Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.04: "The Hot Troll Deviation"

“I see you decided to go with ‘pathetic and frightened.’”

While “The Hot Troll Deviation” filled in some welcome backstory, I thought it was very much lacking in substance. It was two unrelated, shallow stories that just seemed to be smushed together because the writers had no other ideas. My notes on this episode didn’t even fill a full page. I usually go at least a quarter of a way on to the second page when taking notes while watching an episode of television I intend to blog. There were definitely some laughs, but it wasn’t enough for me. This episode was filler, I think. I think it could have benefitted from a different combination of A and B story. Like I said, the A story here filled in some important backstory, and the B story resulted in some amusing sight gags, but maybe both stories could have been in separate episodes, paired with better compliments.

The episode opens with a scene that sets up both of the episode’s plots. The guys are having dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Raj and Sheldon are arguing over work stuff, using physics terms I don’t understand, of course. I didn’t even realize Raj was still working for Sheldon. It hasn’t been spoken of since the episode (last season, I think?) where Raj was in danger of being deported if he didn’t find a new project to work on at the university. I would have thought Raj would have gone back to doing his own research by now, but I guess not. Or you’d think we would have had some funny Raj and Sheldon work stories by now. Just some mention of it would have been nice. Anyway, Penny is getting ready to take their order when she sees Bernadette, Howard’s ex-girlfriend, arrive for her shift. Penny is nice enough to give Howard the heads up, and Howard briefly contemplates what his reaction to Bernadette should be. He goes with diving under the table.

After the opening credits (which I still love even after three-plus years), we cut directly to Howard having a bit of a fantasy. Just like last season, when he was trying to figure out whether or not he wanted to commit to Bernadette, Katee Sackhoff once again has a prominent role. And this is why I tend to not really like Howard-centric episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.” The writers usually go a bit too far with his kind of gross womanizing/fantasizing ways. I think I like Raj episodes the best, by the way. Considering Chuck Lorre shows aren’t especially known for being culturally sensitive, I find that in general, the writers do a good job at “laughing with” Indian culture instead of “laughing at” it (unlike another current sitcom on another network which shall remain nameless). Anyway, Howard’s fantasy is a little different this time around than last season’s bathtub fantasy. His mother yells up the stairs about her usual mundane problems, and this distracts Howard from “Katee.” When he looks to his side again, Bernadette has appeared. Apparently Howard isn’t over her. Oh, and just for good, creepy measure, George Takei shows up too. I’d go on a rant about how it’s inappropriate to use homophobia for humor, but this isn’t really the place.

The next day, Howard and Leonard discuss Howard’s predicament at the university cafeteria. Leonard mentions that none of them know why Howard and Bernadette broke up. This is an amusing bit of meta humor, because viewers were surprised when Howard randomly announced that they had been broken up for a while late last season. Howard tells Leonard that the circumstances behind the break-up are too embarrassing for him to reveal. Leonard doesn’t have an opportunity to press further, because Sheldon and Raj arrive, and they’re still bickering over work. Now Raj wants a desk in Sheldon’s office, and Sheldon really doesn’t like that idea. Sheldon makes the mistake of saying that Raj can have a desk if he pays for it himself. I thought Raj still had his own office. I suppose at this point, Raj is just reaching for whatever he can to annoy Sheldon. I kind of don’t blame him. I think I’d find working for Sheldon to be pretty unbearable, myself. The bickering is mildly entertaining, but it’s not really the funniest work “The Big Bang Theory” has ever done.

We next see Penny in her apartment, where she’s interrupted by Sheldon’s typical “knock knock knock PENNY” patter. She opens the door to find Howard instead. He recorded Sheldon’s knock to trick Penny into opening the door, rightfully figuring that she would never open the door for Howard. He’s just too skeevy. Howard wants Penny’s help because he wants to get back together with Bernadette. Penny says she’ll only help if Howard tells her why they broke up in the first place. It turns out that Bernadette caught Howard having virtual sex with a troll on World of Warcraft. Definitely gross, and definitely not surprising for Howard.

The next day at the university, Sheldon arrives at his office to find that Raj has indeed purchased a desk for himself. It’s a freaking huge desk, and it’s pretty obnoxious. I guess the truth is that Raj can be kind of obnoxious (although not as obnoxious as Sheldon) when he isn’t hampered by his inability to talk to women while sober. In other words, he’s kind of obnoxious when he’s only around guys or when he’s drunk. This is the beginning of an all out war between Sheldon and Raj. Later, Leonard and Howard walk by Sheldon’s office to hear Indian music and screaming between Sheldon and Raj over the temperature in the room, the music, the desk, and all other manner of minutiae. In the episode’s tag, Howard and Leonard pass by Sheldon’s office again, and the battle still hasn’t let up. Sheldon is making some sort of noxious gas, and Raj is lighting aromatherapy candles. The gas is highly flammable, and well, you can guess the rest.

Penny arranges for Howard and Bernadette to have a talk at the Cheesecake Factory. Howard is trying to pour his heart out to Bernadette, and Penny keeps butting in to see how things are going. She keeps bringing them food and drink that they didn’t order, then her manager makes her give them the bill. Bernadette does agree to give it another go, which is cool because Melissa Rauch is very funny, and I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of her. At the end of the episode, they’re in the car following their date, and Howard is conflicted about how far he can go with Bernadette. This is a tricky question for him considering how their relationship ended the last time. Katee Sackhoff and George Takei act as his angel and devil on his shoulders, which I thought was pretty stupid, but it’s a Howard-centric plot, so what do you expect. He works much better in small doses.

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