NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Big Bang Theory” are present in this review
The Big Bang Theory has been off for most of the month, but the series finally returned with a new episode this week. “The Collaboration Fluctuation” set out with a duo of promising storylines, as Raj begins to settle in to Leonard’s and Penny’s apartment, and Sheldon and Amy decide to work together on a scientific problem for the first time. Predictably, a bunch of friction is caused on both counts, and the episode goes from there.
Unfortunately, this is yet another tired episode of The Big Bang Theory that suffers from predictable storytelling and weak humour. Much of the episode is reaching for jokes in both subplots, particularly the main plot with Leonard, Penny and Raj, which disappointingly fails to mine worthwhile material from Raj’s move so far. The Sheldon/Amy plot at least gets a bit better towards its conclusion, but even it doesn’t totally live up to its potential.
The problem with Raj moving in isn’t, apparently, that he’s a bad roommate, which at least is kind of surprising, since you would expect him to be a picky, spoiled prima donna. Instead, the actual issue with Raj moving in to the Hofstadter apartment is the fact that he gets along with Penny. He gets along with Penny way too well, in fact. This has Leonard feeling left out of every conversation and activity, which, again, is a really interesting concept for a storyline, in theory. It’s just too bad that the jokes are too juvenile and forced to really make this core plot work.
Raj is noticeably effeminate, and sometimes this can work, especially in a socially awkward context. This is yet another point where Raj’s girly personality isn’t really put to effective use though, since it’s not socially awkward here, and is being actively celebrated by Penny. This has Raj come off as way too exaggerated and unbelievable, in turn forcing the conflict of Leonard feeling left out. Hell, the Wolowitz’s even point out that you’d think Leonard would be happy about Raj keeping Penny busy, since it means he gets out of the activities that he doesn’t like. Does Leonard seriously have nothing better to do than cling to Penny? Why is he being so needy?
Speaking of the Wolowitz’s, they were pretty tacked-on in this week’s episode, and made a token appearance to simply eat up screentime. Leonard decides that he’d rather hang out with Howard and Bernadette to keep himself busy, which, again, begs the question of why he doesn’t have anything better to do than go to Target and get diapers. Is the joke just that he’s an awkward third wheel then? This feels like ass-backwards storytelling, since you’d think that Howard would pawn the diaper duty off on Leonard if he was so desperate to tag along with Bernadette. The negotiation probably would have been funnier than the actual trip, especially since Leonard could have been told the same things that he’s told in the car at the Wolowitz house.
As I said though, the Sheldon/Amy subplot is at least a bit funnier, even if it also doesn’t get going right away. This subplot also suffers from a disappointing amount of weak, tired jokes, since Sheldon is naturally difficult to work with, and Amy is naturally exasperated with the effort. We’ve seen this too many times already. The subplot does at least get funnier when Sheldon and Amy discover that their fighting improves their thinking, which helps them better solve Amy’s ambitious neuroscience problem of trying to determine the exact point of sentience in the human brain, but at that point, it’s too little, too late.
Once again, both storylines peter off on a disappointing whimper too, with nothing truly resolved on either end. Sheldon and Amy don’t solve their problem, nor do they learn to perfectly work together (even if they get something of a chaotic system through the fighting), and Leonard just gets humiliated some more, with Penny and Raj not actually accommodating him at all in the end. This leaves much of, “The Collaboration Fluctuation” feeling like a waste of time, especially when so many of the jokes just don’t work. This is really frustrating, since The Big Bang Theory has spent so much time off the air this month, and you’d think that the show would have taken the time to tighten some of the episode writing. No such luck it seems. Hopefully next week’s episode is better.
- Raj doesn't go on the predictable route of conflict
- Sheldon and Amy finding scientific inspiration in their clashes
- Penny/Raj storyline is too forced and exaggerated
- Sheldon/Amy subplot suffers from too many tired jokes
- The Wolowitz's feel too tacked-on