On a weekly basis, Howard Wolowitz allures the least amount of empathy from me. His plight as the sexually repressed deviant stiffens his already disconcerting agenda, and his narcissism can sometimes feel a little infantile. So when The Big Bang Theory takes the time to unmask his delusional self-esteem, by attributing his conceit to the awareness that he truly is just a child, I can gladly commend the show. This is when I feel for Howard, and this is when Howard feels for himself (and not in a sexual way!).

The Hot Troll Deviation alluded to Wolowitz and his ex-girlfriend, Bernadette, after their extended hiatus. Upon initially seeing her at the good old Cheesecake Factory, Wolowitz struggled with what approach to take when seeing her-should he be confident, aloof, or sensitive? Characteristically, he chose to be childlike, and he scurried under the table when she neared him.

As funny as this situation was, it allowed Wolowitz to unearth some deeply harbored truths. When asked by his friends why he and Bernadette split up, Wolowitz cowered in embarrassment. His refusal to let others indulge in his personal life was something different and unexpected. It proved that he had shame.

Cleverly, we received insight into our troubled nerd’s psyche. With guest appearances from George Tekei and Katee Sackhoff, Howard’s mentality was depicted by science fiction love gurus who knew just as much about love as he, himself, did. However, Wolowitz clearly had Bernadette on his mind, and thus, the pursuit for her hand commenced.

After coming to Penny for advice on how to get Bernadette back, Wolowitz finally spat out the reason for his initial demise. He cheated on her…virtually…with a character on World of Warcraft…with someone who ended up not being a woman. Embarrassing? Yes. Expected? Even more so. Yet, the scenario refused to illustrate itself as a gag, and it nicely became something more. Eventually, Wolowitz expressed that he had to resort to antics like this because he had no one in real life for whom he could show affection. His father’s been absent, and his mother’s been an antagonizing force. Being with Bernadette was something new, and he didn’t know how to handle it. He didn’t know how to handle how cool he actually was in her eyes.

Seeing Wolowitz get the win, despite my typical aversion towards him, made me smile. It showed that the writers still have a passion for characters other than Sheldon, and it proved that The Big Bang Theory can still create some nice character moments.

Unfortunately, The Hot Troll Deviation didn’t contain anything to counterbalance Wolowitz’s arc. Again, the series designed Raj and Leonard as recipient pallets, and Sheldon became a bland background. Seeing him lower on the hierarchy of importance was a change of pace, and the episode felt estranged because of that. Fortunately, Howard Wolowitz saved the day.

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