The Big Bang Theory: The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification

This week’s episode is a little more staid than the premiere but still gets the job done, and it gives a showcase to Jim Parsons, who does half of the show via computer screen. There’s just one story line – Sheldon spends all night and several whiteboards calculating his life expectancy and is forlorn when he realizes it falls ever-so-slightly short of the projected date that humans will be able to transfer their consciousnesses to machines, so he sets on a path to make himself live longer. This makes perfect sense if you understand Sheldon at all. He starts with foregoing the gang’s Indian takeout night in favor of cruciferous vegetable night (hence the title). When the debut meal of Brussels sprouts sends him into a blind panic about abdominal pain (soon revealed to be an extreme case of gas) that has him fetching Leonard out of bed for help, he moves on to the next goal, exercise.

Penny is shanghaied into letting Sheldon run with her (and we find out that Raj peeps on her via binoculars and a parked car while she runs), but after they fall down the stairs together (which I totally thought was a setup for Kaley’s injury hiatus, but wasn’t), Sheldon realizes he is too fragile for the “vicissitudes of this world” and resigns himself to staying in his bedroom for safekeeping. To do this, he launches a “mobile virtual presence device” a.k.a. a ShelBot, which is essentially an LCD monitor on top of a vacuum cleaner frame (onto which is hung his signature T-shirt), that he can drive from his laptop from the safety of his bed.

Leonard’s immediate response is that Sheldon can’t live his life that way; of course, Sheldon is insistent and gives Leonard instructions on how the ShelBot can go to work (it breaks down into four easy pieces). When Leonard asks him to stop talking on the ride the next morning, Sheldon offers up a spot-the-difference game and a music video accompanied by him playing the recorder. It was a bit of a character diversion for Sheldon to distract Leonard while driving when he is usually completely terrified of people not driving carefully. At the outset of the scene, he even remarks how delightful riding in a car is with the possibility of a fiery death removed, so the “look over here” aspect fell flat for me.

They get to school and Sheldon goes on about his day (after Raj happily opens his office door in exchange for Sheldon calling him a lamb). Later on, they’re all at the Cheesecake Factory when Penny refuses to wait on Sheldon because he’s not actually in the restaurant. He starts to cause a scene and stops short when he sees Steve Wozniak at another table. Leonard explains to Penny who Wozniak is, and she cuts him off. “I know who he is. I watch Dancing with the Stars.” Hee. Sheldon rolls over to him and fawns a little bit, telling him he’s his 15th favorite technology visionary. Wozniak is disappointed at the ranking until Sheldon tells him he’s ranked above Steve Jobs. He tells Wozniak he has an old Apple Two and Wozniak says if Sheldon had it on him, he’d sign it. Sheldon asks him to wait 15-30 minutes (so he can catch the bus) and the ShelBot powers down right there at the table. Cut to the apartment and Sheldon is racing out the door with his dinosaur computer and then we hear him fall down the stairs again.

In the coda, the ShelBot, wearing Sheldon’s robe, rolls against Penny’s door three times while Sheldon repeats “Penny. Penny. Penny.” on the monitor. She opens the door and asks him what’s up and he asks her to sing “Soft Kitty” to him because he’s confined to his bed with a hurt ankle. She balks at singing it to the screen and he says she can come over if she likes. She ponders that for about a second before she starts singing, very sweetly. He asks her to come closer to the microphone and then start over, which she does, and he begins accompanying her on his recorder.

Something new we learned in this episode – Penny is running up her debts again, and there’s some back and forth between Raj/Wolowitz and her about it being a neat trick that she can run up a tab with Leonard without putting out for him anymore. Not sure if there’s something coming there plotwise, but she’s up to $1400 and the last time she had a debt and borrowed money from Sheldon, it was to do with her car … which isn’t mentioned this time.

It was a very neat trick to have Jim Parsons essentially give an entire performance with just his face, which is so expressive anyway, but here we got all of the Sheldon even without the full physicality – very clever! I love that “Soft Kitty” is Sheldon’s go-to feel better song and Penny will always sing it for him. I’m digging the Thursday move, although I have to choose between it and The Vampire Diaries for real-time, but I like that it’s now a “Friday eve” show and is doing well there.

Photo Courtesy of CBS

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