The Big Bang Theory Recap: Season 8, Episode 5: The Focus Attenuation

The Big Bang Theory will be moving to Thursday nights next week. Future recaps will run on Thursdays, beginning next week.

bb openingAs the boys sit down at their traditional table in the cafeteria, Raj tells the group that he has been reading about a technique to convert walking into electrical energy (Tom Krupenkin and J.Ashley Taylor) in order to charge cell phones. Although Leonard points out that they had that idea a few years ago, they never acted on it, which Sheldon ascribes to the fact that they came up with the idea on September 22, 2007, which was two days before the series premiered, that is, Penny moved in across the hall. Leonard’s infatuation with Penny caused him to lose his scientific edge. The reason Sheldon remembered the date is because he remembers composing his annual poem to Dr. Seuss (although the anniversary of Geisel’s death is September 24, so Sheldon appears to have composed it early in preparation for the anniversary). Sheldon recites the poem and then asks what Leonard’s greatest accomplishments since 2007 have been. Raj and Howard answer: sleeping with Penny, getting her to go out with him after she dumped him, getting engaged to Penny, and almost doing a pull up. Sheldon notes that the girls have become a distraction to all of them. Raj suggests that they can have a science retreat, although selecting a location is difficult since Sheldon compares every possible location for a retreat to a horror film.

bb girls going to vegasLeonard apologetically breaks the news of the retreat to Penny since they were planning on going to brunch on Sunday. Before the words are even out of his mouth, Penny is inviting Amy to visit Las Vegas for the weekend. Bernadette enters the room and also agrees to go. Before Leonard can even register what has happened, the girls are booking hotels. The boy’s retreat takes place in their Fortress of Not-Quite-Solitude: Sheldon & Leonard’s apartment. When Raj shows up, Howard explains that he figured Raj would have to spend the weekend with Emily, implying that the only way Raj can keep a woman is to incarcerate her, however Raj explains that Emily is working. Leonard calls for no distractions and Raj compares them to the guys in the “Facebook movie,” which Howard has never seen. Sheldon suggests that they watch the movie and Raj runs off to make popcorn. Leonard rejects the movie idea and Howard points out that they used to maintain a list of ideas they used to have. What follows is a nostalgia fest for the nerdy-creepiness that Howard was at the start of the show as Leonard reads a litany of robotic masturbation machines. When Sheldon points out that a robot girlfriend and a robot prostitute would serve similar bb boys focusingpurposes, Howard explains that there are just certain thing you don’t do with your robot girlfriend, showing that underneath his new exterior, there is still some creepiness trying to get out. Sheldon lists off ideas for inventions that came from science fiction, including the idea of an African-American President coming from Deep Impact. Raj points out that the futuristic scenes of Back to the Future Part II are only a year away and many things, such as Marty McFly’s hoverboard haven’t been invented yet (interestingly enough, the show A to Z also featured the Back to the Future Part II hoverboard in an episode airing this month). Leonard begins talking about the theory of creating one, noting the physical limitations that would have to be overcome. Of course, before inventing it, Sheldon pulls out the movie and Raj sets off to make popcorn, leading one to wonder why Sheldon doesn’t just subscribe to Netflix instead of buying BluRays.

bb girls casinoIn Las Vegas, while Penny and Bernadette are getting dressed up to go out on the town, Amy is pushing for the girls to go see a Barry Manilow cover band, which Penny rejects despite the name “Fairly Manilow,” which Amy sees as an awesome selling point. Penny’s suggestion is to drink margaritas until she’s sick. Unfortunately, just as they’re about to head out, Penny gets a text from her boss letting her know that she’s having a review on Monday instead of a week from Monday. In a change from the previous apathetic Penny, she realizes that she now has a real job and needs to prepare for it. She sends Amy and Bernadette off to the wonders of Vegas while she hunkers down to study, promising to catch up with Amy and Bernadette wherever they happen to be, which, according to Bernadette, will not be at a Fairly Manilow concert.

bb time travelBack in the apartment, the boys are watching Back to the Future Part II (just as with Star Wars during last season’s “The Proton Transmogrification,” a section of the film without any dialogue, just soundtrack, when Howard pauses the movie because something doesn’t make sense. Walking up to the whiteboard, he maps out Biff’s travels with the Sports Almanac. Biff would change the future as soon as he gives the almanac to himself in 1955, instantly changing the future. Leonard Complains that these are the same arguments they had after Hot Tub Time Machine and argues that since Biff didn’t place his first bet until he turned 21, a few years later, causing Sheldon to argue about the use of tenses, in a discussion reminiscent of the one Douglas Adams detailed regarding the uses of tense and time travel. Of course, one of the issues with time travel in the Back to the Future films (which handles the subject better than most time travel films, as well as better than most time travel literary works), is that there is always a strange lag between the causal event change and the eventual change to history, as if the change is a slow moving wave (which allows Marty to attempt to correct the path of his parents’ relationship in the first film, a la Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap). Once the tense issue is sorted out, Sheldon points out that Biff’s future creates a branching time machine and it caught short when Leonard called him on his own use of tense. After Sheldon expounds on the paradoxes at length with reference to various tenses, past, future, and imaginary, Raj sits sagely on the couch and nods in agreement with Sheldon’s arguments. With a genuinely nerdy argument going, Raj then proceeds to derail it by comparing the name Biff to the sound Pillsbury dough makes when you open a can and Howard drooling over Pillsbury dough enwrapped cocktail wieners. Sheldon points out that the word wiener comes from the Austrian capital Vienna, and Raj offers that fact that Austria looks like a penis. Leonard again tries to get them back on the project at hand, but is ignored by Sheldon.

bb girls drinkingIn Vegas, Bernadette and Amy are drinking margaritas from enormous glasses, even bigger than the previous week’s wine glass, with Amy hoping that if she gets Bernadette drunk enough, she can convince her to go see Fairly Manilow. Already a little tipsy, Amy points out the irony of the two of them drinking and partying while Penny is in the room studying, although Bernadette, who recommended Penny for the job, is proud that she’s taking it seriously. Slightly drunk Amy, who has often had a weird, lesbian vibe about Penny is now transferring that to Bernadette.

bb pegeonsLeonard opens his lab up to the boys who note that there are fewer distractions in the lab. When Howard suggests supercooling the materials and using quantum coupling. Sheldon wonders if anyone has tried that and Raj suggests looking it up on-line. Next thing you know, Howard, Sheldon, and Raj are looking at maps of Austria, agreeing with Raj’s earlier description. Of course, once you start surfing the internet, productive use of time goes out the window (I mean, here you are, reading a recap of The Big Bang Theory) and they begin looking at other locations and their phallic shapes. Sheldon suggests using behavior modification to keep themselves from getting off topic, resulting in the boys covering their arms in duct tape and ripping it off when they get distracted, itself a wonderful (if painful) form of distraction. However, before the put the duct tape on, they must surf the web to find video of pigeons playing ping pong.

bb penny studyThe only person in the episode who actually is able to maintain focus is Penny, working on her computer in her hotel room until Amy and Bernadette break in on her, now very drunk and intent on getting her out of the room and into Vegas. Bernadette’s completely wasted physical comedy is on target as she volunteers to climb into an Australian male stripper’s g-string like a baby kangaroo. When Penny refuses to lose focus, Amy denigrates her for being a nerd. Penny tells them to go out and advises them to find a policeman if they get into trouble, pointing out, clearly from past experience, that if he’s taking off his pants, he’s probably not a real policeman. Amy suggests that they can help Penny study and offers to quiz Penny, grabbing Penny’s laptop and fleeing into the walk in closet.

bb duct tapeAfter Leonard pulls duct tape off Sheldon’s arm for asking who decides what a distraction is, Sheldon returns the favor since Leonard mentioned quantum coupling, which made him think of Quantum Leap, which Sheldon felt was a Leonard-caused distraction. Sheldon proceeds to rip off tape for retribution. When Raj has a piece of tape ripped off by Howard, he complains that his eyebrow waxing girl, Jenny, will now think he’s cheating on her. When Leonard comments that negative reinforcement isn’t working, Sheldon explains they are actually using positive punishment, but it is used incorrectly all the time, even by Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, which leads to them watching Ghostbusters. Howard wants to jump ahead to the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, but Leonard rejects that idea, Sheldon thinking because you can’t skip around in the movie, but Leonard is more concerned with the fact that they can’t stay on-topic. Rather than watch the movie on a crappy laptop in Leonard’s lab, they return to the apartment to watch the movie (with lyrics! In addition to the music) in the apartment.

bb bern stripperAmy and Bernadette, meanwhile did make it to the strip club, with Penny, who is still focusing on her laptop, although she does spare a glance for one of the strippers who is standing on the stage above her. Amy, meanwhile, compares the strippers bodies, and their movement, to the corpses in her anatomy class.

bb penny stripperThe next morning, a chipper Penny tries to wake up Bernadette and Amy, using the arguments they used on her the night before to get them out of the room, and eventually pulling open the drapes to flood their hungover eyes with sunshine as Penny leaves to go to the pool.

bb penny poolIn focusing on distractions and procrastination, the episode gives the four boys more than enough time to have the type of nerdy discussions, in this case, mostly about science fiction films, which actually featured in many of the early episodes. They could have just as easily talked about comic books, costuming, literature, or any of a number of other aspects of geek culture.


(Editor’s Note:  You can watch the B.F. Skinner Pigeons Playing Ping Pong video here)

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