Sam Rivman ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Writing Staff
This weeks episode of The Big Bang Theory was certainly an improvement of last week’s mediocre episode, “The Focus Attenuation”. With that being said, there were still components of the episode that were not on par with show’s usual level of success. After a really slow start to the eighth season, a dreadful question arises: Has The Big Bang Theory finally lost its edge after seven successful seasons?
One of the aspects of The Big Bang Theory that most differentiated it from the competition was the focus on comedy in situations other than just arguments and quarrels. Banter between Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) is usually quite lighthearted and enjoyable, but recently the couple has done nothing but question their relationship so much that it makes the viewers question it as well.
In “The Expedition Approximation”, Penny thoughtlessly sells the car that Leonard bought her as a gift once she receives a company car. Although it’s understandable that she wouldn’t need two cars, the tension quickly escalates. She refuses to keep the money that Leonard spent on the car in the first place when he asks her to use it on something else she wants, since it was a gift after all. Leonard and Penny have always been a fan favorite couple, so when they fight, its disconcerting even when it’s supposed to make the audience laugh, for fear that they could break up once again.
When Leonard and Penny bring their problem to Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), they begin fighting over money as well, and Bernadette once again shows her insensitive side by belittling Howard in front of their friends. Bernadette’s sporadic nasty attitude makes it more difficult to like her, despite the fact that she is usually sweet and hilarious. The Big Bang Theory has done an excellent job of creating an investment in the characters, which is a difficult feat to accomplish in a sitcom. Because of that investment, episodes where everyone turns on each other such as “The Expedition Approximation” are utterly uncomfortable to watch.
The action of the episode is essentially split into two parts: the plot including Leonard and Penny as well as another plot including Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons). Luckily, the latter is actually quite entertaining, which somewhat diffuses the tension in the episode. Raj and Sheldon plan to do research in an underground mine, so they descend underground at the university to recreate the living conditions of what a mine would be like. The rest of the group doubts their ability to last in mine-like conditions, and they’re absolutely right. Sheldon and Raj have a comical conversation about Hannah Montana, ask Amy ( Mayim Bialik) to bring them snacks, and eventually flee in terror from a family of rats… after only eleven minutes underground! The humor was well thought out, well timed, and didn’t pit two characters who supposedly love each other against one another.
While “The Expedition Approximation” wasn’t a satisfying episode, the writers got half of the show right, at the very least. Raj and Sheldon’s debacle was funny and engaging enough to save the episode from total disaster. Hopefully the writers realize their faulty trends and course correct before the arguments in poor taste become a permanent habit.
Overall Episode Grade: B-