Warning: This recap contains story line and character spoilers for "The Troll Manifestation" episode of The Big Bang Theory.
It's rare that the women of The Big Bang Theory get the chance to outshine the fellas. But it was definitely ladies' night in "The Troll Manifestation." As Leonard and Sheldon team up for a potential scientific breakthrough to impress the ultimate scientist, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette have just as much fun across the hall.
Penny and pals gathered for a movie night in her apartment, and while perusing their options, they found Penny's awful ape movie sequel — Serial Ape-ist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill. Despite Penny's pleas that they skip it, Amy and Bernadette couldn't pass up the chance to watch Penny uttering such dialogue as, "Doctor, please help me. I think I might be turning into a killer gorilla."
But all's fair in love and throwing your friends' embarrassments in their faces, so while Bernie and Amy delighted in Penny's low-budget horror movie stardom, Penny was doing a little investigative work on her iPad, which turned up a video of Bernadette, circa 1999, competing in a beauty pageant. In a fluffy pink gown that made her look like "a talking cupcake," as Penny put it, Bernadette sang her version of the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" as she tried to impress upon the judges of the Miss California Quiznos pageant just how badly she wanted to be the Quiznos queen.
And then it was Amy's turn in the humiliation hot seat, and mad Googler Penny didn't come up empty-handed: Bernie revealed Ms. Fowler's hobbies include writing and posting Little House on the Prairie fan fiction, but instead of Ma and Pa fretting over whether or not they can pay their bill at Oleson's Mercantile, Amy's Prairie life revolves around a budding romance between pioneer Amelia and a time-travelling physicist named Cooper.
"It was just past dawn on the prairie, and like every morning, Amelia prepared to do her chores," Penny read from Amy's Little House story. "Except something about this morning felt different. Maybe it was the first whisper of winter in the air. Or maybe it was the unconscious handsome man with porcelain skin and curious clothing she was about to discover lying in the field, a man who would open her mind to new possibilities, and her body to new feelings…"
Penny and Bernadette became so engrossed in the outcome of the Amelia-Cooper affair that when Leonard burst into the apartment to share some exciting news (see below) with them, they immediately screamed at him to get out.
As for that outcome… Penny read Amy's Little House fan fiction to Leonard as the two were getting ready for bed that night, revealing another Amy fantasy involved Amelia giving her from-the-future physicist a bath, while discussing his undergarments. "They're not undergarments," Cooper corrected her. "They're Underoos. Where I come from, they're known as 'underwear that's fun to wear.'"
And because the bit wouldn't be complete without it: What's the significance of the spiders on Cooper's Underoos?, Amelia wondered. "Oh, that represents Spider-Man," Cooper shared. "He does whatever a spider can."
"There's a lot of rhyming in the future, isn't there?" Amelia asked.
Leonard was as into the fanfic as the women had been earlier, until Penny read on…
"So tell me, Cooper. Are the ways of physical love different in the future?" Amelia asked, as she toweled off Cooper.
Leonard, shutting down the bedtime reading: "Yeah, OK, I'm good."
In the guys' storyline, during dinner, Penny made an effort to engage with Leonard about his work projects, and their discussion about his particle detector sparked an idea for him. He rushed across the hall to his apartment to have Sheldon vet the theory, which got Sheldon's approval (and netted Leonard a sticker, featuring a kitty saying "Me-wow!" on it).
Sheldon saw so much potential in the idea, in fact, that he wrote a paper about it, making it a joint project for the roomies. They uploaded it to the Interwebs for peer review and were happy when it earned comments like "Insightful and innovative" on the "Quantum Diaries" blog. (Yup, it's a thing.)
See how the guys react to their "Quantum Diaries" reviews:
And then the titular troll showed up.
A commenter with the user name General Relativity left comments disparaging Sheldon and Leonard, their work, and even their employer, Caltech. Sheldon fired back online, and their war of words ended with General Relativity trying to video-chat Sheldon, who had told the bully he wanted to meet him.
Later, after bemoaning the habits of Internet bullies and enjoying Raj's commendation for taking a chance and sharing their work, Sheldon and Leonard decide they will confront General Relativity. Call him up, Leonard said. "Let's find out what this loser's ever accomplished."
Sheldon dials for the video chat. The "loser" on the other end: returning Big Bang Theory very special guest star Stephen Hawking.
"Oh, brother, you should see the look on your faces," Hawking said.
The guys were surprised, of course, but also disappointed that their hero didn't like their paper. Or so they thought.
"I like your paper very much," he told them. "The premise is intriguing."
So why had he been goofing on them?
"If you were sitting in a chair for 40 years, you'd get bored, too," he explained, before excusing himself to help a neighbor kid with his math homework.
Big Bang Bits:
* Serial Ape-ist 2, as we learned in one of Chuck Lorre's vanity cards in Season 7, was written by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.
* Serial Ape-ist 2, in which Penny's scientist lover (played by Wil Wheaton) turned her into a gorilla ("Now it's the girl who goes bananas"), also has its own trailer.
* Amy's fan fiction does not mark the first incident of Cooper-Fowler bathing; while taking care of a flu-suffering AFF in Season 6's "The Fish Guts Displacement," Sheldon helped Amy take a bath.
* Sheldon, to Leonard, who finds Sheldon working at his computer in the middle of the night: "For a man whose last observation was, 'Our universe may be the surface of a multidimensional, supercooled liquid,' 'You're still awake?' seems like quite the sophomore slump."
* Sheldon, explaining to Leonard how Leonard's idea turned into a shared idea about which Sheldon wrote a paper: "When I mixed it with Sheldon-y goodness, and cooked it in the Easy-Bake Oven of my mind."
* Sheldon, angrily responding to General Relativity's diss: "When you mess with the bull, you get the horns. And I'm about to show this guy just how horny I can be."
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.