So far Season 12 of The Big Bang Theory has been full of delightful surprises. “The Planetarium Collision” continues the trend, bucking whatever expectations the title might have inspired.
Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Amy (Mayim Bialik), Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Howard (Simon Helberg) attend one of Raj’s (Kunal Nayyar) lectures at the Griffith Observatory’s Planetarium. Afterwards, Howard goes to say hi to Raj and is introduced to his boss. Howard slips in that he’s an astronaut, which leads to an invitation to join Raj for one of his lectures– an invitation Howard is eager to accept and Raj clearly resents.
Howard’s feelings are hurt badly enough that he almost turns down Bernadette’s (Melissa Rauch) advances in bed that night. When he tells her how he’s feeling, she assures him that it makes sense that Raj would feel threatened by having a (sexy) astronaut share his spotlight.
Bernie’s insight encourages Howard to drop in to Raj’s office the next day to smooth things over. Raj is not receptive to Howard’s overtures, though, and storms out of his own office to emphasize how much he isn’t threatened by the idea of sharing his spotlight with Howard. (Then he comes back, because he doesn’t really have anywhere to go.)
Raj takes the issue to Penny and Leonard, bribing them with Chinese food to give him advice. Between making old-marrieds comments to each other and establishing how many flights of stairs their building has (three), they convince Raj to invite Howard to participate in one of his lectures.
When the evening arrives, Penny and Leonard are joined in the audience by Bernadette, who is caught in a reverie evoked by Howard’s space suit. She creeps Penny out with TMI about the role the suit plays in her and Howard’s role playing, where she is a lonely (and flexible) Russian Cosmonaut on the space station.
Raj takes the stage, informing the audience that instead of his usual lecture he’ll be starting closer to home than the cosmos, talking about the International Space Station along with one of its former residents, Howard. Howard joins him, humbled by the kind introduction. In normal sitcom structure, the one-upping of compliments that follows would end in humiliation for one or both of them, but in the latest surprise from BBT, instead Raj tells Howard and the audience how proud he is of his best friend for being one of the few people ever to have lived on the ISS.
Howard is deeply moved. He tells Raj he doesn’t think he’s ever said that to him before. Raj apologizes for the oversight and literally declares his love for his friend. Howard reciprocates, and they close with a hug in front of the crowd.
Bernie’s fantasy is derailed by this public display of healthy masculine affection, and Leonard is moved to tears.
Meanwhile, Amy and Sheldon are experiencing their first real challenge in married life. Now that their honeymoon is over, she’s back in the trenches at work and doesn’t have as much time for their joint paper on super asymmetry as Sheldon would prefer. She isn’t terribly welcoming when he interrupts her in her lab, and he misinterprets her busy-ness as something she regrets.
Foolishly, Sheldon takes action.
He drops in on the university’s president (Joshua Malina), and after insulting his Alma Mater and his intelligence, he asks for Amy to be put on sabbatical so she’ll have time for their collaboration. Amy finds out about it when she next enters her lab and finds a colleague there, trying to decipher her notes about her research.
Before Amy can get to the root why she has been replaced without her consent, Sheldon arrives to tell her the exciting news about how he’s intervened on her behalf. She is understandably livid… at least it’s understandable if you aren’t Sheldon.
That night, Arthur Jeffries (Bob Newhart) comes to Sheldon in a dream. They’re on Dagoba, as usual, but this time in a poor deli that makes bad rubens. Sheldon asks for advice about how to make things right with Amy, and Arthur tells him that rule number one is not to go to bed angry. He also says that rule number two is if you don’t recognize the shoes under the bed, they aren’t yours, but that piece of advice just confuses Sheldon.
Sheldon wakes up and pesters Amy awake. He apologizes for having taken action without her approval, and he assures her that he wasn’t being malicious. She knows that. He was being selfish, and he’s being selfish again by awakening her to apologize. She explains that he’d made her feel like one of her greatest fears about working with him was being realized– that her things would be subsumed by the things that are theirs. He thanks her for explaining and compliments her on the use of the word subsume. They kiss and go back to sleep. (We don’t know yet if she succeeded in getting put back on her project, but all is well with ShAmy.)
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