Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Big Bang Theory 4.24: "The Roommate Transmogrification"

“I would have slept in my own bed, but it’s being used to bring shame to my family. And the memory of Gene Roddenberry.”

I found “The Roommate Transmogrification” to be a somewhat lackluster fourth season finale for “The Big Bang Theory.” It did have a better balance between original and new characters that some other episodes this season have lacked, but it lacked any depth. Most importantly, the episode, and this season in general, has lacked the quantity of nerd humor that originally drew me to the show. I loved the earlier seasons for great nerd humor lines like “That’s how we roll in the Shire or emotional moments like Sheldon giving Penny gift basket after gift basket and then a hug for Christmas after she gives him “Leonard Nimoy’s DNA.” This season has contained no such memorable lines or scenes for me, and worse, it depicted women in the most stereotypical way possible. This episode tried to mix things up a bit and set up some stories to begin next season, but they weren’t stories that especially interested me. I don’t watch “Big Bang Theory” for soapiness. I turn to other shows for that. I turn to “Big Bang Theory” to celebrate geek culture, and I think it’s a shame the show is losing that sensibility.

The episode opens with the boys plus Priya getting ready to order their dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Priya wants to know if Leonard wants to split a Shepherd’s Pie with her, and this eventually devolves into Priya and Penny, and eventually Howard too, joking about Leonard’s lactose intolerance. While I appreciate that Priya and Penny are no longer being super catty to each other (yay for character growth that sticks!), I’m kind of tired of Leonard flatulence jokes. Bernadette arrives at the restaurant with a big announcement. Her dissertation has been accepted, so she’ll be getting her PhD soon. To make things even better, she’s been recruited by a big time pharmaceutical company, and they’re going to be paying her a great deal of money. This, of course, leads to a lot of jokes at Howard’s expense, because he’s the only one of the core group of four guys to not have a PhD (he has a Masters in Engineering instead).

Later that night, Raj takes off his noise-cancelling head phones and hears Leonard and Priya in his room having a little Star Trek roleplay fun times. This is the final straw for Raj, and he runs out of the apartment in disgust. His first stop is Howard’s house. Howard tells Raj that he’s going out with Bernadette, but Raj is welcome to spend the evening around the house with his mother (who is yelling out for “her future daughter-in-law the doctor”). Howard’s mom gets extra creepy when Howard asks if Raj can stay over, saying that she and Raj can play doctor because he’s a doctor too, and Raj hightails it out of there almost as quickly as he left his apartment. Meanwhile, Sheldon is at home Skyping with Amy. In what I didn’t find to be an especially funny joke, Amy is directing Sheldon in how to massage his neck when Raj shows up at the door. Raj thinks it’s only fair that he gets to sleep in Leonard’s room, and Sheldon reluctantly agrees after he has Raj sign a waiver. There’s also a safety presentation, which I actually found pretty funny. Sheldon, of course, has painted luminous arrows to act as guides to the apartment’s exits.

Leonard arrives home the next morning, puts his Captain Kirk costume back in the closet, and has quite the surprise when he sits down on his bead to see Raj still sleeping in it. Surprisingly, he’s not especially angry at Raj. I guess he’s more embarrassed about Raj hearing what he and Priya were up to. Raj wants Leonard and Priya to spend the night at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment sometimes, but that isn’t going to work because, big surprise, Priya and Sheldon don’t get along. Leonard has another idea, though. He and Raj could temporarily switch apartments until Priya gets her own place. During lunch at the university, Sheldon gives Raj a whole bunch of paperwork to make that happen, including forms to give Sheldon medical power of attorney over Raj. The boys think that’s fair because Raj gets to make medical decisions for Sheldon, too. I just thought the whole thing seemed silly. I liked some of the other items Sheldon gave Raj better. There’s an ID and lapel pin with the yellow lion on a field of Azure. It would have been fun to see the apartment flag flown upside down in distress during this episode, but it didn’t happen, unfortunately.

One of Raj’s duties as the non-Sheldon roommate is to pick up dinner, and Sheldon is actually impressed with Raj’s work. Raj puts out a whole fancy set-up on the coffee table, complete with tablecloth and candles. He describes it as “the difference between eating and dining.” I kind of miss the old shy, goofy Raj as opposed to the current vaguely creepy Raj. This was reinforced earlier in this episode when Leonard said Raj could bring girls over to the apartment as long as he didn’t do so forcibly. That throwaway line was not at all funny to me. Penny stops by the apartment to ask for the new Wi-fi password, and she’s a bit taken aback by the roommate switch. She’s especially troubled that Leonard and Priya have taken the big step of deciding to live together. Penny and Raj bond over the wine Raj bought to go with dinner. Raj vents his frustration at being alone, and Penny says that if they weren’t already friends, she wouldn’t be against dating him. She also admits that she made a big mistake letting Leonard go.

Meanwhile, over at Raj’s old apartment, Leonard and Priya are enjoying an evening alone when Priya’s parents call through the computer. Priya shoos Leonard away into the bedroom because she still hasn’t told her parents about them, and Leonard grumbles but agrees to it. When Priya’s parents mention that she’s moving back to India next month, however, Leonard rushes out of the bedroom to express his shock and totally blows their cover. Priya runs off, unable to deal with the upcoming conflict, and Leonard has an awkward short conversation with her parents before shutting the computer on them. Howard isn’t having a very good evening in the relationship department, either. Before they’re about ready to go to sleep, Bernadette says she has a gift for him. That gift turns out to be a Rolex watch, which finally starts making Howard feel really inadequate. He had been surprisingly supportive of Bernadette’s success earlier in the episode, but his friends’ jokes at his expense gradually wore him down.

Penny wakes up the next morning horrified to find herself naked in Leonard’s bed lying next to Raj. To make matters worse, Raj still can’t talk to her sober. Out in the living room, Sheldon discovers Leonard sleeping on the couch. It appears that he and Priya have broken up (thank goodness!). Howard also shows up at the door, needing to vent about his fight with Bernadette over the Rolex. Sheldon directs Howard to Leonard, who actually understands such issues. The gang is all conveniently perfectly positioned to catch Raj and Penny’s walk of shame. Penny says it’s not what it looks like and runs out of the apartment, and Raj just looks kind of dazed. Sheldon, of course, can’t even figure out what happened or what all the fuss is about.

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