Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.12: "The Bus Pants Utilization"

“The two achievements are equally surprising and equally admirable. Though, if pressed, I’d have to give a slight edge to the cat.”

“The Bus Pants Utilization” felt like an old school episode of The Big Bang Theory- season 2, in particular. In some ways, this was a good thing, and in other ways, it wasn’t so good. It was good in the sense that this episode was back to focusing on our core five characters: Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Penny. I haven’t really warmed to Bernadette much (although she’s fine in small doses), and I really dislike Amy, so I was glad to be able to just enjoy the characters I’ve liked for 4.5 seasons without interlopers. On the negative side, an old school aspect of this episode was how completely obnoxious Sheldon was. So obnoxious that I really don’t understand why any of the rest of the characters tolerate being in his presence at all. I mean, Sheldon is often a pain to deal with, but he hasn’t risen to quite this level in a while.

It seems like, these days, an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” must always open with either the guys eating lunch at the university or everybody having dinner at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. This particular episode manages to do both. Sort of. The actual opening is lunch at the university. Howard is on the phone with his mom, who is having trouble using the new computer Howard bought. Thankfully, since my mom is a very successful and respected software engineer, I’ve never had this problem. I’m one of those rare twenty-somethings who go to their parents for tech support instead of the other way around! Anyway, I thought that particular bit was kind of pointless other than a “oh look at the nerds make fun of the rest of us” moment. The plot starts to pick up when Howard gets off the phone. Leonard has an interesting idea. He wants to make a smartphone app that can solve differential equations. Sheldon likes the idea, but he has to show his approval in the most condescending way possible. All the guys, including Sheldon, agree to go in on the project together.

We then cut to dinner at the apartment (see what I meant by fitting in both the usual openings?), where Leonard wants to show off to Penny a bit by telling her his idea. Sheldon doesn’t want their big idea getting out, so every time Leonard tires to talk about it, Sheldon starts belting “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” It’s an amusing comedic performance by Jim Parsons, for sure. Then he gets a bit more obnoxious, and all the guys start wondering why Penny hangs out with him. Penny takes the hint and leaves, since she already got her free dinner. With Penny gone, Sheldon switches gears to the app project. He has it all planned out, and he hands out papers with everyone’s roles. Raj is “phone support,” which I didn’t find funny at all. Leonard is pissed that Sheldon has taken over, considering the app was Leonard’s idea in the first place. In Raj’s words, Leonard goes “Alpha Nerd” on Sheldon. Sheldon agrees to let Leonard take over, but he condescends all over the place as Leonard tries to lead a discussion on the app’s user interface. He gets more obnoxious by the second, until he finally asks for a vote of no confidence. Leonard (rightly) fires him.

As we’ve known for quite some time, Sheldon can’t take a hint, even a really big hint like Leonard saying “you’re fired.” Leonard stumbles out into the living room the next morning to find Sheldon still scribbling stuff about the app on whiteboards. Sheldon says that since he was “fired,” he figured he was now an “independent contractor.” Leonard clarifies that Sheldon is to have no part in the app project, and Sheldon figures that means Leonard no longer wants to interact with him at all. He goes to put on his “bus pants,” but Leonard stops him, explaining that just because they have a work disagreement doesn’t mean they can’t still be friends. Then, of course, Sheldon goes way too far, accusing Leonard of having a Napoleon complex. Needless to say, Sheldon ends up needing his bus pants after all.

We next see Raj and Howard at lunch (again), and Sheldon does what I thought he’d do earlier in the ep. He has formed his own company, and he wants Raj and Howard to ditch Leonard for him. He thinks that cheap trinkets like mugs and key chains and can cozies will convince them, but thankfully, it doesn’t. Sheldon then throws a horrific tantrum. The guys are trying to work on the project, and they’re having some success, when Sheldon walks into the living room and announces that he’ll be practicing his theremin. The theremin is an electronic instrument that produced a rather spooky, ethereal sound. It is also very loud, and Sheldon is using the theremin just to be obnoxious. Leonard (rightly…again) kicks Sheldon out of the apartment.

Penny finds Sheldon sitting at the foot of the staircase playing the theremin when she gets home from work (because that’s where Sheldon always goes when he’s banished). And inexplicably, she feels bad for him. First, she says that he can work on an app with her. Her idea is an app that, when you take a photo of a pair of shoes, tells you where you can buy them. I think that’s a pretty cool, useful idea (although the execution would be really difficult), but Sheldon, not surprisingly, doesn’t like it at all. He thinks it’s boring and too materialistic. Penny is ready to abandon Sheldon too, but then she feels bad (again) and invites him up to her apartment for hot chocolate instead. And he promptly insults the ingredients she has for making hot chocolate.

Penny can’t take Sheldon’s antics for as long as she thought she could, and she goes across the hall to beg Leonard and the guys to take him back. She even says she thinks she can get Sheldon to apologize. Leonard realizes how unlikely that truly is, so he says that Leonard can come back if he does actually apologize. This task does actually prove to be possible, although it takes a little extra thought from Penny. She reminds Sheldon about how he’s always trying to better understand sarcasm, and she suggests that he use the “apology” to practice his sarcasm. Sheldon loves the idea. Leonard doesn’t detect the sarcasm in Sheldon’s apology (although Sheldon gives Penny a big wink after he says it), and so Sheldon is let back on the app team. The second he’s let back in, Sheldon tries to take over and ditch anything anyone else suggested…again. They say that a sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. Episodes like this make me wonder why the guys don’t ditch Sheldon for good. Thankfully, Sheldon’s second reign of terror didn’t last for long, because in the episode’s tag, we see him unhappily trying to work on the shoe app with Penny, who is gleefully taking pictures of all her shoes to start the app’s database.

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