The Big Bang Theory
Episode 14: The Cooper/Kripke Inversion
By: Carlos Uribe
The Big Bang Theory is about a group of friends who happen to be nerds and the girl next door.
How fantastic was that?
I mean, honestly, that was a pretty great episode of the Big Bang Theory. It was funny, it had lots of heart, and it was all based around the characters. They weren't punchlines this week like they were last episode but actual human beings. It is basically this show at it's best. It all begins when Kripke has to tell Sheldon that they're being forced to work together. Sheldon isn't happy with this because he assumes that he's the smartest scientist of all time. He's basically the same jerk that he usually is and he tries to express his outrage the only way he knows how. He tries to hand Kripke empty pieces of paper, he listens to the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars*, and he wraps himself in a blanket. It's funny but it seems like he's just being his usual self. Funny? Yes but it's his continual sliding towards unlikeable territory. The show seems to realize that they have turned him into a villain because it manages to make him more sympathetic by going into a surprising direction. When Sheldon gets around to reading Kripke's paper, he's forced to realize that not only is Kripke's research valid but actually ahead of his own. This seems like the show is trying to take Sheldon down a peg or two, right? It's true that Sheldon jumps to the conclusion that he's not the most intelligent scientist in the university. This makes him upset and he reacts with the same maturity you would expect from the character. Which is to say none at all.
The only reason he goes to work is because Leonard forces him. The show has set up the perfect opportunity for Kripke to come in and tear down Sheldon's ego. It doesn't do this. It takes into a completely different direction. Kripke does come in and admits the work wasn't up to the standard he was expecting. He doesn't think Sheldon is stupid but rather distracted. He thinks that because Sheldon has a girlfriend, Sheldon has been distracted from his work from all the sex he's having. Sheldon uses this mistake by pretending that's the problem. It's a nice way for the show to allow him to save face. This does have unintended consequences when Penny decides to question him on whether Sheldon ever plans on having sex with Amy. She's looking out for a friend because she knows that Amy wants Sheldon badly. It takes a while but Sheldon is able to have a very honest conversation with her and Leonard. He talks about how he has difficulty with basic physical contact (such as hugging) that other people are comfortable but he's been working on it. Which is a basic way for the character to admit that he acknowledges his flaws and he's actually working on rectifying them. That is a huge sign of character development that he hasn't always been able to get across because of his general personality and interactions with others. The biggest mind-blowing revelation is that he believes it's possible that he and Amy will have sex one day. Which is basically the biggest “WHAT?” moment the show has probably had. Allowing Sheldon to be open to have physical relations with Amy is a big one because it'll finally allow the story to head towards there. It allows the relationship to naturally develop there without seeming like it came out of nowhere. I doubt it'll happen for a while (series finale maybe?) but laying out the groundwork within Sheldon, rather than just Amy, was a necessary step for the show to take. It's a pretty great move. In one episode, Sheldon has managed to go back to being likeable without sacrificing any of the elements that make him a compelling and great character to begin with. Let's hope that lasts.
The sub-plot had to do with Howard having to adjust to the reality of marriage. This season has had a recurring theme where Howard's expectations are often knocked down by the real thing. This week it has to do with the financial situation. Bernadette makes a lot of money which has given Howard a sense of financial security. When Howard and Raj decide to buy a 3D printer to make their own action figures, Bernadette gets frustrated. He used her money without asking for permission on a frivolous and unnecessary purchase. She gets upset and Howard is forced to sell his share of the printer to Raj. He also loses access to his joint account and is given a weekly allowance until he learns the value of money. A lesson that might take a while as he blew his lunch allowance on getting new Pokemon cards. It's a funny story that uses Howard's character and some of his immaturity to pretty great use but it's also about his expectations of what he can and adjusting them to reality. If this was just it, then it would be a funny plot.
It becomes more than that when you consider why exactly Howard bought a 3D printer. It wasn't because he just he was bored but because he wanted to be able to print action figures. It makes sense for the character when you realize what action figures represent. They're not just toys to these characters but a way for them to escape who they are become something more. When they were kids, they were able to use their imaginations to become their heroes. To allow themselves to become action figures is like they're actually joining that world. It's “cool” to them because it's being able to actually be represented in the same world as their favorite superheroes. The previous episode had explored how they had used fiction to travel to a world where they were heroes and this was a continuation of that. It might have been a waste of money to Bernadette but it meant something to Howard and Raj. It had actual value. In some ways, this is because the two are still children at heart. They might have grown up but they still value the same nerdy things since when they were children. Howard having to give up this 3D printing is having to give up some of that childhood to live in reality. That he spends his lunch allowance on Pokemon cards isn't just a sign that he needs to learn the value of money but he's going to need to find a way to balance his old life with the new.
To summarize, this was a pretty fantastic episode of the Big Bang Theory. The conflicts were based on characters and it manages to go in pretty unexpected directions. When I thought the show was going right, it took a left with Sheldon's plot until it came to a surprising but amazing destination. This was an important episode for Sheldon's character. Howard's plot might have been more predictable but it was just as good in terms of quality. Oh-and the episode was just as funny as this show can be. This very well might be one of my favorite episodes of the show.
I hope Penny reveals this revelation to Amy but only because I really want to see Amy's reaction. Penny's excitement and general mind-blowing reaction was pretty much mine own.
*At least according to the CBS.com subtitles. I swear I don't know each and every single Star Wars theme. I did listen to Star Wars music while writing the review though.