Not a great way to start off the TV week: This episode left me feeling sad and more than a little creeped out by the men of The Big Bang Theory.
In ascending order of ick factor:
Bernadette wants her Howie to be healthier, so she purchases him a Fitbit to keep track of his workouts (or lack thereof). Howard decides to deal with her gadget by concocting a machine that will allow him to manipulate the Fitbit into showing he’s exercised, well, at all, or significantly more than he actually plans to.
“That’ll teacher her to care about your health,” Leonard jokes upon seeing Howard’s invention in action.
Indeed. Sure, Bernadette’s a little controlling, but she faces many, many years ahead with Howard, and she’s still making efforts to prolong his life. She must really love him, and this dolt’s making a mockery of it.
Which probably wouldn’t seem like such a big deal if not for the fact that it’s happening alongside a story line that highlights some particularly boorish behavior by comic-book-store owner Stuart. Stuart invites Penny, Amy, and Bernadette to the shop to get their advice on how he can draw more female comic-book fans. They’re ready and able to offer ideas, but along the way, they find out disturbing details about how the nursing couch he’s set up is being monitored by a video cam he has at the register, meaning he can watch unsuspecting moms while they breast-feed. He also pooh-poohs negative feedback in online reviews, which amount to various female customers complaining about Stuart staring at them without blinking, asking them out, and, in one case, taking his shirt off and presenting it to a female shopper who had simply told him she liked the garment.
Most disturbing: When Penny and her friends indicate they’re disturbed by some of Stuart’s actions, he doesn’t get it. He defends himself by explaining how lonely he is and how disappointed he is with his current station in life, and Amy tries to comfort him by empathizing because of her breakup with Sheldon. Stuart just assumes that’s her way of hitting on him.
Stuart is a peripheral character who, I’ve often thought, should have a bigger role on the show. If this is what a bigger role for him spells, let’s change direction, stat, because the biggest jackass in “The Perspiration Inspiration” is dishing up all the jackassery the show needs right now, thank you very much.
Sheldon reveals to Barry Kripke — whose creepiness is an inherent part of being Barry Kripke — that Amy broke up with him. Kripke’s immediate reaction is to run off and hit on Amy via text message, with dick-pic attachment. But, again, that’s what one expects from a Barry Kripke. Sheldon gets upset at the prospect of Barry Kripke hitting on Amy and challenges him to a fencing match, to happen a couple of years down the road, when Sheldon has been fully trained in the ways of fencing … by fencing instructor Barry Kripke.
Sheldon is so disturbed by the prospect of Amy moving on to date other guys that, with his friends’ encouragement, he goes to a sports bar and proceeds to hit on random women (“Oh, there’s a woman. I’ll make her my girlfriend,” he actually says), including one who turns him down immediately, and then the older woman right next to her … who turns out to be her grandmother. What would Meemaw say?
It’s like Sheldon forgot all the ways he’s progressed throughout his relationship with Amy. Or like the writers just decided to drop a giant anvil on the head of their best character. Sheldon is not pining over the loss of the idea of a girlfriend, or a need or desire for just any generic girlfriend. He fell in love with Amy, specifically, and, in Sheldon-size ways, did actually compromise for her. Not enough, not quickly enough, and not frequently enough without her dragging him along — hence the breakup. But to have him, with just the tiniest bit of prodding by his guy friends, react to missing Amy and the possibility of her dating someone else by asking out arbitrary women in a sports bar is an insult to the weird but endearing love story the writers and actors have been building with the Shamy characters for seasons now.
But the icing on the crapcake that is the Sheldon and Amy story line in the episode is the chance encounter at episode’s end, when the exes run into each other at Sheldon’s apartment building. He tells her that Kripke plans to ask her out, and she tells Sheldon he already did … and that she turned him down. Sheldon then tells her he has already asked out two other women, and they turned him down. But it’s not the rejection part of the reveal that reverberates with Amy; she tells him, with the saddest face she’s ever displayed, that she didn’t realize he was ready to start dating other people.
And that’s the end of their time together, which also included her asking him how he’s doing and telling him he looks good, and him responding with … nothing.
Which is all to say, TBBT dudes, step up your games, because these ladies, and those of us at home watching, deserve better.
- Leonard, Howard, and Raj joined Sheldon for a fencing class taught by Barry Kripke, during which practice partners Howard and Raj made many Princess Bride/Inigo Montoya jokes, because … of course. They wouldn’t play golf without making Caddyshack/Carl Spackler references, right?
- Leonard, reading from a list of other sports he and the guys could try at the university, mentions a rock-climbing club, archery, flag football … Sheldon: “Had me at flag, lost me at football.”
- Raj says fencing makes him feel cool. “Like Puss in Boots.”
- Sheldon on Barry Kripke: “He’s dumb, and his face is dumb.”
- Bernadette busts Howard and his Fitbit scam when the data reports that he ran 174 miles. In one day.