“The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary”
October 19th, 2009
In the cold open to this week’s episode, we get an interesting display of the show’s comic sensibilities. When the scene starts, Wolowitz and Raj are playing a game of Mystic Warlords of Ka’ah, a Magic the Gathering-like card game. The transition of jokes is like a crescendo. We start at the bottom with the audience laughing at a funny card name that wasn’t actually funny, but is funny because “they’re nerds, doing nerdy things!” Then, we find Penny playing the game and not knowing what to do, something that’s a bit more legitimate but still a bit straightforward. And then, we have Sheldon’s eidetic memory ruining the game for everyone by (simply through listening to the game) analyzing what’s left in the deck like a card counter. It’s only then that the humour feels particularly interesting, and that I’m finally really paying attention.
As the cold open, and the remainder of the episode, move on, it’s basically an instance of Sheldon driving the comedy, his eidetic memory rescuing uninteresting storylines revolving around Leonard, Penny and Wolowitz and serving as the foundation for a storyline of his own with Raj and Wil Wheaton. I actually thought the episode did a better job with one setup than I had expected, and not as much as it could have with the other, which made for an interesting if uneven episode that didn’t rile me up but didn’t really impress me either.
Shockingly, I thought that Raj and Sheldon’s storyline with Wil Wheaton was a bit dull, if not without its charms. I like the basic idea that Sheldon is too good at the game to bother competing until he learns that his former hero/current mortal enemy Wil Wheaton is taking part, and gags like him slotting in between a neighbourhood boy who threw dog poop at him and Joel Schumacher (for nearly ruining Batman) on his most hated list were charming, but I didn’t really think it did anything with it all. Wheaton didn’t get much to do in his cameo until the end (which he sold very well), and the repetition of the entire story made the final moment a bit too predictable. If this is going to turn into a running gag, I like it – Sheldon is really good when he’s angry, and now that Wheaton has been legitimately positioned as a villain in this universe his anger feels that much more valid. However, by basically doing everything interesting with the story at the end of the episode, it led to the storyline feeling really unbalanced, a fact which offers a nice endnote but doesn’t really empower the episode in any way.
On the other hand, I actually found the Wolowitz stuff better than I had expected it to be, primarily because it actually seemed fully developed in terms of delivering the expected results before undermining it. I actually felt really bad for Wolowitz at one point, as he was actually being moderately charming in the car ride to the restaurant. I thought his jokes weren’t nearly as strange as his date was suggesting, and the two even made a logical fit considering their fellow educational backgrounds, so when they came together in the end over their shared hatred of their mothers it actually felt borderline logical. I think the storyline suffered early on because it depended on us buying Leonard and Penny lying in bed chatting casually about the subject, which is the part of the relationship which doesn’t actually make any sense. Leonard’s continued shock at even being in the relationship is not misplaced, and I continue not to buy it in sexual settings, but used as a straight couple (as in, two “straight men”) while Wolowitz handled the humour was actually not a terrible strategy. It didn’t break any new ground, but it was better than I had thought it would be going in.
Overall, I think it’s an example of an episode that has some fun elements (like the entire coda with Sheldon and Wil Wheaton having their big showdown), and that if you look at the episode it actually built to that moment pretty well (like setting up the hierarchy of cards so as to make the bunny card an eventful moment). I think there was some pacing issues, and some of the jokes fell a bit flat or felt repetitive, but at the end of the day we got a big ending that allowed the show to demonstrate how awesome Jim Parsons is and the episode felt well-executed in a way that some of the other episodes this season haven’t been (at least for my less than eidetic memory).
- This is another awkward episode for Jim Parsons to be able to submit to the Emmys, as he’s really funny in that closing scene and really throughout the episode but the rest of it isn’t nearly as interesting and more importantly it has nothing to do with Sheldon. While someone like Alec Baldwin is playing a character who is “the boss,” and who can really move between storylines, Big Bang Theory doesn’t have the same issue with Sheldon. I have to think that he would do better with a less showy episode in which he is omnipresent, and I’ll be interesting to see if the show gives him that episode.
- Loved Sheldon’s behaviour in the cafeteria, an extra scene that could make this an Emmy episode: sure, he was a bit rude on the subject of the sweater vest, but it was both a) a sweater vest and b) an ugly one, plus the whole four napkin system was the kind of Sheldonism that’s non-confrontational, and thus enjoyable.