The Big Bang Theory
Let’s start with the good part of this week’s installment, the part that makes sense and suggests that at least one character’s storyline is going to wind up making sense, instead of clonking that character over the head.
Raj and Anu did indeed break up after last week’s tiff, which began when Raj spied on her via an electronic doorbell and then pointed out that the two of them don’t know each other well enough to have built trust between them yet. So he does what any rom-com-loving CBS sitcom male would do, and tries to woo Anu back with Love Actually-style cue cards. Sadly, Anu hasn’t seen Love Actually, and although Raj offers to wait outside her apartment while she checks it out, they instead come to the conclusion that Raj was rushing into marriage to keep up with his friends, and Anu was ready to marry a stranger because she felt like she’d already wasted too many years dating the wrong guys.
But when Raj’s dad calls and asks whose fault the split really is — in the interest of demanding his wedding deposit payments back — he helps his son realize he actually has started to care for Anu. And he encourages him to stop beating himself up for his mistakes and pursue the relationship if it has real possibilities.
“You’re a good man,” says Papa Koothrappali.
Raj: “Wow, you’ve never told me that.”
“But you’re also a dope,” dad says.
Raj: “That you’ve said.”
His father’s kind words prompt Raj to pay another visit to Anu, where he doesn’t ask her to marry him, but to instead go out on a date with him. He knows he likes her enough to call a mulligan on their relationship and start over from the beginning, instead of the engagement.
She says yes, but warns him that she just got out of a weird relationship and might complain about her ex a lot.
Nicely played. If they hadn’t already been engaged, that would have qualified as a rom-com-friendly meet-cute.
Now to the rest of this mess of an episode. With half of the final season left, one of the most memorable recurring characters, Penny’s likable lunkhead of an ex-boyfriend, Zack Johnson (Brian Thomas Smith), returns. He is the best of Penny’s non-Leonard loves, a genial, dim-witted fellow who has been nonetheless sincere in his on-again, off-again romance with Penny, and in his attempts to understand and bond with Leonard and the rest of the gang.
Zack runs into Penny, Amy, and Bernie during their girls’ night out at a bar. He sends them a bottle of champagne before sharing the news that he’s remarried, he sold his menu design business for a ton of cash, and he now lives on a boat.
He also wants Penny and Leonard to meet his wife, Marissa, at a dinner date on the new homestead. Once the Hofstadters arrive, they find out the Johnsons have an ulterior motive: they want to have Leonard’s baby. Thanks to a game Zack used to play with his fraternity brothers that involved repeated hits to his junk, he’s shooting blanks. Leonard is nice, and the smartest guy he knows, so he and Marissa ask if they can pay Leonard to bring some Hofstadter DNA into the Johnson fam. Penny is flabbergasted by the request. Leonard is … flattered.
A reminder, lest we forget just how significant a role Zack has played in Penny’s life: Zack was her first husband. It was the result of a quickie Vegas wedding that neither of them thought was legal. But it was, and in season seven’s “The Thanksgiving Decoupling,” they downloaded annulment papers and set Penny free to eventually marry Leonard.
Now, Zack and Marissa want Leonard’s sperm, Penny thinks the request is completely weird, and Leonard is seriously considering it, so flattered is he that someone wants him to procreate, especially since Penny has made it clear she never wants to have children.
After a fight, and Leonard’s offer to forget the Johnsons’ request if it truly bothers Penny that her current husband might become the biological father of the child of her ex-husband, Penny gives Leonard her blessing to go ahead with Baby Hofstadter-Johnson. She didn’t allow him to change her mind about her decision not to have kids, she says. He should have the same freedom to decide to —again — provide the sperm for his wife’s ex-husband to have a baby with his new wife.
The problems with this end-of-the-series plot are sundry, and include the fact that, as it remains unresolved at the end of this episode, we’re going to revisit it.
But also … what?! Leonard unhappily agreed to forgo having children with Penny after she announced her desire not to have kids earlier this season. His disappointment appeared to come from not having the chance to raise children with her. Now, out of the blue, Leonard is revealing a desire to procreate, even if he won’t necessarily have a role in the child’s life, simply because someone has singled him out for being smart and wants his sperm?
He also suggests during a chat with Sheldon that he has the chance to help out a couple who really want a child. But Leonard has never expressed any particular fondness for Zack. He’s tolerated his presence in their lives throughout the years. He’s maybe even had some fun with Zack. But he’s also poked fun at Zack. He’s shown no evidence that he respects Zack. But because the wealthy, dippy man and his wife are willing to pony up some cash to commingle their genetics with his, Leonard may make a decision that could possibly tie him and Penny to Zack and Marissa for the rest of their lives?
Does that mean the series will end with the gang — now to include the Johnsons and their future offspring — as one big happy family? This seems like a rational idea to introduce this late in the game?
Or perhaps this is an example of what Jim Parsons was referring to when he told Entertainment Weekly it was time for The Big Bang Theory to end because “it feels like we’ve chewed all the meat off this bone”?
• Chuck Lorre’s vanity card this week: “Sorry, no vanity card this week. I’m too happy.” Fair enough.
• Sheldon is surprised that Leonard is Zack’s choice for genetic material. “I’m smart. I’m nice. And I can eat cheese without clearing out a room,” Sheldon points out about his lactose intolerant BFF.