Monday, October 11, 2010

The Big Bang Theory 4.03: "The Zazzy Substitution"

“Women, huh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t successfully refute their hypotheses.”

“The Zazzy Substitution” was a comedic yet interesting exploration of how much Sheldon actually cares about Amy. It’s an interesting contrast to “How I Met Your Mother” airing an episode about Robin getting over Don in the same week. I was able to empathize with Sheldon much more than I was ever able to empathize with Robin throughout her Don drama. Even though Chuck Lorre shows aren’t exactly known for their depth, I think the “Big Bang Theory” writers did a better job at showing us just why Sheldon and Amy were well suited to each other. Since they built that foundation, I could feel something watching Sheldon fall apart after their “break up.” Sheldon’s break down seemed fairly true to character as well, in that it was over-the-top and neurotic, although there were a few little details that didn’t seem quite right. But I’ll get to that later.

The episode opens with “Shamy” at their most pretentious. They’re hanging around the apartment, playing a game called “Counterfactuals.” One person will propose a scenario that’s different from the world we actually live in, and the other has to name a consequence of that change. Leonard tries to join in, but because he’s not on the same strange wavelength and Sheldon and Amy, he just gets insulted for his trouble. Then Sheldon brings Amy for dinner with the group at the Cheesecake Factory. Amy brings the awkwardness by talking about her purchase of feminine hygiene products and getting really upset at Penny using the word “Shamy.” She pretty much ruins dinner for the guys, although Sheldon is completely oblivious, of course. After dinner, Leonard tells Sheldon that he doesn’t like Amy. She has two much of Sheldon’s personality, and two Sheldons is too much. Sheldon has a bit of a smack-down for Leonard in response. He brings up how he had to put up with some of Penny’s less hygienic qualities for the eight months she and Leonard were together.

Fed up with Amy, the gang, minus Sheldon, decides to try hanging out at Penny’s apartment instead of Leonard and Sheldon’s. It’s kind of a mess. Raj drinks all of Penny’s beer, and we know how he can become more than a bit of a jerk when drunk. Penny finds out about what Sheldon said about putting up with her, and she’s a little peeved Leonard didn’t do more to defend her. Penny then proceeds to start using a pumice stone on the calluses on her feet, something Sheldon earlier complained about her doing. Amusingly, and kind of creepily (it is Howard, after all), Howard offers to help her. He has experience helping his mother with her feet, apparently. The reason it’s funny is because Penny is astonished that Howard’s method does actually work better.

The next day, Sheldon brings Amy to lunch at the university (where Raj is very hung over, by the way). He wants to show Amy what he has been working on. She says that it sounds interesting “for theoretical work.” She and Sheldon then get into an argument about which field is superior, theoretical physics or neurobiology. Inevitably, the argument ends in the pair deciding to “terminate” their relationship, whatever their relationship is. After Penny hears the news, she sees Sheldon in the laundry room and tries to find out how he’s doing. Sheldon says he’s just fine, but then he mumbles something about wanting to buy a cat. Given Sheldon’s feelings about cats in past episodes, this obviously means that everything is not at all fine. I found this to be a pretty fascinating character study of Sheldon, especially when the situation escalates, as you’ll soon see. Sheldon really does care about people, he just has a whole lot of trouble processing that and expressing it.

Sheldon does indeed get a cat. A black and white one named “Oppenheimer”, to be exact. Oppenheimer is the father of the atomic bomb. Sheldon takes the cat everywhere, even to work.
Then Sheldon gets even more cats. He’s got a veritable menagerie. He names all the rest after Manhattan Project scientists except for one he names “Zazzles” because he’s “zazzy.” Leonard’s lost about how to help Sheldon, so he goes to what is always the last resort whenever Sheldon is especially troublesome. He calls Sheldon’s mom in. She’s on the first plane to LA, obviously. Leonard warns her that she’s going to be shocked by what she sees, and she doesn’t believe him until she opens the door to Sheldon’s room, smells the cat urine, and sees Sheldon surrounded by the felines. Here’s one of those instances where I don’t think Sheldon was acting in character. Leonard knocked on the door, and Sheldon said “come in” right away. What happened to “people don’t come in my room.”

It’s painfully obvious that Sheldon is trying to fill the Amy-shaped void in his life with his cats. He remarks that he likes cats because they don’t argue or try to show off their intellectual superiority. Sheldon’s mom, like always, has just the right solution to the problem. She brings Amy over, and she tricks Sheldon into speaking with her by telling him it’s time for dinner. When he walks out into the kitchen area, there’s Amy. Sheldon’s mom has more manipulation planned, too. She says she doesn’t think Sheldon and Amy are suited to each other. Sheldon disagrees, of course, and because he has to do the opposite of everything his mother says, he and Amy get back together. Leonard eventually catches on to what Sheldon’s mom is up to, although he falls victim to it as well and ends up serving Sheldon’s mom dinner.

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