Episode 17 - The Rothman Disintegration
7 March 2012
Synopsis: Another theoretical physicist Professor Rothman retires and both Sheldon and Kripke want his office. Unsuccessful negotiation leads to a sporting contest which Sheldon wins. Soon however he discovers that the office is not all he thought it would be. Meanwhile Amy buys Penny a huge portrait of the two of them. Penny hates it but can't bring herself to hurt Amy's feelings.
The Good: The odd line was funny (like Sheldon rehashing the paper, rock, scissors, lizard Spock game) and Leonard did a nice job acting sad while watching the "basketball" contest.
The Bad: This was a highly skippable episode. The writers chose some very cheap and easy ideas and compounded their lameness by changing their minds during the story.
So first we have a classic sit com "battle" plot with Sheldon and Kripke both pursuing the same office. The writers never really found a way to make this funny which is odd considering selfish single minded Sheldon is usually good for a giggle. Part of the problem is that Kripke doesn't have a character beyond the lisp.
We skipped over any escalation of their negotiation and went straight to the final contest. The basketball match was too silly and implausible to be funny. The physical limitations of geeks is a one note joke that is funnier to think about rather than to see (remember Howard and Raj wrestling in 410?). I also don't think Kripke looks wimpy enough to fit this particular stereotype.
With Sheldon victorious the writers foolishly tried to add a third act where his new office turns out to be a nightmare. This was a joke too far because it wasn't clear if we were meant to be laughing at Sheldon's hubris coming back to bite him or if this was what drove Professor Rothman crazy. I assume it was partly the latter but because Rothman had been largely forgotten by then I didn't feel it was a story that had been built for this particular punch line. The episode also finished with no conclusion, leaving us to wonder if this was a one episode story or if Sheldon will now have to make peace with his new surroundings.
The Amy-Penny story was simpler but equally lame. Amy's passionate love for Penny is a joke that is more fun in the background than the foreground. This was a tired sit com clichÃ© where Amy has no self awareness and Penny refuses to hurt her feelings. The huge portrait was a cheap laugh but not nearly funny enough to carry a whole story. I suppose there is justice in Penny having to live with the painting after lying to Amy but by putting it where we can no longer see it it loses its value.
Comic Highlight: Sheldon enters his new office to find a naked Rothman casually reading in a corner. Sheldon reminds him that he is retired and the crazy Rothman replies "I think the word you're looking for is...invisible!"
In Conclusion: We seem to be in a mid-season lull where the writers ran out of ideas and so reached into the old sit com bag of bad ideas.
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