The BIg Bang Theory Recap: S9: E9 The Platonic Permutation

One of the interesting things about watching a show like The Big Bang Theory with an eye towards its representation of fannish and nerd culture is seeing how things have changed over the years. The cold opening of this episode has Raj explaining to Howard the latest hands-free upgrade to Siri on his iPhone (which is only creepy when one thinks back to season 5, episode 14 “The Beta test Initiation,” in which Raj “dated” his iPhone and eventually dreamed that he tracked the voice behind Siri down. However, far from being a geekfest, his discussion of Siri’s new capabilities is something that anyone’s Uncle Frank might be doing at Thanksgiving dinner this week. The technology is there, it is ubiquitous, it is used by everyone. Or abused, as Howard attempts to “hack” Raj’s phone by giving Siri instructions. Sheldon, on the other hand, comes in with the good news that he has an extra ticket to the annual Thanksgiving lunch buffet at the aquarium, although there are no takers. Penny and Leonard are going to be busy preparing for Thanksgiving dinner while Raj and Bernadette will be volunteering at a food kitchen with Emily. When Howard realizes that leaves him as a prime target for Sheldon’s generosity and “fun facts,” he decides, at least temporarily, that helping at the food kitchen sounds like a good idea.

{As an aside about geek victory in pop culture, during the first commercial break, there was a KitchenAid commercial which, for no obvious reason or marketing tie-in, included a kid wearing an R2D2 shirt.}

Since nobody can go with Sheldon and he had purchased the tickets with Amy, he calls her to offer the tickets to her. Rather than just take them, Amy decides that they should see if they can do something together platonically and suggests that she go with Sheldon, but they run through all of Sheldon’s fun facts during their Skype, leaving him without any conversation for Thanksgiving.

The Wolowitzes, Raj, and Emily show up at the food kitchen and are turned away since they have all the help they need, much to Howard’s glee. As they turn to leave, the manager sticks his head out the door that they had a cancellation and there’s room for them. The only job in the soup kitchen is the dish room, which Howard complains about since it is far from the action.

In Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, Leonard and Penny are preparing to cook, Leonard shows off his Mr. Spock oven mitts (available at ThinkGeek) and he instructs Penny to look in his iPad. Penny needs to ask his passcode (really, after all this time?) and when he tells her it is his birthday, she’s at a loss (after eight years!). When Penny points out that Leonard doesn’t know things about her, he rattles off several facts, ranging from her birthday to her social security number and ends by pointing out that he’s not going to let her forget about this incident.

Amy picks up Sheldon for the drive to the aquarium and Sheldon has printed out a list of conversation topics to avoid any potential awkwardness, at least in his own mind. Anyone else will see it as a chance to increase the awkwardness of the situation. While none of the conversation starters actually start a conversation, Sheldon is enamored of the possibility. Eventually Sheldon finds himself reading the weather report for several days from his iPhone. Amy interrupts his list and suggests that they just have a normal conversation. Opening the conversation up leads Sheldon to ask Amy if she’s had sex with any of the men she’s been dating.

With Leonard dropping trivia about Penny’s d life into their conversation, Penny decides to quiz him on her life, only to discover that he not only knows all the answers, but also knows enough to avoid the traps she tries to capture him in. Unfortunately, when he mentions that she doesn’t like the lingerie he bought her for Valentine’s Day, she stops him because she’s never shared that information with anyone. Instead, she now knows that Leonard has been reading her journal. She also knows his tics that indicate he’s lying.

Working in the kitchen reminds Raj of high school, not because he working in a restaurant (his parents were wealthy, after all), but because he lived in India, where it was humid and smelled funny. As Howard gets into a groove, Emily points out that they’ve only been working for twenty minutes. Raj offers the advice that while washing the dishes they should be fully in the moment and use the repetitive nature of the task for meditative purposes. Howard tells him that the Indian accent doesn’t mean that everything he says is deep and mystical. As they all take a deep breath, the manager calls for three people out front, leaving Howard to wash dishes and meditate in solo.

Meanwhile, Leonard has to try to explain his way out of reading Penny’s journal. Leonard explains that he’s a bookworm and would read anything. To make it up to Penny, he offers to let him read his journal. Penny isn’t interested, so he reads parts of it to her, although she calls him on making things up. When he claims the most recent thing he wrote is about how beautiful Penny is, she grabs the iPad from him and reads about his excitement for next month’s Star Wars release.

Still driving to the aquarium, an awkward silence has fallen on the car. Sheldon asks for details about Amy’s dates. She tells him she’s been on six dates with three people. She also answers his question about the distance to the aquarium, and since she knew he would be hungry on the drive, she packed a bag of Cheerios in the glove compartment, mixed regular and honey nut, just the way he likes them. When Sheldon offers to answers Amy’s question, her only question is whether he’s happy, and he says he is.

Working alone in the dish room, Howard looks up to see that the latest stack of dirty dishes has been brought back by Elon Musk. He’s been sent back to help Howard because he was being too generous with the gravy on the turkey line. Howard very casually mentions his training and stint as an astronaut, causing Musk to note that Howard is laying it on thicker than Musk was the gravy. Howard blurts out that he just wants Musk to adopt him. Musk offers to keep in touch with Howard as a possibility for an engineering job for Musk. He proves he’ll do anything for Elon Musk when he agrees to share a partially eaten piece of pumpkin pie with Musk.

After lunch at the aquarium, Sheldon and Amy are walking through the exhibits, with Sheldon complaining about the quality of the food and that he didn’t get a pilgrim hat, while a baby did (none of the kids in the aquarium seemed to have gotten them either, by a quick look at the extras). Always trying to inject odd fun into his setting, Sheldon asks Amy to play “Food, Friend, Fight” in which he’ll name three aquatic animals and Amy will have to say which she would eat, which she would befriend, and which she would fight. Amy comments that she misses the comradery she has with Sheldon, who mistakes her comment for missing the game he just introduced her to.

Penny can’t tell if the turkey is done and she calls for Leonard, who appears from the bedroom wearing the orange negligee had bought for Penny for Valentine’s Day. He doesn’t look like a slutty carrot in it, but Penny probably wouldn’t look any better. Wearing it is his way of making up for reading her journal. More to the point, he’s offering to let her post a picture of him in it on Facebook while he holds a sign explaining that he read her journal. Penny isn’t interested in letting other people see him. When Leonard starts dancing for her, the door opens and the soup kitchen crew enters, without anywhere near enough eye bleach to scrub the image of Leonard out of their eyes.

After dinner, Sheldon is helping clean up and Leonard expresses happiness that Amy and Sheldon have figured out how to function as friends. Sheldon suggests that Penny and Leonard will eventually be able to function as exes as well. Amy calls Sheldon from the car and suggests that she would be interested in getting back together with Sheldon. Sheldon, however, having finally found a state of equilibrium as Amy’s friend, can’t get back together with her. Unlike many of the obstacles the writers created for Leonard and Penny, this one actually feels organic.

Aside from Raj’s explanation of the newest Siri updates (covered above) and Howard fanboying over Elon Musk, the most geeky thing about this episode may actually be Chuck Lorre’s vanity card, which notes that CBS is bringing back Star Trek to its new VOD series, thus signaling an end of network television (and not giving a huge endorsement to the new Star Trek). Lorre suggests that in lieu of flowers, mourners can send CBS $6/month subscription.

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