The Big Bang Theory Recap: Mars Rover, Mars Rover, Send the Baseball Pitch Over

Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS
The Big Bang Theory
Episode Title
The First Pitch Insufficiency
Editor’s Rating

Oh, Howard Wolowitz. He of the extremely bright, tight trousers, given to rude, crude remarks aimed at unsuspecting, and almost always uninterested, females. In short, pun intended, Howard Wolowitz, in the early seasons, was a big weenie in very, very small pants.

But that changed along the way, as Wolowitz began to endear himself. Among his best moments: season six’s “The Love Spell Potential,” in which he revealed a talent for spot-on impersonations of everyone from Nicolas Cage to Christopher Walken while acting as Dungeon Master in the gang’s game of Dungeons & Dragons. Sadly for the character, and for the Emmy prospects of Howard portrayer Simon Helberg, that’s also the episode in which Sheldon and Amy had D&D sex — one of the pivotal moments in the Shamy ‘ship thus far — so Howard’s voice work took a bit of a backseat.

Still, the show’s writers have continued to go to the Howard well a little more often the last few seasons. His goofy, sweet song for wife Bernadette in last season’s “The Romance Resonance” (coincidentally, the repeat ep that aired after Monday’s new entry) was another gem, and his little Prince Charming gallop from season six’s “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” is a brief but significant example of how truly funny Howard can be (and how truly gifted a comic actor Helberg is) when he’s not being, you know, a weenie.

So it was with anticipation that I tuned in for Monday’s outing, focused as it was on astronaut Howard being asked to throw out the first pitch at a Los Angeles Angels game. Surely the writers would once again skip the tired clichés of nerds who have no athletic skills and find a new way to let character and actor shine, right?

Eh. Despite some coaching by wife Bernie and halfhearted practice with pal Raj, Howard decided he would look to science to get him through the potential embarrassment his lack of ball-tossing abilities could bring. In honor of his NASA association, Howard brought a Mars Rover prototype to deliver the first pitch on Space Day, but still found himself staring down the business end of a booing crowd when the Rover took its sweet time crawling with the ball to home plate.

The episode’s B story was just as underwhelming, for it helped the entire installment amount to a placeholder as the show deals with an issue that plagues all sitcoms that are fortunate enough to make it to a season eight: how to propel the characters forward enough to keep them interesting while still milking story lines like the will-they-won’t-they marriage of Penny and Leonard and the will-they-won’t-they you know of Amy and Sheldon’s relationship?

With Shamy scoring high on a compatibility test — and Penny and Leonard too nervous to take the quiz, lest their score confirm their fears that they have nothing in common — a double date with the foursome served only to bring up questions that have hung in the air and, at times, been addressed by the characters themselves, since the first Penny/Leonard hookup: Why would they be together? Should they continue to be together? Will they ultimately end up together?

A preview of next week’s episode teased that the guys will pool their resources to reopen Stuart’s comic book store, a project rife with possibilities. And phew! Because if the rest of season eight is about simply running in place long enough for a Penny/Leonard wedding to strike the writers’ fancies, it’s going to be a loooong season eight.


  • Real-life Space Shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino guest-starred, but who else hears the words astronaut and Mike together and immediately thinks of Liz Lemon’s imaginary dream-guy astronaut Mike Dexter?
  • “It’s hard to argue with that. And I know because I saw a sad man with a peppermill desperately try, and fail.” —Amy on the waiter who dared to respond to Sheldon’s lecture on the history of Cornwall after he was served a Cornish game hen.
  • Penny, getting all meta and poking fun at Sheldon’s catchphrase after he says something she finds ridiculous: “Isn’t this when he says ‘Bazooka’ or something?”
  • In a throwback to weenie Howard, he explains to Raj why he skipped Little League as a kid. “The day of tryouts, I found my dad’s Playboy collection … threw my arm out.”
  • “Parallel play” … so there’s a name for that thing where you’re watching a Roseanne marathon on WE, while your significant other sits on the other side of the room bingeing on episodes of The League on his iPad? Good to know. 
  • Penny on when she and Leonard will marry: “We’re not sure. But I want to wait long enough to prove to my mother I am not pregnant.” And I thought BBT showrunner Steve Molaro was joking when he said at Comic-Con that was part of the reason for the wedding delay. Huh.