Episode 16 - The Cohabitation Formulation
19 February 2011
Synopsis: Raj's sister Priya returns to the US and though Raj forbids it she begins dating Leonard. Amy assumed Penny will be upset which initially she isn't. Meanwhile Bernadette asks Howard to chose between her and his mother. He finds it tough but does move in with Bernadette. He then begins to treat her like his mother until they argue and he moves out.
The Good: I do appreciate the efforts of the writers to address two of the major relationships on the show in more detail than usual.
This is about as close as we have come to understanding Howard's relationship with his mother. We can now see that despite resenting her and wishing on one level to be free of her, Howard remains dependent on her. He is not only used to having meals prepared for him and his laundry done but he enjoys it. He is comfortable having a wife\mother figure to take care of him. Understandably Bernadette doesn't want to be either right now and they may have broken up.
Then we have Leonard being a man for a change and rushing over to see Priya and making it clear that he does like her and isn't as needy as he came across last time (406). I liked that this was addressed and their interaction after that point was pretty good. As Amy pointed out they have a lot in common and their "Taming of the Shrew" quotations was a nice demonstration of that. Penny's distress at having been replaced were pretty good too. I liked that she didn't immediately become jealous as she has seen Leonard with other women before (including last episode). At this stage I was happy with just a glimpse of her tears because there are plenty of directions the writers can go with it. For now it's not too hard to imagine that actually seeing a woman replacing her and sitting with her friends on the couch was more distressing than just the idea that Leonard was with someone else.
Throughout the episode I was unhappy with Sheldon who seemed to have suddenly acquired a chirpiness surrounding the social conventions he has so far derided. Yet at the end of the episode it's Amy who instructs him to get Penny a cup of tea and when she says she doesn't want one he replies "It's not optional." I liked the implication that she was the one pushing him to behave this way and that inside he didn't fully understand the need for it all. Amy is also growing a little more by virtue of the role as Sheldon's teacher. Now it seems her character is just like Sheldon except she actively embraces the opportunity to learn how to be social where he has always shunned it.
Raj's pouting attempts to play a traditional Indian patriarch were fine. His eye rolling at the "Taming of the Shrew" stuff made me smile.
The Bad: The trouble with Howard's relationship with his mother is that it isn't funny or tragic. There have been many sit com characters who had dark relationships with their family (Cliff Clavin and his mother on Cheers or Niles and Maris on Frasier come to mind but there are better examples). But Howard's mother is written as purely a silly comic figure and their arguments are off-putting and annoying. You could imagine on another show that Howard returning to her rather than growing as a person could have drawn real pathos or pity for him. Instead it felt like the writers just don't want to lose him as a figure of derision and would rather keep him living at home for a few more seasons. I mind that less than the fact that we didn't see what happened to Bernadette. Is their relationship over? Will it come back? There should have been more of a resolution unless it is going to be continued in the next episode.
Again I'm not sure about Sheldon suggesting Penny should do porn. I can imagine him innocently enquiring whether she would consider it as a career option but the idea that he is amoral doesn't fit with the overgrown child aspects of his personality.
Comic Highlight: I did though like Sheldon matter-of-factly asking "Did you get the part?" when Penny informed the gang of her audition turning out to be for a porno. I also smiled at Raj saying "Penny, you became disenchanted with Leonard as a lover, would you please tell my sister why?"
In Conclusion: It's episodes like this which keep me hoping the show can improve and get better. The attempts at characterisation were small but solid. This wasn't the funniest episode you will see, nor was the Howard stuff adequately addressed but it was still encouraging.
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