The Big Bang Theory 9.9: “The Platonic Permutation” Review

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



The Big Bang Theory’s latest episode tied in with Thanksgiving (at least, for our American neighbours), albeit a week early, in, “The Platonic Permutation.” Unfortunately though, beyond more effective material regarding Sheldon and Amy’s break-up, the episode was a real dud.

We had a main plot and two subplots on offer this week, with Sheldon and Amy occupying the main plot, the strongest point of the episode, while Leonard and Penny spearheaded one subplot, and Howard, Raj, Bernadette and Emily all headlined the other. Even beyond the weak plotting that sadly dragged down much of the episode, the humour was a bit weaker than usual this week to boot. There were some solid laughs in “The Platonic Permutation”, but not enough to sustain proceedings, with too many of them being founded on tired sitcom tropes and predictable punchlines.

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At least the Sheldon/Amy plot was a bit better though, and had the most inspired story idea of the lot. When Sheldon becomes disappointed that he can no longer use a pair of traditional aquarium tickets with Amy, on account of the two being broken up, he offers them to his friends, none of whom want to go with him, of course. Defeated, Sheldon tries offering the tickets to Amy, to take someone of her choosing, but Amy instead decides that it would be alright to attempt going to the aquarium as friends, now that she’s cooled down a bit, and is interested in pursuing a friendship with Sheldon at last.

The episode quickly got to its better jokes in this subplot, as Sheldon makes a list of appropriate platonic conversation topics, which offers a few chuckles, as does his attempts to play childish aquarium games. Sheldon’s predictable fussiness was the big bright spot this week, and when you see how he continues to have such great chemistry with Amy, it’s difficult not to sympathize with the characters, and long for what might have been, had they not split up.

The real twist comes later however, when Amy calls Sheldon afterward, and declares that she’s ready to be his girlfriend again, something that the show pulled out of nowhere, with emotional results. Surprisingly though, Sheldon turns her down, saying that he excels at many things, but getting over Amy initially wasn’t one of them, and he’d rather not repeat the experience. He then tries to switch the topic to a carryover from his aquarium game, and the episode simply ends on this rather sad note. This was the point where this episode truly did tug at the heartstrings, and the Sheldon/Amy break-up continues to be among the best recurring story elements that Season Nine of The Big Bang Theory has offered up to this point.

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It’s too bad then that the subplots felt very phoned in this week, as if the showrunners only really cared about realizing the main Sheldon/Amy plot all that well. The Leonard/Penny conflict felt especially ridiculous this week, as it’s revealed that Penny doesn’t know Leonard’s exact birthday off-hand, which Leonard takes as an opportunity to gloat about his vast knowledge of Penny. He slips up with one particular factoid about Valentine’s Day lingerie however, which Penny only wrote in her diary, leading to the revelation that Leonard read her diary, giving the excuse that he saw it one night, and he’s a bookworm. Yeah, no, that really doesn’t hold water. Leonard is awkward and sometimes downright tactless with Penny, but even Leonard understands that reading Penny’s diary could only lead to trouble. The two are married now. Leonard really doesn’t need to resort to this kind of subterfuge!

Likewise, Penny’s reaction, while understandably angry, didn’t really feel all that severe, given her hair-trigger temper. Maybe you can chalk it up to her increased maturity in recent years, but in past seasons, Penny would have ripped Leonard apart for reading her diary. It’s like even the writers know that the whole, “Boy read girl’s diary” sitcom trope is very tired, and can’t seem to wring anything good out of it. The showrunners try to go for a Hail Mary by having Leonard dress up in the lingerie that Penny found so offensive, to try and make amends by allowing her to take a shame photo to post on Facebook, but Penny refuses, and this doesn’t go anywhere, beyond a cheap giggle, and the others walking in to the weird scene.

Speaking of the others, they exercise another tired sitcom trope, this time Thanksgiving-themed, and volunteer at a soup kitchen, oh, and, surprise, not everyone is happy about it. In this case, it’s Howard that’s constantly complaining about volunteering, especially when the four are forced to wash dishes in the back. They don’t even discuss anything of note. It’s the most by-the-numbers soup kitchen subplot that you can imagine, and this is sadly where the jokes were at their weakest and least inspired. Once again, the show tries to throw a Hail Mary by having Elon Musk cameo at the end, which teases a return trip to space for Howard eventually, but the cameo feels wasted, and Bernadette doesn’t even hear about Howard exchanging E-mails about a possible new space mission at this point, so this is another subplot that, so far, is not going anywhere.

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The Big Bang Theory has a somewhat uneven track record with Holiday-themed episodes, and “The Platonic Permutation” is sadly another duffer episode to throw on the pile of Holiday offerings that just didn’t work that well for this show. Sheldon and Amy’s better storyline prevented the entire episode from feeling like a let-down, but the other characters had the series showing its age in a way that Season Nine has pretty much entirely avoided before now.

The Big Bang Theory's latest Thanksgiving-themed episode was a dud, which suffered from weak comedy and lacklustre subplots, even if the main Sheldon/Amy plot prevented the episode from being a total loss.
Sheldon and Amy's story has some good jokes
Nicely morose ending
Soup kitchen plot is a total waste of time
The Leonard/Penny plot is too tired and unfunny
Elon Musk cameo isn't that great