The Big Bang Theory season 11 episode 13 review: The Solo Oscillation

The Big Bang Theory mines a rich seam this week: the pairing of Sheldon and Penny...

This review contains spoilers.

11.13 The Solo Oscillation

We may all be agreed that The Big Bang Theory is long past its best at this point, but it does still have some tools in its arsenal and The Solo Oscillation proves it.

We begin with Raj bringing the group newspapers citing his planetarium show as ‘something to do this weekend’, and this kicks off a chain reaction of the group wondering what their purpose in life is. Is Amy being smart marrying Sheldon when things are already so good between them? Why does Penny still feel inferior when Leonard finds a science buddy? Did Sheldon make a mistake dumping string theory for dark matter? Should Howard give up his hobbies to help support his family?

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The answer to that last one might seem obvious given the (albeit outside of the show’s control) position Bernadette’s been in all season, but then stopping Howard from jamming with Raj in Footprints on the Moon might be more trouble than it’s worth.

So, yes, the band is back and better than ever. I’ll get to the episode’s other secret weapon in a second, but first let’s just appreciate the fact that The Big Bang Theory has used this thread so sparingly that the joke is still funny. Adding Bert is just icing on the cake of a storyline that includes hits such as ‘Let’s Get Astrophysical’ and ‘Sherlock Around the Clock’.

Bert steps up when Howard decides he should put his fatherhood duties before fun and games, but quitting the band just directs his creative energy into a solo astronaut musical. Unable to take it, Bernie orders him to rejoin Footprints on the Moon before she goes insane.

Good episodes of this show almost always come down to which pairings the writers decide to feature and, though I’ll always enjoy a little ‘Shamy’ here and there, it’s nice to have a Penny and Sheldon episode. Leonard and Amy have also proven in the past to be golden together, here bonding over old science fair projects and spelling bees.

Their enthusiastic bonding (Amy has been kicked out of the apartment by a listless but determined Sheldon) leads Penny across the hall. She’s on top form for this entire episode, from gleeful newspaper boat creation to understandable amazement at stuffed crust pizza, but it’s when she gets into string theory with Sheldon that the episode really comes alive.

Magical unicorn that she is, not only does Penny help Sheldon understand why he’s been so unenthused by Dark Matter – it’s his rebound science to make him feel pretty again – but she gladly acts as a blank surface for him to bounce ideas against. As ever, Penny is smarter than she lets on, and the different way her mind works allows Sheldon to find a new way of looking at string theory.

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Sheldon and Penny storylines are The Big Bang Theory’s bread and butter, and it helps that their storyline is supported by other solid gags and story beats throughout The Solo Oscillation. All in all, the show has been strong since its return this year, and a few more episodes like this would go a long way.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Matrimonial Metric, here.