After more than 200 episodes, many of The Big Bang Theory’s milestone events are long gone. The main characters have been fleshed out. Add in the production demands of 24 episodes a season, and it can be tough as a viewer to maintain patience for the filler-filled run of a broadcast network comedy.
There’s a reason why Jerry Seinfeld turned down more than $100 million to tackle a tenth season of Seinfeld, after all.
But, again, here we are in season ten of The Big Bang Theory. After a guest-star-jammed premiere, what followed was a pair of duds so forgettable that I had to re-read my own recaps just to get the highlights. I recall giving each of those episodes just three stars, though, and that’s only because Vulture doesn’t do half stars in its ratings system. To be clear, I rounded up.
So, “The Cohabitation Experimentation” is a welcome surprise, one that kicks off an event that should be rife with story line possibilities for at least a few episodes: Sheldon and Amy are living together, and sleeping together in the same bed. Emphasis on sleeping, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
There’s a plumbing issue in Amy’s apartment, rendering it uninhabitable for the next five weeks. When she shares the news with Penny and Leonard, they suggest she move into Leonard’s room in Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment, thus making her Sheldon’s roommate. And Sheldon agrees to the plan, once it’s couched as a scientific experiment. He wants to step even further outside his comfort zone, so instead of he and Amy sleeping in separate bedrooms in his apartment, it’s agreed they’ll move into Penny’s apartment — Penny’s one-bedroom apartment — across the hall, where they become bed buddies.
Lest Amy’s still somewhat skittish boyfriend freak out and call the whole thing off when he starts thinking about the specifics of this new arrangement, she suggests they should take “coital expectations” off the table for now, and revisit the idea once they’re comfortable with the basics of cohabitation. He asks her if she’s truly okay with that, which is a pretty big step considering his decision to entertain this experiment to begin with.
Clothing packed in his laundry basket and a prolonged adieu to Penny and Leonard bid in the hallway, Sheldon arrives at his new apartment and a new reality awaits Amy. So far in their relationship, even after their brief breakup last season that was partly the result of Amy demanding more compromise and care from Sheldon, the prickly one has managed to maintain most of the hand. Amy remains more open to intimacy than Sheldon: She is obvious in her desire to jump their lives ahead a few stations, but he’s still dragging his feet on those topics.
It seems one night of cohabitation has already begun to turn the tide. It’s the old be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario for Amy. She so badly wants nothing more than to marry and live with her boyfriend, but the everyday reality of that fantasy is … well, as frustrating as sitting through a dozen or so mediocre episodes of a TV series that might be starting to outlive its characters’ evolution.
For instance, Sheldon can’t even choose a side of the bed. Sleeping closest to the door is good in terms of escaping first, but bad in terms of being the first attacked. On the other hand, the other side is close to a window, so people might peek in at him. Amy has a novel solution: Why not close the curtains. Sheldon’s new worry: What if someone is hiding behind the curtains?
After he does choose a side, it doesn’t make him any less fussy. In bed that night, Sheldon nixes Amy’s suggestion of snuggling because he’d be too warm. She nixes his idea of a “pillow wall” between them, which he suggests to keep his body free of her body temperature. “Your bottom radiates enough heat I’m surprised there aren’t iguanas lying on it,” he says.
Weird noises Sheldon makes in his sleep keep Amy awake, and some thrashing about in his sleep lands her on the floor. Cranky from a lack of fitful rest the next morning, Amy is at Penny and Leonard’s home, annoyed that Sheldon, of course, comes in and proves he slept like the giant baby he can sometimes be. When she considers putting an end to the experiment after one day, he gets angry and questions her commitment to science. In response, she makes disparaging remarks about his scientific knowledge, and they both get so hot and bothered that they decide to go back across the hall to their shared space and make out.
Didn’t see that one coming.
Although there’s probably a lot more frustration in her future, here’s hoping Amy Farrah Fowler rights the relationship onto even more equal footing as she continues to learn that living with Sheldon isn’t the total dream she’d imagined. He is one very weird dude, and he’s very lucky that she’s willing to live la vida loca with him.
Besides, he wasn’t really upset about the idea that Amy wasn’t committed to the experiment. Despite his discomfort with change, he got a great night’s sleep. Sheldon likes living with Amy, a fact that will probably surprise him at the end of the five weeks, and one that, just guessing, might lead him to suggest it become a permanent arrangement.
- Never underestimate the physical comedy of this cast. Johnny Galecki’s Leonard can be so low-key that you forget just what a gifted performer he is, and his physical comedy bits are often limited to gags about Leonard’s inhaler. But the scene in which Leonard tells Penny they’re going to celebrate living without Sheldon by dancing around in their underwear is a gem. He cues up Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” drops his pants to his ankles without fully removing them, and gets all Pulp Fiction-y on his wife, doing the twist (complete with a couple of Batusis thrown in), while explaining to Penny that his sweet moves are the result of his continued play of Dance Dance Revolution. When we cut back to the apartment a few minutes later and see that Penny is shaking her groove thing around the living room, too, it’s a moment of pure joy. Despite the tired “why is this attractive woman with this nerdy guy?” jokes, Penny and Leonard do love and like each other.
- In the C-plot, Bernadette and Howard initially opt against learning the sex of their baby. They second-guess themselves later, especially when they find out Raj, who has been accompanying them to every OB/GYN appointment, peeked inside Bernie’s folder and knows what they’re having. By episode’s end, they still don’t know, and I’m still creeped out that Raj is such a participant in the prenatal activities that he can, and has, rated Bernadette’s cervix.
- We officially get confirmation that Shamy has not had sex since they lost their virginities to each other on Amy’s birthday last season, an occasion that apparently caused Amy to proclaim that Sheldon’s genitals were a joy to behold.
- When Leonard and Penny suggest the living arrangement that would make Amy and Sheldon roomies, Amy tells them it’s a really big step. “For two of us, in the right direction,” Leonard remarks about his and Penny’s chance of a Sheldon-less abode.
- Sheldon’s warning that no one should dare to sit in his spot on the couch while he’s living across the hall: “Like an embassy in a foreign country, this seat is the sovereign soil of my bottom.”
- Leonard helps talk Sheldon into the cohabitation project by comparing his five-week experiment with the five-year journey planned for the U.S.S. Enterprise. “Well, now, don’t be surprised if, like Star Trek, it’s cancelled in three,” he tells Amy to throw a little water on her enthusiasm. Yeah, he’s trying, but Sheldon’s gonna Sheldon.