Episode 19 - The Wheaton Recurrence
13 April 2010
Synopsis: Leonard tells Penny that he loves her and she doesn't know what to say back. Stuart asks Will Wheaton to join his bowling team in time to take on Sheldon's. Penny leaves during the game though and Sheldon has to hastily organise a rematch. At the rematch Wheaton gets in Penny's ear and makes her wonder whether she should break up with Leonard.
The Good: The interaction between Penny and Leonard was what you would expect from the surface amount we know of them. He is really into her and once he tells her that he loves her he becomes increasingly needy and insecure. She doesn't know quite how she feels and would prefer to not have to deal with the consequences. It all felt like a believable development in their relationship and it was sad to see the gulf growing between them.
The episode crackled with its usual banter throughout. I particularly enjoyed Raj and Howard trying to guess what might have happened to cause a row between Penny and Leonard. The increasingly strange scenarios they presented were fun to hear and clearly had a personal dimension to them (from the guesser). I liked Raj's amusingly plausible suggestion that Rabbits "always look like they're about to say something but they never do." Later we learn that Leonard was singing Alanis Morisette songs to himself which was a fun image, presented amusingly as ever by Sheldon.
Will Wheaton is possibly the show's best guest star (305) and so it was good to see the producer's bring him back for more antics with Sheldon. They wrote him well so that he could continue to be mean to Sheldon while appearing to be reasonable to everyone else. Sheldon took the threat suitably seriously and his team name suggestion "The Wesley Crushers" was typically witty.
The payoff to the lost bet with the four guys dressing up as female super heroes was a nice easy visual gag. Though I liked Raj's take on it very much "I don't know about you but I feel empowered."
The Bad: I hope Will Wheaton returns for sillier fare in the future. It's a rare day when I say a plot was too serious but to mix Wheaton, Sheldon's "nemesis" with Penny and Leonard breaking up was a mistake. I really think it dampened the impact of each story. Wheaton ought to be reserved for blockbuster silliness where Sheldon's over dramatic interpretation of events can be exploited for its full comic potential.
Instead the laughs were diluted by the increasingly sad portrayal of Leonard. Not only was he desperately needy but he was also kind of a douche to Penny. Sadly none of it was so out of character that I can claim it was bad writing. Leonard behaved as we would expect him too but it wasn't fun. All Leonard does is complain about his friends at this point. He comes across as a negative and whiny part of the show and he could do with some major rehabilitation as a character if this is the end of his relationship with Penny.
Comic Highlight: In a lovely bit of character based comedy Howard approaches Will Wheaton and says "I'm sure you're probably sick of Star Trek questions, but Whoopi Goldberg: you ever hit that?"
In Conclusion: A mismatch of stories despite both being told relatively well. Hopefully the show can find a new direction for Leonard and save Will Wheaton for something funnier.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.