Alas the post was too long, so I've split into different entries. This is the first five, and here is Part II. So, behind the cut are the half of my top ten favorite episodes list, including my reviews, Sheldon and Penny analysis, and favorite moments, plus images and clips from each episode. They are presented in chronological order, and I culled the commentary from The Big Bang Theory Breakdowns that can be found over at sheldon_penny.
01. S1E04: The Luminous Fish Effect
02. S1E07: The Grasshopper Experiment
03. S1E10: The Loobenfeld Decay
04. S2E03: The Barbarian Sublimation
05. S2E06: The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem
01) The Luminous Fish Effect (S1E04)
The three first episodes of the series were enjoyable with plenty of laughs. Sure, there were a few low spots, but that is expected for a show in its infancy. This one here? Not a low spot in sight (unless in retrospect you've become less than enamored of the Leonard/Penny subplot and therefore weren't entirely pleased with Mary's inexplicable push for them). "The Luminous Fish Effect" is a splendid twenty-two minutes of television. The acting, the writing, the story, the pacing, everything is spot-on perfect. Laurie Metcalf as Sheldon's mother is nothing short of magnificent; she and Parsons are comic gold together and the relationship between Sheldon and his mother is so perfectly encapsulated in snippets of dialogue and their scenes in general. We know how much they love each other, how much Mary has put up with, and how she's learned to perfectly handle her genius, socially-inept son. As well, there is a sweetness and warmth in Sheldon; in his interactions with his mother, with Leonard, and also with Penny. It is made clear in this episode why his friends put up with his idiosyncrasies. Also, I do think it's interesting that the best episode by far! thus far centers so completely on Sheldon, and also, features the first series of scenes between Sheldon and Penny alone and in length.
Sheldon and Penny Analysis
Ah, at last. This is the first episode with significant Sheldon and Penny action. It's also the first time that we see interaction between just the two of them. Penny is quite annoyed with Sheldon through much of their time together, but that's okay because it is understandable, and we can see just how sweet he was being in his own Sheldon way. And he was, he really was. In the car, his commentary on car safety wasn't to be annoying, but was intended to keep them both safe. And I don't know why, but I've always loved the little bit where he casually asks her if her self-image is tied to her weight and she truthfully responds that it is. Yes, the dialogue was present because viewers were not intended to see anything romantic between them, but (a) seeing that open discourse between them was refreshing and (b) getting an early sign that for Sheldon, Penny's worth has nothing to do with her physical appearance was just awwww!.
And then at the grocery store, he was genuinely enjoying himself and was attempting to make the shopping trip interesting for her by offering the tomato information, and then explaining the waste on multi-vitamins, before trying to help her make her expensive pee. He was just trying to help all-around and was so sweet. In a way, while I love the supercilious Sheldon, I also really do enjoy this sweet, clueless Sheldon. Seeing him come out now and then is lovely. Especially when we see a sweet, clueless Sheldon who had so much fun with Penny that he wanted to go shopping with her again the next day, as well as setting up a putt-putt date. (Where is that fanfiction, folks?)
Also, there were two small things during the scenes with Mary that I noted (we'll just ignore that 'you're a cute couple' bit about Leonard and Penny that was incredibly forced and came out of no where, the two hadn't had any interaction that even remotely called for it). First of all, Penny called Sheldon, "Shelly" after Mary did. Yes, she did it slightly teasingly, but she still did it and so we do have canon that Penny has called Sheldon "Shelly." The second is how Penny was raving about Mary's cobbler dish. Yeah, it was for the joke set-up, but still we had Penny loving it so, and then Mary offering that it was Sheldon's favorite dish. So, they have similar pastry tastes. (Even Penny wasn't terribly pleased to find out that the secret ingredient wasn't love.)
Hey! Every little bit counts.
- Yes, yes, I raved a bit about Laurie Metcalf in the review, but she deserves her own paragraph here. While the character was written as a tad too broad and stereotypical-Southern, Metcalf's delivery and beautifully-played interaction with Sheldon elevated the character to being so real. Viewers got such a complete sense of Sheldon's childhood just from the dialogue and how Metcalf and Parsons' played off of each other. Her casting as Sheldon's mother is an absolutely brilliant choice. Two of my favorite moments -- although, really, all but one was a favorite! -- were her little point about Sheldon's Silicon-DNA based life form, and when she essentially laid down the law.
The former just cracked me up because in one joke, the writers gave a snapshot into the God vs. science complex that Sheldon grew up with and both Metcalf and Parsons portrayed both the humor and pathos in their delivery; the latter because Mary just rocks! She's just so frickin' awesome.
- That final shot of Sheldon lying in bed, staring so contentedly at his luminous fish never fails to make me smile. We so rarely see Sheldon at such complete peace, but we do in this moment. It's lovely.
02) The Grasshopper Experiment (S2E08)
While not as hilarious as the last episode, this one still had some hilariously laugh-out-loud moments and unlike the last one, there was nary a moment of discomfort to be found. It was also lovely seeing Raj (Kunal Nayyar) get the spotlight. His parents were a bit cliched, but the mechanics of the plot were marvelously well-done. Everything played into upcoming moments beautifully. Arranged marriages to Fiddler on the Roof to Sheldon singing the song in the tag. Raj's situation to Penny's need for practice to Sheldon's Diet Coke ... to Sheldon's slutty Cuba Libre. Excellent job weaving it all together seamlessly.
Sheldon and Penny Analysis
Oh boy! Based on "The Dumpling Paradox and this, it appears as if the writers have now established the Sheldon and Penny relationship pattern. It's certainly not romantic in any way, but it sure is fun as heck to watch. The back and forth, the pauses and considering and/or evil looks they give one another, the one-upmanship just ebbs and flows naturally and effortlessly. The last episode and this one have truly begun to capitalize on the infamous Parsons/Cuoco chemistry (™ fujiidom) and, man, is it jumping off of our screens. Their Diet Virgin Cuba Libre exchange is a perfect example. Ooh, when she says "then swim to Cuba." LOVE! (See The Awesome Particulars Collection for the clip.)
A few things of note ... first of all, the obvious: Sheldon's interaction with Lalita. Yes, he had no clue that he was hitting on her and had no interest in her romantically, but how he approached her, the single-minded intensity with just that bit of emotional distance, was incredibly attractive. Based on not only his words, but how he delivered them, it's no wonder that Lalita was flattered and wanted to spend time with him. He is good-looking -- and Lalita is now the second woman (of only two we've seen thus far) who's shown an immediate interest in Sheldon. The point is that, he has the ability to wonderfully seduce a woman with his words and manner; he just doesn't realize it (or want to go there yet). However, because of this episode, it's officially canon that he can do so and when (yes, when!, damnit) things begin to happen with Penny, we've already seen that when Sheldon approaches a woman with a physical fascination in play, he can say all the right things, and look at her in all the right ways. Heart-stopping and toe-curling ways.
Finally, two small moments: The first was when Penny came over asking for help; Sheldon was the first one to jump in. Now, yes, it had to do with the favor itself, but still, Sheldon was right on it when helping her. What I also love is that even though it was played for comic effect, we still had Penny saying that she would figure out how to talk to Sheldon, which essentially means that she does *want* to figure out how to talk to him and will keep trying until she can. Aww.
And also, Sheldon turned to look at Howard in mild perturbance when he asked Penny for a Slippery Nipple; and he continued looking so until Penny handled it. THEN he turned around to get his Diet coke. Interesting.
And lastly, on Penny's end, she sure seemed to get a kick out of Sheldon's performance in the tag, bopping along to his playing and singing. Obviously, part of it was because she was responsible with her experiment and all, but she still was having a blast watching Sheldon have a blast. Nuggets, people, nuggets ... they will build into something greater.
- The boys waxing rhapsodic about Fiddler on the Roof while Raj angst away is hysterical.
- The exchange between Sheldon and Penny about the Diet Coke/Virgin Cuba Libra (and can you make it diet?) remains one of my all-time favorite exchanges. How he so casually whittles it back to his diet coke preference step by step never ceases to amuse the heck out of me.
- Sheldon singing "To Life?" Never not a joy to watch! And check out Penny just bopping along.
03) The Loobenfeld Decay (S2E10)
This one is just hysterical; it's not deep, it doesn't reveal much about the characters -- well, there's a little reveal about Sheldon, but that will be covered below; it's just a sincerely, laugh-out-loud funny episode. Despite this, you'll notice there aren't many quotes listed. It's not that the show was lacking in funny lines, it's just that so many of them played off of earlier riffs or involved convoluted plot knowledge to fly. Essentially, the only way to get the full, non-stop humor would have been to list the entire script practically. And it wasn't just the dialogue, the acting was fantastic. Bottom-line ... this one was damn funny.
Sheldon and Penny Analysis
A few small points and one major biggie! The first was how adorable their interaction was when she correctly pronounced Dr. Farmanfarmian's name. It was very reminiscent to me of my favorite Nine/Rose moment from Doctor Who. See --
Okay, seriously not a big thing, but my Doctor Who love, and especially my Nine/Rose love made me go there and that, in my opinion, was one of the cutest moments between them because it showed Rose showing off for the Doctor and the Doctor taking such delight and glee in this girl who, on paper, should have been beneath him -- shop girl, not much education, much less intelligent than him -- and yet he took joy in her enthusiasm and was proud of her. And Sheldon and Penny acted very similarly in the scene here. So yeah, I see and glory in the parallel.
On a more specific related to *this* show note, you know what I find very fascinating? When Sheldon realizes (after a long, rambling sentence on why he doesn't guess) that Penny was being rhetorical, when Penny asks what he meant, Leonard points out that it was ... "believe it or not, personal growth." And later in the episode, Sheldon once again recognizes (albeit after the fact) a rhetorical device from Penny. So, what does this mean? Well, by having Sheldon begin to show "personal growth" from the onset of the series, it actually makes it ABOUT Penny as she is the only change in their lives. In other words, whether intended or not, the show is once again showing that it's Sheldon who is growing as a person (being "molded" so to speak) due to his association with Penny into becoming an individual who can better function in "normal" society. She's changing him for the better; and he's, well, indoctrinating her slowly into the nerdy way of life here and there (see: Scanners move in "The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization") and regarding any potential future relationship between them, she MUST get, accept and embrace the nerd. With any other "nerd," she could roll her eyes and move along because they'd understand the "hot" girl not getting into it. Not so with Sheldon. And, oh look! She's already beginning to get it, accept it, even embrace it (copying a classic sci-fi move is what I call embracing it!) to a degree. Oh yeah.
A few minor notes ... aww, Sheldon was all smiling and sweet, wishing her a "Good morning" when he knocked at her door, and then when he was sincerely trying to guess how she was feeling. Say it with me, awwwww!
- Jim Parsons always delivers a top-notch performance, but sometimes even he goes above and beyond, and this episode was an example of that. Two specific examples that come to mind is, firstly, his flawless delivery of the explanation for how Penny could see through their ruse. It was this that first clinched Jim Parsons as one of the greats, for me. (And the metaphorical pants on fire line is hysterical. So Sheldon.) Secondly, when Leo shouted "Damn you, Chaplain Horrigan," Parsons' background acting just made the scene that much more phenomenal. Take a look at him behind Leo, and you won't be able to take your eyes off of him and you'll find a new appreciation for the scene.
- Another acting nod has to be given to DJ Qualls as Toby/Leo. He sold both Toby and the horrifically-badly-acted "Leo" so well. Every moment he was on screen was so funny.
- Johnny Galecki's diversely delivered repetition of a specific line -- "I don't know what to say" -- multiple times in the scene was fabulous. The first time he said it was mildly funny, the second funnier, by the last, I was near-tears it was so hilarious. Great job by Galecki.
04) The The Barbarian Sublimation (S2E03)
This is an excellent episode, one of their very best, ranking up there with The Luminous Fish Effect and The Loobenfeld Decay. And like the latter, you'll notice not many quotes below and that's because it would be a case of so many comedic lines riffing off of earlier lines that reading an entire transcript would be more applicable. The performances were excellent throughout, especially by this episode's leads, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco, and the plot and writing were wonderful. My only issue is the already-old insulting of Sheldon that Leslie does (although, at one point it does apply). I love Sara Gilbert and enjoy Leslie, but the relationship they've written between Leslie and Sheldon is just not very interesting and I don't enjoy her constant belittling and one-upmanship of him. Other than that very small bit, this episode was absolutely ace.
Sheldon and Penny Analysis
Ah, where to begin ... So much Sheldon and Penny awesomeness. There really isn't much to analyze beyond a few moments and bits of dialogue (that, fear not, I will below) because this was all so very surface. Not that it will stop me from rambling on, of course. Once again, Sheldon has introduced Penny to one of his loves and she enjoys it. Yes, she gets sucked in too deeply due to her current circumstances, but there's no saying that once things get better in real life, she couldn't enjoy the game on a less obsessed level. So, once again, Sheldon has brought Penny into his fold. Uh huh. And on the flip side, Sheldon so wanted to continue with his game in the beginning, but because of his interaction with Penny, he knew that he had to do the right thing and invite her into his apartment. Sure, one could give his association with Leonard the credit, but since we've seen such social progress in Sheldon since knowing Penny that crediting her makes sense. Furthermore, once inside, Sheldon chose to share with Penny his love of the game, even letting her play on his laptop, instead of leaving her to amuse herself while he played. All signs of that molding each other to better fit into the other's life that is supposed to be happening between Leonard and Penny is once again happening between Sheldon and Penny, and not with the "official" couple.
As for those few moments and bits of dialogue. Well ... first of all, there are small things like the fact that once entering the apartment, Penny goes *right* for Sheldon's spot and he knows it without even looking. A very small thing, and done for a joke, of course, unless you're wont to look deeper and read so much more than is almost definitely intended ... like me. Penny wants a distraction from her life and so she's looking for that distraction by picking a fight with Sheldon subconsciously; Sheldon knows this about her already and thus knows exactly where she'll sit and sidesteps that fight without even trying. And then chooses to distract her in a much (at the time) healthier way by teaching her the game. Also -- and this one is a biggie, I think! -- the show wonders why anyone thinks of Sheldon and Penny in a sexual fashion, huh? Well, why wouldn't we when they opened the door! Whether intended to make a funny or not, they still opened the door when Leonard overheard Sheldon and Penny in his room. I mean, Sheldon had no bottoms on for two reasons 1) so that they could be in his bedroom still for Leonard to overhear, and (2) so that Penny could tell Leonard that Sheldon wasn't wearing them. Plus, Penny's dialogue that Leonard overhears ("You were great") didn't even really apply in that scene. The entire point was to make Leonard consider that there was something sexual going on between the two. And making Leonard consider that there was something sexual going on between Sheldon and Penny can and will subconsciously plant that seed in the mind of the audience.
Three more interesting points. First of all, Sheldon Cooper -- who basically rules almost every situation, deciding what they'll do, eat, see, etc. -- can not say no to Penny. Yeah, I know. He stays up all night with her, doesn't end phone conversations, etc. He tells Leonard that he's tried everything, but clearly he hasn't because all he'd have to do is refuse to help her and she'd leave him alone. So, really, subconsciously, he doesn't want her to leave him alone. Uh huh. (Yeah, reading way too much into it, but I don't care. Aren't delusional shippers allowed to do this?) Secondly, while the "big ole five" sentiment has been repeated ad nauseum in discussions and fan fiction, I've rarely -- if ever -- heard thought on Sheldon's response: "Good to know." Hmm, good to know. Why? Why would that be good for Sheldon to know? Unless, it's information he's pocketing away for future ease in establishing a relationship with her? Yes, yes, I know, delusional shipper here, but really ... what other possible reason could he have to say that line? (Oh, let me take this opportunity to point out that I really, really love all the shippery Sheldon and Penny nuggets that writer Steven Molaro gives us to chew on.)
Finally, number three and I love, love, LOVE this one. Sheldon sets up Penny on an online dating site with a current image of the hotness that is Penny. Her match is waiting for her at Sheldon's apartment and Penny comes in looking terrible, ratty hair, likely-not-washed clothes, smeared, practically non-existent make-up, pasty face, etc. and Sheldon smiles at her and happily introduces her to Tom, the match. Clearly, Sheldon is oblivious to the fact that Penny does not look her normal gorgeous self. No, because Sheldon -- while aware of her beauty -- does not see Penny as a pretty object; she's just Penny to him and Penny is beautiful. Period. Say it with me: Awwww!
- While Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco admirably carried this episode to great heights, there are two specific line deliveries by Cuoco that never fail to get me and must get their own mention. The first is not so much funny, but more just a perfect encapsulation of Penny's frustration. After the bottom of her grocery bag gives out, on top of everything that has happened, her "Oh, son-of-a-bitch!" is just note-perfect. And then there is the comedic brilliance of her "whaaat?!" to Leonard when he interrupts her game. See both teeny moments yourself ...
05) The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem (S2E6)
Oh my goodness, this one was hilarious. It was so dang funny that I didn't even mind the oh-so-tired 'Leslie insults Sheldon, he can't respond' jokes. Seriously, laugh-out-loud hilarious. I don't think there's been one this consistently, ridiculously hysterical since "The Loobenfeld Decay." Guest star, Riki Lindhome, as Ramona was fantastic, as was the rest of the cast. Each had moments where they simply shone. And what also shone was the friendship on display. I adored the montage if for no other reason than that it showed that the other three *are* Sheldon's friend and do enjoy his company (most of the time). This episode had humor up the wazoo and plenty of heart. A+ all the way.
Sheldon and Penny Analysis
Really, this one doesn't have much Sheldon/Penny goodies despite the fact that Penny is accused of being in love with Sheldon. Of course, the lack of goody could be because Penny is so very bemused by the idea that she (or anyone) could be in love with Sheldon, that it is a tad insulting. Ah well. It will come in time. Also, Penny is flabbergasted by the notion that someone would think Sheldon is cute, which is totally overkill, in my opinion, because Penny clearly thought so herself when they first met ... see?
Sigh, okay, that was before she got to know his crazy ways and now she just sees him as Sheldon being, well, Sheldon. Anyhoo, moving on. In the 'grasping at straws, but I'm a delusional shipper, I don't care' department, we did get not one, but TWO instances of Penny showing a curiosity in Sheldon's romantic deal. First by wanting to watch Sheldon and Ramona interact; and secondly when she asked the boys about his 'deal.' The problem with grasping at this straw is that the boys obviously were curious about Sheldon's interaction with Ramona and about his deal as they'd discussed it at length. So yeah, not really much going for that as a clue to a potential romantic interest ... unless you think that Leonard, Howard and Raj also have a possible romantic interest in Sheldon. Yeah, I thought not.
However, there are things of interest to note from Sheldon's end, one in general, and one pertaining to Penny in particular. The first is how delightful and open Sheldon is in his relationship with Ramona. Until she forbids him from having his fun, he was enjoying the time spent with her. Sure, it was partly because she was waiting on him and feeding his ego, but on the other hand, that *is* an aspect of a relationship, taking care of someone else and boosting their self-confidence. So, while Sheldon may not have reciprocated that (after all, he wasn't into Ramona at all), we have proof here that Sheldon does like the intimate (non-sexual, of course, at this point) factors of a relationship. He spent a lot of time with Ramona and shared his life with her happily, as long as she wasn't keeping him from his fun time. Again, yes, he was selfish about it, but the point is that since Sheldon is still growing, this shows that he has the capability of being in the "confines" (for lack of a better word) of a relationship. Obviously, there would have to be give-and-take, less science, less-reverence, but it's clear that Sheldon would enjoy aspects of a romantic relationship. So, thank you, Ramona! Now, as to pertaining to Penny: The fact that he ran to her for help. Yes, yes, again, it wasn't couched in the best way (he essentially was calling her a slut who ran through men like water), and he felt she was his only option for the reason cited, but still Sheldon went to her for help. He truly does consider her a friend and believes that she considers him so and that is a lovely thing.
- Oh man, the viewing area scene. First, Kaley's delivery of "I need to see this" followed by the verbal and then visual introduction of the viewing party, just too, too funny for words.
- Loved Lindhome's delivery of "I assumed we'd be alone" as she looked piercingly at the afore-mentioned viewing party. Pitch-perfect.
- Seriously? Raj's little B-R-I-S-K-E-T party rap had me laughing so hard, I about fell off my chair. Just hysterical. See?
It's just never not funny ... no matter how many times you watch it. Kunal Nayyar rocks this moment so hard.
Read the next five in Part II