“The Comet Polarization” may not have been as funny as last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory, but it had two moments I liked very much, so it’s OK by me. 

RELATED: Last week’s episode brought the LOLz!

The whole gang is up on the rooftop of the main apartment building with Raj’s (Kunal Nayyar) fancy telescope, trying to get a look at Mercury while it’s at its highest elongation, when two important things happen. First, Neil Gaiman tweets about how much he likes Stuart’s (Kevin Sussman) comic book store. Second, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) spots a comet through the telescope. 

When Penny sees something fuzzy in the telescope, nobody imagines it could be a space object. They dismiss it as a likely eyelash until, at Raj’s suggestion, she takes a photo so he can look at it. Raj identifies it as a comet, and the next day he learns that it is a previously undiscovered one… so he registers it as his discovery. 

This enrages Penny. She was the one to see it first, and she wants credit for that. Raj and Leonard both try to explain that since it’s Raj’s telescope and relevant to Raj’s career, it should be OK for him to take credit, but Penny stands her ground. People are always dismissing what she says and giving others credit for her ideas. Nobody takes her seriously. She saw that comet first, and she wants credit for it. 

Over the next couple of days, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) tries to act as go-between. He wants to make everyone happy, but he just doesn’t have it in him to take a strong stand. He turns the conflict back to Penny and encourages her to use her own voice in the matter. 

She marches over to Raj’s apartment, and her angry-sounding footsteps on the stairs are enough to have him apologetic and capitulating by the time she knocks. He agrees to share credit for the discovery, which she accepts firmly– despite his trying to walk it back because of how it might embarrass him professionally.

Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman’s tweet leads to a surge in business for the comic book store so large that Stuart runs out of cash register tape for the first time, isn’t available to babysit for  Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) at the last minute and has to hire someone to help out: Denise (Lauren Lapkus). 

Initially, the changes are too much for Sheldon (Jim Parsons), but Amy (Mayim Bialik) points out that Denise isn’t a stranger, she’s just a friend he hasn’t “berated, lectured or condescended to yet.” He likes this perspective and tells Amy she is wise and smells like books. “You really are the whole package,” he says as she blushes. #ShAmy

The next time they’re in the comic book store, Howard inadvertently encourages Sheldon to challenge Denise with a referral request. She hits the mark so squarely that he’s instantly won over and spends the day talking to her about comics before coming home with Arrowsmith

Unfortunately, Amy’s encouragement for Sheldon to think of Denise as a friend seems to backfire on her. After his day talking comics with Denise, he comes home to blather on at length about Denise’s many strengths to his fiancée.

Amy can’t take it. She marches right over to the comic book store, echoing Penny’s angry footsteps, and confronts Denise. She introduces herself as Sheldon’s fiancée, and Denise confides that she wasn’t sure Amy was real. (We’ll forgive that this is almost a rerun of the guys’ comments to Dr. Wolcott last week.)

Amy demands that Denise teach her how to pretend to like comic books, buys a recommendation and goes home to impress Sheldon with her openness to his interests. Another backfire, though, as he’s spent so much time talking comics with Denise that he’d rather talk about something else with Amy. 

RELATED: Keep up with my Big Bang Theory Season 11 recaps HERE

Let’s give a big round of applause to the writers for this episode, Maria Ferrari, Andy Gordon and Tara Hernandez (teleplay), and Steve Holland and Eric Kaplan (story). The timely and appropriate story of Penny getting credit for her discovery and being taken seriously was presented in a sitcom-appropriate style, authentic to Penny’s character and refreshing in its theme. Amy confronting her apparent rival and demanding a lesson in comic appreciation instead of for her to “back off” or some such nonsense was a relief, and again a very authentic character choice. Kudos, writers!

 

Leona Laurie