In honor of our show’s scientific heroes, Big Bang theorists, I’m going to do a bit of an experiment with tonight’s Big Bang Theory recap. The Christmas season visit by Leonard Hofstadter’s mother Beverly, played by the inestimably fabulous Christine Baranski, was overflowing with so many great moments, so many great lines, and so mind-meltingly topped with one whopper of a smooch, I’m simply going to have to walk us through the episode, scene by scene, and highlight the great moments (and, on rare occasion, not-so-great moments) and the best lines.
So let’s start with the cold open, an unusually throwaway scene for a episode so packed with plot, but nonetheless…
Great moment: How perfect was it that Sheldon identifies with the pre-heart-expanding-three-times Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas?
Not-so-great moment: Leonard ironically singing “Fa la la la la, la la la la.” Christmas carols are pretty much irony-proof.
We next segued to Penny and Leonard decorating an impressively large Christmas tree for two scientists, one of whom looks upon the whole idea of Christmas with a mix of mild distain (for the memories of his über-Christmasy childhood) and mild bemusement (for the notion that the world is actually celebrating not the birth of Christ but an ancient pagan ritual retrofitted to celebrate the birth of Christ). But the big news was that Leonard’s mother was coming to visit, and not only had he not told Penny about it, but he hadn’t told his mother that he and Penny were dating.
Best line: Penny: “Why wouldn’t she approve of me? I’m adorable!”
Second best line: Sheldon [after Leonard responds to Penny's questions about his mother by repeating "Ummmm..."]: “Leonard, I’m no expert on meditiation, but if you’re trying to calm yourself down, I believe the word is ‘Om.'”
Next, Leonard and Sheldon picked up Beverly from the airport, whereupon Leonard learned that his mother and his roommate keep in constant contact, so much so that Sheldon sent Beverly flowers after her carpel tunnel surgery because “it’s the social convention.” When the conversation turned to Leonard’s romantic life, Leonard evaded, prompting this reply from his mother:
Best line: Beverly: “I will point out Leonard that I am a trained psychiatrist, and you are exhibiting the same secretive behavioral tics that accompanied your learning to masturbate.”
Great moment: Sheldon, practically swooning in response.
Third favorite moment of the night: With Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, and Beverly joined by Howard and Raj for dinner, Beverly opened the scene by asking, “So, Howard, have you and Rajesh finally summoned the courage to express your latent homosexual feelings towards one another?” Although we never really saw or heard from Raj and Howard again last night, it is nice when a sitcom can be so honest about its latent homosexual subtexts, isn’t it?
And just when I began to wonder what sort of man would marry and procreate with a woman like Beverly, and if we would ever meet him, Beverly casually dropped the bombshell on Leonard that she’s divorcing his father, something Sheldon apparently had known was in the offing since pretty much the season premiere. This news, including the sordid revelation that Leonard’s papa was cavorting with a waitress, of all people, seemed to put the kibosh on Beverly learning that Penny, Cheesecake Factory waitress extraordinaire, was dating her son.
That is, until the next scene, when Penny learned, while driving Beverly back to her hotel, that her possible future mother-in-law has been responsible for her own orgasms since 1982. So, naturally, Penny took Beverly on a detour for a drink, and we cut to Sheldon futilely attempting to help Leonard through the compound indignity of his roommate learning his mother was getting divorce and that his beloved dog Mitzi had died before he’d learned about either. Their exchange was such a perfect example of classic Big Bang banter that I’ve decided to recreate a whole chunk of it here:
Sheldon: I made tea.
Leonard: I don’t want tea.
Sheldon: I didn’t make tea for you. This is my tea.
Leonard: Then why are you telling me?
Sheldon: It’s a conversation starter.
Leonard: It’s a lousy conversation starter.
Sheldon: Oh is it? We’re conversing. Checkmate.
Leonard: What do you want, Sheldon.
Sheldon: What I want is to be departing the Starship Enterprise in a one-man shuttlecraft headed to the planetoid I rule known as Sheldon Alpha 5.
Leonard: Mmm, I want that too.
And then later, the scene was capped with this trenchantly sentimental moment:
Sheldon: Where your biological family has failed you, you’ll always have me, your surrogate family.
Leonard: You’re my surrogate family?
Sheldon: If it’s any consolation, I’m not happy about it either.
Back at the Cheesecake Factory, Penny introduce Beverly to the wonders of tequila shots, and worked up enough liquid courage to initiate…
My absolute favorite moment of the night: Penny leaned in and said, with winning matter-of-factness, “Hey, Bev, guess what? I’m sleeping with your son.” The later climactic kiss may have been more of a show-stopper (and more on that in a second), but in moments like these, in a series overrun with eccentrics, Penny is pretty much the most normal character in a TV comedy today, and I adore her for it. Especially in the face of Beverly’s initial response…
Ickiest moment of the night: Beverly: “How’d his penis turn out?” How Baranski managed to pull off this line with Beverly’s dignity intact, I’ll never know.
Convinced Leonard needed to be confronted about keeping his relationship with Penny from his mother, the two women cabbed it back to Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, and Baranski all but assured her second Big Bang Emmy nomination with her delivery of my…
Favorite line of the night: Beverly: “Why didn’t you tell me you were tapping my home girl?!”
Leonard confronted Beverly about how withholding she is about her life, and the two kinda sorta made up with the most awkward mother-son hug I’ve maybe ever seen. And then, oh then, Sheldon came out to see what all the ruckus was about, and for the second time in the episode, Beverly smashed clear through the sexual subtext in my…
Second favorite moment of night: She planted a big one right on Sheldon’s kisser. Penny was shocked. Sheldon was totally nonplussed. And Beverly was unsatisfied, preferring the (unseen) hot busboy back at the Cheesecake Factory.
Leonard, thankfully, remained willfully ignorant of the entire incident, driving his hung-over mother back to the airport with his hung-over girlfriend and still nonplussed roommate. And just when the episode was coming to an end, after Beverly implored him to take care of Penny — “She doesn’t have much in the way of career prospects, don’t make her responsible for her own orgasms as well” — the writers forced Penny to nearly derail the entire scene in the…
Worst moment of the night: Penny, practically looking at the camera, singing another ironic, “Fa la la la la, la la la la.” Seriously.
Phew! I didn’t even get to the choice Del Taco jokes, or the exploration of Weltschmerz, but that was a darn fine episode, wasn’t it? Do you think there’s going to be any further fallout from Beverly’s indiscretion with Sheldon? Will we ever meet Leonard’s father, and if we do, who should play him? (My suggestion: Martin Mull.) And do you think Raj and Howard will ever summon the courage to express their latent homosexual feelings towards each other?