Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSWhen Wil Wheaton first appeared on The Big Bang Theory last fall as an odiously underhanded version of himself, I predicted the former Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation would return to the show as Sheldon Cooper’s official Worst Enemy. I had no idea, however, that Evil Wil Wheaton would be this evil, widening his path of destruction to include not just Sheldon, but Penny and Leonard’s fragile romance as well.
Yes, it’s official: Penny and Leonard’s season-long courtship is seriously on the rocks. After Penny managed to pull off an unambiguous, post-coital reference to The Empire Strikes Back (just in time for its 30th anniversary, too!), Leonard was moved to attempt an unambiguous, post-coital declaration of love for her, i.e. “I love you.” Penny’s response: “Oh. Thank you.” Not good.
What was good was the mini-aria of awkwardness Kaley Cuoco spun out of that moment — some of the best comic acting she’s delivered all season. From that point on, though, the (possible) beginning of the end of Pennard was more laden with soft dread than hard belly laughs, even in the face of all the writers’ attempts to wring the funny out of Leonard’s panicky hurt and Penny’s unsettled guilt. You could just feel the sword of Damocles dangling over these two, and Evil Wil Wheaton was all too happy to cut the single horse hair holding it up.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After Penny’s unfortunate non-response, Leonard glumly rejected his buddies’ usual geeky bantering over whether giant ants are physically possible and whether they’d serve as better transport than the Batmobile. (According to Sheldon, giant ants can’t exist, and even if they could, jet-pack > hoverboard > transporter > Batmobile > giant ant. To which I am force to point out that transporter is most definitely > hoverboard, which can’t even fly over water. Obvs.) At the comic book store, once Howard and Raj realized Leonard’s problem had something to do with Penny, they had a grand old time trying to suss out the issue at hand. My favorite conjecture, from Howard: “What’d you do, Romeo? You pour maple syrup over your body and ask her if she was in the mood for a short stack?” Hilarious, and the cause of several completely unnecessary mental pictures.
Meanwhile, it seems comic-book store guy Stuart (yay!) had put together a bowling night, and Sheldon had apparently roped in Penny to play on his team thanks to her advantageous lack of femininity. Stuart, however, had his own secret weapon in the form of Evil Wil Wheaton, a so-called “replacement” for someone named Albino Bob. (Uh-huh. Stuart kinda revealed himself to be a bit of a cad too last night, bringing EWW out like that and, later on, making a move on Penny.) With Evil Wil Wheaton entering the field of battle, Sheldon was, as they say in the poker world, immediately on tilt, boasting to EWW that he was the “co-captain of the East Texas Christian Youth Holy Roller Bowling League championship team, 7-to-12-year-old division.” And indeed, Sheldon’s bowling skills were inexplicably stellar for someone so spindly and generally averse to physical exertion. But none of that mattered after Penny expressed her love for chili cheese fries to Leonard, causing him to fall into a spiral of passive-aggressive why-can’t-you-say-you-love-me shaming, which caused Penny to exclaim, “You don’t get to decide when I’m ready to say ‘I love you!'” Then she stormed off, and Sheldon’s team, alas, had to forfeit the game.
To repair his team, and his reputation, Sheldon demonstrated a level of compassion and thought for another person’s feelings that heretofore seemed nigh unreachable for him. He triple-knocked on Penny’s door with a soft and thoughtful tone, and brought her ice cream. “I’ve been familiarizing myself with female emotional crises by studying the comic strip Cathy,” he explained. “When she’s upset, she says ‘Ack!’ and eats ice cream.” (Between this, 30 Rock, and Andy Samberg’s Cathy SNL character, I’d say the wild-haired lady is making a wee bit of a 21st century comeback, no?)
Sheldon’s insistent brand of compassion pushed Penny to patch things up with Leonard (who was, as is apparently required of at least one character per Big Bang Theory episode, doing his laundry). It was a threadbare patch at best, but it at least was enough to get Sheldon’s bowling team back together for a rematch with Stuart’s team, and that’s when Evil Wil Wheaton showed just how evil he truly was. Losing again to Sheldon’s uncanny ability to “be the ball” — and let’s pause here to acknowledge the episode’s funniest joke, when Sheldon got his pals to shift their chanting from “Shel-don! Shel-don!” to “The ball! The ball!” — EWW’s drive to win turned his malevolent gaze to Penny.
“It’s always tough when the L bomb gets dropped and you’re not ready for it,” Evil Wil Wheaton said with feigned compassion to her. Next, Evil Wil Wheaton told Penny about the time he had told a girl he loved her, only to have her string him along for almost two years. Finally, Evil Wil Wheaton sprung his evil, evil trap: “I wish she had just broken up with me right there, put me out of my misery,” EWW hissed said. “It would’ve been kinder.” And even though Sheldon immediately warned Penny about Evil Wil Wheaton’s depraved mind games — “He’s not above playing the dead Meemaw card!” — it was too late. The bell could not be un-rung, and a tearful Penny ran out on Leonard again, and maybe for good.
I’ll do it for you: Wheeeaaaaaaaaaaatooooooo—[takes breath]—oooooooooooooooon!
As if to wipe the palate clean after such a sad climax, the episode ended with a pretty great sight-gag (that if you’re a regular reader of EW and EW.com you’ve most likely already seen). Sheldon had wagered that the loser of the bowling rematch had to be publicly humiliated by the winner, and Stuart’s choice was to have our Big Bang quartet walk into his store — and, by inference, through much of greater Pasadena — in superheroine drag. Again, great, funny stuff, but I couldn’t help but just feel sorry for poor Leonard, who’d already been through the ringer as it was. Did he really have to parade around as Supergirl, too?
Finally, some fun facts about this episode thanks to Twitter, Wil Wheaton (a.k.a. @wilw) and Big Bang exec producer Bill Prady (a.k.a. @billprady): Wheaton taught Jim Parsons how to mind meld with his bowling ball, but he did not “hit” Whoopi Goldberg back in his ST:TNG days, as he was 15-years-old at the time and “heavily crushing on Marina Sirtis” (i.e. Counselor Deanna Troi). Cathy Guisewite began drawing her comic strip Cathy while working for Prady’s father, Norman Prady. And, alas, WilWheatonStinks dot com, dot org, and dot net do not yet exist, so entrepreneurial anti-Wheatonites would appear to be able to build ’em themselves.
So what did you make of Evil Wil Wheaton’s dastardly return, Big Bang theorists? Do you think Leonard and Penny will survive? Did you know that rabbits are one of the few mammals that have their Easter baskets in front of their special carrot? And do you think it should’ve been “The Wesley Crushers,” “The Wesley Crushers,” or “The Wesley Crushers“?