The Big Bang Theory 9.23: “The Line Substitution Solution” Review

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



The Big Bang Theory surprisingly stuck with business as usual for Season Nine’s penultimate episode this week, with, “The Line Substitution Solution” largely relying on good old Sheldon shenanigans, and a guest appearance by Beverly Hofstadter to vex both Penny, and indirectly, Leonard. There’s a potential hint to the direction of next week’s season finale, but there doesn’t seem to be any major developments this week in terms of closing out the season. Fortunately, this week’s episode was still funny, so that didn’t matter too much.

The storylines were split pretty evenly this week, as the guys go to a special screening of the Avengers movies, while the girls talk to Beverly in Penny’s apartment. In the process of going to the movie screening, Sheldon blows off Amy, who is instead left to hang out with the other ladies at Penny’s place, and the episode begins by attempting to mine drama from Sheldon’s latest affront to Amy’s patience.

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This is a sound initial setup, especially with the funny device of Sheldon hiring Stuart to go shopping with Amy in his place, obviously not understanding the implications of that. The initial back-and-forth between Sheldon and Amy passing around Stuart, who collects more and more money as he does favours for the two, is pretty amusing, and is the best use of Stuart that the show has offered in quite a while.

Of course, this doesn’t hold up forever, and eventually, Sheldon has no choice but to abandon his place in line to apologize to Amy directly, while taking an Uber both ways, as fast as he can, to avoid giving up his own spot in the line with Leonard, Howard and Raj. Disappointingly though, Amy just sighs and forgives him right away, and that’s the end of that storyline. That’s a let-down, since Amy getting back with Sheldon after previously losing patience and breaking up with him at the end of last season would likely come with Amy cracking down on Sheldon’s bad habits. Apparently though, Amy is back to just putting up with Sheldon’s crap, and barely saying anything about it. This has the relationship development between Sheldon and Amy stalling, and after the great strides that these two have made in their connection throughout Season Nine, it’s a bummer that the show seems to just be altogether done with challenging the Sheldon/Amy dynamic, at least for the rest of this season.

After the material with Amy finishes up, Sheldon’s storyline is then replaced by Sheldon getting angry that someone cuts in front of him while going to meet his friends. The guys obviously don’t care, and nor does anyone else in the line, but of course, Sheldon isn’t having any of that. The rest of this part of the episode simply involves Sheldon and the cutter getting into an increasingly ridiculous argument, which the guys don’t participate in and don’t care about, especially when there’s no danger of them not getting into the screening. While some of this Sheldon argument was pretty funny, it further highlighted that the writers didn’t seem to have a real exit strategy for the Sheldon/Amy conflict this week, so they just filled the rest of the episode with a bunch of easy Sheldon jokes to compensate.

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The material with Beverly was a little more surprising, as Penny starts getting frustrated with her inability to bond with Beverly, while Amy and Bernadette seem to do it very easily. After an entire subplot of this, Penny eventually loses it and directly confronts Beverly about her coldness, though this leads Beverly to respond that she was hurt to not be invited to Leonard and Penny’s wedding, even if it was a private ceremony that the others simply watched online. This takes Penny aback, and will likely take viewers aback too, since, even with some of her interactions with Penny earlier on this show, it’s easy to forget that Beverly is human and has feelings at times.

Fortunately, this leads to a good turn, as Beverly then admits to Penny that, while she felt that Leonard and Penny were making a mistake with their hasty marriage before, she’s since changed her mind, and thinks that the two are a good match. This overjoys Penny, and finally manages to bring her closer to Beverly, which is satisfying. Well, mostly closer to Beverly. Beverly brings up wanting to interview overachieving couples for a study that she’s doing, a possible, but not guaranteed hint of what next week’s season finale might entail, and she still thinks that Leonard and Penny don’t make the cut. Well, you can’t win ’em all, I guess.

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Again, it’s sort of surprising that, “The Line Substitution Solution” isn’t building up to a big season finale next week, and is largely just sticking to ideas that this show has always done best, but maybe that leaves more room for the series to truly surprise us with its usual bombshell twists that it likes to pull out in its season finales. For now, we have a comfortably funny episode with a decent mix of humour and emotion, even if the Sheldon/Amy conflict ultimately fizzles out before it truly goes anywhere interesting. Maybe Beverly’s study will take the two to a more interesting place next week, especially if Sheldon might finally find this to be the time to re-attempt his proposal to Amy.

The Big Bang Theory surprisingly stuck to convention in Season Nine's penultimate episode this week, though still managed some good laughs.
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Stuart being useful for the first time in a while
Amusing line shenanigans with Sheldon
Penny getting to clear the air with Beverly
Sheldon/Amy conflict ultimately fizzles out
Surprisingly low stakes for the season's penultimate episode