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Worldly Distractions: The Big Bang Theory 7.8 - The Itchy Brain Simulation





The Itchy Brain Simulation

I have no idea what this episode is about. There's no Bill Nye, but on the other hand, there appears to be an ugly sweater. All in all, I'd say it's a decent trade-off.

Penny questions the existence of the dart board, given that the guys never play. Leonard admits that his lack of coordination killed their gaming spirit. Sheldon comes out asking after some Skee-ball tickets, as he's finally decided on his prize - three years later. Leonard hesitates. However, at Sheldon's expectant look, he rummages through the junk box. Miraculously, they are found, and Sheldon rewards Leonard with some tickets of his own.

Leonard continues to look through the junk box, and eventually finds said ugly sweater, a gift from his aunt when he started college. Sheldon is convinced that he has more tickets, but Leonard is evasive, so he grabs the box from him. Leonard finally asks Sheldon not to freak out if allowed to see the contents. Sheldon flips out pre-emptively. It turns out to be a DVD Leonard rented way back. Oooh, timely. He begs Sheldon not to panic. The viewers are confused and so is Penny. Sheldon appears deeply hurt, but doesn't panic. I still don't get this, but Penny and Leonard are simply bowled over by Sheldon's lack of a tantrum. Okay,you really need a new friend. Opening credits.

Leonard explains to Sheldon what the concept of "not freaking out" means. Dude, I'd say just take it and run. Bizarrely, though, Sheldon seems to understand what Leonard's trying to get across. He explains that an unresolved problem is like an itch in his brain. Leonard suggests scratching the itch with a coat hanger. Sheldon, for his part, doesn't find it funny, and insists that Leonard wouldn't either if he felt the same way. He proposes a deal - he won't pester Leonard about the DVD, if Leonard wears the sweater with nothing underneath until "the situation is resolved" (whatever that means - considering the state of video stores, I doubt they can return that DVD). He explains that the sweater makes Leonard itchy and uncomfortable, just like Sheldon's brain in a situation like this. Okay, that's...actually kind of brilliant. Leonard prefers the hanger, but he won't back down from a challenge. He leaves for the video store, sweater and all, to get this matter settled. Even though it looks ridiculous, there's something adorable about it, too. Kind of like a leprechaun.

Unfortunately, Sheldon stops him in the process, reminding him that the store has been closed for years. CALLED IT.

Bernadette and Amy are having a drink at the Cheesecake Factory. Penny serves them, naturally. They discuss their days at work, with the usual Bernadette-and-Amy-pursue-science vs Penny-performs-menial-tasks joke. Just then, they notice Lucy, Raj's ex, sitting across the room. Penny decides to go check this heartbreaker out. She swears she won't say anything - but promptly lambastes the poor woman for deciding to end a relationship. Bernadette and Amy stare in horror, while Lucy's in tears. How professional. Maybe this episode should end with Penny getting fired.

Last season Lucy was presented as having terrible social anxiety, so much so that she could barely sit in a restaurant without panicking. Now, she's actually able to order a meal and stand up to a snotty waitress. You know what? You rock, Lucy. You're at least ten times cooler than Penny.

Leonard is still in a sweater, dying of the itch. Howard and Raj think he's an idiot, especially since the store's closure means he can never take it off. Leonard's plan is to send the owners the DVD, reimburse them for the late fee, and finally wear a shirt.

Amy and Bernadette have gone to Penny's and raided her snacks, because they sure didn't get served at The Cheesecake Factory. They think her behaviour was abominable - very true - and that she should apologize to them, to Raj, and to Lucy. I'd throw in her employer, too. Penny refuses, saying Raj will be cool with it.

...he's not.

However, in the midst of his screaming at Penny, he gets a text from Lucy saying that she wants to meet for coffee. All's well that ends well.

Howard goes to see Sheldon, who is trying to work out a complicated problem and doesn't hesitate to snipe on Howard's skills. Leonard shows up with the report that the video store owner is long dead and the sweater challenge is therefore over. He takes off the sweater, revealing a red blotchy chest, and points out that unlike Sheldon, he doesn't use "the itch" as an excuse to be a jerk. Just as he's pulling a shirt on, Howard helpfully suggests reimbursing the next of kin. Sheldon picks up on this immediately. Damn his Vulcan hearing!

Raj asks Howard for advice concerning his reunion with Lucy. Howard advises confidence, which is frankly the least helpful advice anyone looking for love has ever heard. Raj seems to agree with me. Bernadette wonders if it's even worth the risk, given how Lucy hurt him. Howard laughs at this, and proceeds to explain just how Raj is pathetic and desperate enough to take any girl who will possibly be nice to him. Geez, Howard, between this episode and last, when did you become such a jerk? Raj concedes that Howard's right, but still. He decides to try it, with some reservations.

Leonard, practically in tears, Googles the next of kin for the dead video store owner. The sweater is still on and still itchy. As he explains why he's doing it, he begins to cry for real. Penny wonders why he just won't take it off, to which he tells her there's a principle, and lifts his shirt to reveal a truly hideous sight. Red welts everywhere and - well, it looks like a war zone. Penny gasps, I gasp, the audience gasps. "Is that sweater made of bees?" she asks. Leonard stays strong. It's almost over, he can deal with the pain, and most of all, he can't let Sheldon win. Penny takes a picture - "So you can send it to Princeton and get your money back."

Sheldon, with his new prize - a "very real" lapel flower - wonders why everyone thinks it's a miracle that he's so calm about the lost DVD. Amy wonders what kind of coping mechanism he's using. Sheldon just keeps trying to get her to smell the flower. Finally, she gives in. It backfires on Sheldon, though, since the flower falls off and the water drenches his sport coat. Smooth.

Lucy and Raj meet, friendly but awkward as always. They apologize for past wrongs and seem to be managing. However, when Raj suggests seeing her again, she admits that she has someone in her life.

Cut to Raj screaming at Penny again. However, she offers to set him up with one of her workers, and they're friends again just like that.

Sheldon tries to fix his flower. Amy wonders why someone so smart would indulge in something so stupid. He responds by offering her peanut brittle in a can. Leonard storms in. The owner had no next of kin - no one came to his funeral - and Leonard is condemned to a life of horrible pain. (For those of you who haven't seen the episode, that blistered torso is truly horrifying.) Sheldon suggests looking for relatives, either in Armenia or Lebanon.

Leonard reacts exactly the way you expect he would. He rants and raves and demands to know why Sheldon isn't going crazy, too. Sheldon admits that he paid for the DVD - seven years ago. Leonard stops. Palpable rage. I think my computer just melted. It gets worse when Sheldon reveals that he kept the case anyway, just so that he could make it into a teachable moment. Amy bites her lip. Leonard is the scariest thing I've ever seen. Fortunately, rather than murdering Sheldon, he rips off the sweater, opens the freezer and puts ice packs on his skin. Comfort before revenge. He does, however, take the time for one last incoherent yell.

Amy calls Sheldon "diabolical". "I know," Sheldon says, complaining that he never knew if it would ever pay off. Amy just bites her lip.

Raj goes on a date with Penny's coworker, but massively screws it up. Cue the coworker yelling to Penny, Penny yelling to Raj, and Raj yelling in the mirror - "What is wrong with you?!" End credits.

This episode started off with a funny premise, and I liked how it developed. Mayim Bialik was great as Amy, even though her scenes were more of "reacting" than acting. It's fascinating to see how an actor can dominate the screen with a twitch. Raj's storyline was actually quite satisfying. The return of Lucy was handled well, and I am relieved it won't be permanent. I do hope we get to see more of Raj. Penny wins major asshole points this episode, existing basically to ruin things for everyone else, though in the end she really didn't turn out to be a major player. The ending of the Sheldon plot was simply awful. Did it have to go that far? Was it really necessary for Leonard to have such a hideous injury? And the twist with the paid fee seemed extraordinarily mean-spirited, even for Sheldon. It didn't ring true and I found it ridiculous.

Next episode: The Thanksgiving Decoupling. Anyone want to bet on who it is? My money's on Shamy, if only because I am always optimistic that the writers won't throw us into the Penny/Leonard vortex of boredom again.

Generally, my optimism is unfounded.

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