The AT&T U-verse description of the latest Big Bang Theory, “The Conference Valuation,” says that Howard (Simon Helberg) is “put in charge of babysitting the children…” Ask me how I feel about the implication that a man caring for his own children is “babysitting,” caption writer. Spoiler: I’m not a fan.
Happily, neither are the writers of the show, because they make it clear more than once that they’re on the right side of the distinction. Good job!
The reason Howard is on active parenting duty is that Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) are attending a pharmaceutical conference in San Diego. They’re promoting the anti-inflammatory drug Bernadette developed that Penny is in charge of selling.
While they’re kicking a** and taking names on the convention floor, Penny is approached by a rep from a rival company, Danny (Jason Kravits). He’s a special irritant for Bernie, and he tries to lure Penny away with flattery and a salary number written on a napkin and slid across the table, like in the movies.
Before Penny can see what he’s written, Bernadette intervenes. She puts her foot down that Danny won’t get Penny without a fight because she’s so amazing at her job and is the hardest worker Bernadette has ever seen. Bernie’s speech makes the decision for Penny, who tells Danny she’s happy where she is.
At home, Howard invites the gang over to play board games and keep him company while he’s alone with the kids. He acknowledges that this isn’t babysitting for him, but since the kids don’t belong to the other guys, it technically would be for them.
Initially, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) declines the offer to spend time with Howard’s sticky children, so the guys are surprised when he and Amy (Mayim Bialik) show up after all. It seems that Sheldon has stumbled across a book of experiments you can do on babies, and now he wants to try them all on the little Wolowitzes.
Sheldon’s creepy pitch doesn’t fly, but Amy brings the gang around when she cracks the book and shares how harmless the experiments are– essentially games they can play with the kiddos.
As the afternoon progresses, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Sheldon get increasingly competitive while conducting the experiments. Something in the language they’re using triggers a memory for Leonard (Johnny Galecki), who realizes that his mother conducted similar experiments on him throughout his entire childhood.
Leonard breaks down after remembering that his sleep-away camp cabin was called “control group,” and FaceTimes Dr. Hofstadter (Christine Baranski). He asks her if his childhood was just one long experiment, and she calmly responds that it was actually a series of small experiments. When he challenges her intentions, she explains that he was her baby and she found him fascinating. She may be a little cold, but this was time they spent together and it was meaningful. Leonard is nearly in tears, he’s so moved.
He asks her when she stopped, and she tells him the experiment isn’t over yet and hangs up.
Meanwhile, Howard recruits a willing Sheldon to help give the kids dinner, agreeing that they can color-code the children’s food so they’ll be able to learn something from their diapers later. Then Sheldon participates in bath time and experiments with object permanence using a rubber duck. During this uncharacteristic display of interest in children, Raj deduces that it’s a little too neat that Sheldon found the book the same day they’d been invited to play with the kids.
He raises his suspicions with Amy, challenging her obvious hypothesis that she can trick Sheldon into enjoying engaging with children. She responds: “I slept with him. I married him. Do you really want to bet against me?”
That night, Sheldon tells her he’s been thinking about their children, which he hopes to have in a multiple of three– likely 15. She tells him that’s a lot of babies, and he counters that it’s a drop in the bucket for a frog. Amy points out that she is not a frog, and Sheldon reassures her that she’s good enough for him.
Question: How old are we supposed to think Amy is? Because Mayim Bialik is 43, and the conversation about babies should be pretty different if Amy is also 43. Especially amongst scientists. I always wonder about this when they’re discussing their future children like it’s a project they have plenty of time for.
Also: Why does CBS insist on scheduling any of the remaining episodes against new superhero movie releases? If they’re able to skip weeks seemingly at random (like last week), couldn’t they not program against Captain Marvel? (Speaking of which, our Editor Erin Lynch & I are documenting our getting to know Carol Danvers in GGA’s Instagram Stories all week. Check it out!)