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The Big Bang Theory: "The Friendship Turbulence"

Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: The Friendship Turbulence
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If you think The Big Bang Theory’s laugh track is bad, it’s nothing compared to the canned reactions to the drama, a chorus of “oohs” and “awws” that gets a lot of play in tonight’s episode. As the title would suggest, “The Friendship Turbulence” is an episode focused on the relationships between the seven members of the cast, beginning with an eventful dinner that creates a rift between Penny and Leonard when she doesn’t take a movie role and Howard and Sheldon when Bernadette tells him to stop picking on her husband.

The most pressing, and successful, storyline is Penny and Leonard’s fight, which serves as a nice exploration of Penny’s anxieties and motivations by showing that she doesn’t have the opportunity to say no to work, even if it doesn’t meet her expectations. Playing a half-monkey clone of her deceased character from Serial Apist for the film’s sequel may not be the most dignified work, but Penny is also unemployed and quickly burning through her savings. As Leonard makes quite clear, she’s not in the position to turn down paid work. I would love to see their conversation play out without all the “oohs” after every line, because there’s a lot of potential for awkwardness in their conversation that dissolves when the audience chimes in.


All the canned reactions add a level of spite to Leonard’s comments that isn’t inherent in the lines, and while he says them a bit more aggressively than he has to, he makes very good points. Penny isn’t at a point in her career where she can be choosy about her roles, and assuming she’s not being asked to degrade herself for the camera, she should jump at whatever opportunity arises. Putting on fake monkey arms and reading stupid dialogue may be a bit embarrassing, but it could also be the break Penny needs. She won’t know until she tries. Penny is aware of this, but she doesn’t want to admit she made a mistake, so she says it’s another example of Leonard always making her feel bad about her decisions, drawing a connection between her boyfriend and his roommate, who teases Howard in a similar way. (Sheldon actually teases everyone that way, but that’s a subject for another day.)

When Bernadette wants to know why Sheldon treats Howard so poorly, he admits that her husband started it all with his pranks and jokes when they first met, which included replacing all the slides for Sheldon’s presentation with pictures of women bending over and calling him “C3-Pee-wee Herman” because of his resemblance to both characters. These little offenses have earned Howard years of ridicule, and he’s sick of it, but because he’s partially responsible, he takes it upon himself to heal the relationship by offering to take Sheldon to Houston with him for a NASA conference. It’s a nice thought, but Howard should really understand Sheldon well enough at this point to know that he doesn’t want to be stuck in a small contained space thousands of feet in the air with the man.


Howard suggests to Sheldon that he can see his mom when they fly to Houston, but rather than giving us an always-appreciated Laurie Metcalf appearance, we get some stereotypical annoying airplane behavior from Sheldon before a forced bonding moment when the plane hits turbulence. When the men find themselves fearing for their lives and in need of comfort, they admit how much they need each other, but that doesn’t actually address the problems between the two.

Before the turbulence, Howard tells Sheldon that he doesn’t appreciate cracks like the one in the car about him not being an astronaut, and while Sheldon admits that he always wanted to go to space as a child and it hurt when he saw Howard beat him to it, he has to add an insult by saying that it made him sad because now he knows NASA will send anyone up there. Getting an admission of emotion isn’t enough to fix their relationship; Howard needs to get Sheldon to say something heartfelt without finding a way to belittle him immediately after, and it doesn’t count if it happens during a near-death experience.


When Penny’s car is totaled courtesy of a broken rod, she finds herself regretting turning down the Serial Apist 2 gig and in desperate need of a new source of income if she’s going to get her life together. It’s damn near impossible to work as an actress without a car in L.A., and she comes to the sad realization that she’ll have to go back to work at Cheesecake Factory if she’s ever going to realize her dreams. As a former employee of a Cheesecake Factory-owned business (specifically Chicago’s Grand Lux Café) that managed to escape, I understand just how depressing that scenario would be for Penny, especially because she left by bragging about her return after she won her first Oscar.

That’s when Leonard makes up for being a jerk earlier (and then some) by getting Penny a new car, preventing her from returning to corporate restaurant hell and giving her a new way to travel to auditions and classes. It’s a very sweet move on Leonard’s part and a serious move in their relationship considering how big of an economic investment it is. What happens if Penny and Leonard break up? Does she get to keep the car? Leonard better make sure he never has to find out.


I brought up the advantages of a Raj/Amy romance in my review of “The Santa Simulation,” and this episode adds some further evidence to my theory that those two may have a future together. After bonding once again over their mutual loneliness and need for physical and emotional attention, Amy offers to help Raj find women online, giving a feminine perspective in hopes that he’ll be able to fix his communication skills. When a woman expresses interest in Raj, he can’t find a way to act natural in his messages, so Amy just writes the message for him.

Their strategy ends up failing because the woman doesn’t like that he didn’t respond himself, but she hits it off with Amy and they meet for coffee, where Amy tries to sell her on Raj before he walks in uninvited and sweating like a creep. The woman flees as quickly as possible, leaving Raj and Amy to sit it out in this awkward, intimate scenario. At this point, I’m hoping for a Raj and Amy kiss soon because the two actors have nice chemistry together and they would be good for each other. Amy is too loving to be treated like such crap by Sheldon, and Raj is kind and devoted but misunderstood by women who never get the chance to see his real self. The two characters have seen each other in good times and bad and are still friends, so maybe it’s time to try for something more.


Stray observations:

  • Howard signed Sheldon up for a subscription to Granny on Granny, and he still gets new issues every month. The puzzles are great, but the rest is filth.
  • Someone needs to lend Sheldon Cooper the current Hawkeye comic. Frankly, I’m surprised he doesn’t already read it.
  • “Must keep gorilla hands from killing again.” That role sounds like a lot of fun.
  • Bernadette: “I said to stop insulting each other, not to take him on a romantic getaway.” Howard: “How do I know what I said? You and your noise-cancelling breasts.”
  • “If you get to know him, you’ll see that he’s just a sweet, regular guy. As a counterpoint, here he is completely uninvited and visibly sweaty.”
  • Translation for Raj’s mumbled line in the coffee shop: “Hey, dew-kissed flower, what’s up?”

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