After the disruptions of the holidays, awards season and business trips, I’m about to settle into about a four-month stretch where I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything outside my normal homebody routine. I’m finally going to have a chance to work through the clutter, clean up my diet, get started on some projects and watch TV until my eyes bleed. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt so happy.
You see, like Sheldon, I am a creature of habit. I may not be as obsessive about it as he is, but I certainly identified tonight with the complex flow-chart Leonard created on Sheldon's behalf, in order to determine which theater they could all go to and still have dinner in time. Some theaters are excluded because they have no Icee machines, or because they sell Twizzlers instead of Red Vines. Some are excluded because going to a movie at their available times would cause a delay in dinner (thus delaying the next day’s bowel movement until work hours). In the end, once the numbers are crunched, Leonard, Howard and Raj go to the movies without Sheldon. And he doesn’t mind. “They’re right, that was the only option,” he sighs.
After that very funny cold open, this week’s Big Bang Theory pulled out yet another hoary sitcom plot—something they’ve been doing a lot this season—and, improbably, made it work. (Something else the writers have been good at this year.) When Penny is in danger of being kicked out of the building because she can’t pay her rent, Sheldon says, “It occurs to me that you could solve all your problems by attaining more money.” So he opens up the novelty peanut-brittle can where he keeps some of his spare cash (“guarded by snakes”) and just hands it over to Penny, with no demands for immediate repayment.
This is what aging sitcom writers refer to as The “Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be” Plot, and for the first act, it follows the usual beats: Penny feels guilty for taking the money, and feels extra self-conscious about every dollar she spends. But then in the second act, the story changes direction in an interesting way. Leonard learns that Penny’s financial troubles are due to her loaning her ex-boyfriend $1800 to get him out of a legal jam; so Leonard urges the guys to step away from their fantasy board game—what was that game, by the way?—and embark on a real quest. (Though Sheldon is quick to remind Leonard that in Lord Of The Rings, when the Fellowship helped Frodo, “They had a terrible time of it.”)
This may sound strange (and not at all hardcore), but what I liked most about “The Financial Permeability” was that it was so sweet. Every character tonight was at their most likeable, whether it was Penny confessing that her big Los Angeles life plan was “waitress for six months and then become a movie star” (Plan B: TV star), or Howard griping that the rising cost of Moo Shu Pork was making it tougher and tougher for him to be a bad Jew, or Sheldon being so confused by Penny’s anxiety that he admits, “I don’t understand what social situation this is. Can you offer me some guidance?,” or Leonard suggesting that Penny could save money by getting a roommate. (“I’m sure the guy living with Sheldon wouldn’t mind living with you.”) I was pulling for everyone in this episode, so I was happy to see Leonard get Penny her money back from her ex, even if he had to endure a little humiliation to do it, and even if he inadvertently threw Penny back together with that jerk. (By the way the actor playing that jerk played a jerk in Generation Kill, too.)
And I continue to be impressed with how rigorous the writers are with Sheldon’s condition, defusing his impossible nature by trapping him in his own conundrums and having him acknowledge, “You know I can’t do that.”
We know you can’t, big man. That’s what makes you so endearing.
-Sheldon keeps a daily log of social interactions.
-Nice call-backs: Sheldon eating Red Vines in the first scene after the post-theme-song commercial, and Sheldon pointing out that he noticed Penny’s “Check Engine” light flashing before (in “The Euclid Alternative,” I believe… last week’s repeat, smartly enough).
-Leonard, scoping out Sheldon’s money-stashing locations: “If you’re ever short, there’s always a couple of $50s in Green Lantern’s ass.”
-Multiple good Sheldon quotes tonight:
“I’m never silly.”
“I think I’d be willing to be a house pet to a race of super-intelligent aliens.”
“Was that sarcasm?”
“Outside? I just made cocoa.”
“His triumph will be even larger. Minstrels will write songs about him.”
And of course Sheldon pointing out that he has little use for all his savings, unless they develop a way to fuse his skeleton with adamantium, a la Wolverine.