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The Big Bang Theory: "The Euclid Alternative"

Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: The Euclid Alternative
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Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: The Euclid Alternative

I have to keep tonight's entry short, because I'm on HIMYM duty as well…

I thought this week was much better than last week, though when the episode began, I had my doubts. We start with Sheldon stymied about what to do when Leonard can't drive him to work, a situation ideal for exploiting the character's obsessive attachment to routine. I thought Sheldon's long monologue in Penny's car–about how she took a different route than Leonard, and how he and Leonard usually occupy themselves with brainteasers during the drive–was both funny and a good example of what Sheldon considers small talk. (He even smiled after a fashion; and not the creepy smile we saw last week.) But when Penny dumped him in the middle of the road, leading to Sheldon getting passed from driver to driver, all I could think was, "Didn't we just see this episode, when Sheldon tried to find a different place to sleep?" Then when all the gang gathered to confront Sheldon about his inability to drive–intervention-style–it was so much like last week's How I Met Your Mother that I started to get a little impatient.

From that point on though, "The Euclid Alternative" was BBT in a good groove, mixing crack ensemble timing with the show's own offbeat milieu. One advantage that three-camera/laugh-track sitcoms have over the single-camera comedy is that there's a lot more leeway for the well-placed comic pause, seen tonight a good half-dozen times: when Howard mutters, "I want to go the comic book store," before following Penny and Sheldon out the door; when Leonard moans, "The pet store…" after Sheldon's computerized driving simulation ends with him crashing into a mall; and most of all in the exchange between Sheldon and Leonard when Sheldon announces that he may never learn to drive because he could be "Homo Novus," a new stage in mankind. When Leonard asks, "How does the biologically superior Homo Novus get to work tomorrow morning?," there's a nice beat before Sheldon, defeated, half-whispers, "Homo Novus doesn't know."

And then there are some things that are funny no matter the format, like that driving simulation, which is staged so that we never see what Sheldon and the gang are seeing–only the sound of screeching tires and the horrified reactions of the onlookers. And for all the comic possibilities in the pause, Big Bang Theory knows when to pick up the pace as well, as when Howard lists all the vehicle possibilities for the simulator and Sheldon lets out an excited "Oooh!" when Howard mentions The Batmobile before Leonard hushes him with a quick, "No."

I'm still waiting for this season to come up with an episode that really uses this cast and this premise to its fullest potential. But the second half of "The Euclid Alternative" proved that BBT has the horses, if they'll just let them run.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

-Sheldon's Star Wars sheets are "too stimulating."

-Even though Penny barely says a word while Sheldon pesters her in the car, her withering looks are priceless, as is Sheldon's reluctant capitulation to her authority: "But you have the con."

-You have to go to Soup Plantation on "creamy tomato day."

-Where was the outdoor stuff shot? Backlot?

-Why are the DMV clerks on TV always big, sassy, and black?

-Is it me, or are they dressing Penny skimpier this season?

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