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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: “The Fish Guts Displacement”

Illustration for article titled The Big Bang Theory: “The Fish Guts Displacement”
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The Big Bang Theory may not be the most consistent show on TV, but when all the pieces fall into place, it’s an entertaining comedy with plenty of heart. There are a lot of similarities between last week’s episode and “The Fish Guts Displacement,” and the writers are beginning to understand what stories work best with the current status quo. Howard takes the main story, as he’s roped into going fishing with his father-in-law, while Sheldon plays a villainous role in his B-plot with Amy, leaving Penny, Leonard, and Raj with supporting parts, which is where they work best anyway.

Howard is nervous about having dinner with Bernadette and her parents at the start of the episode, but Sheldon just tells him to do what he does whenever he’s forced to speak to people beneath his intellectual level: Bring up an interesting topic, like the differences between Spider-Man and spiders. It’s funny because Sheldon was just talking about the differences between Spider-Man and spiders, but while Howard may not be as book smart as Sheldon, at least he’s not completely incapable of reading obvious social cues.

Last week, I said that Sheldon has become the villain of this series, and the show changes considerably when you look at it through that lens. When Amy’s colleague at work dies, Sheldon has to go to his memorial service, but when he shows up at Amy’s house, she’s too sick to leave. Amy wants her boyfriend to take care of her, and he has to because the relationship agreement says that if one of them gets sick, the other has to be a comforting nurse. Selfish Sheldon says that the clause was intended for when he gets sick, but his conscience gets to him, and he eventually tells Amy, “You are my girlfriend, and I care about your well-being.” It’s one of those rare moments where Sheldon seems to actually understand what being a boyfriend is, but he’s clearly just doing this because he signed a written document.

Bernadette volunteers Howard to go fishing with her father in order to alleviate the tension of an awkward dinner, and her wimpy husband has no idea where to start. Neither do Leonard and Raj, so they turn to someone that knows how to do manly things: Penny, who answers the door in a sweatshirt and pajama pants, eating a slice of cold pizza. Penny is so often out of her element that it’s nice to see her in a position where she knows more than the other guys, and she has no problem teaching Howard how to hook a worm and gut a fish. He has plenty of trouble actually doing it, though, and Penny offers some tips like not shrieking in fear or giving the worm a name. Leonard and Raj are essentially just there as backup, occasionally chiming in with anecdotes about their sad, fishless childhoods, but for the most part, this episode is about Howard.

When Howard does show up to go fishing with Mike, he’s dressed like a cartoon fisherman, immediately prompting some ribbing from his father-in-law. When Mike says that he’s going to be shooting some ducks as well, Howard gives in and admits that he was forced to do this by Bernadette and he has no real interesting in going fishing or hunting. Turns out Mike is in the exact same situation with his wife, and they decide to ditch fishing and go to the Indian Casino instead, where Mike can teach his new son how to shoot craps. Howard has a lot of experience with dice, so he should be a natural. Howard’s marriage has introduced a lot of new story opportunities, and when the writers put that at the forefront, the episodes are fresher and have a stronger emotional hook. We’ve seen more shades of Howard’s character than any of the other men, and Simon Helberg is great at playing the lovable underdog who is finally getting what he wants.

The Amy/Sheldon subplot starts with Amy in a depressing position, but by the end of the episode, her desperate need for intimacy has pushed her to brink of sanity. Amy isn’t happy with Sheldon’s attitude when he’s taking care of her, but after he offers to rub VapoRub on her chest, Amy starts to see the opportunity in having Sheldon nurse her, no matter how unwilling he is. When Bernadette comes over with a purse full of experimental drugs, Amy reveals that she’s been pretending to be sick for the last few days because of how much she enjoyed having a boyfriend that was present and caring. She’s gone so far as to put rubber cement in her nose, prompting Bernadette to say, “I don’t mean to be judge-y, but this is the kind of thing lunatics do.” And Bernadette’s totally right, but that won’t stop Amy from jumping into a bath if Sheldon is offering to clean her.


Things take a kinky turn for Amy and Sheldon when he finds out that she was faking her illness and ends up spanking her as punishment. Like last week’s vagina humor, this week’s spanking development takes the show into racier territory, but it starts to get awkward when we actually have to watch Sheldon spank Amy during the tag. When Sheldon notices that Amy seems to be enjoying this, she tells him that maybe he should spank her harder, and then the episode thankfully cuts to black. If this is just the starting point of Amy and Sheldon’s sexual relationship, things have the potential to get really freaky for these two. Just don’t make us watch.

Stray observations:

  • Apparently “heebie jeebies” sounds anti-Semitic. I don’t get it.
  • Of course Raj would mention Miss Congeniality 2: Armed And Fabulous in a conversation about movies that killed franchises.
  • Amy’s make-up when she’s sick is appropriately disgusting. Those rings around her eyes are rough.
  • “Death by chicken. That’s a pretty fowl way to go.” Howard deserves the death glare he gets from Mike after that one.
  • Sheldon: “Now, you may notice some tingling.” Amy: “Oh, I’m counting on it.”
  • “Don’t name him; just jab a hook in his face!”
  • “Growing nose or perhaps a warm sensation in the trouser region? Also known as full-blown liar liar, pants on fire!”