Ed. Note of apology: I neglected to post last week’s recap and so have included it here in a special super double bonus recap today.
The Champagne Reflection Season 8, Episode 10
Amy and Sheldon are filming another episode, the final one, of Sheldon’s video blog, “Fun with Flags,” which does beg the question of how he finds time for all of his hobbies, and who has watched his flag videos for 232 episodes. Both Amy and Sheldon demonstrate stiffness in the video which their characters usually don’t show. When Sheldon announces that all good things must come to an end, it is a little surprising that he does make an aside about the title of the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (“All Good Things…”). Meanwhile, Amy is defensive about comments on the blog’s website questioning whether Sheldon has a girlfriend. The two also argue over the missing episode when Amy failed to press record on the video camera.
The episode divides into three sections. Amy and Sheldon will continue to film their episode of “Fun with Flags” while Howard, Leonard, and Raj work to clean out the office of a recently deceased colleague. Professor Roger Abbott’s death impacts each of them differently, with Howard seeing that his research is all outdated and disproved, Raj trying to find interesting things among the junk (and succeeding in finding dentures), and Leonard reflecting not only on mortality, but on Abbott’s failure to bring his research to successful fruition, ignoring the possibility that he found teaching fulfilling. Leonard also finds a bottle of champagne, unopened, that was given to Abbott in 1964 early in his career to celebrate a successful discovery. The realization of the professor’s full name (surely they would have known his name prior to this), makes Howard and Raj riff on its similarity to “Roger Rabbit.”
Meanwhile Penny and Bernadette are at a an Award dinner for their company, where Penny is warmly greeted by Dan, who admits he initially made a mistake in not wanting to hire her, when she’s become the third best sales rep in the company. He invites her to join him at his table, not realizing that he will also be inviting Bernadette, who scares him senseless, to the table as well. Penny defends Bernadette and Dan shares the story of Bernadette making his grandson cry at the company picnic. When Bernadette finally shows up, Dan disappears.
The main point of the final episode of “Fun with Flags” seems to be Sheldon beating the dead horse of Amy’s failure to record his Fourth of July episode, the missing 233rd episode, which is described as the word “REC” clearly shows in the camera to indicate that Amy has learned her lesson, although Sheldon points out that nobody got to see his 4,000 domino American flag from the episode. The viewer is then treated to “highlights” from previous unseen episodes of the blog, including Amy in a Kangaroo outfit, quizzing Barry Kripke, Sheldon dressed as Betsy Ross explaining that she didn’t really create the American flag, and green screen footage of the two at “a beach.” While the sequence is cute, it feels out of place in an episode of The Big Bang Theory and hearkens to sitcoms which constantly seem to dress characters in elaborate costumes or put them in situations that the characters would never find themselves in if they didn’t have the support of a major studio’s costume department. Rather than amusing, it tends to drop the reader from the show’s world (although the Barry Kripke sequence works quite well).
Back in Professor Abbott’s office, Leonard wants to explore Abbott’s research and see if Abbott had been close to a discovery. Howard is dismissive until he looks at Abbott’s notes and then begins to suggest ways that they can crunch the numbers, perhaps finding something Abbott missed. Raj points out that they could just talk to Abbott’s former office mate.
At the corporate dinner, Dan, Bernadette, and Penny sit at a table in awkward silence. When Penny asks Dan about his grandson, Bernadette remembers him as a wuss from the picnic, despite the fact that he’s only seven. As her father says, “nobody likes a crybaby except their mothers and Democrats.” When Dan excuses himself, Bernadette asks what was wrong and then says she only called his grandson a “wuss” because she didn’t think sissy was still acceptable, completely missing the point and projecting her nasty side, which she shows often, but doesn’t realize she has. When Penny brings up the nasty side, Bernadette is disbelieving, pointing out that she’s so sweet she should be in a tree baking cookies. Although Penny’s comments are on target and something Bernadette needs to hear and deal with (and with luck will continue to deal with in future episodes), the setting seems a little inappropriate for the discussion.
In the final episode of “Fun with Flags,” Sheldon has managed to score a guest appearance by Levar Burton, with the stipulation that Sheldon will delete Burton’s contact information from his phone while Burton watches. Sheldon shows Burton (but not the audience) a picture of Sheldon portraying George Washington Carver, asking Burton if it is racist. Burton responds with an horrified “Hell, no!” which Sheldon, of course, in his self-centered way, takes as vindication.
The boys are wandering through a hallway looking for Professor Abbott’s former colleague, the neighborhood defined by the “doorman” who was pulling up his pants when he told them they were in the right place. Leonard knocks on an apartment door and they are greeted by Professor Sharp, whose career trajectory was clearly similar to Professor Abbott’s. They show Sharp Abbott’s notebooks and Sharp comments that Abbott was always working on them. While Raj speculated on the astronomical research behind the numbers, Sharp explained that Abbott was consistently using the book to track his caloric intake. Although Sharp claims that the number 19 represents the number of calories in a yogurt, a plain yogurt serving actually has 137 calories in it (a single yogurt covered pretzel will set you back 19 calories). Abbott thought calories restriction was the key to living forever. When Raj asked if it worked, Howard looks at him incredulously and Raj says, “He may have been hit by a bus, you don’t know!” although it seems difficult to believe that they are cleaning out his office and don’t know anything about him, including the manner of his death. Sharp confirms that Abbott’s research never amounted to anything, and neither did Sharp’s. Raj, meanwhile demonstrates an almost Sheldonesque ability to not recognize sarcasm in this episode.
At the corporate dinner, Bernadette defends herself to Penny, who tries to explain to Bernadette just what she’s doing wrong. Bernadette wants to leave since everyone hates her, but Penny explains they are only intimidated by her. Penny convinces Bernadette to face the problem and doesn’t let her leave.
At the end of Sheldon’s “Fun with Flags” episode, he gets a bit emotional. The blog entry ends and Amy tells Sheldon how beautiful his sign off was, only to have Sheldon question whether she pressed record, which we know she did because every time the viewpoint was from the camera we could clearly see the record light and the battery charge.
Professor Abbott’s office is empty and the boys make a pact to open the 50 year old champagne when one of them manages to make a discovery, although since he has been in space, Howard figures he’s already made a major impact on things, even if others might not make a big breakthrough.
Bernadette, meanwhile learns from Dan that people are so scared of her, that they’ve been paying for her coffee, even though the company stopped giving out free coffee five months earlier, the money coming from a swear jar people put money into whenever Bernadette curses. In addition, Dan reveals that Bernadette’s private bathroom is really the general women’s room on her floor, but all the other women go to another floor to give her privacy. Bernadette realizes she’s a monster at work, although Dan tries to soften the blow by comparing her to the “Cute eyeball guy from Monsters, Inc.” Bernadette breaks down in tears (perhaps loved only by her mother and Democrats?) and to calm her down, Dan offers to get her an espresso machine for her office (so people won’t keep buying her coffee). The lesson Bernadette takes is that she needn’t be mean to get what she wants, she can simply be manipulative (a lesson which Howard is sure to appreciate).
A saddened Sheldon is watching his webpage waiting for a comment on the final episode of “Fun with Flags,” feeling as dejected as Leonard feels after cleaning out Abbott’s office. When a comment suddenly appears stating that they kind of liked his show, Sheldon takes it as a mandate and announces he’s going to restart the show, popping Leonard’s bottle of champagne.
In the kicker, he goes to share his good news with Levar Burton, belying his deletion of Burton’s contact information. Burton notes that Burton and the other members of The Next Generation share notes on how to deal with Sheldon. Since Burton was born in Germany, Sheldon wants to know if he is willing to dress as a swastika.
Focusing on Sheldon’s flag geekdom, the majority of the episode looks at Bernadette’s personality and the possibility (unlikely as it seems) that she might change and the irrelevance of most people’s lives in the boys’ exploration of Roger Abbott’s office. The flag section felt out of place with the more serious, yet still humorous, sections.
The Septum Deviation Season 8, Episode 9
Sheldon and Amy are playing “Head’s Up” with Sheldon trying to guess the name “Tesla,” but his ego gets in the way and he guesses himself for every question, pointing out that he even has a car named for him. It isn’t until Amy compares Tesla to Sheldon that he’s able to guess whose name is on the phone he’s holding up. As he finally figures it out, Penny and Leonard arrive in the apartment with the news that the doctor wants to operate on Leonard’s deviated septum. Sheldon can’t understand why Leonard would get elective surgery, which is a reasonable question, expect that it is backed by Sheldon’s version of logic. Despite complaining of Leonard’s snoring, he doesn’t want Leonard to have the surgery. Leonard and Amy try to calm Sheldon’s fears and Sheldon and Amy return to the game, where Sheldon provides a clue to Amy to try to get her to guess “Jay-Z” by stating that he has never had elective nasal surgery, and goes on to explain that he isn’t sure if Jay-Z is a person or a typo. Of course, the question of a version of “Head’s Up” that includes both Jay-Z and Tesla is rather intriguing.
Following the opening song, we hear the wonderful sound of Leonard snoring with a vulture-like Sheldon sitting watch over him until Leonard snorts himself awake. Sheldon tries again to convince him not to have the surgery while explaining that he had hid in Leonard’s closet for two hours waiting for him to fall asleep. Sheldon’s explanation that if the surgery is successful or not, Leonard’s snoring will be gone, hinting at his fear that there will be a complication and Leonard will die. Leonard sees it as a win, win situation, getting rest whether he lives or dies. Sheldon’s concern comes, at least in part, from research he has done which indicates that 1 in 7,000 people die from general anesthesia. The fear this causes in Sheldon makes the viewer wonder how well Sheldon understands statistics. Leonard points out the inverse equation, which Sheldon dismisses as Leonard’s optimism, noting he’ll miss it once Leonard becomes the .014% of people who die (according to Sheldon’s numbers).
Raj is having dinner with the Wolowitzes, commenting that he needs to come up with a fortieth anniversary present for his parents. Howard makes a snide remark about being married such a long time, which results in a nasty look and snark comment from Bernadette, who clearly hopes and expects that her marriage to Howard will last. Seeing the three of them eating together, the viewer does question the lack of Emily. It does seem like the writers need to either work her into more episodes (as was done with Bernadette and Amy in season four) or they need to end her relationship with Raj. When Bernadette asks Raj what his parents like, Raj indicates that he knows way more about their sex lives than he would probably like to know, also indicating that they are having some marital problems, which have been hinted at, but not shown, in past episodes.
Leonard returns to the apartment to find that Sheldon is trying to come up with various ways that Leonard can die in surgery, raising his chances from the 1:7000 ratio mentioned earlier to 1:300. Leonard refuses to accept Sheldon’s fear-mongering and dismisses Sheldon’s various concerns about latex allergies (Leonard doesn’t have them) or asteroid strikes (which would kill him anyway). Sheldon, of course, figures that he would be able to survive a cataclysm, even though he has a hard enough time riding a bus to work. As Leonard dismisses Sheldon and leaves, Sheldon guarantees his death if he has the surgery in Nicaragua during monsoon season, despite that fact the Leonard has already stated his intentions of having surgery the next week in, one presumes, Pasadena.
Howard stops by Raj’s while Raj is on the phone getting the news that his parents are getting divorced, which dampens any enthusiasm for the Jedi fencing class Howard has found for them. For someone who only recently annoyed his wife by marveling that people could stay married for forty years, Howard shows a tremendous sensitivity to Raj’s news. Raj tries to put a good face on his parents’ separation, noting that he’ll be able to celebrate Diwali twice, but Howard sees through it and Raj breaks down.
Penny and Leonard are in the waiting room waiting for Leonard to be called in for his surgery, revealing that Leonard told Sheldon that they were going to a public pool, triggering Sheldon’s fear of communal bathing and allowing him to figure out parts per million of urine in the pool, that he didn’t question whether Leonard was really going for surgery. Unfortunately, Sheldon, getting a ride to work from Amy realizes that Leonard probably isn’t going swimming. Amy tries, stiffly, to cover, but Sheldon accuses her of acting odd, dismissing Amy’s contention that people think she always acts odd. Amy eventually tells Sheldon that an earlier appointment opened up. Rather than going to work, Sheldon commands Amy to take him to the hospital.
Amy and Sheldon walk into the waiting room where Penny explains that they had a really nice swim and Sheldon calls her a liar. Learning that Leonard is still in surgery, Sheldon brings up the idea of Leonard’s funeral arrangements.
Howard and Bernadette visit Raj at work with a basket of muffins to cheer him up, with Bernadette making a series of muffin jokes, despite early on being defined by the writers for her inability to tell a joke (or recognize them). Raj claims he handling it well and Bernadette notes that she would be devastated if her parents divorced. Howard indicates that there might be trouble in the Rostenkowski household since Bernadette’s dad barely talks to her mother. When attacked, Bernadette lashes out and throws Howard’s absentee father in his face. With their own talk about their parental issues, they clearly aren’t cheering Raj up. Raj explained he thinks that his parents just kept their issues bottled up and suppressed until they couldn’t contain it any more. In some ways, Howard and Bernadette taking relationship advice from Raj mirrors Leonard and Penny getting financial advice from Howard and Bernadette in “The Expedition Approximation” a few weeks ago.
Sheldon explains to Penny that the teddy bear he is holding is a gift from Amy since he got dizzy and stubbed his toe on the revolving door on their way into the hospital, again turning a theoretically accomplished theoretical physicist into a four year old child, especially when he explained that the lobby plants confused him about when he was inside or outside in the revolving door. Amy tries to explain tact to Sheldon, reminding him of the time that he held up a grapefruit to a man who had a large goiter in the supermarket to demonstrate the comparison. Sheldon refuses to make any promises and explains that he was being a “Pain in the B” because nobody was taking him seriously. While they are waiting and Leonard is in surgery, there is a tremor which causes the power to go out, concerning Sheldon that Leonard’s surgeon might cut the wrong thing. No mention is made about the fact that hospitals have emergency generators in case of power outages. Sheldon goes to find Leonard and promptly demonstrates he has problems with any kind of glass door, not just a revolving door by smashing his nose and falling to the ground.
At dinner, Bernadette is concerned that she and Howard might wind up like the Koothrapalis and asks Howard if he is keeping anything inside. Howard refuses to answer because he recognizes the trap. Nevertheless, Bernadette doesn’t allow him out of the trap and while Howard tries to avoid the conversation, Bernadette forces the issues. At the same time, Howard admits to being in couples therapy, and Bernadette asks with whom. Howard’s evasion leads him to believe he was in couples therapy with his mother. By telling them what they love about each other, they wind up criticizing each other anyway.
In the apartment, a recuperating Leonard has a taped nose while Sheldon’s nose is broken from his encounter with the door. Sheldon blames Leonard for his injury and Leonard points out that his surgery was a success and that he didn’t want Sheldon at the hospital. When Amy tells them they need to discuss their issues, Penny points out how funny they sound. While Leonard apologizes for not telling Sheldon when the surgery was going to be, Sheldon responds with worst case scenarios about Leonard’s recuperation.
And back in the Wolowitzes the two are attacking each other when an Emilyless Raj shows up for dinner, having been speaking to his mother, who burned his father’s Mercedes. When Howard tells Raj what Bernadette and he have been discussing, Raj indicates that it wasn’t Mrs. Wolowitz who attended couples therapy with Howard.
In the kicker, Sheldon reveals that in honor of Leonard’s surgery he had ordered an engraved urn for Leonard’s ashes. Not only that, but Sheldon also got an engraved urn for himself.
There are times when the writers on The Big Bang Theory handle the complexities of Sheldon Cooper’s characters well and there are times when they reduce him to a caricature man-child. Unfortunately, the Sheldon Cooper who shows up in “The Septum Deviation” is the latter. While there are plenty of legitimate reasons not to have elective surgery, Sheldon is unable to come up with any of them, instead only coming up with the most inane and fantastic reasons not to. While Mayim Bialik’s Amy Farrah Fowler manages some tender moments opposite him, the viewer continues to wonder what she sees in him and why she would put up with his idiosyncratic behavior. Often it seems like Bialik and Jim Parsons are in different shows, a dynamic which doesn’t seem to impact the other characters much (although it came close when Raj was serious in “The Expedition Approximation”). It seems that while Parsons, or perhaps Sheldon Cooper, is a perfect comedic foil, the character fails when the other actors try to play pathos opposite him.