After setting up Howard Wolowitz's journey into space over an entire season of "The Big Bang Theory," "The Re-Entry Minimization" is a fairly anticlimactic ending to the International Space Station story arc. Played just for laughs, this episode does little to address the changing relationships that have dominated Season 6 thus far.
After screaming his way through re-entry, Howard (Simon Helberg) returns to Earth and the arms of wife Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). Though she asks their friends to let them have a night alone, Bernadette's allergies and a heavy dose of Benadryl turn their romantic reunion into a comedy of errors in the bedroom.
Letting Bernadette rest, Howard heads out to reconnect with his family and friends. At his mother's house, the engineer is surprised to find that Mrs. Wolowitz is now sleeping with his dentist, Dr. Schneider (Ken Lerner). The good doctor tries to make a hasty exit out the window, but he runs right into Howard.
A visit to Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) doesn't bring any satisfaction, either. The guys are having a rather competitive couple's game night in the apartment with Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco). Sheldon is at his frustrating best here, drawing highly cryptic Pictionary clues for words like "present" and "polish."
Trying to find solace with Raj (Kunal Nayyar), Howard learns that his best bud has become close friends with Stuart (Kevin Sussman). Raj even reveals that the comic shop owner is now living with him until "he can get back on his feet," but the two men already are starting to act like an old married couple.
A frustrated Howard finally lands at a diner where a waitress recognizes him from television. Giving him a piece of cheesecake on the house, Howard digs into the dessert while singing a sad version of his theme song, "Rocket Man."
"The Re-Entry Minimization" should have been a tour-de-force for Simon Helberg and his Howard Wolowitz character. Helberg, unfortunately, plays straight man to the rest of the cast throughout the entire episode. Even the normal screaming encounters with Howard's mother take a back seat to the fact that she was getting busy while her son was in space.
It was, however, good to see some new dimensions added to the Raj/Stuart relationship. Raj says the comic shop owner is just a good friend and roommate, but he's already giving him gifts and taking him to "Sing-a-Long Sound of Music." This burgeoning relationship is developing nicely and naturally for both characters.
"The Big Bang Theory" has finally returned to Earth, but it's time to get the rest of the characters back on track.