After "The Workplace Proximity" pushed Sheldon's likability to the limit, "The Big Bang Theory" returns with a fast-paced, romantic installment that was more fitting for Valentine's Day than it was for just before Halloween. But where last week drove two of the show's central relationships apart, this week proved that when the characters get along and try to be their best the humor comes in spades. Whether it was Sheldon sticking to his honor or Penny proving her love for Leonard, the heart of "Big Bang" was pumping strong this week.
Sheldon starts "The Romance Resonance" in "the zone" and soon reveals that he's found a new super stable element. It results in the slightly irritating, yet comical, "Sheldon and his brain, yeah!" chant but quickly we learn that Sheldon and his brain are not what he thought. He misread a simple table and his major discovery turns out to be nothing more than a fluke. The episode gets a lot of mileage out of Sheldon dealing with embarrassment and guilt. His pompous attitude from the first half of the episode (and last week) juxtaposes nicely with his misplaced woe. In the middle of the show he admits he's nothing but a fraud and yet still the University and science community around him wish to congratulate him.
Sheldon's struggle plays nicely off Amy and how she fits into his life. She's both his sounding board and, despite his flaws, his rock. She understands how he feels and says the exact right thing ("I'm embarrassed for you"). Instead of pushing her away, Sheldon embraces her. Like we knew he should. The icing on the cake of their story is the episode's tag, where she's "in the zone" and fantasizes about Sheldon wanting to kiss her like "mommies and daddies." Though it's a fantasy, Mayim Bialik's reaction is priceless.
Resonating elsewhere are Leonard and Penny. In their story, Penny hopes to prove to Leonard that she can be romantic. Penny, as we've known her, isn't much of a softie. She admits to getting to Leonard's heart through his pants, but now she's on a mission to romance. Penny enlists Raj, in his one major scene of the episode, to give her some pointers. Her eventual "crap storm of romance" for her boyfriend is a first edition copy of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' which Leonard already owns. Like Sheldon, Penny feels guilty for failing, but reveals she's kept every important memento of her and Leonard's relationship. The scene goes a long way in reminding us of the bond between them and though on paper they may not seem compatible, we know that they are.
But nothing is more romantic than Howard's song for Bernadette. Bernie has been quarantined due to an experiment gone wrong. (You know what they say, "mo infections, mo money.") In lieu of his previous plan, Howard brings his big romantic gesture to her and the whole gang sing the love song that he's written. The lyrics are clever and include the kind of geeky references we've come to expect from "Big Bang." Not shortly after he opens his mouth does he compare their relationship to the Doctor and the TARDIS, which is followed up by a shout out to Jobs and Wozniak, and finally a lyric only those who speak Klingon will understand. It's classic "Big Bang Theory" but it pays off the earned love between the characters. The staging of this seen with the glass window in between Howard and Bernie only reinforces the dramatic tension.
"The Big Bang Theory" is worlds better when it's bringing its character together. Seeing Bernadette and Howard display their love rather than their differences is much more enjoyable than Angry Bernadette. Likewise, building Sheldon up and then taking him down a peg is far less irritating than when he's an ignorant know-it-all. "The Romance Resonance" bridges all the stories together with clever gags and dialogue. It could have used 20 percent more Raj, but in terms of all around enjoyment this week resonated just fine.
"The Big Bang Theory" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.