This review contains spoilers.
12.6 The Imitation Perturbation
If there’s one thing that geeks love to do, it’s dress up. Fitting, then, that we get one last Halloween episode from The Big Bang Theory crew that not only sees the gang wear multiple costumes (of varying quality), but also sees the plot revolve around the ‘good humour’ limits of unflattering imitation.
The episode’s big argument begins when Howard, perhaps sensing his chance to get one last dig in before the end, dresses up as Sheldon for Halloween. Everyone gets a kick out of it except the joke’s subject, who has to have it explained to him before he even realises he’s the object of ridicule.
The joke is funny for the audience precisely because it’s used sparingly, with Howard quickly changing into a different costume for Leonard and Penny’s impromptu party later that evening. The Sheldon costume is used entirely to make Sheldon feel bad and to make Leonard and Raj laugh, but Sheldon doesn’t take too kindly to it at all. When Amy notices her husband’s hurt feelings and confronts a derisive Bernadette about it, she’s equally angered by their friends’ insensitivity.
Cue Sheldon and Amy returning the favour and turning up to the party dressed as Howard and Bernadette, with the prize going to Amy for her spot-on impression of Bernadette’s (notably put on by the actress) high-pitched voice and mannerisms. It’s a cutting observation of how Bernadette constantly uses her femininity to get away with being cruel and abrasive, and her rebuttal that she’s had to be that way in order for people to take her seriously feels equally true.
The Mary Poppins couples costume also deserves applause, and Leonard’s Inspector Gadget is brilliant. There’s always one who uses impractical props.
Leonard and Penny get to provide this week’s dose of nostalgia, as they argue over when their first kiss took place back in the first season. Leonard believes it correctly to have been on Halloween, but Penny insists that his birthday was actually the night when they took the plunge. It turns out later that she has jettisoned the first instance from her internal canon because she feels bad about how it went down.
It’s true that Halloween wasn’t a very flattering time for Penny, who was drunk and crying over her then-boyfriend. Ah, the ye olde days of Penny living across the hall and dating terrible men. The whole thing leads to a very touching exchange between them, as Leonard agrees to shift his memories to match hers so that they can have a good story to tell.
Also winning in the romance department is Raj, who brings Anu to the party dressed as the US Constitution (over the Bill of Tights) to his Ruth (‘Kooth’) Bader Ginsburg. There’s nothing not to love about this – not only is Raj willing to dress in feminist drag in front of his fiance, but she’s completely game to play along with their first couple’s costume. Those two crazy kids might be the healthiest couple of all once we’re done, despite their unconventional start.
All in all The Imitation Perturbation was a fun last Halloween for The Big Bang Theory, and one full of little touches – like Stuart’s makeshift butterfly costume or Amy saving Sheldon from having to watch Halloween with the boys – that elevated it above a main plot that felt slightly redundant.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Planetarium Collision, here.