole thing will lie dormant for weeks. You can never tell with The Big Bang Theory; too often it dangles what look like ongoing issues needing resolution, never to address them again. But never mind, there are plenty of positives here. Penny and Sheldon is another combination that nearly always works; his support of her, while founded in reasoning rather than affection, is sweet and the combination of Sheldon trying to do yoga and Penny’s expression when he starts talking about people drawing water up through their private parts is probably the funniest thing in the episode. Penny’s career may finally start to move forward now, and the sub-plots are back to offering a fresher take on these characters. Based on this episode, things are once again looking good for The Big Bang Theory in 2014.

Read Juliette's review of the previous episode, The Hesitation Ramification, here.

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