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The Big Bang Theory: "The Vartabedian Conundrum"

Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: The Vartabedian Conundrum
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Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: The Vartabedian Conundrum

Got to keep tonight's entry short, because it's the thick of best-of/worst-of season, and I think like I've got about three dozen 100-word "why this sucked" / "why this rocked" blurbs to write over the next four days.

If I had to distill tonight's episode to 100 words, it might go something like this: "Good to see Big Bang Theory returning to more Leonard stories after overloading on Sheldon for the first quarter-season, though the 'Are they living together or not?' sitcom plot is a pretty hoary one, and the writers don't put much of a unique spin on it here. Also, it's somewhat irksome that Stephanie has become so needy and borderline creepy so fast. Still, some funny lines make this one a decent time-waster, if hardly 'Watch It Now' material."

Now, to expand briefly: I realize that Sara Rue's not going to be a permanent member of this cast, but if they're going to break up Stephanie and Leonard eventually, it would be nice if they could find a more novel way to do it then, "She's so clingy and jealous and she's got to go." I understand what the BBT writers are going for here: As part of the natural growth of Leonard–the only character allowed to grow on this show, outside of (maybe) Penny–he has to learn to stand up for himself when it comes to women, and until he can, it should be fun to watch him squirm as yet another strong women strings him along.

And, granted, it is kind of fun. It was fun to watch him explain Penny's half-dressed presence in the apartment in the morning by stammering that everyone in the building is very casual with each other about the way they dress, especially when they eat breakfast together, as they so often do. (Prompting Sheldon, not hip to the lie, to say, "I've never been invited to have cereal with Mrs. Vartabedian.") And it was fun to watch him suffer through Stephanie's choosing choices for him, including a bluebird sweater and a pair of itchy pants that he describes as being "a wool/fire ant blend."

Still, if the writers are trying to set this up as a contest between Stephanie and Penny, they're not making it a fair fight, what with Stephanie acting increasingly freaky while Penny lends Leonard a sympathetic ear, and advice on how he can ask for more space in the relationship. (Leonard retorts that Penny already gave him a good line to use: "I really like you but I want to see how things go with Mark.") But though I'm not wild about what looks like a narrative inevitability regarding Leonard and Stephanie, I'm interested to see how it will change Leonard. He's already taken Penny's comment that he doesn't need to do what women say to heart, muttering, "Just… rethinking… my whole life."

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

-"I trust Leonard satisfied you sexually last night."

-Or did he? I like the bit of business when Leonard returns to the laundry room after trying to confront Stephanie and having sex with her instead. Penny checks her watch, then shrugs, a little sadly.

-Sheldon knows that Stephanie does not administer a proper cootie shot.

-When is scary not good?

-Sheldon and Leonard have a clause in their roommate contract that makes Sheldon into Leonard's sidekick if Leonard ever gets super powers.

-Howard compares sleeping with one woman to being at a buffet and eating the same deviled egg over and over. This analogy doesn't persuade me, because I love deviled eggs.

-Good gags after Stephanie convinces Sheldon that he has a throat infection and shouldn't talk. I liked Sheldon using a computer voice program to help him with the Penny knock, and the computer voice saying that along with the tea, "some hiney would be nice." When is some hiney not nice?

-"What could I have done to offend Mrs. Vartabedian?"

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