THE BIG BANG THEORY RECAP: Season 8, Episode 18: The Intimacy Acceleration

We can all relax – now we know when Sheldon’s birthday is

bb1Amy shares the news that she has read about an experiment that causes people to fall in love in only a couple of hours, which Leonard refutes with anecdotal evidence that it takes several years to cause someone to fall in love with you, or at least him. Penny points out that he probably shouldn’t tell people that. Raj explains that following an in depth question and answer session, the couple should stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. Sheldon doesn’t think it would work since the only thing that has happened when he has looked into Amy’s eyes is a conjunctivitis diagnosis. Raj, ever the romantic, doesn’t think he needs science to make women fall in love with him since he has his family’s wealth, apparently forgetting that in the fifth season episode “The Wiggly Finger Catalyst,” his parents cut him off when he was dating his first girlfriend named Emily (portrayed by Katie Leclerc). Leonard also demonstrated skepticism and Sheldon suggests trying an experiment. When Amy rejects his plan to imprison street people, Sheldon agrees to be one of the subjects, leading to Penny to beg to be the other subject.

The two take a stack of questions over to Penny’s apartment, along the way Sheldon asking if Penny would drive him to Wisconsin for Gary Con, a convention celebrating E. Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. The convention grew out of an impromptu gaming session following Gygax’s funeral in 2008 and will have its seventh official event later this month. Penny agrees, but only if they fall in love, and she’ll also buy him souvenirs.

Raj thinks running the experiment is risky. Although he doesn’t think it would work, he questions why they are tempting fate, noting that he wouldn’t use a Ouija board of fight an Asian guy (conveniently, of course, forgetting that he is an Asian guy), because an Asian guy might know karate. Amy suggests that she and Leonard could also do the experiment, which lasts as long as the first question when Leonard says that his favorite dinner guest in the world would be Penny, leading to Amy saying she’s pick a janitor since his answer is so sickeningly sweet it would make her through up. Rather than continue the experiment, they decide they’ll go out with Raj and Emily since she’s about to get off work.

bb4Howard and Bernadette can’t join them because they are dealing with the lost luggage department which misrouted Howard’s suitcase, which happened to include his mother’s ashes. After the bittersweet tribute to Howard’s mother (and Carol Ann Susi) in last week’s episode, Mrs Wolowitz’s death can now be treated as a springboard for humor.

bb5In Penny’s apartment, Penny pours a glass of wine, which Sheldon refuses, since he views his own mind as heavy machinery and you shouldn’t operate heavy machinery while drinking. Even before the questions begin, Sheldon demonstrates his off-putting arrogance with the assumption that Penny would, of course, fall in love with him. Sheldon also begins overthinking the process, trying to decide who should go first. When he begins to suggest a game of Rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock (the show airing only days before Leonard Nimoy’s death), Penny picks up the first card. Rather than the saccharine answer Leonard gave, Sheldon wants to have dinner with himself once he determines the question refers to either living or dead. Penny point out that she has had that dinner and it isn’t what it is cracked up to be. Sheldon also likes Penny’s suggestion of Robert Downey, Jr., although he thinks of him as Iron Man.

bb7Driving around after picking Emily up, she suggests visiting an Escape Room, which seems like the exact type of thing her character would enjoy. She explains that they will get locked into a room and have to solve puzzles in order to get out. They wind up going to one with a zombie, which Raj sees as a parallel to Penny’s current experience.

When Penny describes her perfect day, Sheldon notices that Leonard isn’t a part of her day and her description actually only includes things Leonard hates. Sheldon’s day also fails to mention Amy, focusing instead on a science fictional messianic story featuring himself. He explains that Amy was part of the support cast of his fantasy.

bb9The clerk who ushers the other four into the Escape Room shows all the enjoyment of her job of a minimum wage worker who couldn’t find anything better to do, rather than someone participating in a form of “interactive theatre,” as Emily described it. The entry experience falls a little flat with the actress demonstrating all the thespian skill Penny was supposed to not have when the series began. She says her introduction, bb10opens the door, and ushers them into the Escape Room, locking it behind them. The room is designed like a lab from a bad horror film. As Raj asks about the zombie, a man dressed as a zombie bursts out of a closet, chained to the wall, startling Raj.

bb12Howard and Bernadette are informed that their luggage did wind up in Los Angeles, but apparently someone else took it off the luggage carousel. Howard’s dismay at the thought of his mother’s ashes being anywhere in Los Angeles is made worse when the clerk explains that the traveler may have gotten on an international flight (which leads to all sorts of interesting scenes when they try to go through customs with an urn they didn’t know they were carrying). In response to Howard’s tirade, the clerk offers him 500 frequent flyer miles.

bb13Meanwhile, Penny shares that her superpower would be to turn water into wine. When Sheldon calls her on using humor to avoid answering real questions, she admits that she would want to be as smart as Sheldon and the others, a goal that Sheldon mocks as unrealistic (from the person whose perfect day includes time travel). Sheldon, meanwhile points out that he envies Penny’s ability to be compassionate, which he sees it as an ability to read people’s minds. Reading their minds would allow him to be able to understand people better. At this point, Sheldon and Penny begin to open up to each other and be honest with each other, leading Penny to feel affection for Sheldon until he opens his mouth.

bb11In the Escape Room, the group is hurrying through the puzzle, the zombie only being a slightly annoying distraction. When the zombie realizes how quickly the group is working, he begins to point out that there are no refunds for speed.

bb15Howard refuses to leave the airport, revealing that he is feeling guilty about not driving her to the airport, instead making her take a cab. While Mrs. Wolowitz’s death has been played for laughs up to this point, the storyline suddenly takes a very human detour into a look at guilt as Howard realizes he gave up his last chance to see his mother. Bernadette goes over to the clerk and informs her in the nicest possible way that if Howard doesn’t get his mother’s ashes, the clerk’s short remaining amount of time on Earth will be miserable.

bb14Finding a black light in the Escape route, the gang reveals a simple logic puzzle that leads them to the key to the door. By this time, the zombie has given up trying to slow them down. They spent $200 for a puzzle room that took them less than ten minutes to solve leaves them feeling let down. The zombie’s parting words are to remind them that with advanced degrees, they aren’t typical and that they shouldn’t post a bad review of the room on-line.

bb16Over dinner, or at least ice cream, Sheldon and Penny are discussing regrets if they were to die that day. Sheldon mentions that it is his birthday, which nobody knew, not even Amy. He kept is secret because to him, a birthday means a surprise party, which he hates as much as a George Lucas Director’s Cut. When Penny asks why he revealed his birthday, he explains that the point of the experiment was to be honest. When Penny comment on Sheldon being a Pisces, he returns immediately to his condescending ways.

bb14And the clerk, relieved that she’ll live another day, has returned the suitcase to Howard, who immediately removes his mother’s urn from it. He apologizes to her and Bernadette realizes that the urn will wind up in their bedroom.

bb18Finishing the questions, Sheldon and Penny need to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes, but quickly decide it is creepy (which my wife agreed with when I tried to stare into her eyes). Penny offers to stop since she knows Sheldon has problems with eye contact. They admit that they are comfortable with each other and view each other as siblings, or perhaps Penny as a mother figure, perhaps in a direct response to the Penny-Sheldon `shippers. Penny mentions that she’s thinking about the day bb17she met Sheldon and Leonard, leading Sheldon to access his eidetic memory and recreate the day they met, leading to a nostalgic moment as well as a sentimental scene, despite Sheldon’s best attempts to destroy the mood, and despite Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s attempts not to break. When the alarm sounds, they realize that they are not in love with each other, proving that psychology is barely a science. Despite not being in love, Sheldon is convinced they are going to Gary Con and have to decide whether they should fly or drive, whether to wear costumes, and who would get to be Gary.

bb19They go back across the hall into a surprise party for Sheldon, since Penny texted her new-found knowledge to the rest of the group.

While the scene in the Escape Room offered several opportunities for the characters’ geekiness, the main point of the plot line is to show how quickly they can work their way through the project by dint of being intelligent rather than geeky. Sheldon’s references to Gary Con really form the crux of the geekdom in the episode, which is saying something since Gary Con was not a particularly well known event until this episode aired.

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