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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: “The Work Song Nanocluster”

Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: “The Work Song Nanocluster”
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Illustration for article titled iThe Big Bang Theory/i: “The Work Song Nanocluster”

Though nowhere near as inspired as last week’s episode, this week’s BBT got in a good comic groove early and stayed there, really only faltering due to a couple of dopey plot twists and one fairly repellant (to me at least) capper image. For those keeping score at home, this was the second episode in a row that took place largely in a single contained space, with the whole cast interacting. (Though Raj was a little shortchanged.) And it followed what’s been, for BBT, a winning formula:

Cold open: Clever geek stunt/plot intro.

I agree with Howard that about all that could top Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Chess would be a strip version, even if, as Leonard opines, “Any girl who’d be willing to play that you don’t want to see naked.” (Howard: “You underestimate me.”) Meanwhile, Sheldon is off to see Penny as soon as she’s past her “don’t knock on my door before 11 o’clock or I punch you in the throat” threshold. After Sheldon passes on a package of rhinestones he signed for on her behalf—and after he makes sure she signs his form, since “a legal bailment has been created”—he hears the details of why she’s receiving a box of rhinestones in the first place, and we’re off to…


The plot, in two short acts.

So the reason for Penny’s sudden influx of fake rocks is that she’s invented her own signature barrette, “The Penny Blossom,” and she’s found a local business willing to buy them. After Sheldon crunches the numbers and determines that Penny’s new business will net her $2,600 a year—hardly quitting-her-job money—he honors her request that he help her increase efficiency and boost business. And thus Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco get to have another of what’s become a string of smartly written, masterfully performed dialogue scenes on this show, beginning with Sheldon’s moment of angst over what will happen if Penny quits her job at The Cheesecake Factory. (“Who will bring me my cheeseburger on Tuesday nights?” he asks, forcing Penny to spin a story about a fictional waitress named Nancy.) Tonight also featured two classic Sheldon/Penny exchanges:

Sheldon: “I’m a physicist. I have a working knowledge of the entire universe and everything it contains.”

Penny: “Who’s Radiohead?”

Sheldon: [Slow burn.]


Sheldon: “How about a molecular sieve?”

Penny: “I’ve got a spaghetti strainer in the kitchen.”

Sheldon: [Contemptuous pause.] “Wow.”

This latter exchange comes while Leonard, Raj and Howard are in Penny’s apartment, brainstorming their own ideas for improving the design, manufacture and marketing of The Penny Blossom. Leonard designs a website that according to Penny looks like a teenage girl’s MySpace page (“Dateline could use it to attract predators,” Howard quips), but within minutes it’s attracted a handful of orders, including a 1000 Penny Blossoms for a GLBT club in New Jersey, who wants their barrettes on a One-Day Rush. So the second act becomes all about the guys working on an assembly line—while singing in tandem, at a sleepy-eyed Sheldon’s suggestion—to fill the order.

I liked the idea of an episode built around the perils of building a small business from scratch—including employing a small labor force who immediately begin to grumble about their lot—because it feeds some thoughts I’ve been having for a future blog post about the Food Network show Unwrapped. (I’ll save those thoughts for when I get around to the blog post.) But I found it kind of preposterous that the gang wouldn’t be plugged-in enough to the potential woes on on-line commerce to realize the inherent problems of the One Day Rush option. It struck me as another case of Big Bang Theory making these guys smart or dumb whenever it arbitrarily suits the story.

But I still might’ve kept “The Work Song Nanocluster” at the “A-” level if it hadn’t been for the shot of the caffeine-pumped Sheldon in a Flash costume pretending to run around a super-speed. Maybe it’s because Sheldon’s one of my favorite TV characters and I don’t like to see him debased. Maybe it’s because The Flash is my favorite superhero and I don’t want to see him debased. But that whole sequence just struck me as painfully dumb, and beneath a show capable of something like…


Coda, largely unrelated to main story.

Secret Agent Laser Obstacle Lunch. Now that I like.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

-“Everything is better with Bluetooth.”

-“I think I bruised a testicle capturing that last pawn.”

-“You’re thinking of the moving assembly line, an understandable but inexcusable mistake.”


-“We only had four servants. And two of them were children.”

-“Coffee’s out of the question. When I moved to California, I promised my mother I wouldn’t start doing drugs.”


-“Jiminy Crocket is a cricket.”

-“Maybe I’d be better off with Nancy.”


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