Not since Firefly have we heard Mandarin on American television, but tonight The Big Bang Theory injected some international humor into our sitcom diet. But it’s more of a side dish to contrast the main course, which is the as yet unknown romantic frontier. Let’s boldly go.
The show opens with little romantic discourse aside form Sheldon’s fondness for tangerine chicken, which is tempered by his sneaking suspicion that the local Chinese restaurant is actually producing orange chicken. Hence, the Mandarin lessons from Howard, so he can go and confront the staff. Even less romantic is Penny’s dilemma, which is discovered when she comes into the apartment, opens the window and hurls an iPod down onto the street below. It seems Mike was not a knight in shining Apple product placement.
She storms away and Leonard decides to follow her, to be a friend in her time of need, to not attempt to "cop a feel", as Howard suggests, but to just listen and be supportive. Which all sounds great and given that the initial problem is that Mike wrote blogs detailing his intimate relationship with Penny, it seems pretty simple too. So, it’s all the more confusing when Penny walks away form the encounter thanking Leonard for talking her into going to see Mike to patch things up. Which goes as well as it should, given that it is the most nonsensical thing any human could do. Love may be blind, but it doesn’t have to be deaf and dumb too. Heavy on the dumb.
When Penny’s grand charge in the name of love ends in abject failure, Leonard decides to give the comforting friend role another shot. Only this time, when she asks him why she can’t find a guy who is nice an thoughtful and genuinely cares about her, he suggests himself. The scene lasts a few bewildering and breathless moments…of maybe I mean awkward and tense…but it ends with her agreeing to go out with him.
Nothing can be so cut and dry on a sitcom, however, so Penny asks Sheldon for his advice on whether or not she should actually go on the date with Leonard. Sheldon, in true Sheldon fashion, uses Schrodinger’s Cat as a metaphor for the outcome to her query. As he explains, it’s the cat in the box with the bottle of poison and until the box is opened the cat can be thought of as both alive and dead. Penny surmises that Sheldon means they experience of dating Leonard could be both good or bad until she tries it, but he apparently thinks that is far too rudimentary and starts all over again. Thank god the scene cuts away. Leonard also goes to Sheldon, of course, but all Sheldon has to do is mention Schrodinger’s Cat for Leonard to get his meaning perfectly.
So, in end, they each decide to go through the date. However, the first few moments take uncomfortable to new levels until Leonard tries to broach the subject by asking Penny if she’s ever heard of…you guessed it, Schrodinger’s Cat. She replies that she’s heard too much about that damn cat, which is kind of where one might expect the show to leave the episode off. But they’ve only given us the one of a one-two punch, and the two is Leonard responding "Good" and grabbing Penny in a Kiss that is more than friendly.
"Alright, the cat’s alive, lets go get dinner", she says as she rushes out the door and our season comes to a dramatic close.
Of course, it had to end this way. Or at least close to this way. It has been a highly unusual season of TV across the board, but given that this was a fledgling sitcom in a market unfriendly to the genre at the moment, I thought The Big Bang Theory has played out remarkably well. Before I leave you all with a few of my favorite quotes from tonight, let me ask you a few questions. Do you think it will work out between Penny and Leonard? Can she handle dating the charming but socially awkward hyper-genius? Can he handle dating the sweet but sometimes not altogether in the altogether waitress? Can the writers create a romance that isn’t saccharine and doesn’t make us lose interest in the show? And what would that entail?
Leonard: Howard, I am not going to take advantage of Penny. I’m her friend.
Howard: So you are saying that if she demands that you take her right there, right now, you’ll just walk away"
Leonard: I said ‘I’m her friend’, not her gay friend.
Leonard: It paints the picture of a very affectionate woman who is open to expressing her affection in non-traditional locales, such as elevators, parks, movie theaters, subways…Does that mean the transportation system or the sandwich shop?
Penny: The sandwich shop.
Leonard: Doesn’t that violate the health code?
Leonard: He did break the implied confidentiality of the bedroom and in your case, elevator, parks, and fast food franchises.
Sheldon: I found the two earlier versions more compelling. Previously I felt sympathy for the Leonard character but now I just find him whiny and annoying.
Leonard: Eat your tangerine chicken.
Sheldon: I would love to but I don’t have tangerine chicken
Penny: Leonard isn’t the kind of guy I usually go out with.
Sheldon: Leonard isn’t the kind of guy that anyone goes out with.