The episode opens with Bernadette supervising as Howard and Raj schlep a treadmill in a box up the stairs for Howard’s still unseen mother. Howard and his mother’s relationship, stagnated for both of them sometime in Howard’s teen years, results in her shouting that she doesn’t need a treadmill and Howard lashing out that crushing his spirit doesn’t meet the doctor’s definition of exercise. Raj realizes Mrs. Wolowitz isn’t going to use it, but Howard, clearly having watched a couple Bugs Bunny cartoons too many, says he’ll rig it with a fishing pole and a honey baked ham, avoiding the stereotypical Jewish punchline of a brisket. As Howard and Raj discuss setting it up in Howard’s old room, the box slides down the stairs and lands on (a still unseen) Mrs. Wolowitz. The three actors chase the box down the stairs as Bare Naked Ladies begin to sing about the creation of the universe.
Coming back from commercial, Raj explains that Mrs. Wolowitz is going to be laid up for six weeks. Sheldon suggests they should see the new Spider-Man film, not to help Mrs. Wolowitz, but simply to change the topic. Penny comes in with a positive attitude about her film despite it being horrible. She will be the best “bisexual go-go dancer slowly transforming into a killer gorilla.”
Howard and Bernadette settle his mother in the guest room and Howard warns Bernadette how difficult it will be to take care of his mother, especially since he is a putz. Howard suggests a nurse is better than taking care of her himself. Bernadette is opposed to the idea and goes to take care of Mrs. Wolowitz, agreeing that Howard is a putz.
Raj and Sheldon, meanwhile, are on a date to see Spider-man, although Sheldon has brought his own 3D glasses to avoid bridge-of-nose herpes, which Raj calls him on as not being a real thing. As they are waiting to go in, Raj sees an uncomfortable Emily, who is also there on a date, although with a different, and heavily tattooed, man. Sheldon correctly identifies the situation as awkward, but is relieved it wasn’t because as a dermatologist Emily saw something of concern on Sheldon’s forhead after he spent some time in the sun.
Penny, meanwhile is in a semi-gorilla costume and a cage, playing out a scene in the movie Serial Apist 2 with her lover, Wil Wheaton, who is trying to figure out how to save her. Leonard, watching quietly from the sidelines, can’t help but notice the director is paying more attention to his smart phone than to the actors. When he yells cut, Penny asks for one more take to get it better and is told not to worry about it, with the director adding that if it were meant to be a good film, Penny wouldn’t be in it. When Leonard stands up for Penny, the director points out that Penny is too hot for him and throws Leonard off the set. When Penny complains, he fires her and throws her off the set as well. Despite Penny being the star of the film, the director points out that all of the remaining scenes require her to wear a gorilla mask, so she can easily be replaced by anyone willing to wear the mask. No-longer-evil Wil Wheaton stands up for Penny and we see the three of them sitting in a bar drinking beers as the scene fades to commercial.
Raj and Sheldon skipped the film because Raj was too upset about Emily and Sheldon was relieved he didn’t have a melanoma. Sheldon’s lengthy list of beverages for every occasion indicates that since Raj is upset and Indian, Sheldon must serve him Chai tea, although he is in a quandary because he doesn’t have all the ingredients. Sheldon has everything he needs except cardamom seeds and asks Raj if he has some. Raj replies he left them in his turban, highlighting the nonchalant racist attitudes that Sheldon frequently exhibits, but which are generally only played for jokes. Doubling down on his insensitivity while trying to help, Sheldon offers to make English Breakfast tea, since the British ruled over India and destroyed the native culture. Sheldon asks why Raj is upset about seeing Emily with another man and Raj asks how Sheldon would feel if he saw Amy with another man, a possibility Sheldon dismisses due to the relationship agreement. What both ignore is that only four episodes ago, Raj was planning on dating both Emily and Lucy, until Lucy objected to the arrangement. The fact that Emily was fine with the arrangement in that episode should have warned Raj of the possibility that she didn’t see their relationship as monogamous.
Howard and Bernadette, meanwhile, have been feeding Mrs. Wolowitz frequently enough, although for her, that could mean every five minutes. When Howard complains about the constant cries for food, Bernadette compares her to a baby, which Howard is apparently always talking about having when the cameras aren’t rolling. Howard disagrees, but Bernadette points out that they are even waiting for the day Mrs. Wolowitz can walk on her own. Howard tells her that he’ll make a great father someday, right before he shouts at his mother who is still hungry.
Channeling her inner Oscar Wilde, Penny points out that the only thing worse that making a movie where they glue monkey hair to your ass is being fired from a movie where they glue monkey hair to your ass. When Wil tries to console her, Penny points out that he used to be famous. He reminds her that he was just fired for her so she relents and claims he’s still famous. Wil tells her it isn’t about fame, but about the passion for the craft as his phone chimes to let him know he has an audition for Sharknado 2, a film which is being made in part because of Wil’s real life tweeting about the original show. He flees the bar, promising to pay Penny and Leonard back for the beer, assuming he gets the role.1 Paralleling Sheldon’s existential Angst over his work with String Theory, Penny again begins to question why she is acting, and Leonard points out her role in a production of Anne Frank in the show above the bowling alley from an earlier season, a location Penny uses to dismiss the role. When he points out her role in the television commercial, she dismisses it as being for hemorrhoid cream. Not content to insult one-time-famous Wil Wheaton, she also insults not-quite-five-foot-six Leonard.
Raj’s issues, of course, are woman related. He points out that on paper he looks like a great catch, but women just don’t want to be with him, ignoring all of the years of selective mutism. Sheldon tries to go to bed, but Raj doesn’t want to be alone, which is the root of his problem, according to Sheldon. Raj points out that he has had dates with eleven woman, although the overweight Sailor Moon cosplayer from Comic Con would have brought it up to an even dozen. As with Leonard’s references to Penny’s acting gigs from earlier seasons, this reminder of a joke from earlier in the show’s run is indicative of a sense of nostalgia (or continuity) which has been creeping into the show lately, a strange turn of events given the recent announcement that it had been picked up for another three years. Raj realizes that he has a fear of being alone and that he should focus on that rather than how it impacts his relationships, although Sheldon claims that he was trying to suggest chemical castration, always going for the least obvious route.
When Howard and his mother talk, it is generally from several rooms away and involved shouting. When Bernadette and Howard argue, in this case brought on by his mother being asleep, but the hassle of caring for her wearing on them both, they whisper. Howard blames Bernadette for refusing to let him hire a nurse for his mother. Bernadette tells him that not only did she buy herself a mocha while she was out, but also bought him a brownie, which she ate on the way home, raising her voice to wake Mrs. Wolowitz, who wants her belly rubbed.
Raj answers his door to find Emily so they can clear the air. Emily apologizes and she wants to explain that the guy Raj saw her with did her last tattoo and had been asking her out for months. She finally said yes to get it over with. Raj tells her that since they had never really discussed exclusivity, it wasn’t an issue. Raj says he was freaked out at first, but realizes it is his own problem. Emily tells him she would be upset if she saw him out with another woman, despite being okay with him also dating Lucy in the earlier episode. They both state that they aren’t seeing anyone else and start talking about Emily’s tattoos. The two kiss with the strong implication that Emily is going to show off all of her tattoos.
Penny and Leonard arrive back at Penny’s apartment (and why would they ever spend time in Leonard’s apartment given Sheldon’s uncanny ability to be annoying and inappropriate?). Penny is depressed about her life and Leonard, without the benefit of Sheldon’s oddly specific beverage list, offers to get her “something,” which she turns down. Penny decides she needs to make smart decisions and seriously suggests that the two get married. Leonard hears her proposal as a “smart decision” like eating a bran muffin rather than a romantic decision. Penny explains that being fired made her realize she doesn’t need to be famous or a star. Leonard asks what she needs and she says that he is all she really needs. He accepts her proposal, after the playing around in the previous week’s episode. Leonard and Penny both feel the engagement is somewhat anticlimactic until Leonard pulls a diamond ring out of his wallet. He gets down on his knee and proposes properly and Penny accepts, still with monkey hair on her fingers.
After their fight, Bernadette finally agreed to let Howard hire a made and is now reveling in being, along with Howard, a putz.
Although there are thematic ties between the various storylines, “The Gorilla Dissolution” lacks the sense of a whole that existed in last week’s “The Proton Transmogrification.” Raj’s neuroses and Penny’s realization about her career and relationship with Leonard may have been linked together, but there was little actual interaction between the actors in the various storylines. Aside from a brief scene at the beginning of the show, the actors in each of the stories could have been in completely different shows. With only the briefest of references to the nerd culture which spawned the series, Raj and Sheldon’s attempt to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the constant references to previous seasons only serves to remind the viewers of the sorts of humor and references the show used to make, now often lost as it plays to a more mainstream audience with geek culture and science references more rare, although not entirely missing, as evidenced by last week’s episode.
Next week is the season finale of The Big Bang Theory. Because I’ll be traveling for the Nebula Awards, our intrepid editor will be filling in to provide a recap.
1 As of this time, despite a cast made up of major actors, Sharknado 2 is not showing Wil Wheaton as having a role. They probably saw his work in the Serial Apist 2 and decided not to cast him.