Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


'The Big Bang Theory' recap: 'The Empathy Optimization'

Posted on

Michael Yarish/CBS

The Big Bang Theory

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Scott Halberstadt, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Frank Pacheco
Chuck Lorre

Way back in season 1 of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon proved he was twice as obnoxious when suffering from any kind of illness. His friends would sneak off to watch Planet of the Apes marathons within minutes of the first suspicious sniffle. But that’s no longer the case. Our favorite geeks have matured. Howard and Leonard are married. Penny and Bernadette are trusted cogs in the Sheldon Cooper wheel. And Raj is dating a doctor. No one ditches the group. They are all in this together. Although Sheldon still demands steaming bowls of hot chicken noodle soup and a generous slathering of vapor rub, the entire gang rallies, knowing they could easily be one “Soft Kitty” away from clear mucus. 

Once Sheldon officially announces that he’s finally healthy and ready to return to work, his friends give him the cold shoulder. He’s confused why his escape from death doesn’t result in victorious applause. Everyone is quick to remind him of his rude behavior. Penny cooked and cleaned, Bernadette provided free drugs from work, and Emily offered to examine him. Not once did he thank anyone for bending over backwards to help him get better.

You may be wondering why Amy wasn’t waiting on Sheldon during his bout with the flu. She’s still at the neurobiology conference. I’ll give you three guesses why she didn’t come home. Who wouldn’t want to stay a few extra days to explore the sleeting streets of Detroit in the middle of January?

Leonard thinks that they all deserve a vacation after waiting on Sheldon hand and foot. He suggests a party bus to Vegas. A bus with booze and music instead of juice boxes and video games like the one from Howard’s birthday party. Sheldon overhears Leonard planning but opts out when he learns the final destination is “America’s urinal cake.” Leonard is quick to inform his roommate that he wasn’t invited in the first place. 

WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.

Sheldon video chats with Amy and is thoroughly upset that he has been shunned from participating in the super fun party bus trip. Amy takes great care in explaining how empathy works and suggests he apologize to everyone and maybe actually mean it for once.

He starts with Leonard and recites a genuine apology. Leonard senses Sheldon’s sincerity, thanks him for the apology, and breaks the news that he’s still not going on the trip. He must apologize to everyone. Challenge accepted! All aboard the apology train!

NEXT: At least Emily 


Bernadette and Howard pass on Sheldon playing Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” on the pan flute (why would they do that?) and are disillusioned when Sheldon memorializes the moment with commemorative T-shirts. Penny accepts Sheldon’s apology just to get him out of the bathroom where she’s taking a shower. Sheldon visits Stuart and thanks him for the comic books he dropped by, promising that he’s not apologizing just to go on the trip to Vegas. Poor Stuart has no idea there was a trip to Vegas. Bless his heart. 

On the last stop, Raj is quick to forgive Sheldon for his quirky behavior, but it’s Emily who puts her foot down because Sheldon constantly reminds her that dermatologists aren’t real doctors. Sheldon continues to dig himself into a hole by prattling on about zit-popping prepubescent teens and Botox-injecting old lady faces. Emily wonders why Raj is defending his offensive friend. Raj tells her that he is uncomfortable, and Emily leaves. Sheldon catches up with her with an additional apology which just makes matters even worse.

Raj reports that Emily will not go to Vegas if Sheldon goes. Sheldon falls on his sword by deciding that the true way to demonstrate his remorse is by not going on the trip. No one jumped up and down with glee, but their eyes said, “YES!”

That weekend, everyone hops on the party bus. Penny passes out champagne, Raj sizes up the stripper pole, and Sheldon pops out of the bathroom in the back. With Stuart. Oh happy day. He demands one more chance to apologize to Emily. He admits that he’s odd and promises that he will more than likely offend her again in the future without meaning to do so. But he says he’s sorry for them all. And she forgives him. 

Sheldon is experiencing a lot of growth this season. The writers seem to be hell-bent on having him adapt to different environments this season, but I hope they keep him socially awkward for the most part. And can we get Amy back please? 

Theoretical Laughter:

Sheldon: I had a 101 fever. If that’s not a time to verbally abuse my loved ones, when is?

Leonard: Come on, you pain in the ass!

Sheldon: That’s me. Bye, Stuart.

Stuart: Wait! I’m a pain in the ass, too…