Friday, January 20, 2012

For 100th episode, The Big Bang Theory looks at "The Recombination Hypothesis"

     CBS's The Big Bang Theory reached its 100th episode milestone last night with "The Recombination Hypothesis." Leonard (Johnny Galecki) decides to ask Penny (Kaley Cuoco) out. She says yes. Their date is a disaster, but as he arrives for a booty call that night, they decide to give the union another shot, in secret. Unfortunately, this doesn't work well at all, and they realize that they will only continue to fight. Except, this entire episode has happened in Leonard's head. Leonard cannot see a happy ending with Penny. And then he asks her out any way, for real.

     What a fantastic episode! Not only does it deal with the Leonard / Penny relationship, which sits dormant for much of the time, but it has some neat twists. When it is first revealed that the events of "The Recombination Hypothesis" happen in Leonard's head, which makes the episode title even more appropriate, the first instinct is to get angry at the writers for toying with fans like that. Then it starts to seem stale, as this is something many other shows have done before. But when Leonard decides to ask Penny out anyway at the end, it transcends into something much more powerful and original. Kudos for a 100th episode that might just be the best one of the series. Not the funniest, but certainly the most moving.

     "The Recombination Hypothesis" packs an emotional punch. Even if the whole thing had been real, it still would. But allowing Leonard to imagine the possibilities, and then, despite a negative outcome, still go for it anyway, says something very deep about his feelings for Penny. What is it about her that Leonard is willing to go through much unhappiness just for a little bit more time with her? It's an interesting question for The Big Bang Theory, and one that bears much scrutiny.

     For one thing, Leonard over thinks everything. It's a complaint Penny has while they date, and it crops back up in his imagined reconnection. Might this be what Leonard is thinking of when he asks Penny out for realzies? Might he be remembering that, due to his over thinking, perhaps things won't end as badly as he expects? Maybe if he just goes for it, it will turn out all right. Also, simply going for it, despite what his mind is telling him, is a sign he may be ready to move past this flaw of his, and try to be a better person.

     For another, Penny's opinion of the whole situations remains a mystery. Because what viewers see Penny doing is what Leonard thinks she would do, rather than reality, it's impossible to know for sure how Penny feels about this date. The tag at the end of the episode makes it appear that she accepts, assuming that it isn't just an alternate version of the filmed scene earlier that the producers wanted to play because it is funny in a different way. But that's only a scant few seconds of Penny's preparation for the date, so it doesn't reveal a lot.

     There is little doubt that Penny and Leonard are meant to be together, and will end the series that way. The question is, is "The Recombination Hypothesis" the catalyst for their happy ending? Or merely another bump on the long, troubled road? Episode 101 better have some answers!

     And is the title of the series itself a reference to Leonard and Penny? Did his true universe begin when he met her, as he does in the "Pilot?" If so, then a happy ending between the two is truly mandatory.

     The parts of the episode not concerning the couple are amusing, without taking away from the A story. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) makes some unintentional jokes about wood and erection that has Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg) in stitches. Not the greatest Sheldon joke ever, but since it is only needed to lighten the moment between heavier scenes, it works quite well. Also, it's fun to see the two versions of Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) avoiding double dating. The latter seems the better, more realistic to the characters, choice.

     Small bit of trivia: did you know that Cuoco dated Galecki in secret for two years, and is now engaged to someone else. She says they remain friends. They parallels and implications are extraordinary!

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  1. I enjoy reading your reviews of the Big Bang Theory...and will continue to read them. However, my favourite character is Sheldon Cooper with Penny being my least favourite. :) But I'll vote for Leonard and her to end up together...if he can't have her in real life...there's TV to live out the "what ifs". Such is life. :(

  2. Sheldon is my favorite character, too! But once in awhile, I like that the series will go a little more serious with the Penny / Leonard story.


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