After having watched the first three seasons of "The Big Bang Theory" over the summer, Thursday marked the first time I watched an episode live on TV, and I'm still not sure what to think about that episode. It felt like half of one of the best episodes ever and half of one of the worst.
Let's start with the bad half first: the Wolowitz robot arm situation (the literal robotic manipulation in the episode). Look, as soon as that stolen robot arm showed up, you knew what was going to happen, and it did. That didn't bother me at all. What bothered me is how idiotically Wolowitz, Leonard and Raj dealt with the situation. We're talking about two people with Ph.Ds and one with a masters in engineering. They've also shown in the past to be VERY proficient with computers. Their VERY FIRST inclination should have been to turn the arm off, then back on. I know that wouldn't have made for a very funny episode, but you can't take three geniuses and force them to carry the idiot ball in a field in which they are beyond proficient. It's just insulting to the audience.
Fortunately, the other half of the episode was so amazing that it makes up for the robot hijinks. Penny finds out that Sheldon has a "girlfriend" (Mayim Bialik's Amy) but they've never been on a date. She convinces Sheldon that he can't have a relationship (much less "progeny") just via text messaging, so he decides to go on a date with Amy... and drags Penny along because he needs a driver. The date -- Sheldon's first ever -- is filled with all kinds of awkward silences and Penny trying to encourage conversations that go nowhere until Sheldon and Amy (who, in case you don't remember from last year's appearance, is basically a female version of Sheldon) start mathematically determining Penny's dating and sexual history.
The ability of Sheldon and Amy to bond over something like this while being completely oblivious to the inappropriateness of it is the kind of humor this show was built on, and it totally works. What sold it for me was when, after estimating the number of sexual partners for Penny (30.96... rounded up to 31), Amy said to Sheldon, "This is very interesting. Cultural perceptions are subjective." Then she turned to Penny and added, "Penny, to your mind, are you a slut?"
The last staircase scene between Penny and Sheldon sold the entire episode, and made up for any missteps with Wolowitz and co. However, I think because of that weak subplot, the episode loses re-watchability, which is unfortunate, because episodes that feature heavy Sheldon-Penny interactions are usually great.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.