The Big Bang Theory 8.21: “The Communication Deterioration” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Big Bang Theory are present in this review


After so much positive momentum lately, particularly since its return from its Spring hiatus, The Big Bang Theory just sputtered this week for whatever reason. “The Communication Deterioration” was a considerable step down from the past few episodes, and while it still had some good laughs here and there, most of the episode’s storyline just felt like it didn’t work.

The main plot of the episode involves Raj being selected to help write a message that will be linked to a space probe with a chance of encountering alien life. Howard and Sheldon immediately jump down his throat with suggestions, leading to Raj saying that they can’t be involved because they’re too bossy. Instead, Leonard is the one that Raj chooses to help him come up with a message, and a good chunk of the episode is the two passive men trying to succeed without their more assertive counterparts.

BBT - Footage 1

Now, on the one hand, I can see where the episode was coming from here. Separating Leonard from Sheldon and Raj from Howard, then seeing how they depend on the assertions of their friends to make decisions, was an interesting idea. The foundation of the episode’s A-plot was certainly sound.

The problem however lies with the execution. Leonard and Raj just spent the entire episode spinning their wheels and not really accomplishing anything. That was no doubt the point, but it didn’t really make for worthwhile entertainment. The outcome of the episode felt too predictable, not to mention laboured, with Howard and Sheldon having to bail the two out and do their work for them. Considering that this was supposed to be Raj’s honour, it felt like a cheat to have him accomplish nothing, making one wonder why Raj was given the opportunity in the first place, beyond his academic background.

Fortunately, the epilogue scene with Sheldon making a message for some aliens was kind of funny, especially since it seems to be making a nod to Jim Parsons starring in the currently-screening animated alien-themed movie, Home. It felt a little too off-the-wall for a show that’s supposed to take place in the real world though, and it probably would have had more impact if the scene was revealed to be a dream of the ever-conceited Sheldon, but oh well.

BBT - Footage 2

As much as the guys had a weak plot however, the women were even worse off. A subplot unfolded with Penny, where she decides to try and audition for the role that was teased in last week’s episode. After some somewhat tedious advice from Sheldon, she decides to audition for the part, and sees a whole room full of similarly-styled blondes like her. Of course. Re-connecting with some of her actress buddies, Penny then auditions, completely off-screen (which was a massive missed opportunity), and reveals to Bernadette and Amy afterward that she stunk, apparently. That would have meant more if we actually saw her performance though.

On that note, where the hell was Amy this episode?! She was strangely absent until almost the end of the episode, when Penny was recounting her story. Sheldon didn’t even bother bringing her in to being snubbed by Raj? Really?

Thus, the point of Penny’s storyline seems to have been lost in translation. It accomplished even less than the guys’ plot, and its humour was equally uneven. I can see her getting the coveted part in a future episode, and then having to make that serious career choice, but there was no payoff to anything that Penny did. It felt like her subplot just ate up runtime.

BBT - Footage 3

So, “The Communication Deterioration” just sadly felt like it wasted the viewer’s time. It had some decent jokes, but it definitely stopped the show’s hot streak cold. As the push to the season finale continues, hopefully this episode was just jettisoning any other potential distractions for the show this week, before it gets back to the real good stuff in store for the rest of Season Eight.

The Big Bang Theory largely disappointed this week, with Raj getting undermined in something that should be a bigger character moment, and Penny revisiting her acting career to no real payoff.
Funny Penny/Sheldon rapport
Sheldon's alien message was funny, if also inexplicable
Interesting sequence of Penny revisiting acting
Potential Penny plot is ruined by pointless outcome
The guys' drama was forced and tedious
Where the hell was Amy?!