From the very first scene of tonight’s episode, we learn there two of the most important rules regarding Sheldon Cooper. One, he should not be let out in public unsupervised, and two, he should not be allowed to dress himself. Decked out in a blue shirt, a yellow striped tie and a green-checked suit, Sheldon is a guest lecturer this week for a class of graduate physics students. Seeing himself as a science messiah rather than an insufferable pain in the neck, Sheldon cracks jokes nobody understands, mentions principles nobody’s ever heard of, and belittles everybody who meets his gaze.
But does Sheldon get depressed? Does he get mad at his students’ insolence? Does he burst out of the room bemoaning the class’ ignorance? Of course not; he’s Sheldon Cooper. He lives in his own private bubble of self-grandeur. He beams about his ability to spread the good word of topological insulators. However, the collected tweets and blog posts from his students tell the real story. Tweets such as “Dr. Cooper has taken a relatively boring subject and managed to make it completely insufferable. Plus he looks like a giant insect.” And “Does Einstein’s theory explain why time flies when you’re having fun, but when you’re listening to Dr. Cooper, it falls out of the sky dead.”
Solemnly, Sheldon accepts defeat. He ruefully accepts his failure at teaching his first failure since high school gym class. Apparently, he considers his previous failures with driving, bowling, drinking liquor, living in Montana, eating an exclusive cruciferous vegetable diet, etc. inconsequential.
Prodded by his don’t-call-her-a-girlfriend Amy, Sheldon decides he should make an effort to become a better orator. After all, an educator must not only be a fount of knowledge, but an engaging speaker. And with that clumsy segue, Sheldon turns to Penny for acting lessons. Frankly, I believe Sheldon is overreacting. Those derogatory Twitter posts are clearly falsified, as their highly complicated syntax and verbiage are way beyond the typical Twitter user. A real Twitter post would look like, “OMG, this guy sux, lol. [X [X [X [X [X. #professerFAIL”
The main storyline proceeds as well as expected. Penny is a talentless actress and tries to impart her sparse acting skills on an unreceptive, disrespectful Sheldon. We’ve seen this Mad Lib storyline before. Sheldon is critical and unapologetic, but Penny begrudgingly tries to help Sheldon out, partly because she’s a good person, partly because she pities Sheldon, partly because she has nothing better to do.
Rejecting the classic Tennessee Williams play ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ Sheldon provides his own literary source for a scene exercise: a fanfic Star Trek episode he wrote in high school (We can now add teleplay production to the list of Sheldon’s failures). It’s your typical fan fiction; it’s written through the eyes of a fanboy, it treats the characters like infallible Gods, the plot revolves around the author who has inserted himself into the series, and the plot is a poorly-written catharsis for the author who cannot cope with his real world problems.
And what problems did Sheldon have in high school? Lots, considering his analytical scientific mind and nerdy interests were repressed by an overbearing, Christian mother, an alcoholic father, and his East-Texas environment. But Penny, ever the professional (for lack of a better word), soldiers on… and then stops. Quite literally, the episode ends here unresolved. Sheldon doesn’t learn how to act, he doesn’t learn how to interact with people, and he doesn’t learn how to teach students. The episode just stops. In essence, this entire plotline was a big, wet sack of pointless nothing.
Well, not entirely. Where tonight’s episode really shines is the B-story. Ever unlucky in love, Raj bemoans his eternally single status, seemingly unprovoked. Fortunately, ever the upper, Bernadette is nearby to give him kind words of support. She thinks Raj has massive sex appeal, and is a real hottie. Of course, Bernadette is in love with Howard, so her opinion should be taken with several, large grains of salt.
Despite having a doctorate, being gainfully employed, having close friends, numerous hobbies, and a childlike optimistic outlook on life, Raj still can’t get it together long enough to make forward strides in the world of romance. All his relationships seem to flounder in less than an episode. Perhaps that’s why he misinterprets Bernadette general friendly support as full-on flirting.
Throughout the episode, Raj has moments of fantasy where he and Bernadette wind up together. But, being the eggshell-walking awkward mess he is, Raj only imagines situations where Howard becomes permanently indisposed, then willingly allows Raj to begin canoodling Bernadette. Such instances include Howard being transferred to Israel and Raj being asked to treat Bernadette’s sudden onset nymphomania, Howard being in a car accident and surviving long enough to ask Raj to pursue Bernadette’s latent affections, and most spectacularly, a choreographed Bollywood dance number wherein Bernadette and Raj sing each others praises. I’m no psychiatrist, but anybody with such elaborate fantasies needs to get on medication, and fast.
While the B-story also ends without any semblance of resolution, it at least has the excuse of being a comedic distraction. We the viewer are expected to focus on the exploits of Sheldon and Penny, and simply follow Raj’s disturbing fantasies in brief intermissions. As such, Raj’s storyline gets a free pass for having no formal conclusion. All in all though, tonight’s episode was just pointless. Clearly there were ideas to be had, but none of them were executed to their full potential. Instead, we get jokes about India, Spock and the SyFy channel’s name. If the writers weren’t going to focus on preparing a quality episode, couldn’t they at least check to see how Twitter worked?