The Big Bang Theory Recap: S9 E15 The Valentino Submergence

Fun With Flags for Valentine’s Day.

The Big Bang Theory has been moving further and further away from its depiction of its characters as geeks or nerds, often going whole episodes without directly referencing their fannish predilections, often only referring to them obliquely through costume or set dressing. Occasionally, they miss an obvious reference, perhaps because they thought it would be too esoteric or they just didn’t think of it. This sort of miss was obvious in this episode.

The episode opens with Sheldon sharing the news that on Valentine’s Day he and Amy will be live-streaming Fun with Flags. All three of the others have plans, although Raj is second guessing whether he should stay together with Emily or break up with her. Howard correctly diagnoses that Raj is considering breaking up with Emily because he thinks that Claire, the woman he met in the previous episode is right for him, despite the fact that Claire made it clear in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t interested in Raj at all. When Howard pushes him to break up with Emily, Raj asks if any of them ever broke up with anyone and is met by silence, although there are indications that Leonard broke up with Stephanie Barnett in the second season. Sheldon explains that he couldn’t even send away an Uber that he ordered by mistake.

Later, in Penny’s apartment, Raj asks her for advice on breaking up and Penny tells him to break up at Emily’s, make it quick, and prepare for crying. Raj tells Penny that he was planning on crying before breaking up with Emily. Leonard explains that Penny was referring to Emily’s tears, but Penny confirms she was thinking about Raj. There follows a montage of Raj breaking up with Emily right before Valentine’s Day, calling to ask Claire (who has no romantic interest in him) out, and then trying to get back together with Emily, before Raj finds himself back at Penny’s, crying over his loneliness. Raj’s breakup with Emily seems contrived by the writers. Although the two never seemed to be a particularly good fit together, it only became an issue in the past week. It feels more like the writers were unable to get a handle on Emily’s character and have run out of ways to use her.

Amy and Sheldon prepare for their live stream, and Amy assures Sheldon that their fans will be available. Sheldon informs Amy that for a Valentine’s Day present, he’s including her name in the titles: “Dr. Sheldon Cooper and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler Cooper Present Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s Fun with Flags.” They start their live broadcast a little early with a little banter. Amy invites people to call in with flag questions. To start off, Sheldon tells the audience they are doctors, they are dating, and Amy explains she just blinks a lot, she isn’t trying to send messages by Morse code. Their first caller turns out to be Raj, calling in for relationship advice. Amy insists on giving Raj advice, although Sheldon tries to bring the conversation back to flags. Another caller rings in to talk about how lonely he is, Barry Kripke, who seems to have decided the show is a hook up site. Raj points out that Amy started dating someone right away and Sheldon points out it was three guys. When Kripke gets excited about the idea, Amy disconnects him. Raj is concerned he’s not going to find another relationship. Amy suggests someone in the audience might want to meet Raj (although why she thinks they have female viewers is a mystery). Almost immediately, the phone rings again, but it is just Kripke calling back. Sheldon reaches his limit and erases the words “Fun” because it isn’t, “Flags” because nobody is talking about flags, and his own name since he hasn’t spoken in ten minutes. Amy, still trying to teach Sheldon about empathy, tries to guide him to be more supportive of Raj. As Sheldon begins to open up about his own discoveries about his feelings for Amy, they are interrupted by Leonard and Penny…

Bernadette and Howard are planning on breaking in their new hot tub for Valentine’s Day, although Bernadette asks Howard not to make the water too hot. Howard finds that there’s a rat in the hot tub. Howard decides Bernadette should turn off the jets while he gets a strainer from the kitchen, but they quickly realize that Howard doesn’t know where the strainers are and Bernadette doesn’t know how to turn off the hot tub jets. Although Howard got the strainer, he makes Bernadette get the rat out, and discovers it is a rabbit. Rabbits are cute, so she wants to save it. Howard looks up how to take care of the rabbit on his phone. Nursing the rabbit back to health, Howard suggests naming the rabbit and Bernadette suggests Valentino for Valentine’s Day. Howard mocks her suggestion since it isn’t a traditional rabbit name like “Peter Rabbit” or “Roger Rabbit.” This is the point where the writers fail to allow Howard to let his Geek flag fly. While “Bugs Bunny” would also have been an obvious choice, the name “Hazel,” for the main character of Richard Adams’s classic novel Watership Down seems like it should have been an obvious choice, not used, perhaps, because the writers didn’t think the viewers would understand the literary reference and may not have been aware of it on their own. Of course, most of the geek culture Howard, Raj, Sheldon, and Leonard participate in is based on television and film with the only reading material in evidence being comic books. Their lack of reading science fiction and fantasy novels is one of the things that has always rung falsely. When Howard goes to pet the rabbit, the rabbit nipped at his finger. They look up how to tell if the Rabbit has rabies, which includes beheading the rabbit. Rather than kill the rabbit, which isn’t showing any symptoms, Howard decides to go to the emergency room. After Howard leaves, Bernadette confides to the rabbit that she’s pregnant, although being pregnant she shouldn’t be getting into a hot tub in the first place. It will be interesting to see how Howard reacts since in season 9, episode 7 “The Spock Resonance,” the writers have set him up to be the one interested in starting a family.

Penny and Leonard are waiting for their table, an hour long wait despite their reservation. Penny tries to convince Leonard to grease the maître d’. When he tries to give the maître d’ a twenty, he pretended to find on the floor, the host takes the money and asks if anyone lost a twenty, and the bill is immediately claimed by the man next to him. Penny decides that she’ll flirt with the host for the table and discovers that he’s nine years younger that she is. It is also the first time she’s called “Ma’am,” and realizes she’s not as young as she thinks she is. She goes back for Leonard and drags him from the restaurant. Unable to get into a restaurant on Valentine’s Day, Leonard and Penny’s date takes place in his car with fast food. Penny can’t believe how old she’s gotten and ribs Leonard about being even older than she is. Leonard suggests they do something fun and throws his French fries at her shouting food fight, which doesn’t endear him to Penny. He suggests dancing, but Penny doesn’t want to see him dance and Leonard doesn’t like the skinny dipping idea. Penny finds a midnight Moulin Rouge sing-along, which they decide to go to, but they are excited to learn it is sold out. What they decide to do is break in on Amy and Sheldon dressed in Valentine’s Day outfits and throwing confetti and blowing noisemakers, which they do just as Sheldon was about to be honest about his feelings with Amy. This results in him telling Amy that she has a confetto in her nose rather than his honest opinion. Meanwhile, Penny and Leonard are cleaning up, which Penny doesn’t feel is young or fun. After Leonard declares a confetti fight and throws confetti are her, he suggests she take a break while he finishes up.

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