Maya Zach ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff
“The Scavenger Vortex”
After no one attends Raj’s (Kunal Nayyar) murder mystery party, he decides to plan an event that he expects everyone will enjoy: an intellectual scavenger hunt. Since no one wants to be partnered with “the liability”, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), they decide to draw names from a hat. The teams are as follows: Penny and Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and Howard (Simon Helberg) and Amy (Mayim Bialik). These are pairings that are not often seen on the Big Bang Theory (Except for Penny and Sheldon), so the writers had a lot of freedom when it came to developing these relationships. The dynamic that they chose to create between Leonard and Bernadette felt rather inorganic, while that of Howard and Amy was quite amusing and felt true to the characters.
Sheldon actually holds Penny back at the start, when he forces her to complete the entire puzzle, even when the result was obvious. But he makes up for it when he solves the next puzzle–an incredibly challenging riddle–within seconds. They make it through the majority of the challenges quickly with their typical banter, though not quite as charming as it typically is.
Though it has never been established, Bernadette is insanely competitive and she pushes Leonard incredibly hard. She is constantly berating Leonard and trying to force him to work faster. When Leonard starts to feel awful about not wanting to be on a team with Penny, he offers to quit; Bernadette lies and says that Penny calls him a wimp (and worse).
These two teams are be neck-and-neck throughout the entire competition up until they reach the final clue. The clue is quite clever–a dirty spot on one of Sheldon’s shirts is used to express that the golden coin they are trying to obtain can be found in Sheldon’s spot on the couch. Penny, Leonard, and Bernadette are tripping over each other to get up the stairs to get the coin first. When they get there, Raj lets them know that the coin is not there; rather, they each already have the coin in their possessions. He wanted to be cute, to show them that when they are having fun together they are all winners! Leonard, Penny, and Bernadette are not amused–not even slightly.
While the two main teams are battling it out as though their lives depend upon it, Howard and Amy are busy bonding. They sit in awkward silence at first, but then quickly bond over their love for Neil Diamond. They don’t seem to care about the competition in the slightest. Practically every scene with them in it involves them singing one of his songs. This is the first time these characters are brought together without the rest of the crew and it is quite entertaining. Their interactions keep the episode light and they balance out the aggression doled out by the other characters.
Practically the entire episode revolves around the running joke that Penny is stupid. We get it, Penny didn’t go to some fancy college. One or two jokes per episode are enough to remind the viewers of it, but there were half a dozen in “The Scavenger Vortex”. Not that it comes as any consolation, but she isn’t the only being laughed at for her lack of education. Leonard gets more than his fair share of digs for going to Princeton, which the others deem a joke. The writers seem to be running out of ideas for jokes that don’t involve ragging on the “un-educated”.
“The Raiders Minimization”
After Amy watches Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Last Ark, she points out its fatal flaw: Indy’s presence did not actually change the outcome of the story. Sheldon spends the rest of the episode trying to ruin one of her favorite stories to get revenge. He tries Pride & Prejudice and Marmaduke, but ends up loving them. Finally, he finds many time period-related mistakes in Little House on the Prairie, and gets Amy to snap. Since Amy somehow still thinks that she and Sheldon can have a healthy relationship, she suggests that Sheldon should gently let her know when he’s angry. He does that, but then proceeds to ruin Garfield for her.
Penny picks up The Disappointing Child for her psychology class, a book written by Leonard’s mother about him. Penny teases him constantly until she realizes that he is truly upset about the book and his awful childhood. Leonard, of course, milks Penny’s guilt for all it’s worth: skipping sports games, picking movies, and getting quickies at work. Once Penny catches onto his scheme, she tricks him into having a disturbing conversation about his sex life with his mother.
Meanwhile, Stuart (Kevin Sussman)and Raj try their hand at online dating. After painstakingly making dating profiles, they realize how undesirable they are. 162 women read their profiles, but they don’t receive a single message.
“The Raiders Minimization” has a few strong jokes, but for the most part, the episode falls flat. The humor feels played out and done to death. The viewers have seen Raj and Stuart fail in their love lives so consistently that it would have come as a surprise if they actually received a note from someone on the dating site–which could have made for a far more interesting episode.
“The Raiders Minimization” follows the same pairings as nearly every other episode: Leonard and Penny, Amy and Sheldon, Raj and Stuart, and a bit of Howard and Bernadette. The episodes where these common duos are broken apart are often the ones that lead to the most humorous situations and dialogue. This comes into play when the entire group is sitting together or they are matched up in unlikely pairings (Such as in the previous episode, “The Scavenger Vortex”). Instead, the writers are just bringing out the same old stories and plot lines.