This review contains spoilers.
6.1 The Date Night Variable
In case you missed the last season of The Big Bang Theory, here’s your recap: Sheldon and Amy dropped the slash in the boy-slash-friend and girl-slash-friend, Leonard proposed to Penny mid-coitus, Howard married Bernadette and then rocketed off to space, and Raj continued to be sadder than a box full of injured puppies.
We pick up not long after, with Howard having arguments with both his mum and his wife over living arrangements once he returns to earth. Naturally, his mother wants him to stay in her home and Howard, neither able to stand up to her nor to Bernadette, lies his face off and tells another crew member that he intends to solve the problem of them finding out by simply…staying in space. Forever. Because apparently drinking recycled urine is a better option than having that argument out. And while there’s certainly comedy in Howard’s codependent relationship with his mother, as someone who has been watching this show for six years now, I’m tired of the same joke over and over. As a fan of Howard, I’m ready to see him strike out on his own. There’s just as much humour – and much fresher humour it is – in seeing him adjust to having to do things on his own and having to deal with married life.
Meanwhile, Sheldon and Amy are on a special date night for their two-year anniversary, with Raj in tow so that Sheldon can outsource the intimacy and conversation requirements “to an Indian” since he left a loophole in the Relationship Agreement so that those things didn’t have to necessarily come from him. I’m a big fan of the Sheldon and Amy relationship. As someone with Asperger’s myself, I’m not used to seeing representations of myself on TV. Seeing Sheldon navigate a relationship with an allistic (non-autistic) person has been a real treat for me. But even I can’t deny that sometimes the writers take that one step too far and have Sheldon cross over from oblivious to cruel. This episode was a great example of that line being crossed.
However, ultimately, I enjoyed the final Sheldon and Amy moments of the episode, where she asked for something from the heart and he quoted Spider-Man to her. Some might say that since they weren’t his own words, he didn’t mean them, but that’s not true. Spend five minutes around geeks and you’ll notice that even when talking about serious things, we tend to slip in references. References are how some of us communicate – it’s our language, our touchstone. For some geeks, particularly ones like me and Sheldon, who aren’t good at expressing our feelings, often the only way we can think of to truly get our meaning across is to quote something that made us feel something similar to what we need to say. That’s what Sheldon does here. He “doesn’t know what he feels,” but he knows that that speech describes the way he feels about Amy. That’s why she says, “I’ll take it.” Because of all the characters on this show, she’s the only one who takes the time to understand the way his brain works, rather than just make fun of him for it. She understands that just because the words aren’t his, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t from the heart.
Unfortunately for another couple on this show, it’s not all romantic speeches and fancy restaurants. For Leonard and Penny, their night starts quite the opposite: football, beer, and “go sports” painted on Leonard’s stomach in an attempt to smooth things over after the failed proposal. After having been kicked out of Sheldon and Amy’s date, Raj winds up with the two of them, pointing out that even though they’ve had troubles, in the end, they still love each other. But Leonard makes a very good point: Penny has never told Leonard she loves him, even after all this time. Even after some harsh badgering from Raj that gets him ejected from their date. No word on what happened after, but I can only imagine that it didn’t end well.
And finally we come to Raj, who sadly wanders into the comic book shop after having been kicked out of two dates in one evening. Stuart, who has been officially promoted to series regular, offers to pour Raj a “sad-tini” and the two turn on the radio and begin to dance. Upon realizing that things are getting a little weird, Raj turns to go, but stops and asks Stuart if he’d like to go to dinner and a movie the next night. After Stuart points out that he can’t afford to, Raj offers to pay and leaves after Stuart agrees, leaving Stuart to muse, “I could do worse.”
I have to say that I’m happy with Kevin Sussman’s promotion to series regular, although I haven’t been happy with recent developments in Stuart’s character. He was originally introduced as a successful businessman who was good with the ladies (let’s not forget that he once dated Penny!) and has slowly descended into the broken man we see before us: his business is failing, no one wants anything that comes out of him, and he spends his nights drinking “sad-tinis.” I have to say that I infinitely preferred the character when he had everything together. That said, I’m excited to see a Raj and Stuart friendship developing, especially now that Howard is both married and off in space, leaving Raj even more lonely than before. If the writers continue to develop that friendship and integrate Stuart into the group more, I think he’ll make a great addition to the main cast.
All in all, a solid episode and a great way to start season six and catch us up on where all of our characters are in their lives. Here’s to hoping they can maintain this momentum over the season.
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