Episode 11 - The Speckerman Recurrence
9 December 2011
Synopsis: One of Leonard's high school bullies, Jimmy Spckerman, gets in touch and wants to meet. Leonard makes a list of all the mean things Jimmy did to him and heads off to confront him. The guys go with him and Sheldon stands up for Leonard. Jimmy gets drunk and comes round to apologise. Meanwhile Bernadette and Amy reminisce about their own high school experience and realise that Penny was a bully in high school. They encourage her to do something for the needy to make herself feel better.
The Good: They are so close sometimes! This was good. It never became great but it was a fun episode. I particularly liked the use of bullying as a theme. The characterisation was very good with everyone able to relate to being bullied except for Penny. And Penny didn't remember herself as a bully. Neither did Jimmy. That psychology was excellent.
This episode also got us to a moment which I always assumed The Big Bang Theory was designed for. That moment was Jimmy turning to Leonard and saying that back in high school he was the winner and Leonard was a loser, but now "You're a winner." The geek come good and getting respect is a story the show should tell more often.
The actual conclusion was ok, with Leonard and Sheldon standing up to sober Jimmy and then running away. I would prefer it if they were able to force him out with more dignity but in essence they did well just to stand up to him in the first place. At the bar it was Sheldon who stood up to Jimmy, largely for comic purposes, but I liked it anyway. The writers have moved away from Sheldon dismissing Leonard's friendship and that is definitely for the best. Sheldon actually says "I platonically love you man" which was nice to hear.
The comedy was solid throughout with all the lists of bullying stuff and Howard laughing at Leonard wearing underwear to meet a man who used to wedgey him. I liked Jimmy laughing while apologising when he got to the part about laxatives on the list. It was all nicely constructed with punch lines that worked at regular intervals (see Comic Highlight).
The Penny plot was more of a funny idea than full of jokes. Penny's selfishness was exposed plausibly with the clothes donation bin. As befits her feeling that she wasn't really a bully, she doesn't actually see a need to do any good deeds for others. In its accurate depiction of human behaviour this was almost Elaine Benes (Seinfeld) territory. I like the way the writers use the shows internal relationships. Amy's worship of Penny can seem silly but in this story it worked nicely to help us understand why she and Bernadette would get swept along with Penny's dubious morality.
The Bad: Sheldon's suggestion that they kill Jimmy was a line too far. Sometimes the writers try that little bit too hard to make Sheldon funny. This line crossed into territory that his mind shouldn't go.
Comic Highlight: Jimmy arrives at the bar, hugs Leonard, says hi to the guys and then says "Little Leonard Hofstadter I hear you're a big time scientist now." Sheldon turns to Leonard with a sour face and says "And there's the first zinger. Ouch." It's moments like that where the writers shine. For years we have heard gags about how Sheldon genuinely thinks all scientific accomplishments beneath his level are irrelevant. Even in this episode there were jokes about Nobel Prize winners being undeserving. The comparison between Sheldon's perspective and the rest of the world creates so many opportunities for humour and the writers really captured that here.
In Conclusion: I really did enjoy this and thought it was very solidly constructed. The producers can't quite take that extra step and draw our empathy directly to Leonard's plight but they get close.
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