Jokes about giant rodents and Comic-Con; spit-takes and dream sequences; special guest appearances by geek goddess Eliza Dushku (as an FBI agent) and professional geek Dr. Neil deGrasse "I de-planeted Pluto" Tyson (as himself); Star Trek references to the Gorn and the Kobayashi Maru; the return of Penny; and Sheldon sacrifices his spot to Howard? If The Big Bang Theory has been on a big winning streak of late -- and I think it's fair to say that it has -- last night's episode was a solid three-base hit, or some other sports analogy that would be more apt and probably best attempted by someone who isn't recapping The Big Bang Theory.
The story itself was fairly straightforward. Howard had been admitted to the team building the new Defense Department laser-equipped surveillance satellite, but he had to pass a background check first, meaning each of Howard's colleagues would be interviewed by an FBI agent. Since this is The Big Bang Theory, none of those interviews went so well for Howard. Also, since this is The Big Bang Theory, the FBI agent was played by Ms. Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Tru Calling, Dollhouse, and why am I telling you this?).
Naturally, Raj panicked when she knocked on his door. (Anyone here surprised to discover Raj is Twi-hard, by the way? No? Just checking.) He had to pound down some rum cake to be able to talk with her, but even then, he simply panicked again that she would send him back to India, a nation so crowded, "It’s like the whole country is one endless Comic-Con, except everybody’s wearing the same costume: Indian guy!"
So she moved on to Leonard. Alas, he had just instituted a sudden I-just-met-a-hot-woman campaign of dramatically pulling off his glasses, fixing his best Blue Steele, and telling said woman, "You pop, sparkle, and buzz elec-tric." (Big Bang t-shirt slogan alert.) So our agent, who had somehow never heard of The X-Files, moved on to Sheldon.
It was at this point that I began to feel a bit for Ms. Dushku, who never quite got to bring the funny herself all night, although she probably could have done a bit more with the role than just smolder and look put out by everyone's shenanigans. Then again, I don't know how anyone could have competed with Sheldon Cooper's laugh-out-loud behavior upon the appearance of an FBI agent at his door. First, he doubted her credentials until she said she was there to discuss Howard. It peaked with Sheldon's litany of personal complaints about Howard, including damaging the case of his Lord of the Rings Blu-ray edition and changing the name "of a certain Level 80 warlock from Sheldor to Smelldor." Oh, yeah, and he also "crashed the Mars rover while attempting to impress a woman."
Frankly, any sane person should seriously question the prudence of giving Howard Wolowitz access to top-secret snooping technology, whether he has a girlfriend or not. Still, his outrage at his friends tanking this career opportunity for him was enough to plunge Sheldon into a spiral of guilt so potent, it caused him to dream of Gorn sitting in his spot. (I do have to hand it to Sheldon's unconscious for its self-deprecating wit, as evidenced by this exchange: Sheldon: "Sleep eludes me, Leonard." Leonard: "Maybe sleep has met you before.") So Sheldon first tried to reason with FBI agent Eliza Dushku, but only managed to almost incriminate Leonard for the time he almost gave away rocket secrets to a North Korean spy. Wait, is that Leonard Hofstadter? "No, it's a different Leonard," said a flustered Sheldon, "Chinese, red hair, six fingers, good bye."
His attempts at solving the problem an utter failure, Sheldon went to apologize to Howard, an apology Howard understandably refused to accept. This so flummoxed Sheldon, he turned to (attempt to) drink, and Penny was his barkeep of choice. (Apparently, the Cheesecake Factory also has a bar, and I expect that link will flummox you as much as it did me.) It was such a welcome relief to see Kaley Cuoco back in action, even it was just the top half of her; I missed her quiet, permissive exasperation with Sheldon. No one else on the show would think to silence Sheldon's recitation of arcane mixological details by handing him a shot, and no one else would summon quite that delicious a grimace from Sheldon as he spit said shot back into its glass -- three separate times.
After (almost) drinking with Penny and evoking Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Sheldon resolved to "reprogram" Howard by way of literally giving Howard his spot on the couch.
Howard: But you love your spot.
Sheldon: No. I love my mother. My feelings for my spot are much greater....And now it's yours.
Sniff. Apology accepted. And Raj hadn't cried that hard since Toy Story 3.
So what did you make of "The Apology Insufficiency," my fellow Big Bang theorists? Happy to see Penny back, even if Kaley Cuoco's leg injury kept her functionally immobilized? Did you think Eliza Dushku's performance was a bit...meh? What did you make of Dr. Tyson's comedy chops? And were you as entertained as I was by Chuck Lorre's vanity card this week instituting new rules for his cast post-Kaley's horse accident? The best rule by far: "All cast member motor vehicles must adhere to U.S. Army guidelines for attacking Kandahar. (Galecki’s Tesla is a terrifically fuel efficient vehicle but is essentially a hundred thousand dollar go-cart. From now on it is only to be used for backing down his driveway and retrieving mail.)"