The Big Bang Theory Recap: S9: E13 The Empathy Optimization

There are certain things that never change in sitcoms. One of those things in The Big Bang Theory is Sheldon’s self-centeredness which results in treating those around him, from Leonard to Amy to Howard as minions who are only around to cater to his every whim. On rare occasions, Sheldon realizes this is wrong and acts to rectify the situation although such restitution won’t last beyond the credits of that episode. He has, on occasion, told Leonard how much he appreciates what Leonard does for him, but that doesn’t change his overall condescending attitude towards Leonard.

The episode opens with Penny, Bernadette, and Emily earnestly discussing the trailer Penny saw for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The camera cuts to Leonard, Howard, and Raj watching them, stunned and wondering what sort of alternate world they’ve found themselves in. The spell is broken with Penny mentions that Batman is going to be played by Ben Affleck and the women begin planning a double feature of Affleck’s Shakespeare in Love and Leonardo diCaprio’s Romeo and Juliet. To further destroy the mood, Sheldon enters and announces, in more detail than anyone would really want to hear, that he is no longer sick. His news is met with underwhelming joy from the rest of the cast. While the last time Sheldon was sick, Howard, Leonard, and Raj escaped, leaving Penny to deal with Sheldon alone (in season 1, episode 11 “The Pancake Batter Anomaly”), this time they all seemed to find themselves in close proximity to Sheldon throughout his illness. As in that episode, Sheldon asks Penny to rub Vapor Rub on his chest. His rudeness extended to Bernadette and Howard who brought him drugs from Bernadette’s company, and he insulted Emily, who offered to treat him since she’s “only” a dermatologist.

It also turns out that Amy, still at her neurology conference in Detroit, tries to explain to Sheldon why everyone is angry with him. Apparently, Sheldon has been led to believe that being sick means that you can be as cranky as you want and other people’s feelings don’t matter (which makes one wonder why he thinks their feelings don’t matter when he isn’t sick). She is blunt with Sheldon, explaining that he’s horrible to be around when he’s sick, leading his friends to work late, sneak out to the movies, or stay in Detroit at a neurobiology conference several days after the conference has ended.

At the comic book store, Stuart explains that Sheldon was acting like a jerk to him, too. Insulting Stuart even as he delivered comics to Sheldon. Joking that he couldn’t take Sheldon’s insults personally even if he wanted to since he’s on so many anti-depressants seems to indicate that this episode features pathetic Stuart rather than Creepy Stuart. Howard, Leonard, and Raj are enjoying being away from Sheldon and they decide they should do a weekend in Vegas without Sheldon. Penny loves the idea when Leonard mentions it to hear, but Sheldon overhears and assumes that he’s invited also. Leonard makes it clear that Sheldon isn’t invited. Although Sheldon hates Vegas, he complains about his treatment to Amy, who is still in Detroit. She asks Sheldon if he’s apologized, and he hasn’t, of course. She pressures him to apologize to his friends. Amy suggests that he try to find empathy. Sheldon responds, sarcastically, that Leonard made him soup and was mean to him. Amy has him repeat the statement a couple of times and by the end he begins to understand the concept of empathy a little more. Of course, the last time Howard, Raj, and Leonard went to Vegas, Sheldon chose to remain at home (season 2, episode 21 “The Vegas Renormalization”).

Sheldon begins with Leonard, explaining that in a twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan movie, he’s actually going to mean it. Leonard replies that like every Shyamalan movie, Sheldon has already spoiled the ending. Leonard accepts his apology and Sheldon then explains that he expects to be invited to Vegas. Leonard tells him that Sheldon needs to apologize to everyone and get permission to come on the trip to Vegas. Sheldon announces that he’ll begin his apology tour and Leonard hopes that it will be as much fun as the Sheldon correct spelling errors on local menu tours, which would seem to indicate that they frequent restaurants with menus supplied by Penny’s ex-boyfriend Zack Johnson.

Never one to do things half-way, Sheldon includes T-shirts with his apologies, not that anyone really wants them or would wear them. He also tries to include a rendition of the song “I’m Sorry” on the Pan flute. Bernadette and Howard accepted, as did Penny, although she might have apologized only to get him out of the bathroom while she was showering. Stuart accepts his apology even though Stuart isn’t invited on the trip to Las Vegas either. And while Raj accepts the apology, Emily doesn’t since Sheldon can’t apologize to her without further insulting her profession. Emily’s refusal to accept his apology leads to an argument between her and Raj and also underlines that Sheldon’s friends who are used to him generally have been worn down and take the path of least resistance, which Emily isn’t willing to do. In fact, when Emily points out that Sheldon just insulted her, Raj tries to smooth things over by explaining that Sheldon doesn’t understand that he insulted her. Emily walks out and Raj fails to follow her.

At Sheldon and Leonard’s, Penny asks if the fight was bad and Sheldon explains it was an excellent fight and then tells them that he went to Emily’s apartment to try to smooth things over with her. Raj enters and indicates that Sheldon has made the situation worse and left Emily crying. Raj calmed Emily down, but won’t go to Vegas with Sheldon, who doesn’t want to go anyway.

Everyone gets on the bus, which has a stripper pole, which Raj will be using before they are out of the neighborhood. As Leonard proposes a toast, Sheldon jumps out of the bathroom, followed by Stuart. Sheldon begins, once again, to apologize to Emily, including an insult to Raj. Emily accepts his apology and Sheldon leaves the bus, even though Emily says he can come with. Sheldon leaves the bus, dragging Stuart with him. The bus stops and Leonard leans out to call for Sheldon and Stuart, who take off running to catch up to the bus.

As a shirtless Raj dances on the stripper pole, Sheldon and Emily continue to bond. And Bernadette and Penny tuck bills into Raj’s pants.

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