Despite Kaley Cuoco’s return from a horseback riding accident, The Apology Insufficiency marks a new season-4 low. In fact, the opening sequence, wherein our four favorite ‘so-smart-their-dumb’ geek’s discuss capybara’s (a rodent the size of a baby hippo), Leonard’s new approach to dating and Howard’s impending FBI background check, is as humorless as any I’ve seen in the show’s 4-year run.
Howard has been appointed to the team for the new Defense Department laser-equipped surveillance satellite but must pass an FBI background check to be formally accepted. The background check interviews are conducted by FBI Special Agent Page (Eliza Dushku).
Raj is first up and, of course, can’t speak to the attractive young agent without alcohol-based assistance. When he discovers he’s out of alcoholic beverages, he reaches instead for the rum cake in his refrigerator. The cake gives him the mental edge to speak to Agent Page but little else. Otherwise, the interview devolves into a conversation about how terrified Raj is of being sent back to India (a paranoia that began with last season’s The Pirate Solution), a country that’s like “one endless comic con” where everyone is wearing the same costume: Indian Guy.
Leonard’s interview becomes a desperate attempt to test his new confidence-infused approach to dating. His efforts to woo Agent Page fail miserably (she’s married, it seems, to a 6’2” Navy Seal) and they fail, too, to elicit any laughs. Watching Leonard fumble about with the attractive young agent, attempting to exude a confidence he doesn’t possess, mostly borders on uncomfortable.
Never fear, though, there’s always Sheldon’s interview. The socially-inept Dr. Cooper starts things off by showing Agent Page his “Justice League Membership Card” in response to her FBI credentials, which he considers suspect. He finally allows her in after conceding: “I doubt anyone would risk the stiff penalties for impersonating a federal officer just to ask questions about a minor-league engineer with an unresolved Oedipal Complex.”
He then airs a laundry list of Howard’s perceived offenses over the years, including: damaging plastic retention hub #3 of Sheldon’s Blu-ray “Lord of the Rings” box set; hacking Sheldon’s “World of Warcraft” account and changing his character name from ‘Sheldor’ to ‘Smeldor’; refusing to pay overdue fines for books Sheldon lends him; recommending the third “Matrix” movie.
His disclosure that Howard crashed the Mars rover while attempting to impress a woman, however, clinches the deal, dooming Howard’s security clearance (Raj vomiting on Agent Page’s shoes didn’t help and neither did Leonard’s treating the interview like an encounter at a singles’ bar).
Sheldon immediately realizes his terrible mistake and is racked with guilt. He suffers listless sleep with dreams that are haunted by obscure “Star Trek” characters. He offers Howard an apology but that proves “insufficient” and so, with guilt eating away, he gives Howard his most treasured possession: his spot on the couch. It’s a profound gesture, making it impossible for Howard not to forgive him. In practice, though, Howard holds Sheldon’s venerated spot for only 94 seconds before Sheldon demands it back.
Although “Apology” is season 4’s least funny episode to date (a distinction I previously awarded to week 5’s The Desperation Emanation), “Bang” remains one of TV’s best-written, superbly performed sitcoms. Episodes like this can obscure that fact, but even so, the comedic timing and performances here were as sharp as ever and the writing still nuanced, intricate and smart. The difference between this and most other “Bang” episodes, however, is that the jokes—mostly—just didn’t work.
Cuoco’s return offered a few humorous moments—Cuoco and Parsons are always entertaining together—but was otherwise aggravatingly brief (understandable considering that her leg remains in a cast, but nonetheless disappointing). Since the actress is still recuperating, the show’s writers gave Penny a career change; she now works as a bartender instead of as a server at The Cheesecake Factory, a fact which probably wasn’t well received by The Cheesecake Factory, but which allowed Cuoco to remain stationary, with her cast concealed.
Interestingly, in his weekly vanity card (#309), series producer Chuck Lorre addresses Cuoco’s injury. If the card’s to be believed, the producer has “instituted new rules governing acceptable leisure activities for the cast.” Not surprising—or unreasonable—considering the sizable investment CBS recently made in the series and its stars by giving Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco a huge raise at the beginning of season 4. It makes me wonder, too, how Mr. Lorre views the past few episodes without Cuoco and if I’m not alone in thinking the show’s chemistry simply isn’t as strong without her.
Next week, Wil Wheaton returns as Sheldon’s nemesis in “The 21-Second Excitation.”