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Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Big Bang Theory examines "The Skank Reflex Analysis"

     When last CBS's The Big Bang Theory aired, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) slept with Raj (Kunal Nayyar). It is appropriate, then, that the season premiere, the first of two new episodes to air this week, is called "The Skank Reflex Analysis." The tone of the gang has been completely disrupted, and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) isn't even sure he can get along with Raj anymore. So Leonard spills Raj's secret love of Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), angering Howard (Simon Helberg), too. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) just doesn't want anything to change, and Penny tries to let down a lovesick Raj.

     Having Penny sleep with Raj angered me. It really felt like the series had jumped the shark, as the action seemed unforgivable. Both characters were detestable. But "The Skank Reflex Analysis" fixed all of that in half an hour. Penny did it because she was drunk and lonely. Raj was, too, considering he can't even talk to a girl unless he has alcohol. He also has been the perpetually single one in the cast. Well, so is Sheldon, but he wants to be. Also, Raj falls for Penny because of it, and it's clear that she considers him a dear friends. This delicate handling, and examining the emotions involved, including guilty, save the plot from ruining the show. The writers of The Big Bang Theory certainly deserve viewer's trust by now.

     Believe it or not, Sheldon might be the one must effected by the event. Though he could care less if Raj and Penny sleep together, he does not like his habits disrupted. To throw off the group dynamic, Raj and Penny threaten Sheldon's way of life. It's not certain that he cares about them, or about Leonard being hurt, but he doesn't want things to get weird. So Sheldon goes out of his way to do what he can to fix the problem, calling Leonard's mother (Christine Baranski, The Good Wife), and psyching the boys up for a paintball match. When this doesn't work, he uncharacteristically does a noble deed, self-sacrificing themselves to bring the camaraderie back to the group, bonding as they seek revenge for Sheldon's paintball "death." It isn't a complete, permanent fix, but it helps.

     Leonard likely gets more devoted to Priya (Aarti Mann) because of this. His lingering feelings for Penny are, at least for now, replaced by anger. So in the second new episode, "The Infestation Hypothesis," he tries to spice things up with some sexy internet chat. Unfortunately, long distance is not easy, and soon Leonard will likely be dwelling on Penny again.

     Amy (Mayim Bialik) proves her worth to the group by helping in both episodes. Her loyalties to Sheldon and Penny often don't conflict, but they do in "The Infestation Hypothesis." Penny feels betrayed when Amy tries to help Sheldon get rid of Penny's chair found on the street. But in the earlier episode, Amy begs Penny not to leave town when she's considering giving up on acting. Their unlikely friendship will likely survive any bumps in the road, and grow even stronger.

     The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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