This episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ opens with Penny announcing to the gang that she won a free wine tasting at work, and inviting everyone to come along with her. After some comments by Leonard lamenting that his work never gives out prizes, and Sheldon stating science is its own reward (right before Amy points out that he is always talking about the Nobel Peace Prize), the gang decides to attend, all save Bernadette who cannot drink, and Sheldon who does not care for drinking wine (he prefers his grapes the old-fashioned way, in a juice box). Fortunately for Bernie, Sheldon offers to hang out alone with her while the rest are at the wine tasting, a prospect she does not seem excited about in the least.
At the lab, the guys are about to begin the first experiment with their navigation system, with Sheldon filming for posterity and Leonard narrating (Sheldon is going to switch out his voice with James Earl Jones in post, a good joke and a fun call-back to the fact that Sheldon and James Earl Jones are friends on the show, especially after their crazy night together a few seasons ago). Raj is not sure which of his girlfriends to bring to the wine tasting, and he settles on Claire, though he is quick to point out that things could get awkward. They turn on the machine, and with all of the spinning the nerdy scientists begin to get dizzy, and in the background Sheldon passes out from the stimulation overload.
Raj calls Claire to invite her to wine-tasting, and she is unsure because their relationship has been so casual so far. Raj assures her they are just going to meet his friends, and that it will not get awkward, and she reluctantly agrees to join him for his night out. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am liking Claire more and more, and I hope Raj does not screw this up.
At the wine bar, the first two people to arrive are Amy and Howard, who seem to have forgotten the key to their friendship (uh, Neil Diamond anyone?) and wait awkwardly for their friends to arrive and save them from the uncomfortable silence. Luckily the gang arrives soon thereafter, and they get down to wine tasting, with poor Leonard barely able to smell any of the different wines due to his allergies, and Raj warning the group not to ask too many relationship questions to Claire, as they are still figuring things out. Leonard makes a “harem” joke and Raj warns him about karma, and just like that, we spot Penny’s old boyfriend Zach at the wine tasting, and he heads over to say hello, holding his own wine glass in his fist (I miss Zach, he was always hilarious. He’s kind of like the David Putty (from ‘Seinfeld’) on this show). He catches up with the gang (who he understandably has not seen in some time) and learns about their new navigation system invention. Immediately he asks about the military applications, wondering if it is better than the guidance systems the military is already using, and Howard and Leonard admit that it is, though they swear they would never use it for those purposes. To Zach, it seems obvious that the system would eventually be used in missiles and such, and wonders just how smart his nerd friends really are. Leonard and Howard worry about the military applications, which they had not thought about before, though Howard does point out that their invention could not have been used to destroy the world because no one has come back from the future to kill them yet.
Claire arrives and is greeted by the group, with Penny and Amy claiming to have heard such nice things about her from Raj, and then being stumped when Claire asks what exactly Raj has been saying. Zach wanders over and attempts to hit on Claire, and Raj has to pull him aside and explain the situation, especially after Zach asks why Raj is not exclusively dating the lovely young woman. To compensate, upon returning to the group Zach claims to “agree” with Raj that Claire is not that great, making Raj look even worse. Later, with Raj distracted, Claire asks the gang about other women Raj has been bringing around, and they all loyally keep their mouths shut on the subject. Unfortunately for Raj, Claire tricks him into thinking his friends spilled the beans, and he ends up being the one to admit to having other women to Claire. Which, admittedly, she should not be that surprised about, as she must have known he was still seeing Emily at least, right?
Back at the apartment, Bernie prepares herself for a night alone with Sheldon, which includes a seminar about different types of model trains, a cooking segment where Sheldon goes over the 6 ways to make toast (including the ‘Star Wars’ version, which has each piece of bread gifted with a light side and a dark side), ending with a game of Dungeons and Dragons in which Sheldon puts Bernie into a world where the men are pregnant and have to stay home trying not to pee when they laugh, and she can eat sushi, drink beer, and go into as many hot tubs as she wants. In the end, Bernie really enjoys herself, from bonding with Sheldon over why he loves trains so much (they bring him peace in a chaotic world) to basking in the make-believe world he created just for her so she could forget about being “Pregnant Bernadette” for a little while. He offers that she can come over and become ‘Bernatrix” whenever she needs a break from being pregnant, but the offer only stands until her third trimester, as he cannot risk getting amniotic fluid near his spot on the couch.
In the episode aftermath, the next morning arrives and Leonard is fighting off a wine hangover, while Sheldon is having a similar situation with his “toast” hangover, deciding to have another piece as the ‘hair of the dog that bit you.’ Leonard asks Sheldon if he has thought about the military applications of their invention, and Sheldon admits it was something that had worried him, until he talked it over with his friends Frank and Alicia, and they helped him see it in a new perspective. As this is the second time in the episode that Sheldon has mentioned these new mysterious friends of his, Leonard asks who these people are, and Sheldon basically reminds him that it is always a good idea to have extra friends around, just in case.
BERNADETTE: So what do you want to do tonight?
SHELDON: Oh I have quite the plans for tonight. Our Fetus Friendly Festival of Fun begins with….
ZACH: (to Penny and Leonard) Did you two get married?….. To each other?
SHELDON: When I was 5 I swallowed a Z-gauge locomotive. I spent the next 3 days saying “I think I can pass it. I think I can pass it. I think I can pass it.”
HOWARD (after walking away from the urinal next to Leonard, who is still peeing) Wow, how much wine did you drink?
LEONARD: Not a lot, I just couldn’t go till you walked away.
LEONARD (in regards to Sheldon’s supposed friends, Frank and Alicia) Who are these people?
SHELDON: Leonard, friends are like toilet paper. It’s good to have extras under the sink.
As far as jokes are concerned, not the strongest of the season, even though there were a couple of good moments. However, still a good episode for character and plot development, as we have a new twist with the navigation system invention (the military application), new pressure on Raj to finally choose to date Claire exclusively (especially now that she has met and seemed to get along with his friends), a new kinship between Bernadette and Sheldon (two characters who do not normally get a lot of screen time together), and lastly, the continuation of the Bernadette being pregnant and being somewhat isolated from the group storyline, which I think is a gold mine for stories and jokes in coming episodes. Looking forward to next week, only a handful more episodes left for this season!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.