THE BIG BANG THEORY Recap: Season 8, episode 3: The First Pitch Insufficiency

Howard uses his engineering skills to solve his lack of throwing ability

bb groupThe Big Bang Theory has long indicated that the four male characters have no athletic ability whatsoever, however they do frequently play sports-related videogames, so it is a little surprising that Howard needs to get instructions on how to play baseball using their Wii. On the other hand, his horrible form is completely believable. While normally we would only expect Sheldon to mock Howard with his line about not being picked since he was a child, Raj also gets into the all-American activity of heckling. Penny’s entrance allows her to take on the adult role in the room of all of the boys, usually something that has its focus merely on Sheldon’s childishness. It turns out that Howard will be representing NASA at Angel Stadium to throw out the first pitch before a ball game. Penny refers to Howard as the group’s athlete, which Sheldon complains about since they all play Quidditch in a Griffith Park League. As Raj heckles Howard again, we learn that Wii Baseball does not, apparently, recognize a balk.

Following the opening credits, Sheldon and Amy are coming up the stairs when Sheldon asks how she enjoyed his lecture. Unfortunately, for Amy, it wasn’t a scientific lecture in an academic environment, but rather a berating lecture on the history of Cornwall to a poor, unsuspecting waiter who had tried to serve him Cornish game hen, an activity that Sheldon revels in. Later, when Leonard hears what Sheldon had for dinner, he immediately commiserated with the waiter. Amy asks Sheldon to see a movie the next night based on the relationship agreement, which Amy points out is binding. Sheldon invites Penny and Leonard to join them, mistakenly believing that double dating will count as two dates under the agreement.

bb howard massageHoward is getting an arm massage from Bernadette who questions why Howard agreed to throw out the first pitch and also reveals that she played a lot of softball growing up and would be happy to work with him to make sure he could throw the ball the 60 feet six inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Being the loving wife she is, Bernadette also mocks his run.

bb bernadette runningFor the double date, Sheldon and Amy decided to go to a pub, where Sheldon is looking forward to lecturing the waiter at a British pub about the history of Yorkshire since they serve Yorkshire pudding. As they leave, Sheldon reveals that he believes that he and Amy, and, in fact, all of the couples in their group, have stronger healthier relationships than Leonard and Penny, which surprises them, especially when he doesn’t say “Bazinga,” or even “Bazooka!” Leonard begins to fixate on Sheldon’s comment about their relationship, and both Sheldon and Leonard try to compare their relationships to each other based on their own standards.

bb gymAt a local gym, Howard, Bernadette, and Raj show up to practice, measuring out the distance for Howard to throw the ball, which just happens to be the width of the gym they are in. When Howard questions the distance, he drops in the first penis joke of the episode, which would have sounded strange coming from anyone else on the show, but actually fits Howard’s established character quite well. Demonstrating that his “excellence” on the Wii would be repeated in the gym forms the majority of this subsequent sequence. The practice session does bb ball on floorgive Simon Helberg a wonderful chance to exhibit his ability with physical comedy as he goes into a lengthy warmup, almost a ballet, while Raj occupies the safest spot in the room, his target.

Back on the double date, Penny explains that she wants to wait long enough after their engagement to marry Leonard to prove that she didn’t get engaged because of a pregnancy. Perfect couple Sheldon and Amy share Amy’s French fries, but when Sheldon refuses her a bite of his hamburger, Leonard seizes on his reluctance to share as a sign of a less than perfect relationship, only to learn that Sheldon’s burger has avocado on it, to which Amy is allergic. Sheldon explains his theory that everything can be quantified, something which he has exhibited in the past with his announcement that 73, for instance, is the best number. When Leonard calls him on it, Sheldon explains that French fries can be rated based on three variables, crispiness, saltiness, and shape (although he leaves out the all-important potatoiness). He also explains that he and Amy have taken a relationship test on an app on his phone to prove their relationship compatibility based on the work of Verscheid, Snyder, and Imoto in 1989, raising the question of how compatible Leonard and Penny would be. This silliness actually leads to an important conversation as Leonard and Penny leave the table to have a serious discussion about their fears of getting married. (And yes, in 1989, Verscheid, Snyder, and Imoto published bb restaurant“The Relationship Closeness Inventory: Assessing the closeness of interpersonal relationships” in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.) Sheldon notes that their study has been corroborated by other researchers over the years, which is strange since his attitude towards other sciences, such as neuroscience, applied physics, and geology would indicate that he wouldn’t consider the social sciences like Psychology to be worthy of the name science or the use of the scientific method. Amy notes that due to the amount of work it is to double date with Leonard and Penny, feeling needing and scared, means that she’ll count it as two dates according to the relationship agreement. Penny and Leonard opening up about their own fears is a strong point in the episode, even as Leonard tries and fails to make light of the situation.

bb astronautBack at his apartment, Howard calls his fellow astronaut Mike Massimino for advice about throwing out the first pitch. Although Mike belittles and mocks Howard the way he did while the two were on the space station, and advises Howard not to throw out the first pitch since it has no upside, there is an undertone of affection in their Skype and the writers hint that Howard and Mike actually have an on-going relationship that isn’t shown on the show, as well as a camaraderie based on their time on the space station (as well as having met each others ‘ families). Mike points out that nobody cares if you do well, and if you do poorly, it’ll be captured on Youtube forever. Mike also points out that Howard’s lack of physical dexterity extends well beyond the atmosphere into zero gravity, where Howard couldn’t even toss him a pen. As he signs off, his once-mocking nickname for Howard, “Froot Loops,” comes across as affectionate.

Leonard and Penny rejoin Sheldon and Amy at the table. While Sheldon is feeling competitive, Amy, more attuned to what is happening, tries to pull him back. Sheldon continues to goad Leonard about the test until Penny changes her mind and says she wants to take the test. Leonard instead comforts Penny about her insecurities, making Amy comment that she wished Sheldon could be as supportive.

bbroverAt Angel Stadium, the group has gathered to watch Howard throw out the first pitch, although Sheldon would rather be across the street at Disneyland. Amy convinces him to stay with the promise of cotton candy and a bobble head. On the field, Howard takes a microphone and announces to the crowd that he knows that he isn’t an athlete and couldn’t throw the pitch. Rather than throwing the pitch himself, he would take advantage of science. Rather than throwing the pitch himsel, he brought a working prototype of the Mars rover to deliver the pitch. His friends’ surprise at the announcement seems a little strange, since they should have known what was going to happen. Unfortunately, after placing the ball on the rover and setting it in motion, Howard hadn’t thought through the Mars Rover’s top speed of 50mm/s which meant that the rover would take just over 6 minutes to get from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Before the rover gets very far, the crowd turns on Howard and Sheldon suggests visiting Disneyland while waiting for the rover to arrive. Exacerbating the crowd’s reaction is the heckling from Raj and Sheldon.

bigbanglastUnfortunately, the “Let’s make fun of the unathletic nerds” vibe of this episode is much stronger and more consistent than it normally is, offsetting the too-brief celebration of that same nerdom that comes from the inclusion of Mike Massimino and the Mars Rover.

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