overnights

The Big Bang Theory Recap: Baby Steps

The Big Bang Theory

The Donation Oscillation
Season 12 Episode 15
Editor’s Rating *****

The Big Bang Theory

The Donation Oscillation
Season 12 Episode 15
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros.

This is a relief: Leonard has decided not to go through with being the biological daddy of his wife’s ex-husband’s baby. I mean, right? Doesn’t that all sound a little too soap opera-y to be a thing you’d want to be true about The Big Bang Theory in its final run of episodes?

It certainly seemed like a genuine possibility when Leonard went against Penny’s wishes and agreed to be a sperm donor for dimwitted Zack (Brian Thomas Smith) and his new wife Marissa (Lindsey Kraft) earlier this season. Though Zack and Penny’s brief Vegas marriage made the request an awkward one, Leonard said yes. If Penny doesn’t want to have a child with him, as she’s made clear she does not, at least he could pass his Leonard-ness on to someone else, he reasoned.

The problem with that thinking — as a visit from Penny’s dad, Wyatt (Keith Carradine), and some sleepy words of wisdom from Sheldon and Amy help bring to the fore — is that Leonard was really looking to be a father. All he was actually signing on for was to be a sperm donor, with no guarantee of being part of the life of the offspring he’d have helped bring into existence.

Wyatt’s queries regarding whether Penny and Leonard are sure about their decisions vis-à-vis having a little Hofstadter makes them reexamine how they really feel about Leonard’s plan.

Penny has been saying she’s fine with it. But when Leonard has to refrain from sex for several days before making a deposit at the baby bank, Penny suddenly slides into bed wearing new lingerie, whispering sweet nothings from a Batman comic book in her husband’s ear.

He flees across the hall to Sheldon and Amy’s apartment in the middle of the night to avoid his wife’s attempts to ruin his volunteer efforts. Not only does this lead to a few obligatory jokes from Sheldon about understanding the need to run away from a frisky wife, it prompts a just-awakened Amy to point out to her couch-surfing surprise guest that perhaps his wife isn’t as onboard as she had claimed to be with Leonard’s generous offer.

Is Penny having second thoughts about having a baby herself? Doesn’t seem like it. Does she simply not want to be connected to her ex forever? Yeah, she’s never expressed any desire to remain close with Zack.

But there’s another reason, too, and it’s one of Penny’s most thoughtful expressions of how much she cares for Leonard ever. Leonard goes home and tells her he’s decided not to be a donor for Zack and Marissa after realizing he would be heartbroken to know he had helped create a child and could not be its father.

“I know you would,” she tells Leonard, wrapping him in a hug. It suggests she’s thought this out, but, aside from the lingerie and comic book bit, was giving him the room to come to the same conclusion on his own.

It still feels like the right conclusion for this character to come to on this matter, but the storyline turns out to be a not-so-weird way for the Hofstadters to work through this major relationship issue that divides them. He wants kids; she doesn’t. He said he was okay with that, but the flirtation with the “Zack and Marissa thing,” as he puts it, says otherwise. Maybe there is no resolution, though, at least not one where everyone gets what they want, and definitely not without someone making a big compromise or sacrifice. But that, again, feels like a much more realistic place for the couple to be in, given how out of the blue (and weirdly) this “Zack and Marissa thing” became part of their lives.

The group’s other couples are having a little more fun this week, even though it involves the “vomit comet.” Howard’s already out $3,000 for the nonrefundable airline tickets to India he purchased for Raj’s cancelled wedding to Anu, but he doesn’t think they should miss out on the bachelor party, too. So he, Raj, Anu, and Bernie head off for some fun: floating around inside a weightless airplane.

Bernie is Howard’s third choice for the trip, however. He asked Bert and Stuart first, assuming his wife would not be into the activity. That irks her, that he didn’t ask her first, and that he assumes he knows how she would feel about the outing.

“I love doing crazy stuff like that!” she protests.

Howard: “Bernie, you got sick from the teacup ride at Disneyland.”

“Lots of people do,” she says.

Howard: “We were still in line.”

It becomes clear that Bernadette really isn’t so into the floating, nor the vomiting that is likely to follow, but it’s just as clear that she doesn’t want Howard to be right, either. When they get to the plane and are forced to fill out a lengthy waiver, she tries to use it as an excuse to get out of floating, saying she doesn’t feel comfortable with her and Howard doing something so dangerous, their being parents and all.

Howard calls her bluff. As an astronaut, he’s already done the floating thing. He’ll stay on the ground; she should go ahead with Raj and Anu. Unless, of course, he does know her that well, and she’s just looking for a way out …

She goes into the plane, complaining to her co-floaters the whole time. Why did she do this?, she screams.

“To prove a stupid point to your husband,” Anu says.

Bernie: “Oh, right. Worth it.”

THEOR-EMS:

• Bernadette’s comment on the Howard/Raj bromance when Howard asks if she minds if he and Raj have a guy’s trip on the weekend: “It is important for you two to keep the spark alive.”

• After Leonard delivers the news to Zack that he’s changed his mind, he suggests Sheldon as an alternative donor. Zack calls Sheldon, who’s flattered by the request. But there’s a problem. “I’m sorry, my wife says I’m not allowed,” Sheldon responds.

• Howard, to Sheldon and Leonard: “I got us four seats on the vomit comet.”

• Sheldon: “You lost me at ‘vomit,’ you lost me again at ‘comet,’ and to be honest, I was on the fence at ‘us.’”

The Big Bang Theory Recap: Baby Steps