The Big Bang Theory is one of the highest quality sitcoms I have ever seen due to its superb acting, screenwriting, filming, editing etc. I also like the fact that the show features a lot of science and technology, but I treasure it mostly because it is a show about nerds, their quirks, and their struggle to deal with the social minefield of modern society. Being a nerd myself, I can relate to the characters in the show. I knew people like Sheldon Cooper, Amy Farrah Fowler, Leonard Hofstader, Howard Wolowitz, Bernadette Rostenkowski, and Raj Koothrappali, as well as people who were perplexed when interacting with them, like Penny.
Since the Big Bang Theory has ended, I thought I would write a blog post with my list of the best episodes, but the problem is that everyone and his dog is doing that. So, instead I present to you here the 5 best Big Bang Theory Nerd themes and the episodes that best exemplify them. Note that because these are themes and each episode features more than one storyline, some episodes are included in more than one theme. In each entry “S” refers to the season, and “E” refers to the episode.
Spoiler Alert! Before you keep reading please note that I need to reveal some aspects of the episodes to properly present the themes.
The Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Comic Book, Gaming, and Movie Lore Theme
Like any good show about nerds, the Big Bang Theory features cultural items related to fiction, science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and gaming. Some of the top episodes representing this theme are:
The Bakersfield Expedition (S6, E13): The guys head to a comic book convention dressed as Star Trek Next Generation characters, but it turns into a fiasco. The ladies, on the other hand, stay home pondering about the seemingly stupid things that the men in their lives like.
The Love Spell Potential (S6, E23): After a failed attempt to get to Las Vegas, the ladies join the guys to play a raucous game of Dungeons and Dragons that is a must see!
The Barbarian Sublimation (S2, E3): Penny’s apparent failure in life leads her to become addicted to a role playing game, which is something that many gamers can relate to.
The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary (S3, E5): Sheldon participates in a Mystic Warriors of Kaa card tournament so he can get revenge at being let down by former idol Will Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), but needless to say things don’t go as planned.
The Precious Fragmentation (S3, E17): A ring from the Lord of the Rings movie exerts a dark influence upon our heroes. Indeed, one ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
The Socially Awkward and Incompetent for Anything but Science Nerd Theme
The trope of the socially awkward nerd has been the butt of many jokes, but in the show Sheldon takes this concept to new heights.
The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis (S2, E11): Sheldon is forced to deal with the seemingly hopeless complexity involved in reciprocating Penny for a gift she has obtained for him. The final scene of the episode is one of the most loved moments in the Big Bang Theory.
The Euclid Alternative (S2, E5): This episode documents Sheldon’s unwillingness and inability to learn to drive. In the end he doesn’t give up, but merely “transcends” the situation.
The Egg Salad Equivalency (S6, E12): Sheldon gives his female assistant Alex some advice on how to handle what he perceives as her “urges”. He naturally ends up reported for inappropriate behavior to human resources, but that’s only the beginning of the debacle.
The Adhesive Duck Deficiency (S3, E8): Sheldon clumsily comes to Penny’s rescue after she falls in the shower hurting her shoulder. The relevant quote from the episode is: “The hero always peeks.”
The Friendship Algorithm (S2, E13): Sheldon tries to come up with an algorithm for making friends. Leonard states that there is no such thing, but Howard says, “Hear him out. If he is really on to something, we can open a booth at Comic-Con and make a fortune!”
The Creepy, Sex-Starved, Pathetic Nerd Theme
What is a nerd to do when his mating calls go unanswered? Howard is involved in the best episodes exemplifying this theme. The things he does range from the merely pathetic and ridiculous, to the truly objectionable. The best episodes are:
The Killer Robot Instability (S2, E12): The guys build a robot to participate in a robot jousting tournament, but Howard crosses the line with Penny, and she rightfully puts him in his place. Howard retires to his room to cry, and the guys are left without their engineer to face a robot duel challenge from coworker Barry Kripke. In this episode Kripke delivers the most memorable line in all of Nerdom regarding the unsuccessful travails of the Nerd in his quest for affection.
The Panty Piñata Polarization (S2, E7): Using a military spy drone that he diverted from its mission, Howard tracks the house of the babes participating in the show America’s Next Top Model. Does the end justify the means? Yes, he IS creepy.
The Hot Troll Deviation (S4, E4): Bernadette learns that Howard’s character in the role playing game World of Warcraft was having sex with a Troll, and breaks up with Howard. To add insult to injury, Howard’s solitary bedroom fantasy with Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) is interrupted by an unlikely character.
The Robotic Manipulation (S4, E1): Howard uses a robot hand to, uhm…”address his love blues”, but a glitch in the technology leads to some unforeseen consequences.
The Hofstadter Isotope (S2, E20): After seeing Penny leave on a date with Stuart, Leonard asks Howard to take him to a bar with women. Howard tries to teach Leonard the basics of his method. It involves letting the lawyers and jocks thin the herd and then going after the weak, the old, and the lame.
The Juvenile Nerd Theme
Nerds and scientists in general are often perceived to age more slowly than the general population displaying juvenile behavior well into adulthood, and often suffering the consequences of not knowing their limits. This is nicely addressed in several episodes in the show.
The Nerdvana Annihilation (S1, E14): The guys unknowingly purchase a real size time machine prop from a 1960s movie that messes up Penny’s day. So she lets them have it: “My God, you are grown men! How can you waste your life with these stupid toys, and costumes, and comic books...pathetic, all of you, completely pathetic!” (Ouch).
The Hot Troll Deviation (S4, E4): Raj installs a “brobdingnagian monstrosity of a desk” in the office he shares with Sheldon, and this escalates into a full-fledged conflict.
The Transporter Malfunction (S5, E20): It’s a collector’s item. Opening it would destroy its value, but what is the purpose of a toy? To be played with. It’s only logical. You tell him Spock!
The Einstein Approximation (S3, E14): Sheldon’s lack of sleep leads to one of the most memorable gags in the series showcasing his trademark expression: “bazinga”!
The Pants Alternative (S3, E18): Sheldon has to give a presentation in front of too many people, so he drinks to develop some courage: very big mistake!
The Nerd Redemption Theme
In the end, however, things do work out for most nerds. Not only do they find their soulmates, have a relationship, and settle into adult lives, but they also end up being better persons.
Howard and Bernadette
Howard goes through a few ups and down with Bernadette, but finally she agrees to marry him. However, during the bachelor party (The Stag Convergence: S5, E22) a drunken Raj reveals details of Howard’s seedy past that make Bernadette reconsider. Nevertheless, at the end of the episode, in one of the most beautiful scenes of the show, Howard reveals that he has abandoned his questionable ways for good because of her.
Sheldon and Amy (Shamy)
The antics of Amy trying to make Sheldon more “human” and get him to show affection for her are one of the great sources of humor in the show. This effort goes at a snail’s pace from spanking (The Fish Guts Displacement: S6, E10), to kissing (The Locomotive Manipulation, S7, E15), coitus (The Opening Night Excitation: S9, E11), and marriage (The Bow Tie Asymmetry: S11, E24). But the true culmination of Sheldon’s transformation occurs in the very last episode while Amy and he are receiving the Nobel Prize. It’s there he realizes that those who love him have played a crucial role in his life (The Stockholm Syndrome: S12, E24).
Leonard and Penny
Whereas in the relationships I mentioned above it is mostly the guys who are improved, Leonard and Penny seem to elevate each other equally. Penny, who before meeting Leonard had had a string of dumb boyfriends, in one episode complains to Leonard that because of him she has lost her ability to tolerate idiots (The Lunar Excitation: S3,E23). However, Penny apparently has a hard time dealing with the notion that she is dating someone who is smart and cares about her, and she freaks out when Leonard tells her he loves her (The Wheaton Recurrence: S3, E19) or asks her to marry him (The Launch Acceleration: S5, E23). Leonard on the other hand falls hopelessly in love with her and struggles to deal with her ambivalence as well as her disinterest in the ways of science (The Psychic Vortex: S3, E12). But everything ends well, and they both finally tie the knot in The Matrimonial Momentum (S9, E1).
Amy and Penny
Amy’s friendship with Penny turns Amy from a female version of Sheldon into a more normal human being. Not that Penny sees it that way. She finds Amy’s fascination with her somewhat disturbing. However, in the end she realizes that Amy is indeed her best friend (The Matrimonial Metric: S11, E12).
Raj also experienced a lot of improvement during the show. At the beginning he could not talk to women, but he found he could overcome that by drinking (The Grasshopper Experiment: S1, E8), and then in The Bon Voyage Reaction (S6, E24) he was cured for good. However, the show ends without Raj having found his soulmate (I wrote: “for most nerds”).
So what are your favorite Big Bang Theory episodes or themes? Leave a comment and let me know!
Note: My Blog is not affiliated with CBS, Chuck Lorre Productions or Warner Bros. I do not hold the copyright to material from The Big Bang Theory TV show. This post is intended to celebrate this great sitcom and promote it to people who have not yet seen it. As such, the screenshots employed here as well as quotes from some episodes are used under the legal doctrine of Fair Use. The reader interested in watching the show is encouraged to go to the CBS Big Bang Theory website and subscribe to watch the episodes.