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Worldly Distractions: The Big Bang Theory 7.9 - The Thanksgiving Decoupling





So who's it going to be? Howard and Bernie? Penny and Leonard? Shamy? Raj and his gal Sandy B? Let's find out.

The gang are trying to work out a mathematical formular for cow-tipping, because that's how scientists roll. Sheldon maintains it's impossible, despite Penny's substantial real-life evidence to the contrary. Raj is disgusted with the whole notion thanks to his Hindu upbringing, despite his frequent consumption of hamburgers. Howard arrives, and is able to segue very quickly from the topic of cows to his mother. She's invited the entire group to Thanksgiving with the Wolowitzes. The reaction is...rather unenthusiastic. Sheldon hates the idea, Penny wanted to host Thanksgiving herself. Howard begs them - his father-in-law is also invited, and he needs all the help he can get. Eventually, Raj, Leonard, and Penny give in. With that, Sheldon has no choice. He accepts, on the condition that the food is not delicious. Opening credits.

The gang is all dressed up and ready to go, but Sheldon keeps whining and making excuses like a kid on report card day. Amy insists that he go along with the rest of them. He makes a few comparisons to the African slave trade, which horrifies everyone on and off screen. Amy in particular is disgusted. That doesn't faze Sheldon one bit.

Penny remembers Thanksgivings past, including her drunken holiday in Vegas with Zack (remember him? He was one of the brawny dudes). It included a stop at a wedding chapel, where they had "one of those fake weddings". Everyone looks on in horror, including Sheldon, as Leonard gently informs her that Vegas weddings are real, no matter how tacky the chapel. That's right - Penny's married!

Bernadette greets her dad (Casey Sander), who has brought beer "for everybody", wink wink nudge nudge. He's a tad disoriented by the screaming, oversharing Wolowitzes, but is willing to behave for his daughter's sake. Mrs Wolowitz (Carol Ann Susi) is incapacitated with gout, meaning a) we won't get to see her, which we knew already, and B) Howard and Bernadette are stuck with cooking. Ultimately, they decide to stick Raj with the bulk of the work.

Sheldon won't let go of his slavery comparisons, which infuriates Amy even more. Leonard is annoyed with Penny for being so stupid, and wants her to deal with her past marriage straight away. Sheldon helpfully points out that Leonard's bitter because Penny said yes to Zack, but keeps saying no to him. More glaring from everyone in the car. Amy researches conditions for annulment on her smartphone, and they settle on "want of understanding", mostly because Sheldon finds "unable to consummate the marriage" laughable in Penny's case.

Raj has arrived to take his place as emergency chef. Soon enough, he and Bernadette have the situation under control, so Howard is reluctantly dispatched to entertain Mike. It doesn't go well. Fortunately, the gang arrives, though Amy has to keep kicking Sheldon so he won't offend everyone. Any more than he already has, that is. Penny is in a foul mood, especially since Howard keeps laughing at her impulse marriage.

Amy goes to help in the kitchen, where tensions are running high and Raj has become something of a dictator. To shut them up, Amy breaks the news of Penny's marriage. It works.

Everyone watches the game. Howard still can't talk to his father-in-law. Leonard is getting really pushy about the annulment, even downloading court papers, which annoys Penny to no end. She can handle her own divorce, dammit. They begin to argue, and Penny runs out of the house. Leonard starts after her, but Mike and Sheldon both advise him not to go. Yes, these guys both agree. Watch this moment, it may never happen again.

In Leonard's eyes, he is the victim of this situation, despite the fact that Penny's marriage had nothing to do with him and he is the one turning it into a problem. None of the others are willing to entertain his bullshit. Mike offers his own advice, which is to shut up and let him watch the game. Sheldon shows a sudden proficiency at game analysis (thanks, Texas upbringing), which oddly endears him to the old bastard. They forge a weird and really, really unlikely friendship. Howard is not invited.

Penny tells Leonard that Zack is not only willing to sign the papers, but is on his way to do so. Now Leonard wants to know why on earth she would bring Zack here, on Thanksgiving. Jesus fucking Christ, make up your mind. Do you want her to get this done or not? Every detail of the fight is, of course, duly noted by the three gossips in the kitchen.

While Howard gratefully escapes to get more beer, Sheldon and Mike get to talking about football. This leads to the story of Sheldon's dad, who was obsessed with football and drinking. He died while Sheldon was still in his teens. Mike realizes that Sheldon was never old enough to have a beer with his dad. He very kindly offers to take Mr Cooper's place. Sheldon accepts, they toast his father's memory, and a very touching ritual is born. This, of course, makes Howard insanely jealous. He mentions that he never had a beer with his dad (who walked out on the family). Sheldon rudely cuts him out.

Amy, Raj and Bernadette continue to gossip about Penny's marriage. Howard comes in to complain about Sheldon and Mike, and Amy comments that Sheldon has a similar bond with the Roomba. However, just as Howard explains how hurt he feels at being left out, Zack arrives and everyone flees to catch the drama. Better luck next time.

Zack (Brian Smith) is cool with interrupting his holiday, saying that they're married anyway and Thanksgiving is for family, after all. He's not above trading a few barbs, so that's a point in his favor, at least. He refuses to sign the papers, presumably just to bother her. They start to argue. Leonard literally pushes the pen into his hand. Penny calls him out for it, and I'm on her side, he totally deserves it. Fortunately, Zack signs.

Stop the presses. For the first time in Sheldon's life, he has willingly gotten wasted. Our boy is growing up. Mike is, of course, three sheets to the wind right alongside him. Sheldon admits that it's one of the best Thanksgivings he's ever had. Unfortunately, at that moment Howard walks in and promptly gets insulted. He goes into the kitchen, and comes back with Bernadette, who uses her special angry voice to demand an apology for the barrage of insults. The guys, however, are too drunk to behave properly. At Amy's urging, Sheldon eventually straightens up and tells Howard he's sorry. He then points to Amy, asks "Isn't she great?" and smacks her on the ass. She giggles and gets this private, yet profound smile on her face which is truly touching. Wow, he should get drunk more often. Excellent performance by Mayim Bialik - so far I would suggest she submit this episode to the Emmys.

Everybody (including Zack) has enjoyed a delicious dinner. Raj thanks his two favorite girls - Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray. Sheldon and Mike debate going out for a game of catch. Penny and Leonard make up. She says that next time she gets married "It won't be a joke. It'll be for love...or money." Zack tells them not to feel bad. He was a terrible husband. Mike admits that Howard isn't "the worst son-in-law in the world". I guess that's progress. The booze catches up with Sheldon and he flees to the Wolowitz bathroom. End credits.

Leonard's incessant whininess aside, this was actually a really good episode. Deep bonds of friendship, family dynamics, some good one-liners - it felt true to these characters and kept us entertained. Thanksgiving episodes are always a good excuse to bring up old dramas and celebrate the group, and this was no exception. Happy Turkey Day, my American viewers, and I hope you take the time to check this out.

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