Big Bang Theory: The Bakersfield Expedition
by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)
We are not idiots or losers. At least that’s my takeaway from the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Bakersfield Expedition.” Well, that, and make sure you remember to put your wallet, keys, and phone in your Star Trek pants. Even an experienced landing party needs to be fully prepared for any possible scenario.
Thus far, Howard, Sheldon, and Leonard have maintained lives, or certain aspects thereof, separate from their significant others. Sadly, Raj is still single so he doesn’t experience this. At any rate, the guys have retained their love of sci-fi, comic books, and comic book conventions. And they aren’t simply fans of these things, they really get into it with costumes and fantastic makeup. As the episode begins, we find Leonard and Sheldon getting ready for the Bakersfield Comic-Con by steaming Star Trek: the Next Generation uniforms and borrowing makeup sponges. At first I was surprised that Sheldon wasn’t going in command red, but I should’ve remembered that, obviously, his first choice of character would be Data.
On their way to Bakersfield, the guys take a detour to Vasquez Rocks, a site made famous (to nerds, of course) in the original Star Trek television series, to put on their costumes and take some pictures. I get it. I would’ve done the same thing. Sheldon, dressed as Commander Data, Leonard as Captain Picard, Raj as Worf (not DS9 Worf, but Next Gen Worf), and Howard as a member of the Borg Collective, put on their uniforms and get so involved in taking various action shots that they neglect to notice that Leonard’s car is being stolen with all of their phones, keys, and wallets. Oh, I can just hear Q’s laughter now. Silly mortals.
Stranded, Sheldon encourages them to treat this as a “real” Star Trek landing party on a hostile planet, and they all seem to get into that idea. That is, of course, until someone drives by and throws a slushy right at Sheldon/Data. It is certainly a funny moment, the guys trudging (Chaucer would be proud) along a desert highway, Sheldon wearing support gold with the remnants of an extra large, red slushy plastered upon his person, Leonard’s bald cap all askew, Raj’s Worfness peeling off, and the sad little Borg bringing up the rear. But there is a part of this that hits us a little deeper.
After the drive-by slusher hits his victim, we hear him shout, “Nerds!” Then, finding their way to a little diner along the open road, and the slack-jawed looks of the patrons, and an embarrassing interview with a member of the local constabulary, the guys are well and truly demoralized. Only Raj wants to continue the journey. Sheldon, is especially disheartened by the turn of events, and even thinks that the people around them who are criticizing them may indeed be correct. This hearkens back to a time before The Nerd Machine, before Chuck, before it was okay and even cool to embrace one’s nerdiness. But all is not lost.
As the guys are having their odyssey as a Star Trek landing party, the girls decide to figure out why the guys love comics so much, and head to Stuart’s comic shop. Now, I’ve been to many a comic shop in my day, even owned one, and three women walking in without their accompanying nerdmates is, even in today’s nerd-enlightened culture, something of an anomaly. It just so happens that these ladies are interested in why the guys spend so much time wrapped up in comics, and would like to read some so they can get a better understanding of why those who love comics are so dedicated to them.
After their first reading of Thor, they just can’t figure it out. It seems stupid, and so they go through it again. Leaving aside the insults to Penny’s intelligence and reading speed, after a couple readings, they begin to argue about who can actually pick up Thor’s hammer. This disagreement is reminiscent of the various arguments the guys have had over the years, and is a wonderful example of comics arguments in general. They go on about the transitive properties of picking things up, who decides who is worthy enough to pick up the hammer, and if the hammer can be lifted in the weightless atmosphere of space (an excellent point by Penny, the slow reader).
As the argument progresses to Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment for more comics research, the guys, dejected from their failed journey, return home and overhear it. Initially disbelieving what’s going on, Sheldon slips back into Star Trek mode and suggests they’ve entered an alternate dimension, and must proceed with caution. They set their phasers to stun and head in. Without even realizing, without trying to do so, the girls have brought Sheldon and the guys back from feeling like idiots and losers. The very fact that their girlfriends/wife cared about them enough to want to know them better, and are now participating more fully in their lives is wonderfully heartwarming.
This may not have been the best laugh-out-loud episode, but it shows us something deep and significant. As smart as we may be, as successful as we may be, many of us are insecure, especially if we’ve been ridiculed for liking what others derisively call “nerdy.” For the guys, finding out that the women in their lives care about them enough to pursue an answer as to why comics are so important to them, brings them back from the precipice of insecurity and despair. If they are loved completely and supported, the opinions of the outside world will matter little. Kudos to The Big Bang Theory cast and crew for a great–albeit less than hilarious–episode.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars