The Big Bang Theory
Episode 18: The Contractual Obligation Implementation
Episode 19: The Closet Reconfiguration
By: Carlos Uribe
The Big Bang Theory is about a group of friends who happen to be nerds and the girl next door.
The Contractual Obligation Implementation:
There is one primary plot in this episode and that's trying to get the guys to get young girls excited about science. There is also a small sub-plot where the girls go to Disney World and dress up like princesses but that's only for a couple of jokes that ends up reinforcing the main plot. The main plot begins with Leonard trying to get the characters to work on a way to get more women into science. This is supposed to be a group assignment as it's in their contracts to help the University recruit women. Howard and Sheldon aren't really interested in doing any of the work but Sheldon comes up with the idea to get young girls interested in pursuing science. This leads to the three of them going to Howard's middle school to talk to them. Their personalities reflect what they say. Howard tries to make it a big deal that he was an astronaut only to be deflated because he didn't actually pilot the rocket. Sheldon presents a story of one of his heroes but leaves in all the unpleasant details. Leonard tries to be cool and hip but eventually turns this into a therapy session on why he didn't become a rapper. It's all great stuff but it gets resolved when Sheldon realizes that the best people to talk to young girls are actual women scientists. Overall, it's an inconsistent plot that holds little stakes for our characters but remains funny because it's putting them outside of their element. With that, some really great comedy is born.
Where is Raj in this? He's going on a date with Lucy. This is their first real date and the two are willing to give each other a chance. Raj is conflicted on where to take her because he has a major problem. She has crippling social problems and he can't talk to girls while he's sober. His solution is to have a picnic in the library. They'll have to be quiet, she won't be bothered, and they can text their conversation. It's a pretty great solution that works for both of their characters even if Lucy can't bring herself to actually kiss Raj. It's a nice way to continue to develop this relationship but Lucy remains a rather two-dimensional character. The date does reveal that she works for a prom website but it doesn't reveal anything about her actual personality. I get that she has social issues but who is she beyond them? That's going to be integral to know if the series is interested about keeping them together for more than a few episodes. Which is another problem: how serious is this show about them as a couple? It's hard to tell at this point whether they're going to use her to allow Raj to grow or whether she's intended to be a long-term love interest.
The ending of this episode is also pretty genius. Howard arrives home and Bernadette is in her Cinderella costume. The two quickly move on from foreplay as they rush to bed. They are on the same page from the get-go. That is the reason Bernadette insisted on being Cinderella and why she kept her costume on. Contrast this to when Leonard gets home. He's a bit surprised to see Penny dressed as a Disney princess but he's not really interested in the reason. He's turned out by the act because he's a nerd. Penny doesn't realize this at first. She feels a bit ashamed and tries to explain herself. The two might be together but they remain on a different page. That would be genius on it's own but we finish off with Amy and Sheldon. Amy is dressed as sleeping beauty and she's trying to get Sheldon's attention. Only she fails because he's Sheldon. The two aren't even in the same book. This ending is a great and visual way to comment on how different these couples are-in a hilarious matter. A classic ending to a great episode.
The Closet Reconfiguration:
I just love how this episode sets up the central conflict. Howard and Bernadette are preparing for a fancy dinner party. Howard is trying to make their room look clean by throwing everything into their closet. The closet is disorganized and messy. The two try their best to ignore it but they eventually lead Sheldon to the closet. He can't help himself as he immediately starts to clean it up. It's a funny situation that fits the character but that doesn't make an episode. Something has to happen in order to move the plot forward. That's when Sheldon finds a letter from Howard's eighteenth birthday. This is a letter that Howard hasn't read because it's from the father who had abandoned him. Sheldon reads it so that he can figure out where to place the letter but he's confused. Howard's not happy about this but there's nothing he can do. When Sheldon gets back home, Howard burns the letter because he's not sure he wants to know what it says. He holds a lot of resentment towards his dad and he's afraid of what the letter might have actually said. Burning the letter is a drastic action but it also basically means that the only person who knows the contents is Sheldon. Howard might not be interested to know what's in the letter but every other character is.
They basically all get him to tell them what was in the letter. He tries his best to keep it a secret but they're able to get him to use logic to make it acceptable for him to betray Howard's trust. Penny accidentally sets him off on California's spousal laws while he basically tells Leonard what to say to get Sheldon to talk. This is where the show does something really smart. He might tell the characters but the audience is kept in the dark. We don't know what's in the letter. This makes the ending work really well. At first, I thought the show was going to tell us at the end of the episode when Howard is told what was in the letter. He might be moved a bit but it might allow him to get closure on being abandoned by his dad. The writers had a slightly different idea. When Howard finds out everybody knows but him he's a bit upset but Sheldon comes up with an excellent solution. Since Howard doesn't know if he wants to know what was in the letter, they're going tell him what could possibly be in the letter. Only one of them is going to tell him the truth as the others will be lying. Of course, the audience doesn't know which is the truth either.
This leads to an emotional climax that really lands. Raj basically claims that the letter was merely wishing him a happy birthday and it had a far side cartoon. He seemed to have made up the cartoon on the spot which cast his whole claim into question. Sheldon basically steals the plot of the Goonies. Amy basically states that the father actually attended his graduation while Penny stated that he was living a double life that finally caught up to him. Leonard tells him that the letter stated not to throw family away and Bernadette claimed it was a picture of him as a baby with a nice story. At the end, Howard doesn't want to know which one is the real story because he wants them to be true. It's a nice sweet ending but it also leaves the audience in the dark to which one is real. And yet, like Howard, I found myself sharing Howard's wish. It was a very emotional scene and one of the best that this show has done. Overall, this was a fantastic episode that dealt with Howard's father that led to some very real character growth.
I keep making a serial killer mistake of accidentally writing Shelly instead of Lucy. I guess it's a good thing I don't review Raising Hope or my reviews for that show would probably start getting confusing.