This review contains spoilers.
9.21 The Viewing Party Combustion
I really wasn’t looking forward to this episode. With the exception of The Opening Night Excitation – a tour de force for The Big Bang Theory of the variety it hasn’t seen in years, whenever the show tries too hard to be topical, or calls on a piece of geek culture that isn’t Star Trek and Leonard Nimoy, it almost always comes off as desperate and cloying.
But The Viewing Party Combustion was actually a really good time – one of those semi bottle episodes that brings everyone together and just plays around with the relationships built over the last nine years. It proves that, when the show realises it’s a stupid sitcom about which very few people care (despite its gargantuan number of weekly viewers) it can actually do some pretty fun stuff with its formula. This, an ordinary episode about characters and relationships wrapped in Game of Thrones wrapping, surprised me.
We start where a lot of episodes sadly start – Sheldon being Sheldon and Leonard getting annoyed. In this particular instance, however, Leonard is the one shown to be in the wrong, throwing a fit over something that’s been a part of their friendship since the very beginning, and something that just so happens to be incredibly important to Sheldon’s emotional wellbeing.
So this is The Big Bang Theory in its second mode, in which some characters acknowledge that Sheldon needs to have certain allowances made in order to protect him from significant distress, rather than the version of the show that simply plays his behaviour for easy laughs. Three guesses which one I prefer.
It’s also the one where Penny and Sheldon’s incredibly close ‘ET/Elliot’ bond is acknowledged and used for dramatic effect, with both Leonard and Amy discussing the sometimes negative effect it can have on their respective relationships. It’s been fully established that any episode that uses Penny and Sheldon’s dynamic is going to be a winner, but I also love it when Leonard and Amy get to do scenes together.
And therein lies the episode’s strength, as it allows people who don’t usually get to share moments to play off of each other for once.
Then there’s Raj, who flip-flops in personality almost as often as the show does. Not tired of dragging the Emily/Claire decision out as long as humanly possible, it’s revealed this week that he’s instead decided to date both of them at once. No mention is made as to whether either girl is aware of the situation, but then the show has never been too interested in the thoughts and opinions of whoever Raj dates.
Some of the gags involving his bragging to Howard about the new and uncharted situation he’s found himself in produced actual laughs from me, but it doesn’t stop it from being the weaker part of the episode. Truth be told, I’d be far more interested in this supposed love triangle if we ever saw the two girls or heard from them beyond what Raj tells us. Maybe the writers are just testing to see who is more popular among the audience? If that’s the case, then I’d probably go for Claire.
So The Viewing Party Combustion was a much better episode than I expected, choosing to delve into its characters (albeit momentarily and not very deeply) rather than go for the easy Game Of Thrones references that really could have filled the whole twenty minutes.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Big Bear Precipitation, here.