NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Big Bang Theory” are present in this review
The Big Bang Theory saw a small uptick in quality this week, even if the final reaches of Season Ten are still coming off as pretty tired. “The Cognition Regeneration” at least had a solid payoff across its three major storylines, though only one of these stories felt consistently satisfying to watch. The other two suffered from more uneven humour and recycled story elements, something that has sadly become synonymous with The Big Bang Theory’s latest season.
The stronger storyline in this week’s episode involved Leonard and Penny, surprisingly, when Penny meets her ex-boyfriend, Zack at a bar while hanging out with Amy and Bernadette. Zack is doing well as a menu designer, and when he learns that Penny is unhappy in her job as a pharmaceutical rep, he offers her a new job working for him. This is actually an intriguing prospect, especially since it builds off of Penny previously hinting that she’s unhappy with her current career, even debating going back to being a failing actress at one point.
Naturally though, when Leonard learns about the job offer, he’s not too pleased about it. This results in an argument between the two, though honestly, this was actually a more realistic argument that didn’t feel too forced, as some of the Leonard/Penny spats can in recent years of The Big Bang Theory’s run. The two actually had to talk to their friends and learn to work out the issue like adults, and this is where the episode’s better jokes and storytelling was. Even the final payoff was quite funny, as Leonard talks Penny into going for the job, only to have Zack say that his fiancee thought that the job offer was a terrible idea, and threw a shoe at his head. I guess Leonard was right in the end, making for a rare example of exploiting the often volatile relationship between these two for surprisingly decent and relatable marital conflict.
The other two storylines however, like I said, were still a bit weaker though. What was surprising here is that even Sheldon’s storyline suffered from weak humour, which also doesn’t happen very often. This storyline stems from Sheldon struggling to play beloved multiplayer video game, Overwatch with his friends, believing that he’s become too old to properly compete with teenagers. When Howard brings forward the theory of, “Super aging” however, involving training one’s brain by straining it with foreign challenges, Sheldon decides to adopt some of Howard’s circus acts.
This sounds like it should be funny on paper, but surprisingly, it feels like the concept was better than the execution in this case. A lot of the Sheldon jokes went for canned, obvious and repeated punch lines, and Sheldon trying to juggle or be on a unicycle didn’t end up being as funny as it sounds. Further hurting this storyline is the fact that the show went too far with portraying Sheldon’s technical ineptitude. There’s no reasonable way that Sheldon would suddenly become so inept at video games that he stupidly hammers a jump key when he can’t shoot, or suddenly become so inept at using his phone that he, “Sends kissy faces to everyone he knows.” I know that The Big Bang Theory is starting to develop a growing case of ‘CBS Syndrome’ in its more recent run, where it starts actively trying to appeal to viewers that are 50+ over anyone else, thinking that they’re out-of-touch with the current world and will thus have a better chance of swallowing exaggerated or outright unrealistic storylines, but even older viewers must surely realize that these technology struggles with Sheldon don’t make any sense.
Fortunately, much like the Leonard/Penny storyline, the Sheldon storyline at least had a good payoff, which occurs when Amy tells Sheldon that he should aspire to be loved by his friends, rather than make accomplishments like a Nobel Prize. Sheldon is naturally dismissive of the idea, but at least this nice moment with Amy was worth it. It also nicely complemented the third mini-storyline of sorts, which occurs between Howard and Bernadette, after Bernadette decides that Howard’s magic acts are too immature and embarrassing. Howard then goes to Bernadette’s mother to out her as a hypocrite, since she was apparently a closeted ventriloquist. This was actually a pretty surprising twist, and maybe that terrifying dummy is exactly what Bernadette needs to feel fresher and livelier as a character around the Wolowitz house. Man, this show is officially old when I have to say things like that!
The Howard/Bernadette subplot wasn’t given enough time to cook, unfortunately, since it’s awkwardly squished into the Sheldon conflict, and more or less feels like an excuse to out Bernadette as a ventriloquist, rather than properly service the episode as a whole. Still, “The Cognition Regeneration” is a slight improvement over the past several episodes of The Big Bang Theory, as the show seems to be becoming especially tired in the lead-in to its Season Ten finale in a couple of weeks. This show still can’t hold a candle to the many better sitcoms on basic television alone right now, let alone premium cable and streaming platforms, despite its colossal viewership, but I suppose that there’s still something to be said about small victories. Hopefully, the final two episodes of the season can offer their own satisfactory creative spark like this.
- Standout Leonard/Penny conflict with Zack's job offer
- Amy encouraging Sheldon to take fulfillment over achievements
- Bernadette's ventriloquist past has potential
- Sheldon's technical ineptitude is highly unrealistic
- Not enough development to the Howard/Bernadette plot
- Uneven humour outside of the Leonard/Penny conflict