Leonard, defining friends-with-benefits: “Imagine you maintained a friendship with someone you had sex with, but you were free to date whoever you wanted.”
Sheldon: “I’m sorry, I can’t imagine any of that.”
Exactly, Sheldon. That’s as it should be. I heard a rumor this past week that that this season of The Big Bang Theory might end with some kind of Sheldon-Penny hook-up, but I think tonight’s episode put that idea to bed (so to speak). Maybe I’ve just got too much invested in the that idea Sheldon—no matter what the BBT writers say—is on the autistic spectrum, and unlikely to be comfortable in any way with pursuing a sexual relationship with a woman. But while the “we won’t say what Sheldon is” policy may give the writers some leeway to let Sheldon do some things that are outside the spectrum (again, so to speak), I’m going to go on record and say that giving Sheldon a girlfriend, boyfriend or even a “friend with benefits” would be so far outside the scope of the character that I think I’d have to quit watching the show.
Besides, isn’t it so much better to have the kind of Sheldon-Penny relationship we currently have on BBT, where the affection they feel for each other is more muted, and filtered through genuine frustration? I can’t claim that “The Vegas Renormalization” was top-shelf Big Bang Theory, but it was pretty seamlessly entertaining, and it contained another in Season Two’s impressive series of perfectly performed, laugh-out-loud Sheldon-Penny scenes.
The two neighbors are brought together tonight when Leonard, Howard and Raj jet off to Vegas, and Sheldon gets locked out of the apartment. (He left his keys “in the bowl,” and the way Sheldon kept saying “in the bowl” with a kind of blank, shocked expression to Penny made him seem more Asperger-y than he ever has.) Penny graciously allows Sheldon to crash at her place for a while, even if that means indulging his need for small talk—“How was your day!”—while he eats his special my-friends-are-gone dinner of Indian food with peanuts and cheese. (Raj hates Indian, Howard’s allergic to peanuts and Leonard’s lactose-intolerant.) I lost count of the memorable exchanges between Sheldon and Penny as dinnertime shaded into bedtime, but I enjoyed Sheldon’s citation of E.M. Snickering’s The Tall Man From Cornwall as a reason for why he couldn’t sleep on Penny’s sofa. (“There’s no room for my big Cornish head.”) And I thought the scene where Penny tenderly sings her sorry-you’re-sick lullaby “Soft Kitty” to Sheldon—because Sheldon’s homesick, and that’s a type of being sick—was pretty brilliant in the way it shifted easily from sweet to funny. (Plus, Sheldon’s quick dismissal of Penny once he began to feel sleepy seemed to dim the prospect of any kind of future romantic connection there.)
Oh, and I loved this culmination of their game of “Who Am I?” 20 Questions:
Penny: “Are you Star Wars?”
Sheldon” “How can one person be a whole movie?”
As for the Vegas half of the episode, I thought it was fine but unspectacular. The gang takes the trip to help Howard get over being dumped by Leslie—so that’s the end of that chapter—and when Leonard notes that Howard’s hotel-room Twitters have descended to “I’m so lonely and horny I may open this $20 jar of peanuts and end it all,” he collaborates with Raj to hire a prostitute to provide Howard with “The Jewish Girlfriend Experience.”
The funniest part of that whole plan was Leonard propositioning the prostitute, with him unsure how to get from confirming her profession to actually hiring her. By and large though, the Vegas stuff was too straight and too unsurprising. No twists at all.
And frankly, I was a little bothered by Leonard responding to the prospect of him meeting a woman with, “If I get lucky, I’ll take her to my stately manor in Gotham City.” I know Leonard’s not the most confident dude in the world, but he’s supposed to be the most normal of the geeks, and the most in-touch with the real world. He’s hardly incapable of scoring. He could have a friend-with-benefits, and the show would go on just fine.
-“There’s no place for truth on the internet.”
-I know the gang eats their meals on Sheldon’s rotating schedule, but it always seems to be Chinese night whenever we drop in on them.
-Sheldon hums the Superman theme while trying to enter his Fortress Of Solitude
-I hadn’t noticed before that Howard’s cel phone ring is “She Blinded Me With Science.”
-Howard also has a well-stocked after-shave case.
-From now on, I will always think of C3P0 “a shiny Sheldon”
-In the gang’s version of 20 Questions, Sheldon is always Spock.
-“I bet he’s someone from Babylon 5. We’re never gonna get it.”