Episode 9 - The Ornithophobia Diffusion
13 November 2011
Synopsis: Sheldon's fear of birds is tested when a Blue Jay flies into the apartment. Penny suggests Leonard go to the movies with her and he begins to enjoy the experience more now that they aren't dating.
The Good: I liked a lot of this. I would say both stories were pretty enjoyable if limited.
This season has featured a lot of Sheldon on his own. Or at least not interacting with many people. We have seen him playing dice, seeking revenge, obsessing over paintball or a toy train set. Those stories are fine and he remains one of the few characters on TV who can make scenes funny just through his performance. However I remain convinced that the best comedy comes from mixing Sheldon with new people who don't know what is in store for them.
His fear of birds turning to love was potentially more interesting than it might seem at first. We end the episode with him crying out with parental love for his adopted pet which is an emotion we wouldn't expect from him. Whether they have planned it or they just thought it would be funny the writers are preparing the ground for Sheldon to one day express similar emotions toward actual people. I didn't mind his sudden affection for the Jay as it fitted with his childlike displays of emotion around his family. I guess at this rate of development he may hit puberty come season eight or so.
As you would expect there was lots of predictable comedy surrounding the bird. Sheldon shattering the windows with his death ray was definitely an unexpected moment. It was hard not to smile at him telling Bernadette (once she held the Jay) to "Slowly and carefully...flush it down the toilet!" Sheldon's history of bird abuse was amusingly plausible and his cry of anguish at the bird sitting in his spot on the couch worked too. Once Sheldon fell in love with the Jay, Amy commented bitterly that you "gotta have hollow bones to get some sugar around here."
The Leonard and Penny story was pretty good too. Leonard standing up for himself and pointing out all the sacrifices he made when they were dating made for a fun story. I particularly liked the moments where she had to cough up money to pay for things, one of those little dating rules that some people take for granted.
The Bad: Once they began tearing one another down in front of strangers things became less interesting. Naturally the plot then gave way to jokes about how dumb or geeky they respectively are. The underlying problem remains that Leonard essentially begs for sex. People in relationships naturally make sacrifices to please their partners. However Leonard's sacrifices were framed as all being in aid of sex that he otherwise didn't deserve or wasn't worthy of. That may be an accurate representation of his self esteem but real people aren't so shameless about admitting to it.
I can accept Leonard as a loser character in general but it's hard to enjoy his stories when he has no backbone at all. He really seems to have learnt nothing when he once more begs for sex at the end of the story. Not only does this make him a look like a loser but it also devalues the sense that he and Penny had a relationship based on some kind of love. Here they are trying to be friends and he is willing to just drop everything and sleep with her at any moment. He knows that if that happened he would end up hooked on her and she would end up dumping him again. It would be nice if he could be portrayed as having grown just a little.
Comic Highlight: There were several decent gags throughout but I thought this was the wittiest:
Raj: "Come on Sheldon, Star Wars!"
(Sheldon is still tinkering with his tone generator)
Howard: "I'm pushing play, I mean it. If we don't start soon George Lucas is gonna change it again."
In Conclusion: A pleasant stasis episode. It covered familiar territory in gently amusing ways.
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