And after the Thanksgiving hiatus, it seems like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ has managed to deliver at least one solid episode before the Winter Break with this week’s ‘The VCR Illumination.’ With the help of some guest stars from ‘Young Sheldon,’ this week’s outing provided solid laughs, story-lines, and emotion, and will be held as one of the best of the season so far, in my opinion of course.
Jumping right in, Sheldon and Amy are still reeling over the disastrous debunking of their paper from last episode, with Sheldon taking it particularly hard. Leonard remembers that Sheldon has a tape of his younger self giving himself a pep-talk that is only to be taken out in case of an emergency, which this is, and he finds the tape and asks Howard if they can borrow his old VCR. Sadly though, when Amy and Sheldon sit down to watch the tape, they only get through the first minute or so before it is cut off, as Sheldon’s father borrowed the tape to record one of the games he was coaching, leaving Sheldon even more down.
So Penny and Leonard reach out to Leonard’s psychologist mother, who is too busy to help until they mention it is for Sheldon, and she suggests that Sheldon is grieving, and having some kind of funeral might help. Sheldon agrees to the idea only because the idea came from Leonard’s mom (and not Leonard), and they have a Viking funeral in the bathtub, which of course goes awry when the flame catches the curtains on fire.
Later that night, Sheldon awakens to find Amy watching the tape to see if there might be any more of young Sheldon’s speech after the football game, and Sheldon assures her he already knows everything he said (he does have that perfect memory after all), but he just wishes he could have heard it from himself. Then, the video cuts to the locker room where Sheldon’s father gives a speech to his players about not giving up even though they are losing, a speech I’ll write out here as I thought it was particularly well written for the show:
“I know we’re down… by a lot. If I’m being honest with you, we’re probably not going to win this one. In fact, we’re definitely not going to win this one. We’re not going to quit, either. And if we do lose, you need to know that doesn’t make you losers. You learn as much about who you are and what you’re made of from failing as you do from success. Maybe more. So you can spend the next half feeling sorry for yourselves, or you can get out there and give them hell.”
His father’s words inspire Sheldon to keep trying, and he and Amy realize that their theory may not be entirely wrong, and they get back to work, with Sheldon stopping briefly to thank his father for his words of wisdom.
Meanwhile, while pulling out the VCR for Sheldon, Howard and Bernadette find an old tape of Howard auditioning for the Magic Castle, and Bernie decides Howard should finish that audition and become a real magician so she can tell her kids that her father never gave up on his dreams. And she decides to enhance his act with the tricks she learned on the pageant circle, which leads to a ridiculous showcase of his act for Raj (in what feels like Raj’s only scene of the episode) where Howard is more Pageant girl than Magician, complete with WAY too much glitter that he literally tosses around.
Eventually, Howard informs Bernie that he does not like her additions to the act, and wants to do things his own way, which she reluctantly agrees to. At the episode’s end, we see Howard officially audition for the Magic Castle, asking for the expensive watch of one of the judges for a trick, which he “smashes” with a wooden mallet under a clothe, only to pull back the clothe and realize he messed up the trick, and the watch is destroyed.
QUOTES OF THE NIGHT:
AMY: (entering with Sheldon) Hey guys, what are you guys doing?
BERNADETTE (as the gang struggles to find something to say that won’t set off the couple)… Nothing.
SHELDON: Nothing? Like what my career has come to!?! Thanks a lot! (storms out)
HOWARD: (turning to Bernie) Nice going.
BERNADETTE: (Encouraging Howard) Come on! You’re a good Magician.
HOWARD: Really? You always called Magic “dumb.”
BERNADETTE: …You can be good at something dumb.
SHELDON: …I think it’s only halftime. And there’s a lot more physics left to play.
AMY: Wow, was that your first sports metaphor?
SHELDON: It was! And I think it was a home run! … That’s two!!
This felt like the show firing on all cylinders, with actual funny jokes in both story-lines, momentum, an emotional ending, character arcs, this is what the show once was and has been lacking for some time now. If there was a problem with this episode it would be the lack of Raj, but he’s been featured a lot this season, so I suppose it is ok to have him sidelined for one episode. Also, the fact that they had to bring in characters from the spin-off to get a real emotional connection for Sheldon could be seen as an issue, but as far as I am concerned if it works, good for them. Of course, we are still only on episode 10, and the series has been very unstable this season, so I am not sure if they will be able to consistently produce quality episodes like this every week, or whether we will be back to the mediocrity of earlier this season after this week. I guess we’ll just have to see what they bring out before they go on Hiatus for the Winter Break, and hope for the best.