The Big Bang Theory has spent a lot of this season focusing on Sheldon and Amy’s relationship. We’ve seen them go through a ton of ups and downs, but now they’re in a spot where they’re comfortable, happy, and in love. It’s been a rewarding turn for the show, but the almost exclusive focus on Sheldon and Amy has meant that the other characters on the show have suffered. They’ve largely been reduced to meaningless subplots over the course of this season, with no real character development happening from one week to the next. “The Big Bear Precipitation” switches things up though, choosing instead to focus on Leonard and Penny, as well as Howard and Bernadette.

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It’s a welcome shift in storytelling, as large parts of this season have felt rather insignificant for those couples despite the fact that they’re going through some significant life changes. Howard and Bernadette have a baby on the way, and Leonard and Penny are newly married, meaning that their should be plenty of stories to tell with these characters. And yet, so much of this season has seen them banished to the fringes. “The Big Bear Precipitation” focuses solely on them though, and it’s a rather refreshing change. We get to check back in with both couples and see where they’re at.

For the most part, “The Big Bear Precipitation” keeps things low-key. Things start out harmless enough for Penny and Leonard, as they’re off to a cabin in the woods with Amy and a very reluctant Sheldon. Predictable but funny antics follow, with Sheldon going all-in on the mosquito-net hat, worrying about tics, and sarcastically lamenting the rain that cancels their hike. Things pick up though when Penny suggests they play Never Have I Ever and secrets start to spill out. First, it’s revealed that Sheldon was arrested for jaywalking. Or, rather, he was arrested when he confronted a cop for not arresting him after he jaywalked, which is classic Sheldon.

Thing get more personal after that, and that’s when the episode hits its stride by diving back into Leonard and Penny’s relationship. Sheldon can’t read the social cues of revealing harmless secrets, so he reveals that Leonard has been keeping a secret savings account during the years he’s been with Penny because he doesn’t trust her spending. That sets Penny off, but when Leonard goes to apologize, her anger is more than just a reaction to his secret. Instead, she tells him that she hates her job. She’s sick of flirting with doctors for sales, but she knows she needs the money to pay off her debt, which Leonard reminds her is substantial. It’s not the most revelatory moment or anything—the show has been down this road with Leonard and Penny before—but it is a nice reminder that these two are actually married and have actual real life problems to deal with. So, when Penny decides she’s going to do the adult thing and stick with her job until her debt is paid off, it’s a nice bit of character growth that also opens up potential storylines for future episodes.

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As for Howard and Bernadette, as the baby’s due date gets closer Raj is becoming more and more intrusive. He’s helping Bernadette run errands, sending her emails with relevant articles, and insisting on being there when they try out a gadget that lets them listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Things go over-the-top though when he comes home with a huge stuffed teddy bear, and Howard decides to confront him. He reminds him that the three of them aren’t having the baby, and that maybe Raj should lay off just a bit. Raj is, of course, hurt by the suggestion, and eventually Howard and Bernadette regret rejecting him as well. So, they bring him back and tell him that he can absolutely be a part of this process, but that certain boundaries need to be respected.

It’s a solid enough storyline, and one that makes sense given how weirdly intimate these three characters are, but I feel like the show missed an opportunity to really dig into Howard and Bernadette’s relationship dynamic. What I mean is that perhaps Raj wouldn’t be so involved in their lives if Howard helped out more. After all, when Bernadette and Raj come back to the house after running errands, Howard is sitting on the couch playing video games. There’s a very brief mention of this near the end of the episode—Howard quickly says he should help out more around the house—but I feel like the show could dig deeper. After all, Howard and Bernadette have always had this kind of lopsided relationship. It’s rather inexplicable at times, and “The Big Bear Precipitation” had a chance to really explore how these two characters do and don’t work together.

If The Big Bang Theory is going to stay on the air for a little longer, and the show is going to continue to grow and include marriages and kids and other adult responsibilities, there needs to be a shift in how the show treats its characters. As their lives change so should the show, adding depth and more understanding to these relationships that, like all relationships, are built on a foundation of insecurities, comforts, commonalities, and differences.

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Stray observations

  • “Why aren’t there more genius squirrels?”
  • Sheldon is rightly frightened that cabins in the woods contain “teenagers with guitars.”
  • Howard’s response to a video of a woman giving birth in a river: “That’s the least Jewish thing I’ve seen in my life.”
  • Sheldon only jaywalked because he saw an “aggressive looking girl scout” and it was during “the heart of cookie season.”

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