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The Big Bang Theory: “The Rhinitis Revelation”

Illustration for article titled The Big Bang Theory: “The Rhinitis Revelation”
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Everyone’s favorite evangelical mother is back in “The Rhinitis Revelation,” with Laurie Metcalf returning as Mary Cooper for a strong episode that looks at how parent/child relationships need to evolve in order to achieve personal growth. It’s also about Laurie Metcalf being as politically incorrect as possible, with Mary’s trademark blend of country wisdom and antiquated stereotypes. Stopping in Pasadena on the way to the Born Again Boat Ride, a Christian cruise that got five thorny crowns (the highest rating!) from Christian Quarterly, Mary is in town for a vacation, but Sheldon expects her to be a hostess, not a guest. When Mary begins to divide her attention between Sheldon and his friends, Sheldon lashes out, confused at why his mother doesn’t shower him with the same amount of affection she used to.

Mary doesn’t want to cook fried chicken for Sheldon, choosing instead to go to a sushi restaurant with Leonard where she’s caught up on her son and his roommate’s current romantic lives. Having a familiar figure that’s not in-the-loop with the characters’ current situations allows the ensemble to discuss their frustrations and get new feedback on how to proceed, even if the advice has a decidedly conservative bias. Mary asks about Amy and Sheldon’s relationship, a question Sheldon avoids by talking about how close Amy is to getting a starfish addicted to cocaine. This episode’s biggest failing is not having Amy and Mary share a scene, and while Amy and Sheldon have a great moment later in the episode, it would have been nice to see Mayim Bialik and Metcalf interact.


It looks like the creators may be pushing Raj in an unexpected direction: full-on alcoholic. When the three return from their sushi date, they find Raj on the floor outside the apartment, a half-empty six-pack next to him. “I thought it was our Indians that had the occasional alcohol problem,” Mary says. Leonard tells her she can’t say that, and promises to make her a list of words and phrases that won’t fly outside of Texas, to which she responds, “That’d be mighty white of you.” Never leave, Mary. Of course, Raj needs to be drinking in order for him to talk to Mary about being so lonely, and she consoles him by telling him about a very tall female Wal-Mart clerk that married a Harlem Globetrotter and now tours with the team and her two beautiful mixed-race children. She’s not as bad at providing comfort as Sheldon is, but she’s pretty damn close.

When Leonard tells Mary about how Priya’s parents have an issue with him being white, Mary is stunned to learn that sometimes even white people can be the victims of prejudice. Leonard and Priya’s relationship is on its last legs, and after last season’s finale revelation that Penny still has feelings for Leonard, it’s only a matter of time before they reunite. When Mary and Sheldon run into Penny in the laundry room, Mary begins probing into how Penny feels about Leonard and Priya’s relationship, then promptly begins criticizing Penny’s wardrobe. Sheldon and his mother both have a talent for deceiving people into thinking that they’re genuinely interested in a conversation before turning it into an opportunity for criticism and derision.

Mary decides to go on a church sightseeing tour with Penny, Sheldon, Leonard, and Howard rather than a lecture with Sheldon, and Sheldon has an intense emotional regression as his Oedipus complex works its way to the surface. He takes Amy to the lecture instead, and afterward, Sheldon gets psychoanalyzed on Amy’s couch, which is the closest to intimacy this couple tends to get. Amy tells Sheldon that while there are extraordinary aspects of him, when it comes to emotions and relationships, he’s just like everyone else. Except he’s actually worse than everyone else, but Amy is trying to make progress here. Sheldon needs to have the emotional maturity to match his intellect, and Amy has taken it upon herself to fix him. She tells him about how people handle emotions better when they don’t over-think, and Sheldon unsurprisingly has difficulty grasping the concept.

For Sheldon, he’s always doing the perfect amount of thinking for the given task. He’s too proud to really change his ways, but he has a small epiphany when he’s caught out in the rain with an umbrella while the ordinary Joe next to him is dry. Maybe he really isn’t better than regular people. Maybe he’s not more entitled than anyone else, and his mom should be able to hang out with his friends. Or maybe the rain is just the universe (God?) giving Sheldon what he wants, a common cold that makes his mother shower him with attention. As his mother takes him to his bedroom to rub VapoRub on his chest, Sheldon sticks his tongue out to his four friends, still a child despite his chest hair having filled in last year.


Stray observations:

  • It looks like the Howard in space plotline is sticking around. Hopefully, that will mean more Bernadette, who was missed this week.
  • If Sheldon’s clothes are too soft, it makes him sleepy. Sheldon must have a giant binder somewhere listing everything he regulates in his life, or maybe there’s a document on an ancient floppy disk somewhere.
  • Mary cooks everything in bacon grease, because scientists are always going back and forth on whether or not that’s good for you. I just want some bacon grease pancakes.
  • The jokes about Jesus’ abs are painful: “That’s the last Jew that did sit-ups, and look where that got him.” Groan.
  • I want to make a ringtone of the “Soft Kitty” song just to really freak people out. It’s pretty creepy.
  • “A cat can have kitten in the oven, but that don’t make ‘em biscuits.” Does anyone have any idea what that could possibly mean? I’m too disturbed by the image to figure it out.
  • “Penny has a lot of money tied up in promiscuity futures.”
  • “What sight is better than your little boy embarrassing a Nobel Laureate?”
  • “I am going to Hollywood and thank a wax Ronald Reagan for his service to our country.” Despite the unconjugated thank, Metcalf still sells the line.

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