Monday, January 31, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.13: "The Love Car Displacement"

“You know, for a smart guy, you really seem to have a hard time grasping the concept ‘don’t piss off the people who handle the things you eat.’”

“The Love Car Displacement” was one of the better episodes of this season of “The Big Bang Theory,” although I don’t think I would rank it above my all time favorites. I will say that Bernadette and especially Amy grated less than they usually do. I think Amy showed more humanity than she has in the past, and I appreciate that she’s beginning to develop layers. This was definitely an episode that was all about the character development, as opposed to plot, which is quite rare for a Chuck Lorre show. If only I thought this character development would really inform future episodes. We also got our requisite Sheldon antics, although I didn’t find him nearly as obnoxious as he was in “The Bus Pants Utilization.” Although, come to think of it, some of the things he did in this episode were worse, especially in the way he treats Raj. I guess because so much of that behavior was off screen this go round, it was more palatable.

The episode actually doesn’t open in the university cafeteria or Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment, but it still opens with the group having a meal. They’re eating at the Cheesecake Factory. Sheldon is really grumbly about the service. He’s nitpicking everything Penny says to the group as she tries to take her order. Penny makes the very good point that if Sheldon wants reasonably hygienic food, he ought to stop digging at the people who are supposed to serve it to him. I found it somewhat funny that Sheldon actually believed restaurant workers took an oath of cleanliness, and that gave him license to treat them like crap. While all this is going on, Amy finds a chance to ask Penny if she would be her “plus one” to a science conference the whole gang is supposed to speak at. Amy says she wants Penny to come along because Penny is her “best friend.” This is news to Penny, which surprises Amy, because Amy posted about it on her blog. Penny eventually agrees when she finds out that the conference will be at a fancy spa in Big Sur.

We next see the gang in Sheldon and Leonard’s living room, with Sheldon preparing the group for their immanent road trip to Big Sur. Sheldon has this fancy touch screen board to show everything from car assignments to the locations of pre-determined rest room breaks. Sheldon is the “travel supervisor,” so of course everything is planned to minute detail. This was probably the height of Sheldon’s visible obnoxiousness in this episode, but it was still funny because of the graphics on the touch screen. Penny is surprised to find out that she’s in the “lead car” with Sheldon, Leonard, and Amy. It turns out Amy wanted her “bestie” in the same car. Penny kind of grumbled about the car assignment, but she would later come to appreciate the car assignment.

I thought the car trip sequence was pretty funny, although there wasn’t a whole lot of substance to it. There were a lot of amusing little moments, such as Leonard calling Howard to tell him that Raj (who was in the back seat of Howard’s car) texted him to ask him to tell Howard to explain to Bernadette that when Howard says “nap,” he actually means “sex.” It sounds kind of convoluted when I write it out here, but it was funny on screen, I promise! In the lead car, Penny dares to question why Sheldon was allowed to become “road trip God.” Leonard explains that the group vote happened late at night, Leonard was tired, and Sheldon was “threatening to filibuster” if he wasn’t named travel supervisor. None of this is really surprising, but the exasperated way in which Leonard says it is pretty funny. Penny dares to suggest that the rest of the group should rebel against Sheldon, and she gets sent to Howard’s car for her trouble. Howard’s car has been dubbed the “Love Car,” and he and Bernadette spend most of the trip singing “I Got You Babe,” much to Penny’s chagrin.

The major drama of the episode goes down in the hotel check-in line. Bernadette runs into Glenn, who was played by Rick Fox. Apparently the producers met him during the episode Eliza Dushku guest starred in (they’ve been dating for a while now) and thought he’d be a good fit for the show. Glenn is Bernadette’s former professor…and ex boyfriend. The height difference between Rick Fox and Melissa Rauch is quite comical. I have met Melissa Rauch in person, by the way (she did a stand-up act at my undergrad once), and she really is that tiny. But so am I, so I can’t really talk! Howard is not thrilled about Bernadette and Glenn’s history, and when he and Bernadette get to the hotel room, Howard feels quite inadequate. He ends up majorly sticking his foot in his mouth when he tells Bernadette that he thought he would have these sorts of issues dating “a girl like her.”

What follows can only really be described as hotel room musical chairs. Bernadette is upset with Howard, so she asks if she can stay in Penny and Amy’s room. Penny originally agrees to share a bed with Amy to make room for Bernadette, but Amy’s night terrors turn out to be too much for Penny to handle. Penny then goes to Sheldon and Leonard’s room and agrees to share a bed with Leonard as long as Leonard agrees to acknowledge “the neutral zone.” Sheldon freaks out over Penny being in the room, and he asks Penny and Leonard if they can promise that they won’t have sex at any point that night. Penny immediately responds “yes,” but Leonard says “no.” And he has the most adorable gleeful little boy smile on his face when he says it. I’m not sure whether to be amused or annoyed that Leonard is so set on having sex with Penny, who clearly states she’s not interested. Sheldon goes to Raj’s room and interrupts Raj’s watching of “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Great movie, by the way. Raj then ends up in Leonard and Penny’s room (walking in on their actually about to have sex…Penny changed her mind, of course) because Sheldon kicked him out.

Needless to say, after all this drama, the panel in which the gang is supposed to participate is quite a disaster. Everyone (Sheldon excepted, of course) talks about what went down, only thinly veiled as discussions about science, and eventually the references are not veiled at all. From the audience, Penny shouts out a request for someone to drive her back to L.A. Glenn says he’s heading back to L.A. that night, and Bernadette gleefully makes introductions between the two of them. The funniest moment of the episode is when Leonard suddenly realizes that Glenn is going to throw a wrench into his plans to reunite with Penny. He jumps up and screams “nooooooo!” The car ride home isn’t any more fun than the panel. Howard finally has it with Sheldon constantly babbling to him over the walkie talkie and throws the device out the window, and in the lead car, Leonard gets pulled over for speeding.

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