Let’s talk about what didn’t happen in this, just the third episode of the new season of The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon and Amy did not get back together, or make any movement toward addressing the issues that caused their breakup. Leonard and Penny are happily married, but didn’t make any movement towards officially cohabitating. Howard and Bernadette didn’t have a scene together, Raj didn’t mention girlfriend Emily, and Stuart must be super-busy at the comic-book shop because he didn’t even appear in the episode.
Which is all to say that this, just the third episode of the new season, dropped the ball on advancing any of the story lines in significant ways, and instead felt like one of those generic January episodes that a series that does 24 episodes a season is wont to do. And those types of filler episodes can be fine, even a welcome break from a season’s theme, from story lines that are getting too intense. But — and I can’t stress this enough — this is just the third episode of the new season. A marriage that’s been in the works for eight seasons finally happened. Another major relationship that’s been heading for some major development for the last several seasons just ended, though neither party really wanted it to. This is not the time for things to not be happening.
So, how did TBBT gang spend its 22 minutes of prime time this week? Penny told her dad that she and Leonard got married, and Amy Farrah Fowler let Penny take her “ear virginity” — pierce her ears with a needle and ice cubes — while Bernie sat on Penny’s couch and made especially reactive faces (seriously, what was with the camera’s focus on Bernadette’s exaggerated expressions?) and helped set up so many jokes that she has officially become the John Stockton of the girls’ hangout.
The fellas, to make up for the fact that they didn’t get the chance to throw Leonard a bachelor party, decide to take him on a road trip to Mexico. Good call on skipping the traditional bachelor bacchanalia; it would be hard to top the secret-spilling drunk-fest (with guest star Wil Wheaton!) Howard Wolowitz bachelor party from season five.
Leonard’s post-wedding adieu to single life instead finds Howard and Raj renting a van that once belonged to one of the group’s heroes, the late Nobel Prize–winning theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, whose “butt dent” Sheldon is particularly thrilled to be sitting in. The van will take them to Feynman’s vacation home, the one purchased with his Nobel Prize winnings … that was the plan, anyway. The old van blows a tire on the way, and if there wasn’t already a joke about four brilliant scientists being unable to change a flat tire, consider the rest of the episode that joke.
While Sheldon threatens to climb onto the shoulders of someone should he spot a scorpion, the other guys attempt to use various scientific principles to loosen a rusty lug nut. Fire is their final option, and if you guessed that led to the entire van catching on fire and stranding them alongside a deserted road in Mexico, you already know the punch line.
Back in Pasadena, Amy has shared more disturbing news about her strict mother — like how Mrs. Fowler used to lock her in the “sin closet,” from which Amy would watch 60 Minutes through the slats — and when Penny apologizes to her dad for not immediately sharing the news of her wedding, he admits there’s a secret he’s been keeping from her. A year ago, he accidentally ran over her pet pig, Moondance, with his new rototiller.
When Penny meets Leonard and Sheldon in the hallway upon their return from the road trip, they try to determine whose night was worse.
Leonard: “We got a flat and couldn’t get the tire off.”
Penny: “I pierced Amy’s ear and her mom made her sit in my closet.”
Sheldon: “We blew up Feynman’s van.”
Penny: “My dad killed my pig with his tractor.”
Leonard: “I spent the night in Mexico with Sheldon.”
Penny: “You win.”
At least we, the viewers, are only down 22 minutes with this, just the third episode of the new season.
- Sheldon, after being “kidnapped” and tossed into the road-trip van, and before he found out it was Feynman’s ride: “It’s bad enough I’m being taken against my will. I don’t see why it has to be in some hippie’s mobile sex dungeon.”
Howard: “Well, Sheldon, there’s something about this van that you’re going to find very interesting.”
- Sheldon: “What, it runs on syphilis?”
- Penny, refusing Bernadette’s offer to take her to a strip club as a late bachelorette celebration: “No, if I want to see a naked dancing man, I just flush the toilet while Leonard’s in the shower.”
- Amy did make bachelorette cookies, giant, penis-shaped ones, complete with gummy worms for veins. And in both “Jewish and gentile” versions, transported to Penny’s apartment in a plastic container, because how else are you going to transport giant penis cookies?
- Chuck Lorre used his vanity card to confirm the van used in the episode — a gnarly brown-and-yellow turdmobile that, despite its previous owner, really did look as creepy as Sheldon’s “mobile sex dungeon” would suggest — did belong to Richard Feynman. He also assured viewers that “the van was not injured in the making” of the episode.
- Feynman did purchase a vacation home, in Baja, California, with his 1965 Nobel winnings. Because he shared the honor with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger, his third of the prize money came to $18,333.34.
- Penny, assuring Bernie the guys won’t get too out of control on their Mexican vacation: “Oh, right, lock up your daughters, or Sheldon might lecture them about the North American Free Trade Agreement.” Amy’s stared down the business end of that rant: “That was a long night for me.”
- Mrs. Fowler’s objection to pierced ears: They’re for “whores, pirates, and genies.”
- Jokes about Mexico/Mexicans included references to Imodium, banditos, and a factory that makes Bart Simpson piñatas. Can’t help but think this episode might have gotten more than three stars if Donald Trump had recapped it.