This review contains spoilers.
7.15 The Locomotive Manipulation
The Big Bang Theory is going on a short hiatus for a couple of weeks, so this year’s Valentine’s Day episode aired this week. While Leonard and Penny stay home dog-sitting for Raj (who is working), Amy has organised a trip for herself, Sheldon, Howard and Bernadette, staying at a bed and breakfast in the Napa valley overnight and having dinner on a vintage train.
Unsurprisingly, this episode is all about romance. The old cliché that drama requires conflict isn’t always completely true – happiness can also be dramatic and interesting, especially in comedy – but it is true that a stable, happily married couple’s romantic stories are inherently less exciting than a less stable couple, a single person looking for someone or a couple who have yet to consummate their relationship. It makes sense, then, that Howard and Bernadette are part of Amy’s story rather than having a plot of their own, though Bernadette’s insistence on taking credit for Howard going into space is as amusing as it is infuriating (and a good example of the reversal of gender stereotypes that provides a lot of the comedy in their marriage, as Bernadette patronises Howard and takes credit for his achievements). Quite how Amy persuaded them that a double date involving Sheldon would be a good idea for Valentine’s Day is a bit of a mystery, but perhaps they just felt sorry for her. Her face as they kiss and exchange ‘I love yous’ in front of her is priceless.
Raj has booked some extra time with the big telescope to take his mind off things on Valentine’s Day, but his plans are interrupted after he asks Leonard and Penny to dog-sit for the night. Thankfully they don’t enact the sitcom cliché of leaving the door open and letting the dog escape, which is an immense relief; Leonard’s mistake in leaving the chocolates out and accidentally poisoning Cinnamon seems much more plausible, especially assuming he doesn’t know much about dogs. It all works out well in the end as Raj gets the attractive vet’s phone number, though whether or not we see her again remains to be seen. (As a person who has gone through life named ‘Juliette’, I predict that she will not react well to Raj’s Yvette/a vet joke). It doesn’t really matter if we don’t see her – Raj enjoyed a sweet flirtation and got a phone number on Valentine’s Day, which is a nice break for him.
The really big news in this episode is, of course, Amy and Sheldon. Following last year’s Valentine’s Day episode, in which Amy offered to do something Sheldon would be comfortable with, this year she is determined to enjoy the sort of Valentine’s Day she wants. Knowing that Sheldon would hate that, she’s arranged for dinner on one of his beloved vintage trains in an attempt at a compromise. While Sheldon loves the train and has a fantastic night he is, of course, oblivious to the point of compromise and abandons Amy to talk about trains with an equally train-obsessed fellow passenger (the waiter’s weary aside to the effect that he’s very familiar with this man is a nice touch).
Things finally start to improve for Amy when she confronts Sheldon about his complete neglect of her feelings. (In other circumstances, complaining about wanting all the trappings of romance for Valentine’s Day regardless of your other half’s feelings might come across as selfish or whiny, but both the amount of effort Amy’s gone to regarding avoiding baths with feet and booking Sheldon his own room, plus last year’s Valentine’s which was all about Sheldon, help to ensure that she is pretty firmly in the right in demanding just a little compromise from him). In the middle of angrily demanding what it is she wants (referring to wine as ‘grape juice that burns!’ which made us laugh), Sheldon kisses Amy on the lips to demonstrate how pointless and unpleasant it is. Except he manages to demonstrate the opposite, as he clearly gets into the kiss and finally kisses her properly for the first time.
The best thing about the way this scene plays out is that, although Amy has demanded that Sheldon pay more attention to her, she hasn’t specifically demanded a kiss or forced him into it, and he seems to enjoy it as much as she does. When he asks her to come visit the engine room with him afterwards, he finally seems to be reaching a point where she is as important to him as his other interests, and he wants to share them with her. No matter how much Amy wants a more traditional relationship with Sheldon, it will only really work if they both want it, and this is a positive sign indicating that might, someday, happen. Meanwhile, she seems pretty happy with how her Valentine’s worked out.
Sheldon’s attitude on returning and telling Leonard about his weekend more or less says it all in terms of where he’s got to. He is very happy, having made a new friend who likes train as much as he does, kissed Amy on the lips, and heard the nine-fingered conductor play banjos. Leonard is incredulous at the way he delivers this news, asking ‘Are all those things equal to you?’ They are, of course, but for Sheldon that’s a huge leap forward. For a man who hates physical intimacy to consider kissing on the lips as equal in excitement with his other passions is a big step, and an appropriately romantic milestone for a Valentine’s Day episode.
Read Juliette’s review of the previous episode, The Convention Conundrum, here.
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