The Big Bang Theory
Episode 10: The Fish Guys Displacement
By: Carlos Uribe
The Big Bang Theory is about a group of friends who happen to be nerds and the girl next door.
What do we know about Howard's family? His mother is an overweight character who likes to scream at her son. His father had abandoned him at a young age. Howard grew up without having any sort of father figure. While his friends related the experience on how their fathers ignored them, Howard tells his story of looking out the window and hoping that his father would come back. This is an angle of the character that is rarely explored but it's one that this episode brings to the foreground. The episode begins with Howard being worried about having dinner with Bernadette's parents because he doesn't know how to connect with his father-in-law. They have very little in common and they are struggling to connect. It really isn't until Bernadette forces Howard to go fishing with her father that the real issue for the character comes out. Howard is nervous not because he's trying to make an impression but because he doesn't know how to deal with a father figure. There's a scene in the episode where Penny is trying to teach him how to deal with fishing and it's significant because Leonard points out that Howard finally has a guy whose going to do what are traditional father-son activities. It's as if the series is stating right there that Howard is going to view his father-in-law as the father figure that he has never had.
It isn't until Howard shows up for the fishing trip that he finds out that the father also plans to shoot some ducks. Howard realizes that this activity simply isn't for him. He doesn't want to fish or hunt. He hates the very idea of having animal guts over him. His father-in-law reveals that his own wife is forcing him to go on this trip. The women in the family are trying to force the two to build a relationship. Howard and his father-in-law decide that instead of going on this trip, the two are going to go to an Indian casino and the father-in-law is going to teach Howard how to play crabs. Howard can barely contain his happiness at finally having a father figure in his life. It's a really sweet scene and it's what give his entire narrative a large heart. Having Howard deal with having to gut fish and hook worms is funny but what makes it worth it is dealing with his internal father problems. That silly sit-commish scene served a purpose with the character and it managed to be better for it. What's nice about the plot is that it allows Penny to be the one that the characters turn to. She's usually the one out of her element and it's always great when the role is reversed.
The main plot was good but the sub-plot was a bit on the strange side. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. Amy begins the episode by being sick and she forces Sheldon to take care of him. He tries to resist at first but the agreement he signed with Amy and his developing feelings for Amy convince him to be there for her wellbeing. When he starts to rub her chest with medicine and helping her bath, she's delighted by the sensation of him touching her. It gets to the point where Amy fully recovered but pretends to be sick so that her boyfriend continues to take care of her. When Sheldon gets a clue, he decides that she has to be punished. I'm sure that some feminist groups started to object at this point before going into a frenzy at what kind of punishment Sheldon decides to give out. That is a spanking. Amy accepts not because she thinks she deserves one but because she is turned on by it. While I don't support the notion of punishing females, it does make sense for the two characters to reach that point. Amy for the sexual gratification and Sheldon because he doesn't know how else to punish Amy for lying to him. At the same time, I'm having trouble accepting it simply because it is just so wrong for a guy to want to spank his girlfriend as a punishment rather than for sexual gratification.
The Fish Guys Displacement is a funny episode of the Big Bang Theory that has a lot of heart with the Howard story. Dealing with his father issues and using his recent marriage to Bernadette as a way to draw them out led to a pretty great story that used traditional father-son activities to draw out the issues. The Sheldon and Amy story was mostly fine but the ending left my mouth with some bad taste over the material and message that it delivered.