The Big Bang Theory Recap: Hocus Focus

The Big Bang Theory

The Focus Attenuation
Season 8 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

The Big Bang Theory

The Focus Attenuation
Season 8 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS

Why do I get the feeling that The Big Bang Theory writers are itching to have a movie marathon? Maybe because everything the guys thought of doing or made a plan to do in this episode ultimately led to movie chatter or the actual watching of movies.

Upon Sheldon’s assertion that he and his friends never brought any of their invention ideas to fruition because they got too distracted by the women in their lives, they decide upon a weekend science retreat. In his cousin’s cabin in the woods, Howard suggests. Nope, Sheldon saw The Cabin in the Woods, so he’s not going to a cabin in the woods.

A hotel, perhaps? Naw, Sheldon saw The Shining. Big Bear, a house on the lake? “Did you see The Lake House?” Sheldon asks. “Time-traveling mailbox … like time that travels an hour and a half of my life down the toilet.”

Beach house? Sheldon pooh-poohs his own suggestion. Jaws.

It’s decided that the retreat will take place in Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, then. They need their weekend to be free of those women who distract them, a request Leonard never even gets to complete before Penny, Bernadette, and Amy are making plans for a weekend in Las Vegas. There, after getting an email from her boss about a training test date that has been moved up, Penny decides to stay in and study while Bernie and Amy drink comically oversize cocktail glasses of libations and drunkenly riff on how they’re attractive, how impressive it is that Penny is taking her new career opportunity seriously, and how Bernadette wants to play kangaroo in an Australian stripper’s G-string. Maybe it’s really not such a mystery how Howard attracted her, after all.

Back home, the guys find their focus constantly shifted from their plan to plan a new invention to the many movies they love. Back to the Future II sparks the idea that maybe they can invent a working hoverboard, for instance, but of course, a viewing of the Marty McFly adventure is in order first.

Maybe this whole episode, then, is just a stealth way of examining a dilemma many of us face: the dilemma of spending one’s time creating versus consuming. These scientists were so committed to creating something that would change the world, but they were easily and quickly wooed away from their entrepreneurial ambitions with the chance to rewatch beloved movies like Back to the Future and Ghostbusters.

Who among us, with an unfinished book proposal, giant to-do list, or loads of unanswered email open on her or his laptop, hasn’t intended but a brief respite to channel-surf, only to land on ID Network and return to the laptop after a four-hour block of finding out who the [bleep] some very unfortunate women married?

Or perhaps the story line was an exercise in demonstrating how we’re all prey to procrastination? That’s how Leonard described a night that included him and his friends watching pigeons play ping-pong, identifying land masses shaped like genitals, discussing the deliciousness of Pillsbury dough (particularly when it’s wrapped around cocktail weenies) and the necessity of a complicated string of verbs to accurately describe Back to the Future II’s time travel, and viewing Ghostbusters.

Whatever. It is a little funny, and more than a little relatable, that a group of friends makes big plans only to end up watching Mean Girls for the tenth time instead. Er, Back to the Future II. But again, it must be noted that season eight continues to be filled with episodes that feel like midseason placeholder installments, with no one but Penny really moving forward. For example, Raj finally has a girlfriend, and it’s only really factored into a story line once, out of five episodes so far.

I do hope the BBT writers got their movie night, though.


  • Per Sheldon’s impressive memory, we learn Penny moved into their building, and their lives, on September 24, 2007, which, yes, is the series premiere date.
  • Is Penny’s new do growing on you yet? I’m digging it. It fits with her new career ambition.
  • Amy really wanted to see the Barry Manilow cover band Fairly Manilow in Vegas. Didja know there’s a Manilow cover band called Barely Manilow? Clearly the winner in the most cleverly named Manilow tribute-band contest, if there were such a contest.
  • Howard: “Hey, I didn’t think you’d make it.” Raj: “Why not?” Howard: “You have a steady girlfriend now, and we assumed you’d have to stay home to lower the food down to her in the pit.” Raj: “For your information, Emily is working tonight.” Sheldon: “One would assume on getting out of the pit.”
  • On Howard’s pre-marriage idea of inventing both a robot girlfriend and robot prostitute — Sheldon: “Why would you need both a robot girlfriend and a robot prostitute?” Howard: “There’s just some things you don’t do with your robot girlfriend.” Raj: “Boy, when you met Bernadette, the field of robotics really took a hit.”
  • Nitpick: Howard actually did sorta build a robotic sexual companion. Season four’s “The Robotic Manipulation” found Mr. Wolowitz inventing a robotic arm, which he then used to … well, Raj put it best. “A robot hand has a death grip on your junk.”.
  • Sheldon, on the influence of science fiction: “I have long suspected that the idea of an African-American president was stolen from the movie Deep Impact.”
  • Complete list of movies mentioned in the episode: The Cabin in the Woods, The Shining, The Lake House, Jaws, The Social Network (though it was referred to as “that Facebook movie”), Star Trek, Deep Impact, Back to the Future Part II, and Ghostbusters.
  • Chuck Lorre: The Man Who Cried Vanity-Card Cancellation?
  • Amy Farrah Fowler’s bright-yellow sweater with the black-lace appliqués … did it remind you of Charlie Brown’s trademark yellow-and-black zigzag shirt? And would Amy be considered the Charlie Brown of The Big Bang Theory?

The Big Bang Theory Recap: Hocus Focus