The Big Bang Theory Season 4-01 ‘The Robotic Manipulation’ Recap

From its opening sequence, “The Robotic Manipulation” gets season 4 rolling on a high note, hopefully setting the tone for the coming season and justifying the huge pay raises the principal cast received in September. As “Robotic” opens, Howard (Simon Helberg) has “borrowed” the arm and hand of a robot from his lab used for “extravehicular repairs on the international space station.”

This robotic contraption is a space-age marvel. Controlling it from his laptop, Howard directs it to unload the weekly Chinese takeout meals of our four favorite ‘so-smart-their-dumb’ geeks. Of course, the apparatus spends 28 minutes completing this mundane task, but Leonard, Sheldon (Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons), Howard and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) are so captivated by the sci-fi, otherworldly coolness, they barely notice. When Penny (Kaley Cuoco) comes knocking and indulges Howard by asking his robot arm to “pass the soy sauce,” Sheldon reminds her that such robotic contraptions will one day make “unskilled food servers” like her obsolete.

“Really?” Penny replies dryly.  “They’re gonna make a robot that spits on your hamburger?”

Later in the episode, Howard, after taking the robot arm back to his house, becomes intimately attached to it—very intimately.  As often happens in such sordid affairs, it starts with a robot shoulder massage and ends with the malfunctioning robotic hand inextricably locked onto Howard’s junk.

“You slipped and fell into a robot hand?” a semi-bemused Raj asks when he and Leonard show up to help. “Penis first?”

Howard is laying in bed dressed in a tacky green button-up shirt, his lower half covered by a purple coverlet, the robot arm jutting from beneath. Raj and Leonard can’t stop making jokes. Poor Howard ultimately ends up at the emergency room of a local hospital. Fortunately for him, this particular plot thread is concluded by episode’s end, the robot hand ‘disengaged.’

Meanwhile, Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) returns in the premiere.  Fowler, of course, is the girl Howard and Raj found for Sheldon at a dating website in last season’s finale.  Sheldon was none-too-pleased, but he and Fowler hit it off famously. In fact, Fowler may be the only person who’s as judgmental, sanctimonious and obnoxious as the socially-inept Sheldon.

Fowler isn’t his girlfriend, though—or so Sheldon quickly points out when the group tells Penny about her. He and Fowler are just friends, he claims; they talk about his work in physics, her work in neurobiology and “….the possibility of our having a child together.”

“Do you really want to have sex with her?” a stunned Penny asks.

Sheldon’s mortified.  “Why would we do that?”  The two have never even been on a date; their relationship is mostly limited to text messaging and emails. They’ve decided to conceive a baby through artificial insemination surrogacy. Not doing so would deny the human race the birth of a line of “intellectually superior benign overlords to guide humanity to a brighter tomorrow.”

Penny can’t believe he’d consider such a thing without dating Fowler. He should spend some time with her, in the least, to get to know the future mother of his child. She eventually convinces him to ask Fowler out. She also lands the dubious honor of chaperoning the pair on their date.

Dinner conversation between Sheldon and Fowler, in fact, quickly devolves into a discussion of Penny’s love life and of how many sexual partners she’s had.  For her part, Fowler’s had 128 partners—counting, of course, the scientific experiments she has participated in where “orgasm was achieved by electronically stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain.”

“The Robotic Manipulation” was a great premiere. Parsons and Bialik have terrific chemistry. In fact, Bialik does so well with “Bang’s” regular cast it would be easy to believe she’s been part of the show from the beginning. Here’s hoping she visits often as season 4 progresses.

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