By Josh Axelrod
“The Misinterpretation Agitation” was a weird episode even by “Big Bang Theory” standards. Not only did it dive head first into the heart of nerd culture, but it tried to tackle the issue of gender politics in the field of science. Take a guess which storyline was most successful.
I’ll get the negatives out of the way first. Bernadette was going to be featured in a magazine’s list of the top 50 hottest women in science, and she was understandably excited. Amy saw the whole idea as sexist and sent the magazine a “scathing email” about how they would never do something like this with male scientists. The magazine agreed and cancelled the article.
Bernadette was quite upset at Amy. She took the stance that scientists can be both beautiful and smart, gender roles be damned. She accused Amy of trying to desexualize her because no one (i.e. Sheldon) ever allows her to express her sexuality. Amy got mad and stormed off. Later in the episode, Bernadette tried to apologize to Amy, but the girls had more pressing concerns at the time (more on that later).
Not only was this storyline never wrapped up, but the entire thing just rang hollow. Amy and Bernadette both brought up legitimate points about how female scientists are viewed, but by not resolving their conflict, the show never took a stance one way or another. You could argue that it isn’t a sitcom’s place to say something profound about such a serious topic, but then why bring it up in the first place? Hopefully the Amy/Bernadette feud gets brought up again, because otherwise this plot threat will feel like a complete waste of time.
On a more positive note, the episode’s main storyline made up for that problematic subplot in spades. It was only a matter of time before a doctor who Penny flirted with to close a sale would show up on her doorstep with flowers and an “unnecessarily graphic” card. This obviously didn’t sit well with Leonard, who politely told Dr. Oliver Lorvis that Penny is his fiance. Before Lorvis could leave, Sheldon, blissfully unaware as usual, invited the depressed doctor into his apartment for a hot beverage.
It turned out Lorvis was “the urologist to the stars,” the kind of doctor who carries James Cameron’s kidney stone in a necklace. He was also just as nerdy as the rest of the group. The collection of geek memorabilia in his basement rivaled anything the guys had, and their eyes all lit up as they marveled at an original Terminator, Hellboy’s gun and an arcade machine with “Donkey Kong.”
I didn’t realize Lorvis was Billy Bob Thornton until I read a recap after watching the episode. I’ve never seen him play such a sad sack, but Thornton totally nailed the role. He was arguably more awkward than any of the guys, and his comic timing was on point, especially with the ongoing “she touched my arm for two Mississippis” joke.
Lorvis was a single urologist still living his mother’s basement. Another great running joke involved Howard making fun of him for still living with his mother while Raj balked at Howard not seeing the similarities to his life before meeting Bernadette. I think it’s safe to assume that Lorvis was meant to represent a terrifying look into all four of their futures without the women in their lives.
And thank god for those women. Lorvis locked the four of them in his basement in a desperate hail mary attempt to woo Penny. This somehow ended up with him coming onto Amy and then, at the behest of Penny, letting the boys free. Of course, they were too busy playing “Donkey Kong.” Nerds are so easy to entertain.
So this was an episode with a great main story, a fantastic guest turn by Thornton and a problematic subplot. Luckily that subplot only amounted to three scenes and didn’t drag the whole episode down with it. Again, hopefully it gets brought back up at some point. The fact “Big Bang Theory” showcases female scientists is novel enough, but it can’t bring up an issue that polarizing and just dismiss it without a payoff.