This review contains spoilers.
11.5 The Collaboration Contamination
When all else fails on The Big Bang Theory, the writers seem to fall back on a shakeup of dynamics. They did the the arc where Sheldon and Raj teamed up at work, and the awkward hilarity of the scavenger hunt pairings a couple of years back, and now it appears we’ll be allowed to enjoy a new friendship between Howard and Amy.
Well calling it ‘new’ is a bit of a stretch, but then nothing is exactly new or fresh on a show that’s been running for more than a decade. At this stage, most viewers are happy to settle for something they don’t see week in week out and, despite the familiar residual emotional impact on Sheldon and Raj, this apparently ongoing storyline (it doesn’t resolve) is going to offer that.
The pairing comes about when Amy needs an engineer to help with a project, and this leads to the two of them spending long days and nights in the lab. But co-dependent as their friends and loved ones are, this commitment to work throws everyone for a loop. Sheldon feels threatened, Raj is jealous, Leonard is back to being the designated driver and Bernadette has to deal with all of their complaints.
Simon Helberg has long been one of my favourite actors of the core group, and watching him and Mayim Bialik goof around with close-up magic and dancing to Neil Sedaka is an absolute treat. Past experience indicates that the fun will be short-lived before we return to the status quo, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
And there are some good gags scattered throughout the episode – from Sheldon’s attempts at bitching about Howard using morse code, to really everything Bernadette does from the comfort of her suddenly very crowded kitchen.
Meanwhile, Penny thinks she’s found a new way to soothe Sheldon when he’s having a tantrum via a parenting book Bernadette leaves at their apartment. Though Leonard has a small panic attack about why his wife is reading such a book, they soon begin plotting over how they can use the techniques to manipulate their friend into being more manageable.
It’s slightly unbelievable that the Sheldon of season eleven would fall for such transparent attempts to placate him during a meltdown (though it certainly would have worked in the past), but it’s fun to see Leonard and Penny argue about potential child-rearing styles. Really, I’m shocked that the show hasn’t gone there yet with them, and I’m waiting for the reason why to become apparent this season.
Tricking Sheldon into doing Howard’s chores by claiming he’d become just as jealous as Sheldon is about how much time he’s spending with Amy is the far more plausible version of Penny’s parenting methods. He genuinely believes that everyone enjoys these kinds of tasks as much as he does, proven by the fact that he still cleans the oven even after the jig is up.
Though this episode felt a little undercooked overall, it did manage to weave everyone in and out of each other’s storylines better than it usually does. Sheldon was involved in the A, B and C plots, for example, and both he and Bernadette were communicating with Amy and Howard remotely. Though Leonard was mostly interacting with Penny, he did have to spend time with Sheldon in the car.
Yes, that’s the bare minimum we can ask for but, hey, credit where it’s due. The episode introduced and built upon some promising elements, and proved once again how charming this cast can be.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Explosion Implosion, here.