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08 December 2009 @ 10:00 pm
As promised, my deep TBBT thoughts  
These are copied/pasted from my breakdown, including the review and the shipper analysis. FUN!

This episode was funny and it highlighted two couples that work very well together: Sheldon/Penny and Howard/Bernadette. We continue to see growth on Howard's part, and Melissa Rauch is a delightful addition to the cast. Also, Sheldon and Penny continue to banter and sparkle and shine. Which is a very good thing because without that sparkle and shine, I'm not sure how terribly memorable the episode would be otherwise. It has some laughs, and some heart, but it's mostly just there, a feeling that was present after both the initial viewing and rewatch. I'm not quite sure just why. And both times, the character of Leonard was once again done a great disservice to. Considering his history with Howard and Stephanie, his actions revolving around Howard and Bernadette in this episode were on the douchebag side, unfortunately. I realize that Leonard is the straight man, but straight man does not equal jerk, writers. Johnny Galecki deserves better. Still, the Howard/Bernadette moments were lovely, showing viewers that the writers are capable of writing a sweet/opposites attract love story ... just not for Leonard and Penny. Also, the Sheldon/Penny moments were hilarious, heart-warming (overall) and continued their connection, something that has been missing on all counts in the writing of ... Leonard and Penny. Yeah.

As for the Sheldon/Penny shippery stuff?

In tonight's episode we saw variations on three relationships: one that works with honesty and communication, one that is building into the potential for a long-lasting venture filled with fun, insight, honesty, healthy banter, affection and the passion -- if the way the banter is any indication, and one that does not work because there is no depth and no connection at all between the two characters on a romantic level. Let's start with the latter. Yes, Penny asks Sheldon to teach her physics to surprise Leonard, but like in "The Cornhusker Vortex," this is not something that arises because she genuinely wants to share Leonard's interests and be able to communicate with him about something that means a great deal to him. It is a happenstance of circumstance. She sees someone else genuinely discussing his work with him; ergo, she decides that that is something she -- as his girlfriend -- should do as well. Now, unlike "The Cornhusker Vortex," that desire does not seem to be born out of jealousy or insecurity. Which, considering this is Penny, it actually rather should. Believing that Leonard is a good guy and would never cheat on her is one thing, but (a) she knows that he's capable of that to a mild degree -- see messing around with Stephanie even while Howard was leaving messages of togetherness, albeit deluded ones; and more importantly (b) from what we know about her character, every guy that Penny has dated for longer than two dates has cheated on her.

Even if one wants to dismiss the first point, understandable, it simply doesn't fly to dismiss the second. Whether or not she believes logically that he would never cheat on her, emotionally -- were she invested! -- that fear would likely still be there. Because their relationship is still new, because they share so few interests and because (most importantly) there is no great passion between the two, it is not only incredibly believable that she would have a niggling fear that he would cheat, it doesn't make sense that her mind wouldn't even go there. Unless, she simply wasn't invested enough in the relationship or in Leonard. And she's not. Every thing we have seen of this relationship has shown that ... Penny is not invested. It's there; she's dating him, okay. And that's about it. Does she genuinely want to surprise him with physics information about his work? Yes. Is it a sweet thought? Yeah. But if I were a Leonard/Penny fan, I would not be happy with it because it's an empty gesture, lip service from the writers that is, by episode's end, shown as such. It doesn't come from her heart; and it doesn't come from a true desire to connect with him.

Unless, one wants to jump to the other end of the spectrum and say that she's trying to connect with him desperately because she knows that they are not doing so. However, how the episode's events played out do not bear witness to this still negative interpretation ... but not as negative because it shows a level of desperation that shows a level of deeply caring about an outcome. Something she clearly does not feel. Why do I say that? Because Leonard's happiness at her "surprise" is clearly not of any importance to her. Never mind that I refuse to believe that Penny is stupid enough to not realize that she just insulted Leonard's work to his face, she doesn't share one moment of her triumph with him. She looks to Sheldon for his reaction; she looks to Sheldon with her giddy joy over successfully parroting physics talk. It's with Sheldon that chooses to share the moment of triumph ... which, interestingly enough, echoes the opening scene. At the tail end of both scenes, we see Penny flummox the entire group, while gaining Sheldon's approval and in both instances, she's clearly thrilled with herself for doing so. Check out the shoulder shrug of happiness (not to mention the giddy grin) ...



Honestly, I watch moments like this and I seriously ask myself if Kaley Cuoco is even aware of how so much of her interaction with Jim Parsons' Sheldon comes off. She's like a giddy, beaming schoolgirl. With. Sheldon. Because. of. Sheldon. Oh, and speaking of that opening scene ... There was such a tremendous amount to love in the Sheldon/Penny department that there are no words. Take that back, I have several words ... most of them overfilled with shippery joy. First off, isn't it just so awesome how Penny clearly loves, loves, *loves* to play with Sheldon? And it's as if none of the three involved in this go-round (Penny, Sheldon, Leonard) even seem to get it. Yes, Leonard, Penny is *playing* with Sheldon. She's doing the grown-up (well, half-chewed up food doesn't quite equal "grown-up," but you get the drift) of the schoolyard crushes being played out with insults and annoyances. And that resonance seems to linger because more than once, genuine commentary from her that follows elicits a unique reaction from Sheldon. He doesn't give her a strike, he doesn't talk back in an intellectually insulting manner. No, he reaches into his background -- which is similar to Penny's! -- and pulls out that card. It's as if he regresses to being a teenage boy back in Texas and the assortment of kids, including country girls, he was surrounded by. He does so here; as he did in "The Vegas Renormalization" -- an episode written by Steven Molaro who co-wrote this one. When he does so, there is sarcasm, and, in the category of things that make you go hmm..., there is an almost angry tone each time he has done so. Because, again, like Penny, it's as if Sheldon doesn't understand what had happened earlier with the playing: that Penny was schoolyard flirting with him -- and intentional or not, writers, Kaley Cuoco, it sure comes off that way -- and so likely draws back on some buried experience of genuinely cruel teasing from girls. (Yes, yes, that was pure conjecture on my part, but it certainly does fit with what we do know of Sheldon's childhood.) Notice the similarity in his tone in the two such instances.


Finally, there is the third angle of the non-existent (on paper) triangle. Penny is schoolyard flirting with Sheldon; Sheldon is responding emotionally to such games from Penny. And Leonard is simply aiding and abetting them without even seeing what is right in front of him. Which leads us to another blinding neon clue that Leonard (and, clearly, many a viewer, are missing). The doozy of the most awesome from this scene: Penny spouting Sheldon's reasons for why his spot is his spot, changing it up here and there to Penny-speak. Fantastic!



Obviously, the fact that Penny remembers enough of that -- and unlike some, I do believe that he's probably given that speech a few other times for her to know it so well -- is awesome, but the fact that she still does to that degree because it couldn't possibly have been more than a few times is damn impressive. And it shows, yet again, that while she rolls her eyes at some (okay, most) of his idiosyncrasies, she gets that they don't hurt anyone and genuinely respects that they are important to him. Unlike Leonard's "here we go," from the Pilot, Penny explains to the newcomer -- in all seriousness -- why it's Sheldon's spot and respects that he feels so. Okay, allow me a moment to step out of analytical mode and just ...

SQUEE!

What's also amazingly awesome about this is that, like "The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition" -- hmm, story and teleplay written by Steven Molaro -- we get a callback to a moment in the Pilot that highlighted the flirtation between Sheldon and Penny. Thanks to Molaro, -- and, yes, I do give him the credit because he wrote the teleplay for the "The Vegas Renormalization" which offered us the "beautiful mind" callback from the Pilot -- anyone who wants to claim that the Pilot is not canon because the characters were a little different (okay, Sheldon was a more than a little) really can not do so. Because Steve keeps bringing up the awesome recalls to the awesome Sheldon/Penny moments of attraction. Booyah!

Ahem, back to this episode, of course, what occurred while Penny was giving *his* speech for him was, ooh!, the look on Sheldon's face of intrigue, a slight shading of amazement. You dang well know that no one has ever done anything similar for him, and his response that there is hope for her yet is probably one of the single nicest things that Sheldon has ever said to anyone. She gets him; that's what that look said ... and she doesn't judge him, but rather, accepts him. Okay, just a teeny one: SQUEE! Look at his face!


Oh, and look at hers! Some contend (why after episodes such as "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation" and "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency," I have no idea) that Penny only spends time/quasi-"cares" about Sheldon because she likes Leonard. However, the final moment of this teaser once again makes it infinitely clear that such is not the case. If it were so, Sheldon's comment regarding hope for her and her pleasure at the statement would directly correlate to Sheldon approving of her helping to smooth things in her relationship with Leonard since Sheldon has made such a huge stink about said relationship. So naturally, after such commentary from Sheldon, one would expect -- if one was of the (erroneous) belief that Penny's happiness is about Sheldon accepting her and Leonard -- that Penny would look to Leonard in a bonding moment of sorts. She would shoot her triumph his way as if saying, 'see, it's working! Yay me for, yay us.' But, of course, she does not. As mentioned above with regards to both this and the final scene, she simply glows with joy and looks down with a happy shrug of her shoulders and satisfied smile with nary the slightest glance Leonard's way -- you know, her boyfriend? Who's sitting inches away. Her happiness -- that she doesn't even remotely share with Leonard -- at Sheldon's praise is absolutely and indubitably about one person and one person alone: Sheldon.

Further proof that Leonard is not the object of her interest? When Bernadette brings up Leonard's work, as mentioned above, Penny's reaction doesn't come across as one of jealousy, but rather as a subtle realization of 'hey, I should get on caring about that, shouldn't I?' However, she's even quickly pulled away from that thought by Sheldon. When Bernadette joins Leonard at the computer, Howard is completely caught up in *his* jealousy of the moment; he *is* distracted from it slightly in confusion over Sheldon's shoes commentary, but he clearly was only half-there. However, once Sheldon mentioned the shoes, Penny -- who clearly had to have not been fully attentive to Leonard and Bernadette to even note was Sheldon was saying -- gave him her full attention. Meanwhile, it was only the fact that Sheldon said Howard's name that snagged him, and even that didn't drag his thoughts away from Leonard and Bernadette. Penny, however, was no longer concerned with those two at all. Once she got what Sheldon was doing, her focus was on him, and then once he pulled out the bazinga! card, she went back to playing with him with the oh-so-mature half-chewed food in her mouth. Eww! and heeheehee!

Then, of course, there is the meat of the episode, Penny going to Sheldon for help. Honestly, if this were truly about Penny and Leonard, she would have gone to Leonard. That would have been about connecting with him; that would have shown a true interest in him. But nope, she went to Sheldon. And not only did she go to Sheldon, she very specifically did not want to reveal her lack of knowledge in front of Raj. In other words, Penny feels completely comfortable with Sheldon, even her lack of intelligence when compared to the guys. I've said it before and I'll say it again; this makes perfect sense. Sheldon treats everyone as if they are less intelligent than himself, so by doing the same with Penny, he's treating her on a level with his genius friends. Furthermore, unlike them, Penny has an edge in that she can teach (and has taught) Sheldon about social niceties and emotions. Therefore, she can one-up him in other areas ... making these two halves create a perfect whole! (Too corny? Yeah, but this episode deserves it.)

As for the scenes of the teaching themselves, my favorite part was when Penny began to cry about her stupidity. It was very in character in that when frustrated, Penny tends to devolve into self-pity. Any other guy, including Leonard, likely would indulge that self-pity. Not Sheldon. I loved how instead of offering her false platitudes (to him -- saying that she isn't stupid would be untrue to him because he automatically compares everyone's intelligence to his own, and in comparison, Penny is stupid about the things he considers proof of intelligence), but rather goes to the heart of the matter, in his opinion, because self-pity don't fly with Sheldon ... when it's not his. And that's a good thing in this case because Penny wallowing in self-pity gets nothing done, and like Sheldon, Penny is a do-er. So, Sheldon helps her do. Now could he have been nicer about it all? Yes, he could have been. And he definitely laid a few one-liners on her throughout the episode that were a tad meaner than I would have liked, but I'll be completely delusional and grab my conjecture from above that Sheldon misreading Penny's playfulness brought to mind painful memories of the past and they were manifesting themselves in less-nicer comments than is even Sheldon's norm of late in relation to Penny.

And all we are left with after that in the analysis department is that final scene once more. There were two things of note here. First off was the lovely conversation without words that Sheldon and Penny had. Seriously, these two are so in tune with one another that they had an entire conversation ...
Penny: It's time?
Sheldon: Yes, it's time.
Penny: Do I go for it?
Sheldon: Go for it.
Penny: Okay, I'm going for it.
{She goes for it.}
Penny: Ooh, I went for it. Go me.
Sheldon: Go you, indeed.
{Penny remembers something else.}
Penny: Yay, me!
Sheldon: Did you recently suffer a blow to the head? {Asked with a fake smile.}
Penny: Oh, Sheldon, I'm glorying in my triumph. Yay, me!
Awesome. Seriously, totally, absolutely, completely awesome! Even more awesome for the Sheldon/Penny team? Above, I commented that Penny wanting to surprise Leonard was "an empty gesture, lip service from the writers that is, by episode's end, shown as such." How so is in the fact that if the writers truly intended to show Penny doing this *for* Leonard, as a way to connect with him, that final scene would have resulted in a bonding moment between the two of them. We did not get that. Instead; we got further Sheldon and Penny interaction. We got Sheldon following her every word avidly, Sheldon reacting to the insult she so cleanly delivered to Leonard's work, Sheldon proud of her for pulling it off. And we got Penny looking towards Sheldon in approval, and Penny looking towards Sheldon when she also remembered that Fig Newtons were named after a town in Massachusetts and not the scientist. In other words, the build-up that was supposedly about providing a surprise for Leonard from Penny was all about Sheldon and Penny united and on the same wavelength. Uh huh.

Finally, if all of the above chockful of plenty o' nuggets wasn't enough, here are a few more ...

- I loved the moment when Penny and Bernadette were having their discussion about the shoes, and Sheldon kept looking back and forth between the two. It was hysterical, and just a small glimpse at the kind of humor that is possible in plenty once it is Sheldon and Penny in a relationship.

- Another one in the 'things that make you go hmmm ...' category. When Raj told Sheldon, "Face it, dude, whether it's a real car or a virtual cartoon car, you can't drive." I couldn't help but wonder if this meant that the boys were unaware that it was Sheldon who had driven Penny to the hospital in "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency." Hmm ...

- "Can we do it in private?" Hehehe, she said "do it." Yes, I'm twelve.

- I love this bit of dialogue:
Penny: Come on, Sheldon, this is important to me!
Sheldon: Penny, this would be a massive undertaking and my point is both limited and valuable.
... for two reasons. 1) That they both resort to whining to each other to get what they want. HAH! And 2) that Penny believes that telling Sheldon that it's important to her will get him to do what she wants him to do. It's a small thing, but I liked the potential future significance of it. Finally, further along in that set of dialogue, Sheldon quickly and easily concedes to Penny's point. Progress, folks, we're getting progress.

- Hah! Sheldon's comment that "Leonard" would be delightfully taken aback should Penny clean her apartment doesn't sound like he's talking about Leonard at all. Aww, Sheldon still thinks about Penny and her living conditions.

- Dang, she knows him so well what with the appealing to his intelligence, and then making it a challenge for him. Oh, yes, Penny certainly knows how to get her way with him, doesn't she?

- Finally, barbiejedi pointed this out, and g_girl143 linked to a journal that provided some information about the design on Sheldon's shirt. What you need to know is that specific colors of the star sapphires signify specific things in the Star Sapphires universe. In one case, the color violet's emotional spectrum is of love. Now note Sheldon's shirt color ...


And once more I say, uh huh! Uh huh, indeed.
 
 
 
Brandy: your ken can kiss my barbiebrandyleigh on December 9th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
She looks to Sheldon for his reaction; she looks to Sheldon with her giddy joy over successfully parroting physics talk. It's with Sheldon that chooses to share the moment of triumph ... which, interestingly enough, echoes the opening scene.
Yeah, it's not about Leonard at all. He's completely irrelevant to Penny and Sheldon's interaction (and, he shouldn't be, if they really wanted us to take Penny and Leonard seriously). I really couldn't love it more.

And he definitely laid a few one-liners on her throughout the episode that were a tad meaner than I would have liked, but I'll be completely delusional and grab my conjecture from above that Sheldon misreading Penny's playfulness brought to mind painful memories of the past and they were manifesting themselves in less-nicer comments than is even Sheldon's norm of late in relation to Penny.
I'll be even more delusional and say that I think he doesn't want to help her with Leonard. He's been very vocal that he thinks it's only a matter of time before they break up, that they're not going to work, etc. So I like to think that he's hoping that by being mean to her, he can get out of trying to help her learn something that, ostensibly, should help her get closer to Leonard. /shipper goggles off

Anyways, lovely write-up, and as always, I enjoy your thoughts. Will have to go read the episode breakdown - am curious about your thoughts on Leonard in last night's episode.
Arabian: ATttD - Sorryarabian on December 9th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
Essentially, I thought he was a douche. Considering the history with Stephanie, Howard was absolutely justified. Him texting Bernadette was just general passive-aggressive shittiness. I disliked Leonard in this episode more than I have since the season premiere.