If I were to guess about what transpired in The Big Bang Theory’s writers’ room as this week’s episode was conceived, I’d imagine that at least one giant whiteboard was filled with shorthand stories of each writer’s worst experience with a bully. What with Leonard confronting (kinda) his old high school bully, and Penny confronting (sorta) the fact that she herself was a high school bully, I lost count of the different tales of bullying woe spun forth by the Big Bang boys and girls. And if the cast handled the topic with an almost touching level of realism – you got the feeling that for at least some of these actors, this subject may have hit a bit close to home – I remained ultimately a bit unsatisfied by the half-hour.
For the first part of the episode, Leonard hemmed and hawed over an unexpected invitation from his former tormentor Jimmy Speckerman to have a drink, while Sheldon recounted the various was in which Leonard had been tormented as a kid – though not by Jimmy. Someone once peed in Leonard’s Hawaiian punch, used his head to open a nut, and made him eat his arm hair. The pièce de résistance? Asked Sheldon of Jimmy, “Was he the one who wedgied you so hard, your testicle reascended and you spent your whole Christmas break waiting for it to come back down?”
The odd thing about these stories is that they sound so absurd in the abstract that they’re meant to be punchlines, but the very act of laughing at Leonard’s past misfortune kinda makes us in a way complicit in it. The same goes for Bernadette’s story about Tammy Bodnick stealing all her clothes at gym class and leaving an elf costume in her locker (“Worst part was it was too big”); or Amy recalling the time girls put Rogaine in her hand lotion and began calling her Gorilla Fingers Fowler. (Side note: Can Rogaine actually make hair grow on your hands?) Conversely, it’s hard to believe Penny couldn’t see just how not funny her story of tying up and blindfolding poor Cathy Geiger and leaving her in a cornfield overnight really was.
At least the ladies spent the rest of the night scrounging for clothes at a goodwill drop-off bin, Penny’s self-serving penance for her past misdeeds. Leonard and the fellas actually had to meet up with Jimmy (Lance Barber, The Comeback). At first, he feigned ignorance at his transgressions against Leonard. But after an exasperated Sheldon finally stood up (kinda) to Jimmy on Leonard’s behalf, he showed up plastered at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, gave a heartfelt-if-utterly-inebriated apology, and promptly passed out on their couch. In the morning, sober again, Jimmy was back to his old self, bogarting Leonard’s French toast and sneeringly calling him “Nancy.” It was a rather predictable turn of events all the way around, right up to Leonard finally barking at Jimmy to leave, pushing him, and then fleeing down the stairs with Sheldon.
NEXT PAGE: A too-sudden ending, and the sins of Dr. Saul Perlmutter