Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.20: "The Herb Garden Germination"

“Leonard, the people at Nintendo can only go so far in helping us recreate an actual athletic experience. We have to do our part, too.”

“The Herb Garden Germination” was a fun episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” All of the plot threads were focused on the theme of gossip spreading through our favorite group of nerds and the ladies in their lives, and it was a good exploration of the dynamics between all the members of the group. And, hello, Howard Wolowitz, wanna-be womanizer extraordinaire, is engaged! I also think this is the first episode where I’ve really at all liked Amy. She is most definitely an acquired taste. I think Sheldon and Amy working together to try to understand something about social interaction was a very interesting concept. It felt like it had some direction beyond just showing us what social misfits these two characters are. There was depth, and it was funny. Although I do have to criticize their research methodology. But more on that later.

The episode opens with Sheldon and Amy at a book reading for an author who attempts to translate complex scientific concepts into language that non-geniuses can understand. Sheldon and Amy, especially Sheldon, think this idea is laughable. That’s not really the important thing about the opening scene, though. Amy decides to share some gossip with Sheldon. Sheldon thinks he’s above such petty behavior as gossip, but Amy explains that research shows gossip is an integral part of any functioning society. Sheldon finally relents, and Amy does indeed have some juicy information. She has heard that Bernadette is thinking seriously about breaking up with Howard.

Later, Sheldon and Leonard are playing some sort of archery game on the Wii, and Sheldon spreads the gossip about Howard and Bernadette. There was some amusing business about how Sheldon pretends every aspect of archery that the Wii doesn’t provide (ie pulling arrows out of a quiver), but it wasn’t really relevant to the plot. Just another one of those “oh isn’t Sheldon so neurotic” moments. Leonard gets some more good gossip later that evening when talking to Priya while both are in the bathroom brushing their teeth. Priya lets it slip that Raj will be very happy if Howard and Bernadette break up, because Raj has a thing for Bernadette. She found a really bad poem he wrote about her, where he rhymed “Bernadette” with “clarinet.”

Leonard and Penny have a conversation in the stairwell about all the gossip. It turns out Penny was the one who told Amy about Howard and Bernadette in the first place. She claims that doesn’t make her a gossip, though, because she told Amy the story “in confidence.” Leonard mentions the information he learned from Priya about Raj, and Penny accuses Priya of being a gossip, too. She also warns Leonard that gossiping isn’t a very attractive trait in a woman. Can Penny just admit to herself (and Leonard) that she still has feelings for Leonard already? The sooner this rift in the group is healed the better, in my opinion.

Raj and Priya have one of the show’s classic video chats with their parents, but somehow it isn’t quite as funny with Priya involved. Back in season 1, when the Koothrappalis appeared on Raj’s computer, it was hilarious. They were meddling in Raj’s life from another continent, and it was kind of adorable. Now they seem to be there just to allow the writers to make fun of Indian culture. Raj sort of lets it slip that Priya might be seeing someone, and Priya really does not want her parents to know about Leonard. The parents start speculating about which member of the gang Priya might be dating, and they focus in on Howard. Raj tries to explain that Howard is dating someone, and Priya accidentally lets it slip that Bernadette is unhappy in the relationship. This puts Raj in a very good mood that is still going the next day during lunch at the university. At lunch, the gang discovers that Raj has a very different perception of the status of his relationship with Bernadette. He is getting ready to propose. He’s called his cousin David to find him a half-carat diamond ring and everything. The rest of the gang thinks this plan can only end in disaster, which continues to make Raj happy. I guess he thinks he can pick up the pieces.

Sheldon and Amy discuss these latest developments over what is probably tea at Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment. They’re extremely surprised at how quickly gossip seems to spread through their group, and Amy convinces Sheldon, who usually looks at the social sciences with distain, to participate in a bit of an experiment to test memetic epidemiology (a theory about the rate at which gossip spreads). They decide that in order to have a control, Amy must tell people both a good piece of gossip and something mundane. Personally, I think to really have a counterfactual, you’d have to do some randomization, have a control group and a treatment group, tell the control group the mundane information, and tell the treatment group the juicy gossip. Just seems like a more sound methodology to me. I blame the professor I work for for this brief diversion.

Amy quickly puts the experiment into action. She tells Penny that she and Sheldon had sex, and that she has decided to start growing an herb garden. The juicy gossip (and not the bit about the herb garden) spreads through the gang like wildfire. Later that day, while Penny is working, she passes the news on to Raj, who is at the Cheesecake Factory drinking a caterpillar and hitting on Bernadette. Soon enough, Leonard is walking into his apartment wanting to have a talk with Sheldon. He wants to both congratulate Sheldon and make sure he’s okay. Sheldon just smirks, happy his experiment is working.

As the group gathers for dinner, Sheldon and Amy have an innuendo-filled aside about how their meme has reached “full penetration” and Bernadette wants to know how Sheldon is in bed. There’s soon bigger news than Sheldon and Amy’s sex life, though. Howard decides to propose to Bernadette in front of all his friends, and Bernadette, surprisingly, says yes. Poor Raj is crushed. I’ll be curious to see how this plot plays out. Either Bernadette and Howard will call off the wedding and Bernadette likely won’t be part of the group anymore, or they’ll get married and the group (and show) dynamic will be forever changed. The show ends with Sheldon and Amy attempting another mimetic epidemiology experiment. As Amy and Penny are walking down the stairwell, Amy announces to Penny that she’s pregnant…and recently purchased orthotics. It only takes seconds for Leonard to hear the news via text. But to Amy’s chagrin, the text contains nothing about orthotics.

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