So far during the run of The Big Bang Theory, our favorite geek quartet have taken part in robot wars and renaissance festivals, in between obsessing over comic books, computers, Halo and Star Trek, and this week we saw them engaging in the ancient art of paintball (which I believe they've talked about before). I’ve given the writers of this show a lot of credit for being so specific with their geeky reference points, and they definitely are—at least when it comes to the breakdown of the four main characters and how they interact. But sometimes I think they use “geeky” as a kind of catch-all for anything that lonely single men do with their free time on weekends, and they don’t really consider whether there might be varying degrees of interest. Just once I’d like to hear one the guys pipe up and say, “Paintball? I don’t know… too much running around. Count me out.”
But if that had happened we wouldn’t have gotten the dual set up for “The Cushion Saturation,” in which our heroes’ ineptitude on the field of paint-battle drives both the title plot and the more interesting (to me anyway) subplot. In the main plot, Penny mishandles a paintball-gun in the apartment and sends a splatter of green across the part of the sofa that Sheldon has designated “his spot.” (Don’t forget: If you sit in his spot, that’s a strike.) Despite Leonard and Penny’s best efforts to flip the cushion, move the cushion and clean the cushion—at a drycleaner that Sheldon distrusts because they also make keys—our inflexible Aspie can’t get comfortable anymore. Not until Leonard explains one of the other tiny modification/deceptions he’s perpetrated—namely that he’s been getting Sheldon’s weekly Chinese food order from a different restaurant for months—does Sheldon come to grips with the permanent changes in his spot.
I laughed at Sheldon trying to find a new spot (including his straddling the sofa arm with his butt facing out), and at him wriggling everywhere he sat, like a princess atop a pea, but I confess I tend to get a little uncomfortable with storylines that rely too much on Sheldon’s intractability. Mainly I find that the more annoying Sheldon is, the less believable his friendship with Leonard becomes. (And it doesn’t help when Sheldon disparages Leonard’s intellect, as he did tonight.) It would’ve been great if this episode had made more out of Leonard’s take-out switcheroo, perhaps by adding some other examples of how Leonard accommodates Sheldon, before ending with Leonard telling Sheldon that there’s nothing that can be done about the cushion and that he’ll just have to deal with it. Believe me, I’ve got a son who likes everything just so and doesn’t handle changes in his schedule very well, but sometimes things happen, and though we're understanding of his complaints, we're nowhere near as tolerant as Leonard is. (Of course sometimes we let our son get over his frustration by punching an oversized pillow we keep on hand for just such an occasion. Perhaps Sheldon shooting Penny with a paintball-gun in the closing scene is his version of pillow-punching.)
Anyway, all the cushion business shortchanged the storyline I would’ve liked to have seen more of, namely the return of Leonard’s occasional sex-partner Leslie Winkle, and her taking advantage of a heated paintball moment to jump Howard’s bones. (According to Howard, Leslie is “the fifth girl I’ve ever had sex with… for free.”) The coldly logical, perpetually horny Leslie starts helping Howard get grant money and access to research trips, in exchange for his sexual services and occasional “arm candy” duties, like being her guest at a family wedding. This quid pro quo makes Howard feel cheap (an emotion that, frankly, I don’t buy coming from Howard), but he goes along with it anyway.
I like the dynamic between Howard and Leslie—especially they way they both enjoy how their “good fortune makes others miserable”—and I hope we haven’t seen the last of the couple. But as proven by the quick exit of Sara Rue (and the recent dropping of Sara Gilbert’s contract), this is not the kind of show that goes in for extended story arcs with, like, resolutions and stuff. I enjoy The Big Bang Theory, but it does bother me how the writers seem to do whatever it takes to get from scene to scene and episode to episode, regardless of how it strands the characters. I’m not asking for a complex mythology, but it would be nice to know for certain that if two people are dating at the end of one episode, they’ll still be together at the beginning of the next.
My favorite quote of the night is in my alt-text, but here’s three more winners:
-“We? You had your chance to be ‘we’ for about a year-and-a-half now.”
-“Surrender, then Denny’s.”
-“Despite the name, the Civet Cat is not a true cat. Now I’m done.”