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Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: “The Decoupling Fluctuation”
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All my hopes about last week’s ambiguous Raj ending remain empty hopes after “The Decoupling Fluctuation,” with Stuart simply filling an empty friend spot in the quartet while Wolowitz is in space. Despite Stuart’s invitation to Sheldon and Leonard to join the two as they pick up women, I still think there’s the possibility of a gay story unfolding, but that could just be me looking too much into Stuart’s casual comment about liking Mark Ruffalo. At this point, Raj being gay just feels like a natural character choice. Raj is in the background for most of this episode, which brings the spotlight to Penny and Leonard’s rocky relationship. It feels like those two just got back together, but Penny is already having doubts about the longevity of their relationship.

The episode begins with Bernadette, Amy, and Penny cataloging Bernadette’s wedding gifts, which sparks conversation about the romantic futures of the other two ladies. Amy fully expects to be married to Sheldon in four years, while Penny isn’t quite sure if she’s going to make it to tomorrow with Leonard. Penny’s lost her passion for the relationship ever since Leonard proposed during sex, and she’s struggling to regain what they once had. “I’ve been in love before, but it felt different. Maybe this is a new, better, boring kind of love,” she says, clearly unconvinced by her words. This show already did this storyline three seasons ago, except instead of proposing, Leonard said “I love you,” and Penny lost interest. A show that is already repetitive shouldn’t repeat the same plots, especially when it involves a relationship that is already pretty flimsy.


When Amy tells Sheldon about Penny’s potential break-up plan at the movies, she puts her boyfriend in a position he’s incredibly ill-equipped for: secret keeper. It’s one of the most basic sitcom plots possible: A character who is really bad at keeping secrets is asked to do exactly that. Amy should know better than to trust Sheldon with a secret, but she’ll take any chance to share something with the man she is supposedly in a relationship with. When Sheldon finds himself alone with Leonard, he can’t help but tease his secret, then withdraw when he remembers that he’s supposed to keep his mouth shut. Sheldon tries to hint at what he’s talking about by discussing Transformers and the way that it forces people to reevaluate the way they look at things like their relationships or conversations about Transformers. Leonard misinterprets this as Sheldon trying to tell him about his own personal sexual desires as his relationship with Amy heats up, and saves Sheldon from spilling Penny’s secret.

When Sheldon can’t hold it in anymore, he goes to Penny’s apartment and stands over her bed creepily so that she’ll wake up and talk to him about her problem that has become his problem. “The Decoupling Fluctuation” is where Sheldon’s egomania starts to border on psychopathy. He sneaks into his friend’s room in the middle of the night so that he can tell her to stay in a relationship with his roommate regardless of her true feelings, then tells her to change her shampoo back to green apple while she’s at it. His need for utter control has gone out of control; he won’t let Stuart go to the movies with him and Amy unless he eats Raisinets like Wolowitz, and when the group is playing a card game, Sheldon won’t let Stuart put down cards that Wolowitz wouldn’t. At a certain point, it becomes a mystery why any of these people are actually friends with Sheldon, because if he were a real person, Sheldon would live a sad, lonely life with his attitude. Sheldon leaves Penny’s room with a line that seems to actually come from the heart: “Please don’t hurt my friend.” So when she’s eating dinner with Leonard and she has something to say to him, Sheldon’s words linger in her mind. His words combined with Leonard’s puppy dog eyes prevent her from breaking up, and she sleeps with him instead, effectively making everything worse.


Howard remains in space for a cute if insubstantial subplot that casts him in the typical nerd vs. jock scenario, except now he’s in orbit. The other astronauts are being mean to Howard, forcing him to clean out the toilet and gluing an alien mask to the outside of his window, so he turns to Bernadette for consolation. It’s a pretty juvenile story, with some groan-worthy lines like, “You want to see a meteor shower, take a look at what Dmitri just left you in the toilet.” Because sometimes poop looks like space rocks. Bernadette asks if she should contact NASA, but Howard mother already did that and made things worse. When he finally decides to stand up for himself, he gets a good night’s rest, but that’s because his fellow astronauts draw all over his face like he was the first one asleep at a sleepover. Hopefully Howard will be coming to Earth soon, because the writers are clearly running out of space material.

Stray observations:

  • Sheldon’s “In the event of divorce…” engraving is a pretty smart idea for most modern day weddings.
  • Waking up to Sheldon hovering above your bed would be the most terrifying thing ever.
  • I hope CBS decides to make a YouTube clip of Wolowitz crying in zero gravity for nine minutes.
  • “It’s not like I’m an astronaut floating in outer space. Oh wait, I am.” And then he does an adorable zero gravity dance.
  • Sheldon: “Wolowitz went to MIT. What’s your educational background?” Stuart: “I went to art school.” Sheldon: “Equally ridiculous; let’s go.”
  • “You can’t just replace someone you care about with some other random person.” Stuart: “Um, please don’t ruin this for me.
  • Penny: “We’re keeping things… homeostasis.” Amy: “It’s so cute when she tries.”

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