Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.10: "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis"

“Couldn’t you just fool around with him and then listen to NPR?”

“The Alien Parasite Hypothesis” was an absolutely horrible episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” I really can’t think of an episode of this show that I dislike more. The problem I have with it is that this is one of the rare occasions when the show laughs at geek culture instead of with it. It was uncomfortable and unfortunate, not funny. I think part of the problem is the character of Amy. I’m sure the idea of “Sheldon’s match being a woman just like him” seemed like a brilliant idea at first, but it’s really just way too much of a good thing. When it’s just Sheldon engaging in odd antics, it can be presented in an endearing way, but when you throw in a second character acting exactly the same way, it feels more like a gimmick than an honest look at an interesting character.

As they often do, the episode opens with the boys eating dinner in Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment. The girls are conspicuously absent. It’s so strange to even include a sentence about “the girls” with this show. For so long, it was just about the guys and Penny. I’m not sure how I feel about the expansion in scope yet. Anyway, Sheldon is trying to force a conversation about what the best number is, and of course he already has only one correct answer in mind. Meanwhile, the girls are out together at a bar. Penny’s ex Zach (the menu printer) walks in. Bernadette is naturally very interested in their history and wants to know why they aren’t still together. Penny mentions that she didn’t find Zach intellectually challenging enough. Amy is strangely silent. Even when Zach introduces himself, all Amy can say is “whoo.”

The next day, the boys (minus Sheldon) are having a lunch conversation about co-workers who were in danger of being bitten by a radioactive rat. They talk about how although superheroes are often created (like Spiderman) when people are bitten by a radioactive animal, being “Rat Man” would be really lame. This leads Raj and Howard to get into a disagreement over who, between the two of them, would be more likely to be a superhero and who would be more likely to be a sidekick. Naturally, each thinks that he himself would be the superhero. There’s a competition between the two that lasts for the rest of the episode. It begins with Howard goading Raj into a “bravery test” involving a jar with a big spider in it. That first attempt backfires on Howard, when he ends up with the spider on his back. Next is wrestling, although Howard and Raj just keep circling each other and hurling insults instead of doing any actual fighting. Poor Leonard just looks on exasperated, wondering why he has no life.

I mentioned earlier that Sheldon wasn’t with the guys when they were first discussing the radioactive rat. That’s because he was spending his lunch break with Amy in her lab. Amy brings up the “symptoms” she experienced when meeting Zach, and Sheldon offers to do a bit of differential diagnosis. Sheldon and Amy play a bit of “Who’s on First” with Amy’s description of her symptoms because of how she said “whoo” when she saw Zach. I found that to be more annoying than funny. Leave that particular bit to Abbot and Costello, thanks. It was just too glaringly obviously a bit, as opposed to organic humor. Anyway, Sheldon can think of only a few possible causes for Amy’s symptoms, including an alien parasite, and most disturbing to Sheldon and Amy, sexual arousal.

Sheldon keeps doing intellectual gymnastics to rule out the arousal theory, and Amy wonders if the reason might be jealousy. Sheldon assures her that it is not, and because it’s Sheldon, I think he’s probably telling the truth. Sheldon’s upset that Amy suggested such a thing, though, and he leaves the lab in a huff. Later, Sheldon discusses the situation in the laundry room with Penny. Sheldon is rather upset that Amy is suddenly horny. Because a geek actually being horny is such a strange, funny thing. Obviously. Anyway, Penny tries to subtly suggest that if Amy is suddenly horny, maybe Sheldon should be the person to satisfy those feelings. Sheldon doesn’t quite get the message, though. Sheldon says he will “do something” about the situation, which Penny takes to mean that he’s actually planning to have sex with Amy. Sheldon being Shledon, though, isn’t thinking of any such thing. Instead he calls Zach to see if he’s interested in having sex with Amy.

Sheldon then takes Amy back to the bar to see Zach again. Amy gives this really long, rambling speech about how he has affected her bodily functions. It’s really, really awkward. Zach doesn’t understand a word of what she’s saying, though. He really is dumb as rocks. Like most of Penny’s boyfriends (other than Leonard, of course). Amy is sufficiently turned off by Zach’s display of stupid, and she decides she can no longer go through with hitting on him. She’s going to take Sheldon’s advice and try Vulcan meditation to get over her horniness instead. She shakes Zach’s hand and leaves him standing in the bar, kind of confused. Sheldon and Amy walk home together, chattering about what just happened. Amy grabs Sheldon’s hand as an “experiment.” I did have a bit of worry right there that they would enter a physical relationship after all. Then Amy, in her monotone way, informs Sheldon that holding his hand has no effect.

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