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September 30, 2014

'The Big Bang Theory' Season 4, Episode 18 Recap

by Oliver Miller, posted Mar 11th 2011 8:15AM
[The Big Bang Theory - 'The Prestidigitation Approximation']

Hi there! And welcome to our continuing recap coverage of 'The Big Bang Theory' -- a.k.a., "the Chuck Lorre-based sitcom that wasn't just potentially canceled." Or, to get more specific, "the CBS sitcom that wasn't potentially canceled after Charlie Sheen snorted 1,700 lbs. of cocaine and compared himself to a magical F-18 jet plane."

Now that we've established that 'Big Bang Theory' is still on the air (and done the obligatory Charlie Sheen reference), let's get right to it, shall we? Tonight's 'TBBT' was a Leonard-based episode, which was a good thing -- we've seen way too much of Sheldon lately.

Yes, Leonard is the straight man on the show, but straight men exist for a reason -- to prevent comedy from devolving into utter unhinged wackiness. As we've seen in the last few episodes, if the show becomes too Sheldon-based, it begins to fly off the rails. And when Sheldon is given too much airtime, he starts to seem less like a lovable underdog, and more like an overbearing jerk.

'The Prestidigitation Approximation' had two distinct plot threads. First, there was the continuing Leonard/Priya/Penny love triangle. Then, in the less enticing B-story, we followed Sheldon's attempts to figure out Howard's magical card trick. Really, the two plots only intersected once -- as Sheldon tried to practice his own magic skills while Leo and Priya were having sexy-time.



... And really, the less said about the card trick plot-line, the better. The central joke -- or "joke" -- was that Howard was cheating the whole time, but Sheldon couldn't figure that out. There's your joke. Boom. Done.

The Leonard/Priya/Penny stuff was much better. This episode went a long way towards giving Priya some semblance of a personality, which she had lacked before. In previous episodes, Priya was basically a cipher; less of an actual character, and more of a plot device to cause tension between Leo and Penny.

Tonight's show did a good job of fleshing out Priya's motivations. She likes Leo; she wants to move to California to be with him; she wants him to dress better and stop wearing those damn glasses all the time. Nicely, we learned all of this about Priya in a way that didn't make her seem overbearing. Yes, she wants Leonard to dress better; but he seemed just as into the idea as she was. (Plus, Leo did look better after his makeover -- despite the minor flaw that his new contacts destroyed his vision and made him continually bonk into things.)

Priya also wanted Leonard to stop hanging out with Penny, but even this only seemed about 5 percent bitchy on her part. And Priya made a reasonable point: How would Leo feel if she was hanging out with her ex-lover seven days a week?

The remainder of the episode centered on Leo's bumbling attempts to "break up" with Penny, friend-wise -- with Penny remaining clueless as to his intent until the very end. Another nice thing that happened: the show did a good job with Penny tonight. Previous Priya-based episodes made Penny seem a little desperate and clingy, but here, she acted charmingly oblivious. Even when Penny interrupted Leo's date at the Indian restaurant, she wasn't trying to interrupt the date. Instead, she was interested in happily chattering away to Leonard, blind to Priya's total annoyance.

This was doubly nice -- because it made it clear that Penny just likes spending time with Leonard, no matter what the context. If we're going to have a stake in their romance, it's important for us to believe that they really could have a romance, and that it's not a typical sitcom plot contrivance. Seeing Penny happily blathering to Leo drove home the point that, yes, these are two people who love hanging out together -- the key building-block in any relationship.

"Prestidigitation" means "sleight of hand," of course, and it didn't just refer to Sheldon's failed card trick. Leonard failed in his own efforts at sleight of hand. He pretended to submit to Priya's whims, then pathetically asked Penny if they could still be friends "on the down-low." Penny rightfully stomped off, and Leo pursued, only to blindly bash his head against the door as he followed. "Damn contacts!" he yelled. Damn contacts indeed. And so, the love triangle continues ...

Random notes:

Hey! There was no Amy on tonight's show! Come on -- Amy has been the funniest part of the last few episodes. Oh well.

"You ever notice, when he thinks real hard, it smells like bacon?"

"Believe in magic, you Muggle!"

"I gave up the gift of sight for you. If that's not 'moving on,' what is?"

"It is a source of great pain to me and my family." -- Priya on the topic of 'Star Trek' uniforms.

"He has the same look my little nephew gets when he can't figure out how I 'Got His Nose.'"

"One of them is upstairs; the other sort of slipped back into my skull." -- Leo, explaining what happened to his contacts.

"Is the autumn cruel for letting flowers die, or is that just nature's way?"

"Where am I gonna find Uranium-235 tonight ... come on, 'Craigslist'!"

"Are you familiar with Darwin's observations of finches in the Galapagos islands?" -- Leonard's attempt at the most tortured break-up metaphor of all time.

"I said 'ta-da,' show's over."

'The Big Bang Theory' airs Thursdays, 8PM ET on CBS.

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Jana

I liked Prya much better before last night and thought she really cared about Leonard. After last night I think she just wants the man she is changing Leonard into. If she likes/loves HIM, why change HIM. Why not go find the man that fits what she wants? She seems very controlling and manipulative. It just makes me want to get Leonard and Penny back together faster, which I guess is why they are doing it. My favorite part was when Penny told the guys Sheldon looked like her nephew after she hid his nose. Too cute! Love this show and glad it's been renewed for years to come already.

March 13 2011 at 10:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
angelndasky44

Can you PLEASE stop calling him Leo?! When has anyone on the show ever called him Leo?! I know it's small, but it's really annoying and totally distracting! His name is Leonard!

March 12 2011 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Julio

I thought the source of "great pain" to Pryia and her family wasn't the Star Trek uniforms, but that Raj owned the Lt. Uhura uniform.

March 11 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Stacie

You have to have a rival if you want a good, true love story. Pryia is a great rival, because she is actually likeable, so it makes it even more important for the writers to make the Leonard and Penny interactions even better. If we didn't care about the rival then there would be no tension. I don't remember one great love story without some type of rival or obstacle.

Looking back at some older and relativley newer popular romances on TV, they had to have at least some type of rival. In FRIENDS there was Julie in the Rachel and Ross triangle, in CHEERS there was Frasier in the Sam and Diane triangle, in THE OFFICE there was AJ in the Michael and Holly triangle or Roy in the Pam and Jim triangle, in CHUCK there was Shaw in the Chuck and Sarah triangle. The list could go on and on. Obviously none of the relationships could rival the love story that we really wanted to see, but having that piece there made the 2 people we cared for, coming together, even more powerful and fulfilling.

March 11 2011 at 11:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
carsko66

I think Pryia was a complete overbearing bee! She is completely changing everything about Leonard... Penny is a millin times hotter, and loved Leonard the way he was, its not right to completely change a person and ask them to give up thier vision, style, and a good friend, all within a 30 minute show. She needs to go back to India. Penny and Leonard are meant to be together.

March 11 2011 at 9:34 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
thirdgraderox

New Charlie Sheen Movie:

youtu.be/qFqvLsbHiSw

March 11 2011 at 8:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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