The Big Bang Theory: The 43 Peculiarity

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By Kevin Rigdon (@pralix 1138)

“We’re still dating, right?”

Yes, Leonard, you and Penny are indeed still dating–and there are some new developments on that front, but we’ll get to that in a few minutes.  The newest episode of The Big Bang Theory is somewhat of a throwback episode.  It’s the first episode I can recall right now that features only the original cast.  No Bernadette and no Amy Farrah Fowler, and no Wil Wheaton.  Although I do enjoy what these characters bring to the story, I like the throwback feel to this episode.  As everyone is growing and maturing, it’s nice to see they’re all still batcrap crazy (except for Sheldon, of course.  His mother did have him tested after all).

A peculiarity has arisen (see what I did there?) when the guys discover that Sheldon drops off the grid for 20 minutes every day.  This is the same guy that has spent his entire life ordering everything in his sphere of influence in an attempt to bring order to chaos.  So, where does he go?  What’s he doing?  Howard and Raj attempt to find out.  It was good to see them back together again acting like the odd married couple we knew from the earlier seasons.  They team up here to attempt to discover Sheldon’s secret.  They are not prepared for what they find.

After following Sheldon to a storage room in the basement, they wait until night and then break in after deciding on whether or not they’re cat burglars or ninjas–ninjas wins, they’ll be cat burglars next time.  In Sheldon’s hidey-hole they find a single clue: the number ‘43.’  They rack their brains to attempt to figure out what it means.  I was reminded of the episode in which Raj comes to work with, or rather for, Sheldon, and they spend all that time looking at the equation while Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger plays in the background.  I would’ve loved if they’d brought the music back here, but perhaps it would’ve messed up the back and forth between Raj and Howard and the speculations on what Sheldon’s doing down there.

Failing miserably at unraveling the conundrum, Howard installs a camera in the room.  While they’re watching, they see Sheldon open a portal to a parallel universe, the 44th parallel universe that he’s investigated.  As they watch, stricken with the image of Sheldon’s face being consumed by a miniature Chthulu, he pops up behind them and tells them he found the camera and patched a video into it.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get a ‘bazinga’ in that moment.  Regardless, Sheldon’s secret is safe.  And, what is his secret?  Hacky sack.  For 20 minutes a day, he plays hacky sack, and 43 is his personal best.

Meanwhile, old Leonard returns with all his insecurities and codependency.  Penny, continuing her education, has been paired up with a male student from England to do an oral report for history class.  Leonard immediately reverts to inferiority issues, and on this one, who can blame him?  Dude has an English accent, and Penny, whom Leonard has been in love with (or at least a Leonardesque version thereof) for the past 6 years will be working closely with him.  Let the swooning begin.  Or so Leonard thinks.

As a result of Leonard’s neurotic spying out the peephole of their apartment, and trying to meet, and intimidate, the guy as he’s walking down the stairs, we have a really nice, warm, development in the Leonard/Penny dynamic.  Leonard’s insecurities are actually somewhat valid instead of simple pathologies.  Penny is out of his league in a socially conventional sense, and he knows that.  Couple that with the fact that Penny’s never told him she loves him, and that Penny gets hit on everywhere she goes, even when he’s standing right beside her, we can see where Leonard might be a bit apprehensive.

That is, until Penny says the words he’s wanted to hear from the first time he met her.  It happened in the midst of a conversation.  There was no “moment” or buildup.  It just came out, “Leonard, why do you always do this?  You’re the one I’m with.  You know that I love you, so would you please relax because you’re driving me crazy!”  It was a great way to get the words out because it shows that it is a real reflection of what is going on in their relationship.

Penny has discovered she really does love Leonard.  She has proven that she loves him, especially throughout this new season.  And here is an interesting thing about love.  Classically, traditionally, love isn’t simply about emotion.  It’s also about behavior.  If Penny says she loves Leonard without the proof, the words themselves are meaningless.  I think, deep down, Penny realizes this far more than Leonard, or anyone else in their cadre.  Penny gets it.  Love has to be proven, it has to be lived.  The words affirm the reality already taking place.  They don’t create that reality, though as people we do need to hear them, and often.

So, Penny affirms her love for Leonard, and they part before they both start crying, and I get the impression that Leonard is an ugly crier, so we were saved from that experience.  Leonard is secure in Penny’s love for him, and this security and fidelity, I think, will be tested in upcoming episodes because Alex, Sheldon’s assistant, has got a bad case of Leonardlust.  Seeds for future development have been planted, so we’ll see where it goes.

I can’t say this is the funniest episode ever, but the little reminders of their pathologies was really nice.  Howard and Raj’s ersatz marriage, Sheldon’s insistence that his assistant, Alex, needs quieter pants, the miniature Cthulu, and Leonard’s insecurities general insecurities remind me why I started watching the show in the first place.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars


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