Thursday’s superb Big Bang Theory outing, The Hawking Excitation, stands out as one of the best this season. I appreciated a wee break from all the group drama to focus on the nerdier aspects of the show and give Sheldon and Howard the chance for some rare one-on-one time. The only plot (no subplot this week) was Hawking-themed all the way: the great man himself was visiting the university to lecture, and had enlisted engineer Howard to maintain his wheelchair equipment while at CalTech. Howard knew Hawking was one of Sheldon’s great heroes, and planned on introducing the two until Sheldon’s typical condescension irritated Howard to the point of rethinking this offer.
Cue Sheldon actually begging, something we never see (Raj laid out the only three times Sheldon ever has begged – not to cancel Firefly, TO cancel Babylon 5, and for his life to end during a bout of food poisoning – all points on which I can agree merit begging). Howard decides to take this rare opportunity to get Sheldon back for all his nasty non-PhD remarks and jabs at Howard’s inferior intelligence. He tells Sheldon he’ll present Sheldon’s most recent findings on the Higgs-Boson particle to Hawking if he first completes a few tasks of Howard’s choosing (saying they will be worse than the twelve labors of Hercules!). Sheldon wants Hawking to read his paper so much that he agrees. Sheldon does like to criticize poor Howard, and if I were him, I probably would make Sheldon do a few things for me too! Although the pee-proofing of the belt buckle was just nasty. I think the free world could have done without that visual.
The next bit of humiliation was making Sheldon appear at work in a French maid’s costume. Now THAT was both hilarious and disturbing! I never need to see that much Sheldon-thigh, and I find Jim Parsons quite adorable. With his clothing ON, clearly. I’m sure the many people at CalTech that Sheldon has insulted over the years got a good chuckle at that. The guys were loving it – all of their putting up with Sheldon’s schedule and demands from everything to restaurants and movie theaters to his germ and other phobias restricting their activities might now be worth it!
We saw Penny for a few minutes in the laundry room, where Sheldon was doing Howard’s laundry. Penny let out a truly violent noise upon discovering that the leopard-print panties she held up were Howard’s. Another visual we could do without! She pointed out that Sheldon gets a twinkle in his eye when he corrects people, and not everyone appreciates it. I liked his response – it’s an involuntary twinkle! These two are so cute together.
One of the best moments of the night came from Bernadette, who scolded Howard for torturing Sheldon. She gave a pretty perfect description of why Sheldon is often mean and condescending – the part of his brain that should know better is being given a wedgie by the rest of his brain! In the middle of this chat, Mrs. Wolowitz interrupted to remind Bernadette that she was taking her dress shopping for the wedding. After a quick minute, Bernadette yelled back that Sheldon was taking her shopping instead – a great bit of understated humor in Melissa Rauch’s delivery and a perfect horrifying task for Sheldon. “And that is the last thing you do to him!” Way to go, Bernadette! This is why we love you.
Sheldon’s last task, after having to stuff Mrs. Wolowitz into a dress, was to give Howard an actual compliment about his job. Here, we got the rare glimpse of regular old Howard, without his often-gross swagger and inappropriate commentary. The Howard who, like everyone else, just wants to be loved and appreciated. Simon Helberg put just the right amount of emotion into it, and Sheldon pointed out that he never said Howard was bad at his job – “of course you are good at your job…it’s just that what you do isn’t worth doing.” A backhanded compliment if ever there was one! Leonard advised Howard to take it, since that is way more than he’s ever gotten from Sheldon. I thought one more comment about how, without engineers, Sheldon’s idol could not get around at all, much less to lecture at CalTech, would have well-placed, but Howard let it go. He then showed that he really is a nice guy by saying he’d already given Sheldon’s paper to Hawking three days ago, and that Hawking wants to meet him. Sheldon flits off to his room and then shrieks for joy. Aww. Way to go, Howard.
The final scene finds a nervous Sheldon standing in front of Stephen Hawking, clutching his paper. Hawking throws a little fellow-genius-hubris back at Sheldon (“It’s an honor to meet you, Professor Hawking.” “I know.” Hahaha) and then says his paper is well done and that Sheldon is obviously brilliant (“I know.”), but too bad his theory is wrong – Sheldon (the great Sheldon Cooper!) made an arithmetic error. Sheldon is at first indignant and then checks his math. He is indeed wrong, and he gave an incorrect paper to Stephen Hawking! Sheldon promptly faints. Hawking gets the last line of the evening – “Oh great, another fainter.” before the screen cuts to black. Poor Sheldon! I’m sure he’s going to be beating himself up (and the guys are going to be teasing him) about this for a good long while. Ah, the pride before the fall! It’s nice for Sheldon to be reminded that he’s only human, after all.
My thoughts: no complaints from this geek girl! A great episode that surpassed the hype and then some. I loved that we went back to Core Four (good name for it? Still debating) for an episode, with their ladies just popping in to be hilarious and add a bit of flair. I guess Raj’s scene a few weeks ago did have merit – I also missed seeing the guys’ dynamic without relationship drama.
Nerd notes: Sheldon’s pretty prominent in his field, no? I’d think he’d have more chances to meet Hawking while he’s a guest at CalTech than just through Howard’s wheelchair maintenance. But let’s not invalidate the plot, when it was so fantastic.
Episode rating: 10 out of 10 soft kitties! Tied with the Halloween episode for best of the season.
No new episodes of the Big Bang for at least two weeks, kids. I’m pretty sad about it, but I’ll be bringing you a few BBT features to tide us all over. The last few episodes of the season will be upon us soon – wedding-themed finale? Howard blasting off into space? Any new developments for Leonard and Penny? Can’t wait to see what’s next!