By Josh Axelrod
We’ve seen set-ups like this a million times before on this show. The man-children and women will split up for an episode and go off to do their own respective things. In “The Focus Attenuation,” the man-children decided they needed a weekend to themselves to come up with the next big invention. The women decided this was an excellent opportunity to get schwasted in Vegas.
Again, this is not a novel episode structure for this show. But this week’s story brought up an interesting question: Have the man-children been distracted from their scientific passions by the women in their lives? It’s an interesting point, mostly because a lot of fans think the show was much better before girlfriends were introduced. Seriously, read the comment sections on any IGN “Big Bang Theory” review. Some people hate that the show has focused so much on relationships in the last few seasons.
Personally, I think the female presence has only made the show stronger. Bernadette has made Howard a much more tolerable character, Penny has opened Leonard up a bit and, most miraculously of all, Amy has reminded that Sheldon that he is a real boy. It took Raj like six seasons, but his friendship with these women not only allowed him to talk to the opposite sex, but now he’s in a healthy relationship with Emily.
I think if we learned anything from this episode, it was that the man-children don’t need any help to be distracted. Within 30 seconds of brainstorming, Sheldon was ready to boot up “The Social Network.” Leonard tried to keep everyone on track, but none of his methods kept everyone on track. The worst culprit was Sheldon, who was willing to do pretty much whatever it took to keep the group from getting real work done.
Of course, their hijinks were all hilarious. That “Back to the Future, Part II” riff was inspired. What verb tenses are you supposed to use when talking about time travel? “Never had has hasn’t” sounded close enough to me. The jokes ranged from the broad (Raj’s obsession with phallic-looking countries and states) to the more highbrow (Tsk Tsk Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters,” not knowing the difference between negative reinforcement and positive punishment). For the most part, they all landed this week.
On the flip side, we had the girls’ trip to Vegas. This also wasn’t the first time they had headed down to Vegas (Season 6’s “The Love Spell Potential”), but they didn’t even make it out of the airport on that occasion. This time, they made it to the hotel before Penny realized she had to study for a work exam that had been unexpectedly moved up on her.
This was a cool added wrinkle, because usually Penny would be the drunkest one on the Vegas strip. Instead, she actually stayed in while Bernadette and Amy drank comically large margaritas and Amy tried to figure out Bernie’s cup size. It’s nice to see Penny actually showing genuine interest in doing well at a respectable career. Again, character growth!
That said, drunk Bernie and Amy were the best. Bernadette was even more bubbly than usual, and her voice somehow got more shrill. All Amy wanted to do was party, even going as far as to steal Penny’s notes and run away with them…in a walk-in closet. I want to see more of drunk Amy. A little liquid courage might be what it takes for her to get Sheldon in bed.
This was probably the overall funniest episode of “Big Bang Theory” this season so far. The story structure was familiar territory, but it raised some legitimate questions and led to scenarios ripe for jokes on jokes. Plus, we got a reminder of just how depraved Howard was before he met Bernadette. As Raj said: “When you met Bernadette, the field of sexual robotics really took a hit.”