As any true Big Bang theorist will tell you, some of the show’s very best episodes orbit around the twin stars of Sheldon and Penny. Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco have maintained deft control over their character’s priceless chemistry, never letting it tip too far towards curdled contempt or cutesy will-they-or-won’t-they “romance.” The episode last season when Sheldon had to help an injured, and naked, Penny get dressed before taking her to the ER is a perfect example of that balance. Last night’s episode was another. And we’ll get to discussing Sheldon and Penny in good time. But what I really want to talk about right now is Raj.
There was a moment last night’s when my boyfriend turned to ask me a question I imagine many of you were asking yourselves or your own significant others at that same very moment: “Wait, is Raj coming out?” The moment, of course, was after Leonard commented on how broken up Sheldon was over being ridiculed by his students for a guest lecture Sheldon didn’t even really want to give. “I know the feeling,” sighed Raj. “It’s like accidentally walking into a gay bar and then having no one hit on you.” Between that joke, the front yard/back yard joke from two episodes ago, and Raj and Howard puckering up last November, and you could easily be forgiven for wondering if the writers were slowly inching our beloved Dr. Koothrappali out of the closet.
Even after Bernadette called Raj a cutie, his protestations – “Cute is for bunnies. I want to be something with sex appeal, like a labradoodle!” – weren’t exactly the most archetypically hetero. But then Bernadette called Raj “sexy,” and it was as if a musty switch buried deep within Raj’s woman-loving libido was suddenly, finally switched on. Our first tip something was, ahem, up was after Howard, with Bernadette standing at his side, announced to Raj that he’d landed a two-year fellowship in Israel – and Raj responded verbally, with no alcoholic beverages in sight. I guess it was too much to wish that Bernadette’s words had boosted Raj’s confidence enough to allow him to talk with women; instead, it was simply Raj’s daydream that Howard was asking him to satisfy Bernadette’s “needs” – “most of them regular, some of them kind of messed up” – while he was away in Israel.
“What are you thinking so hard about?” asked Howard, breaking Raj from his reverie.
Replied a still-dazed Raj: ”Just that I’m definitely not gay.”
It would’ve been easy for the show, and Kunal Nayyar, to go for the softly homophobic punchline and deliver that “I’m definitely not gay” line with a sense anxious relief. Instead, Nayyar gave the line just the right touch of neutral-if-dazed self-discovery, although I’m still left wondering if the show abandoned a gold mine of comic possibilities by placing Raj’s sexuality so definitively among the straight folk.
NEXT: Big Bang goes Bollywood, and Penny “breaks” Sheldon