The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 17 review: The Friendship Turbulence

Review Juliette Harrisson 7 Mar 2014 - 13:51

The Big Bang Theory remains fresh and funny well into its seventh year. Here's Juliette's review of this week's episode...

This review contains spoilers.

7.17 The Friendship Turbulence

In this week’s Big Bang Theory, Leonard manages to be genuinely supportive of Penny’s acting career, Amy tries to help Raj get a date and Sheldon ends up holding hands with Howard longer than he ever has with Amy thanks to some well-timed turbulence.

Leonard opens this episode once again frustrating Penny with his inability to understand her choices in a career that’s quite different from his own and a situation in which it’s impossible to see what is, ultimately, the best thing to do. He makes up for it, though, by coming to her rescue at the end of the episode with the sort of grand, financially-based romantic gesture rarely seen outside of Jane Austen novels.

Penny’s problem, as her car breaks down at the worst possible time, is at once both painfully relatable and the culmination of one of the show’s oldest running gags – her eternally lit-up ‘Check Engine’ light. It was strangely satisfying to hear Sheldon observe that it had finally gone off just as her car stuttered its way to the great big garage in the sky. Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (she married tennis player Ryan Sweeting last December) is excellent in the scene in which she talks to Leonard in the hall about how her life is falling apart, constantly on the edge of tears but just about holding it together enough not to fall apart completely, and it’s nice to see Penny lean on Leonard in this way as well, despite their recent fight about her career. His solution may put her slightly awkwardly in his debt (something the show may follow up on in the future, though given that this is The Big Bang Theory we’re talking about, probably not) but it’s the only one that will keep her out of the Cheesecake Factory and a lovely gesture of support on his part.

We can only hope that these developments lead to more glimpses of Penny’s burgeoning acting career, a potential comedy goldmine that the show has bizarrely failed to capitalise on over the years. Perhaps the show-runners are afraid of looking too much like they’re trying to ape Friends and Joey’s occasional forays into terrible acting in dreadful plays, adverts and soap operas, but there’s an essential difference between Joey and Penny; Joey was a bad actor in bad productions, but it’s been established that although Penny can’t sing, she is a genuinely decent actress, albeit one who hasn’t had many decent roles. We’re still sad we were denied the chance to see her running around the Serial Apeist sequel with giant gorilla hands and feet yelling “Must keep gorilla hands from killing again!”

The show’s other sweet storyline this week followed Sheldon and Howard attempting to make a genuine connection as friends and get over their ten-year feud. It’s nice to see Bernadette stick up for her husband and to see Sheldon and Howard acknowledge that they’ve spent a lot of the last decade together and should probably try to repair what has always been the least close relationship of the group (unsurprisingly, considering Sheldon compared Howard to Hawkeye, the one from The Avengers not M*A*S*H, and Howard got Sheldon subscribed to Granny on Granny – we will never be able to erase that mental image). Of course, it takes a shared terror of turbulence to bring them together, but at least Howard is vindicated in having perhaps gone a little overboard in his attempt to connect with Sheldon thanks to losing track of what Bernadette was saying the night before.

This episode’s third plot sees Raj ask Amy for help with online dating, which considering Amy found Sheldon that way makes a lot of sense (although the fact that it was Howard and Raj pretending to be Sheldon that she found isn’t a great advert for this approach to meeting someone). As Amy tries her best to help him but fails in the face of Raj’s unique combination of shyness and creepiness, it becomes increasingly clear that Raj may have been better off when he couldn’t talk to women. Although too shy to email a woman himself, when he does pluck up the courage to talk to someone, he starts spouting cod-poetic nonsense in an extremely creepy way and won’t stop no matter how much Amy tries to explain why it isn’t working. Hopefully at some point, Raj will get tired, distracted or drunk enough to be himself around a woman and he might get somewhere, but until then he and Amy will just have to share their copy of Lies I Tell To Get Sex.

This episode continues this season’s effective policy of combining long-standing character combinations with newer ones, as Leonard and Penny’s story is matched up with less common Sheldon/Howard and Amy/Raj combinations. Combined with storylines that continue to move the characters forward one step at a time, this ensures that the show is still fresh and funny even well into its seventh year.

Read Juliette's review of the previous episode, The Table Polarization, here.

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