The stereotypical nerd is pale and pasty and doesn’t exercise. In general, the four main male characters of The Big Bang Theory do give the impression that they don’t get much exercise and when we’ve seen them attempt to participate in sports in the past, whether Howard throwing out the first pitch at an Angels game (in season 8, episode 3: “The First Pitch Insufficiency”) or Sheldon challenging Barry Kripke to a game of basketball (in season 5, episode 17: “Rothman Disintegration”), they’ve demonstrated in the past that their athletic prowess is limited to video games, bowling (in season 3, episode 19: “The Wheaton Recurrence”), and possibly paint ball. This makes Howard’s design of a piston system to trick the Fitbit Bernadette game him the perfect solution for a character who wants to avoid any sort of exercise. Similarly, Sheldon’s claim that thinking about exercise can have physical benefits offers him the wonderful line that he’ll get around to it tomorrow. But Leonard thinks that getting exercise might be a good idea, although Howard solution of throwing his piston system into high gear may not be what Leonard had in mind.
When Leonard and Sheldon share their idea with Penny, she points out that Leonard twisted his ankle playing Scrabble, although Leonard points out it was less about playing Scrabble and more about the dance he did when he hit a triple word score with a double letter score on Q. Checking his phone, Leonard discovers that Kripke has started a fencing club. Sheldon is intrigued since sword fighting, as he calls fencing, is perhaps the most appealing sport for fantasy fans (perhaps up there with archery). Sheldon and Leonard list off their sports requirements: indoors (so no archery), no throwing, catching, or running, and no gym shorts, and Shedon would be able to use the word touché.
Throughout the series, Stuart has generally been depicted as a clueless loser who can come across as a little creepy, although in early seasons he did score dates with both Penny (twice, the first in season 2, episode 20 “The Hofstadter Isotope”) and Amy (season 5, episode 10 “The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition”). In this episode, however, they decide that it is time to demonstrate how creepy Stuart really can be. He knows that women are buying more comic books and has been stocking more titles that appeal to women (although I’ll admit that when Kevin Sussman first said the word “stocking” I heard it as “stalking”), but he can’t get them to come into his store. To figure out how, he has invited Penny, Bernadette, and Amy to his store to see if they have any thoughts. He has also folded the toilet paper into Sacred Points, and he has created an official breast feeding area (although nursing would be a better word). Of course, trying to show off Stuart’s creepiness, the area is in the open and has a camera on it so he can keep an eye on any “pervs.”
When Amy point out that the artwork behind her, showing a woman in bondage, may turn women off, Stuart acts as an apologist for the artist, noting that there may be a backstory to the picture. It is interesting to note that most of the figurines in the background are of female characters, from the Batgirl and Wonder Woman behind Penny to the Princess Leia, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, and Power Girl behind Stuart. I must assume that the set dressers chose these figures on purpose.
In the gym, the four guys are dressing fencing jackets and waving foils around. At this point an aside, I fenced in college and my daughters currently fence in high school (proud dad warning), in fact, my older daughter was just named captain of the women’s foil team for her school. The idea that the fencing couch would just leave the equipment around for people to play with demonstrates a lack of judgment on the coach’s part. Generally, the four boys seem to think that they are handling sabres.
Kripke notes that fencing isn’t like Star Wars, but Raj states that he was thinking Game of Thrones until Howard suggests Princess Bride, which is more along the lines of what Raj wanted to say, all indicative of why fencing is a sport geeks love. However, Kripke actually comes across as a pretty good teacher.
Sure, he should have had everyone stretch before beginning, but he did begin with basic instruction. If he didn’t pay close enough attention to his students, allowing them to wave their swords around, that seems to be a minor failing, although the fact that the equipment was out when the four main characters demonstrates that he really isn’t all that responsible. The fencing scene also seems odd since the characters noted that Kripke had started a fencing club, which one would expect was aimed at students rather than faculty, or at least had other members beside Kripke, but apparently if Leonard hadn’t suggested that they join Kripke’s fencing club, Kripke would have been teaching in an empty gym.
The episode also demonstrates that Sheldon can learn. He asks Barry when he can stab one of his friends. Kripke corrects him, noting that in fencing it is called a “touch,” but Sheldon knows that if he says that, he’ll have another meeting with Janine Davis, a far cry from his previous interactions with human resources.
Amy wants to know if Stuart has advertised directly to women, but Stuart’s ideas along those lines aren’t great. Meanwhile, Penny has looked up the on-line reviews for Stuart’s shop and all of the women who have commented have indicated that Stuart creeps them out, which is why Stuart doesn’t read the reviews…they’re too negative.
A series of vignettes of the fencing club show them mimicking Star Wars, quoting (and misquoting) The Princess Bride, and other ideas about fencing that come from films. Raj and Howard are certainly demonstrating more of a sabre technique than foil. In the midst of these, Leonard mentions that fencing is getting Sheldon’s mind off of Amy and Kripke’s ear perk up. Although Leonard suggests to Kripke that he not date Amy, it is clear that Kripke is planning on asking Amy out. When Sheldon approaches, Leonard points out that Sheldon would be saying the same thing, but the “crazy version.” Sheldon challenges Barry to a duel, three years later after Barry has taught him everything.
Stuart allows that he might be the problem and wants to know how to fix it. He explains that he gets nervous talking to women. When Penny points out that he’s talking to them, he ups the creep factor by telling them that he is picturing them naked. Stuart just always assumed that he would at some point have a relationship, if not with a woman, at least a pet that didn’t commit suicide to get away from him. Amy understands his situation, but her attempt to commiserate with him leads Stuart to ask Amy out.
Following their first training lesson, Sheldon takes the guys to a sports bar, because he has a sports injury (a blister) and is having relationship problems. Howard suggests that he might want to consider another relationship, but Sheldon explains that Penny and Bernadette are both married and Emily has red hair and white skin, which touches off Sheldon’s clown phobia (and, as we know from the previous week’s episode, he expects Emily to kill Raj and leave him in a shallow grave). However, Sheldon is game and approached a young woman to inform her that he has decided she would be his girlfriend. The creepiness (now flowing from Stuart to Sheldon) is only offset a little by his speaking to her in cultural terms that she has no idea how to parse. When she rejects him, he hits on her grandmother before turning to the third woman at the table, a red-head, and just out and out insults her.
Returning to Penny’s apartment, it is clear that Amy has turned down Stuart’s offer of a date. When Amy’s phone chimes, it is a text from Kripke asking her on a date. Previously, Amy had helped Kripke with his research (season 8, episode 15 “The Comic Book Store Regeneration”), so Barry’s interest isn’t entirely out of the blue. Getting asked for a date so soon after breaking up with Sheldon, Amy isn’t entirely ready for a date and was thinking that the next person she dated would be a little less like Sheldon, which Amy takes to mean not being a weirdo. Amy isn’t sure if she’s attracted to him and taking a page from Stuart’s book, Penny asks what happens if Amy imagines Kripke naked. Amy explains she doesn’t have to and holds up her phone, Kriple apparently proving that there is definitely creepiness well beyond the level of Stuart or Sheldon.
Walking up to their apartment (another form of exercise they get), Sheldon and Leonard bump into a descending Amy and Bernadette. Leonard and Bernadette flee, leaving Amy and Sheldon alone to discuss their situation in an awkward exchange. Sheldon warns Amy that Kripke might ask her out and Amy admits he already had, but that she rejected him.
In the kicker, Bernadette simply asks Howard how he managed to run 174 miles the day before, which seems to be a warning to make sure to turn off the piston machine with the Fitbit.