The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 8 review: The Itchy Brain Simulation

Leonard is made to understand what it's like to be Sheldon in this week's entertainingly self-aware episode of The Big Bang Theory...

This review contains spoilers.

7.8 The Itchy Brain Simulation

Sheldon gives Leonard an idea of what it feels like to be him, while Raj’s love life continues to be a disaster area in an episode that is guaranteed, no matter what you’re wearing, to make you itch constantly for its entire running time.

Having unearthed an old DVD that he failed to return to the rental store seven years ago, Leonard is terrified of Sheldon’s reaction and makes a desperate pre-emptive plea for him not to overreact. Sheldon, however, to everyone’s surprise, is fine (Penny gets freaked out by this unnatural calm and has to leave the room). But Sheldon has thought of a way to make Leonard understand what unresolved issues feel like for him, and why it doesn’t feel like ‘over-reacting’ from his perspective – he forces Leonard to wear an ugly and, more importantly, itchy woolly jumper with nothing underneath it until the issue is resolved. This will simulate the itchiness he feels in his head whenever something is left unresolved.

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The great thing about this plot is that it allows Johnny Galecki as Leonard to play some broad comedy while Jim Parsons as Sheldon gets to be the straight guy for once, which after so many years is a nice role reversal. Galecki gets to do some fun physical comedy, while Parsons’ maintained calm, as Penny observes in the opening, is so different from Sheldon’s normal behaviour that it’s positively unnerving. The make-up department also have fun making Leonard’s reaction to the wool of the jumper more and more extreme, though this perhaps backfires a little bit towards the end as poor Leonard appears to be in so much pain that the whole thing starts to go beyond a joke a bit.

Of course, we all know that there will be a reason for Sheldon’s calm, and while Amy, with a combination of fear and pride, calls it ‘diabolical,’ it certainly demonstrates the one thing that Sheldon is so proud of about himself but that he so rarely demonstrates outside of theoretical physics – he really is very clever. Leonard, having railed against Sheldon’s ‘over-reactions’ at the beginning, is driven crazy and his behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as a result of the constant tension caused by the jumper, which is a lovely metaphor for how Sheldon feels about many things, and once again shows a level of respect for Sheldon and for his condition that hasn’t always been obvious in previous years, but has been coming to the fore towards the end of season six and in this season.

In the B plot, thanks to Penny, Raj first tries to get back together with Lucy, then tries going out on a blind date, both disastrously. Lucy is seeing someone else, which perhaps explains why she’s a little more comfortable talking and asking for a different waitress than she was before (we like to think she’s playing her ukulele for Ted from Scrubs, as Kate Micucci will always be Gooch to us). Raj scares off his other date by behaving as terrifyingly with her as he has with many women before, the only difference this time being that he doesn’t have the excuse of being drunk, as he can now take women out for coffee. It’s all fairly forgettable.

This episode was enjoyable enough – our laugh-out-loud moment of the night was probably Amy and Bernadette leaning over the bar to get their own drinks while Penny spends her time berating Lucy, though the late reveal that the DVD that’s caused so much trouble was Super Mario Bros. The Movie was pretty funny too. Season seven of the The Big Bang Theory is also pleasingly self-aware, throwing in quick jokes about why the guys never use the dartboard in the apartment as well as more substantial storylines addressing the characters’ ongoing issues like Sheldon’s here. Overall, though, this episode just ticks along, never quite hitting the comedic or emotional highs the show is capable of at its best.

Read Juliette’s review of the previous episode, The Proton Displacement, here.

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