Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 7, Episode 5 of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," titled "The Workplace Proximity."
Over seven seasons, "Big Bang" has struck a delicate balance of keeping its characters lovable without making them too insufferable. Sheldon is the trickiest and can vary from week to week. If you're not on board with Dr. Cooper, you're likely not on board with the show. And hopefully you like him, because this episode sees him at possibly his most frustrating.
"The Workplace Proximity" wastes no time getting into its story. Amy is going to be working at the University temporarily and thus will be closer to Sheldon. She sees it as an opportunity for them to spend more time together and at first, he has no problem with it. This may all be because he's distracted by an admittedly funny gag. Sheldon learns "not defecating where you eat," isn't meant to be taken literally. Go figure. His PG repetition of his father's saying, "who does one have to orally satisfy to get a drink around here?" also brings the laughs. But the sit in this com dominates the scene.
It's not until Sheldon is back with the boys that he learns that working with Amy might not be a great idea. This is the first of numerous reversals in the episode that cash in on his social ineptitude. Wolowitz, being the ex-cad of the group, is obviously against Sheldon working with Amy, while Leonard is for it. The guys' perspectives feel right in this scene and are punctuated nicely with a silly running gag about the fantasy playing cards.
Sheldon rushes over to Penny's apartment with a variation on his classic knock. "Amy, Bernadette, Penny. Amy, Bernadette, Penny. Amy, Bernadette, Penny." It's a tired catchphrase for the show, but at least they cut it with a meta joke about him always doing it. Sheldon then tells Amy he's changed his mind, and for some reason the studio audience is shocked. To weasel his way out of it he puts the blame on Howard, which launches Melissa Rauch into Angry Bernadette mode. The show has gone to the Angry Bernadette well quite frequently recently and it's not a joy to watch. Rauch plays it fine, but Bernie is far more interesting when she's not yelling (which isn't often).
The group scenes continue with a guys' lunch. The number of group scenes in tonight's show are a testament to how well the cast gels and how strong the repartee is. Amy walks into the cafeteria with her new University colleagues. Sheldon feels bad that he ditched her so, in another reversal, he goes over and subsequently makes an ass of himself, severely ticking off Amy in the process. Sheldon follows this up by an oblivious visit to her lab that only worsens the problem. At this point I don't feel bad for Amy, but just wonder what she sees in Sheldon and why she sticks around. Mayim Bialik wrings the scene for as much sympathy as she can, regardless.
Back over in the B-story, Bernadette comes to find Wolowitz at Raj's apartment. She admits that the amount of time he spends with his friends makes her feel bad. He comes close to doing the right thing but picks Raj over her for one more night. This leads to the effective punchline of Howard asking her if he should chase after her.
Sheldon is forced to take the bus home, and as he explains to Leonard and Penny, he fell asleep and ended up in Little Sri Lanka. It's a broad joke that's expounded upon three-fold but only barely works. Leonard then lays it out for him, "Amy's right, you're wrong." Clearly.
Sheldon ventures to Amy's apartment later that night to talk it out. What appears to finally be a self-aware confession turns out to be a criticism of her. Ah, so close! When it comes to relationships, Sheldon is as ignorant as ever and it's more painful than funny. The two make up in the spirit of "love me for who I am," but not without Sheldon pissing off Amy one more time and her shutting the door in his face. Like the Howard-Bernadette story, it's a solid anti-resolution that this show typically does well. Sheldon didn't really learn his lesson, but that's why we love him. Right?
- Was that Crystal the monkey (from "Animal Practice" and "The Hangover Part II") in Amy's lab?
- Penny got one funny moment where she used her phone to keep up with the smart girls. More of her please.
- Raj and Wolowitz have a delightful ease to their friendship. "Do you have the Tropical Tums?"
"The Big Bang Theory" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.