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"The Empathy Optimization"/S9E13

Posted on January 15, 2016 at 2:15 AM

By Dhruv Rao

Tradition has it that each new year brings about a new set of resolutions, composed partially of previously unattended resolutions and a few newer ones. The Big Bang Theory also has a very interesting tradition about the first few episodes of any year: Sheldon has to learn a lesson and change for the course of a single episode. Last year, Sheldon employed his relationship with Amy to drive his anxiety levels in order to work more efficiently, and it really felt like a drop of rain in the drought of the show's eighth season. However, this year, Sheldon's transformative half-hour seems to lack in quality in comparison to the enriched and hilarious episodes of the show's ninth season.

That's not to say that The Empathy Optimization is a poor half-hour of television, but when it is placed besides the episodes of this season, it lacks in plot development and comedy. For instance, instead of giving the audience a fresh page to view, the writers opted for a joke that- much like Raj's selective mutism- has lost its charm over the years. Sheldon's boorish behavior in relation to the other characters was usually a central joke in the show's early days; however, as the writers started to metamorphosize Sheldon, they decided to use that angle less frequently as the principle catalyst for a plot. In that respect, tonight's round of Sheldon's apologies, combined with his hostile behavior towards Emily, serves as a reminder that despite the show's decision to have its breakout character evolve, it will always have episodes like this in its wheelhouse, as a tribute to its yesteryears.

The plot tonight was simple: Sheldon had been annoying everyone while he was sick, and in turn everyone decided to take a break from him. The simplicity of the story was reminiscent of previous sitcom hits such as Friends or Everybody Loves Raymond, especially when the comedic timing and the flexibility of the plot to be stretched out are taken into consideration. Not every show could have elongated Sheldon's apologies, his distributing of t-shirts, and his incompetence to Emily, but on The Big Bang Theory, the writers make the story nimble enough to engulf an entire episode.  

Grade: B 

Stray Observations:

- "I hope laughter is the best medicine, because this care package is a joke!"

- "Detroit is beautiful when it's sleeting!"

- They still have the periodic table shower curtain! 


- Scrubs taught me that dermatologists aren't real doctors, especially with Dr. Cox's long rants on the subject.

- "And there's your next t-shirt!"

- "Wait! I'm a pain in the ass too!"

Categories: The Big Bang Theory

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