The Big Bang Theory Recap: Time to Let it Go

by Alan Eggleston / February 20, 2015
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There are three dynamics at play in this week’s new episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Comic Book Store Regeneration”: obviously the restoration of Stuart Bloom’s comic book store, but also Sheldon Cooper’s and Penny’s irritation at Amy Farrah Fowler for perceived transgressions, and tragically, the death of Howard Wolowitz’s mother. The show’s theme really should be “Let it go.”

When the late Carol Ann Susi, who played Debbie Wolowitz, Howard’s mother, died November 11, 2014, it left a huge hole in the world of The Big Bang Theory. Never seen on camera but frequently heard yelling in the background, Mrs. Wolowitz had become a huge part of the comedy. Howard played the sexually eager but frustrated momma’s boy who lived with his mother even after marriage, until his new wife Bernadette insisted they move into their own apartment. Then when Stuart’s comic book store burned down it was Mrs. Wolowitz who invited Stuart to move in, and a close friendship blossomed. Howard found that friendship worrisome and it provided a lot of conflict for episodes. So it did in tonight’s episode as well, when executive producers and writers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady finally worked Susi’s character’s death into the script. (Article on Carol Ann Susi’s passing.)

And so this is how they pulled it off.

The “Betrayal”

The show opens with Sheldon joining Amy in her neurobiology lab, he telling her a joke, when Sheldon’s scientific rival, Barry Kripke, waltzes in with a bottle of wine for Amy. Barry thanks Amy for her help with his paper on light-cone quantitative action, which he has just published online and has been a real success.

Sheldon wonders why Amy has helped Barry; she didn’t help Sheldon when he quit string theory because it appeared to be a dead end. Amy explains that she did help Sheldon, but he insulted a biologist’s math. It turns out biologists know quite a lot about math. Amy had been thinking about the cellular automata approach to neuronal connections and thought it had implications to string theory, so she shared it with Barry. She was merely a scientist helping a colleague.

It really bothers Sheldon that Amy has helped his rival make advances in Sheldon’s former field of study, and he takes that anger with him to his apartment laundry room, where Penny is also doing her laundry. Penny listens to Sheldon’s story and decides he should just “let it go.” How? Think of something else. Imagine your problem is a pen and hold that pen – Sheldon does. Now open your hand and let it go. Of course, Sheldon can think of a dozen reasons not to let that new pen drop.

The Dignity Lost

Sheldon turns the example back on Penny as a better way to teach him. He tells her that Amy has been secretly pulling mind puzzles on her to test her intelligence against chimpanzees in her lab. Putting scissors together, separating coins by size, getting a banana out of a bamboo box.  Now Penny, who finds this insulting, is angry with Amy and despite Sheldon suggesting that Penny use the pen analogy to help her “let it go,” she can’t.

We find out later that Sheldon had thought the puzzles were a bit complex for apes and that Amy should try them on humans to see if they could accomplish them. We also find out that Amy has tried the puzzles on Leonard Hofstadter, who had trouble getting the banana out of the box. The good news is, everyone figured out the puzzles, better than the chimpanzees – all but one chimp, who did well but was on medication.

Later, Amy comes to Sheldon’s apartment and Penny hears her knock on Sheldon’s door. Penny comes out and makes sarcastic remarks implying she has amazingly mastered very simply tasks – like opening a door all by herself. “Maybe I’ll fling feces all around my cage to celebrate,” she says. Amy turns to Sheldon in horror. He goes back into his apartment to hide.

Amy explains it isn’t a big deal, she runs tests like this on undergrads all the time. If Penny fills out some paperwork, Amy can get her $5. But it isn’t money Penny wants, she wants back her dignity.

Jealousy Reignited

We’re also briefly introduced to the new comic book store, which Stuart is filling with new merchandise. Leonard and Raj are there helping unpack, when Howard and Bernadette walk in. Stuart thanks Howard for putting up with him staying at Howard’s mother’s house – he couldn’t have made it otherwise. Howard is ready to let it pass, when he spots pieces of his mother’s furniture in the store. That sets off Howard’s jealousy once again. “Yeah, she said I could use it. Doesn’t it look great?” says Stuart. “Not as great as it looks in the den, where it belongs!” says Howard.

Then there’s a brief back and forth about Howard’s childhood art and Stuart attending a fancy art school so he could run a failed comic shop and mooch off someone’s mother. Bernadette invites Howard to leave to cool off and Stuart thinks it’s a good idea for Howard to “leave my store,” to which Howard replies, “My mother gave you the money to reopen.”

Later, Bernadette and Howard are back in the comic book store sitting in Howard’s mother’s furniture. She’s trying to reason with Howard, but he still thinks the furniture belongs in the home where he grew up. Bernadette points out that if the store succeeds, Stuart will have a source of income and he can move out of Howard’s mother’s house. Moreover, some old furniture seems like a reasonable price for that. Howard still can’t seem to “let it go.”

A Mother Gone

Sheldon tries to “help out” by explaining the pen analogy to Howard, when Howard’s phone rings. He goes away to answer it but comes back looking really down. His mother had been visiting Howard’s aunt in Florida and the aunt has just told him, “My mom died. Ma took a nap. She never woke up.”

In one of the most poignant scenes I’ve seen in any The Big Bang Theory episode, a usually insensitive Sheldon speaks up. “May I say something?” Leonard tries to stop him, but Sheldon insists, “But I think it would be comforting.” The others finally relent. “When I lost my own father, I didn’t have any friends to help me through it,” says a very sensitive Sheldon. “You do.” Penny sobs, “I really thought he was gonna say, ‘Let it go.’”

A Star Spotted

Leonard and Raj step out of the comic book store to pick up refreshments from a nearby deli for the comic book store opening. Raj spots actor Nathan Fillion eating at a nearby table. Raj comes up with the idea to get Captain Reynolds from Firefly (a role Fillion played) to do a signing at Stuart’s store. Leonard decides that if Fillion isn’t nice, he might not be able to watch him in anything again. At first, Fillion pretends not to be an actor. “Don’t say that. You’re not Dame Judi Dench, but you’re pretty great.” Fillion still insist he isn’t anyone famous.

As Leonard and Raj pick up their deli order, Leonard goes over to apologize to Fillion. Raj tries one more time to verify if it’s him. Fillion explains he just wants to eat his lunch in peace, but thanks for being a fan. He even offers to take a picture. Now Raj isn’t convinced, but Fillion gets Raj to admit a picture of someone who looks like Nathan Fillion, even an angry Nathan Fillion, is better than no picture. The photo reveal cuts off half of Fillion’s face.

A Time to Let Go

Final scene: At Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, everyone is sitting in the living room except for Howard and Bernadette, who have booked a flight to Florida and are now traveling to the airport.

Howard is holding up OK, but how is Stuart doing, who had been living by the compassion of Howard’s mother? “I can’t believe she’s gone,” he says. “She took me in. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have been homeless.” They all remember Mrs. Wolowitz in good and wistful ways. Leonard raises a generous toast to her: “To Mrs. Wolowitz. A loving mother … to all of us. We’ll miss you.”

To all of us who, like Sheldon, found her yelling annoying but will now miss her presence, a wistful farewell to a well crafted character played by a great voice talent.

   
Alan Eggleston A writer from the boomer generation, I was among the first Americans to grow up with television and even got my bachelors degree in broadcasting. My first professional job was working in a television station, working camera and then writing copy and promotions. A few years later I turned to writing for print and then adapted to the Internet. I love writing and I love good television and film - I hope it shows in my reviews.