The Big Bang Theory Recap: S:9, E: 17: The Celebration Experiment

Happy Birthday to Sheldon. Happy Birthday to Sheldon. he looks like a physicist and probably smells like one too!

For the 200th episode of The Big Bang Theory, the writers have decided to celebrate Sheldon’s birthday. Although Penny referred to Sheldon as a Taurus in the first season (episode 16 “The Peanut Reaction”), last year (episode 16 “The Intimacy Acceleration”) she learned when Sheldon’s birthday was. That episode aired on February 26, so this episode airing on February 25 places Sheldon’s birthday in the right time frame. While Leonard was never allowed to celebrate his birthday, Sheldon simply prefers not to acknowledge his birthday.

Amy broaches the idea of throwing Sheldon a party as they walk down the stairs with Penny and Leonard. Sheldon agrees to discuss the possibility and promptly runs back upstairs as the rest continue downstairs with Amy talking about plans. Once they realize he’s gone, Penny points out that mentioning his birthday causes him to vanish and the ever-increasingly snarky Leonard wonders why they never knew that before.

Returning to the apartment, they look for Sheldon, who leaps out from behind the couch and shouts surprise in an attempt to demonstrate how horrible birthdays can be. They try to figure out why Sheldon doesn’t like birthdays since it is the one day a year that is all about him, although, as Sheldon points out, growing up his birthday wasn’t all about him since he had to share it with his twin sister, Missy. At those parties, nobody Sheldon invited ever came and Missy’s friends would torture him. He relates that when he was six Missy’s friends told him that Batman would come to his party. Batman, of course, didn’t show up, but he did get to watch a robin fly into a window. Eventually, Sheldon is convinced to let them throw him a party, but in return, they owe him something.

At the comic book store, Raj, Howard, and Leonard discuss what they are going to get Sheldon for his birthday. Raj suggests a dinosaur fossil, but Leonard mentions the story about Batman. Rather than just hiring a guy in a lame Batman suit, Leonard remembers that Stuart had contact information for Adam West (Batman 1966-1968). Stuart does warn them that West is a diva who expects to be paid, not have to pack his own lunch, and won’t let you sleep on his couch.

At the apartment, Amy, Penny, and Bernadette are quizzing Sheldon on what is allowed. When they ask about balloons, Sheldon approves Mylar ones but not latex. Given the impending helium shortage and the need to use helium in scientific and industrial endeavors, it is surprising that Sheldon would say yes to any helium filled balloons. For music, he approves marching bands and Tibetan throat singing (this latter appears to be a mistake by the screenwriters. In season 3, episode 15, Sheldon demonstrates his skill as a Tuvan throat singer, which is from Mongolia. Tibetan throat singing does not appear to actually exist). Penny takes his answer to indicate that there won’t be music. On the subject of cake, he specifies type, layers, frosting, and font.

Driving to pick up Adam West, Raj reveals that Adam West is his favorite Batman, after Keaton, Bale, and the Lego Movie Batman, which still puts him ahead of Kilmer, Clooney, Lowery, and Wilson (the last two from the 1940s serials and not, in fact, mentioned in the episode). Howard suggests that when they meet West, Raj not mention the other Batmans (Batmen?)

Stuart did manage to get an invitation to the party, where he has been set to frost the cake. Barry Kripke also makes an appearance and asks how Bernadette is handling her pregnancy, which is the first Stuart, who already wonders about his role in the group, hears about the pregnancy.

In the car, West is explaining that Christian Bale is an overrated Batman and not up to Keaton’s standards. Raj comments that Keaton brought a sense of humor to the role, leading West to point out that if humor is taken into account, he should be at the top of the list: West, Keaton, Kilmer, Lego Batman, Bale, and then Clooney. When Howard asks how West can be better than Bale, and does an impression of Bale saying “I’m Batman,” West cogently responds that he never had to say, “I’m Batman,” people just knew who he was. He also didn’t have the muscles built into his costume. When Howard mentioned that they were all worried about Affleck, West looks lost and asks, “What’s an Affleck?”

Amy is helping Sheldon get into a suit in Penny’s apartment and hints that later they can have sex, a hint that Sheldon completely missed.

In Sheldon & Leonard’s apartment, Leonard expresses surprise that his mother would come out for Sheldon’s birthday, since she never celebrated his birthday. She pointed out that Sheldon came out for her sixtieth birthday party, which surprised Leonard who knew about neither the trip nor the party, which was only a few close friends, Sheldon, and Leonard’s siblings.

Amy brings Sheldon into the apartment where everyone shouts “Happy birthday!” Leonard calls for him to give a speech and Sheldon obliges by thanking everyone for coming, pointing out Beverly, Wil Wheaton, and “Adam West for some reason.” Leonard explains that Batman finally came to his party and Adam West punctuates it by wishing a happy birthday to Sherman. As Sheldon continues to be gracious, he becomes woozy and his heart pounds loudly. Sheldon flees the room ad West asks if he’s still going to get paid.

Following the commercial break, Sheldon is hiding in the bathroom. Amy and Leonard are debating who should go in to talk to him when Penny gets fed up and goes into the bathroom. Sheldon explains that he was just overwhelmed by everyone. Penny offers to bring Wil Wheaton and Adam West into the bathroom to create the weirdest comic con ever. Sheldon expresses gratitude for all the work Penny and the others have done for the party. Penny sits next to him on the bathtub and admits that she hates that Missy and her friends used to torture Sheldon and also realizes that she would have joined with them had she been around. However, she’s become friends with him over the years and he’s one of her favorite people. They are interrupted by Kripke, who wants to check his hair so he can hit on Beverly.

In the family room, Leonard reconnects with Leslie Winkle (last seen in season 3, episode 23 “The Lunar Excitation,” coincidentally Amy Farrah Fowler’s first episode). Leonard tells her that he and Penny got married and Leslie admits to thinking that Leonard would be living with Sheldon forever. Given Leonard and Sheldon’s strange arrangement, that pretty much shut down the conversation. Penny re-enters and explains that an embarrassed Sheldon is about to come back into the room. Sheldon apologizes for his behavior and the party resumes, with Kripke hitting on Beverly. Amy proposes a toast. Following Amy’s toast, Sheldon decides that everyone should say wonderful things about him. The testimonials have the same feel as the previous week’s karaoke, more enjoyable for the cast than for the viewer. As Stuart speaks (prompted by Penny), Amy interrupts with a birthday Skype from Stephen Hawking.

In the kicker, they present the cake and sing happy birthday (with Hawking’s Skyped, electronic voice a beat behind). As they finish, West wonders who will take him home.

The integration of Adam West and the discussion about who was the best Batman was an inspired use of the character, although it felt a little redundant with West portraying himself in a way similar to the way Bob Newhart portrayed Professor Proton. With Sheldon being born in 1980, he is definitely in the post Adam West period, although at the sixth birthday when his sister tortured him the recent Batmen would have been cartoons with voice work by Olan Soule (Super Friends) and Adam West (most recently in The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians), but the first live action Batman he really might have been aware of was Michael Keaton, when he was 9. It feels that the nostalgia around Adam West’s Batman was more a product of the writers and producers, rather than the characters.

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