The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 21 review: The Anything Can Happen Recurrence

Several characters need to take a good hard look at themselves in this week's episode...

This review contains spoilers.

7.21 The Anything Can Happen Recurrence

Throughout its seventh season, The Big Bang Theory has been looking back over the years it’s been running and constantly re-evaluating and examining itself. That trend continues in this episode, in which Amy admits that she’s a little jealous of Penny’s connection with Sheldon – not romantically jealous, but aware that the two have a closeness that she has struggled to establish with him herself.

Reflection and self-examination is both the plot and the theme of this episode. Leonard and Penny suggest re-instating ‘Anything Can Happen Thursday’ to take Sheldon’s mind off his dilemma over what area of research to devote himself to in the future. Once out in the world contemplating Asian fusion restaurants, they discover that Amy and Bernadette have lied to them and gone out with each other because they are tired of listening to Sheldon worry about what to do next and Penny complain about the terrible ape-based horror movie she’s been making (apparently the director insists that, “It’s important to the story that my boobs be the last things to turn ape” to which Leonard replies, “It’s sweet that he thinks there’s a story”).

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When Leonard is unable to lie to Penny and implicitly admits he’s tired of hearing about the movie too, Penny takes Sheldon away for dinner so that they can moan to each other in peace, which is what prompts Amy to consider her boyfriend and her best friend’s relationship (while observing that she and Leonard don’t hang out together because it’s weird). Penny and Sheldon’s friendship is one of the sweetest, strongest aspects of the show so hopefully this doesn’t indicate any future ruptures or problems between them and Amy – but that seems unlikely. It’s more an overt acknowledgement of something that has always been the case, something the show has been doing all season.

During the course of their conversation, Amy and Bernadette also reveal to Leonard that his relationship with Penny may not be quite as honest as he thinks it is. When Leonard says he and Penny have a relationship based on honesty, Amy and Bernadette both smirk and are forced to clarify that he doesn’t lie to her. This particular train of thought sticks out as something that would seem to be quite important to Leonard, but which is least commented on and left unresolved at the end of the story – whether it will play a part in the last few episodes of the season remains to be seen.

Howard and Bernadette have little need for self-reflection because they are so genuinely open with each other all the time – they know who they are and who the other person is and they’re happy with it. Bernadette has lied to Howard as well because she didn’t want to spend the evening with his mother, but Howard’s only response when Penny rats her out is a gleeful “I’m having sex with a Catholic schoolgirl tonight!” This is clearly not the first time this has happened, and neither appear to have any problem with it, because they are so genuinely comfortable with each other.

Howard and Raj are at Howard’s mother’s house, though not, of course, actually spending any time with Howard’s mother. They spend the evening reflecting partly on themselves but mostly on the little they know of Raj’s new girlfriend Emily. Emily wants to watch a gory horror movie, which Raj isn’t too keen on, so he asks Howard to watch it with him first so he’ll know what’s coming. You might wonder why he’s so sensitive, presuming that all the guys watch Game of Thrones, but the movie Howard and Raj describe is sufficiently (and weirdly plausibly) horrible that it’s clearly full-on torture porn, a step beyond even the most extreme of mainstream dramas. Poor Raj is not impressed and wonders why he can’t go out with a girl who likes The Sound of Music (Howard’s answer is, of course, that this is Raj’s role) but Howard points out that “She could have a freezer full of ex-boyfriends’ body parts and you’d still go out with her!” Raj is forced to admit that, “I do like that the ex-boyfriend’s out of the picture.” Poor Raj is so desperate at this point that it would take an awful lot to put him off.

He is a little bothered by Emily’s preference for gory movies, but when she admits that they turn her on, that desperation pulls him through again and he sits back happily. Combined with Emily’s previous comments about slicing people up, there’s a slight concern that Emily is being portrayed as a more extreme version of Bernadette (whose approach to microbiology can be a bit gleeful concerning the more dangerous aspects of it sometimes) but hopefully she’ll acquire a few more personality traits beyond ‘slightly sadistic’ if she sticks around.

The episode culminates in Penny somehow persuading Sheldon to see a psychic to help him with his dilemma about his future (did she get him drunk? Psychics are “extra jumbo mumbo jumbo” after all). In a way, this is the ultimate act of self-reflection. Psychics pick up on people’s personality traits and make educated guesses to tell them what they want to hear, something Sheldon is well aware of as he points out, when told he has a problem with a woman, that “I’m clearly an annoying person, I have problems with both genders!”

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When the psychic tells him that he needs to sort out his relationship with this woman and everything else will fall into place, she strikes such a nerve that he calls “malarkey” and storms out. In the grand tradition of fictional prophecies, this is bound to come true, and seems to be a statement of intent for the last few episodes of the season, or possibly setting up new storylines for the next three seasons – Sheldon needs to give himself completely (in whatever sense) to Amy to get his life in order.

As we near the end of this season, the constant theme of self-evaluation seems to be paying off and moving these characters forward in various ways. The show can’t keep reflecting on itself forever though – at some point it will have to stop talking about moving forward and actually do so. Hopefully the various self-examinations in this episode are setting up plots and themes that will be followed through over the next few years, as well as the last few episodes of this season.

Read Juliette’s review of the previous episode, The Relationship Diremption, here.

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