TV Review: The Big Bang Theory 8×13, “The Anxiety Optimization”

After another short hiatus, The Big Bang is back with a whole lot of theory. A while ago, Sheldon made the big un-Sheldon-like move to switch his field of study. He decided to delve into the area of dark matter instead of continuing his work in string theory. However, for months he’s been struggling to come up with a theory of dark matter that doesn’t make protons decay. Doesn’t make much sense, but all you need to know is that if he finds a breakthrough, it could change our whole understanding of the physical universe. So, there is much that can be attained with a breakthrough, and in this episode, we see the culmination of all that pent up anxiety escalate. Plus, we get a really neat new game that involves Raj and the two most important women in his life: his girlfriend, Emily and his dog, Cinnamon.

We start out at the apartment with Sheldon testing out noise canceling headphones. In order to reach that scientific breakthrough, he needs to optimize his work environment. Tea at the perfect temperature, fleece lined boxers, and Richard Feynman’s head tacked onto an inspirational cat poster are all part of the plan. Noise canceling headphones are also a must if he’s going to be able to get any work done in the apartment. As he tests them out, we learn some interesting things his friends do behind his back. Leonard hasn’t changed the filter in the water pitcher in two years, Bernadette nicknamed him the virgin pina colada, his George Lucas autograph is actually a Leonard autograph, and Penny used his toothbrush one day when she was too lazy to go get hers at her apartment. Also, the most interesting piece of gossip is the one we unfortunately don’t hear. Once, while Sheldon was sleeping, Amy took off her…we’ll never know, but we have a few guesses.

Turns out that none of those ingredients add up to a scientific breakthrough because all night, like a broken robot, Sheldon continuously repeats “Proton decay.” Not exactly the break he was looking for. Therefore, he decides to skip work the next day. He’s sulking in his spot, and so he goes to get some fresh air—in the hallway. He hears Penny grunting across the hall, and being the good friend that he is, checks in on her. He was worried that something terrible was happening to her. Like murder. Or spontaneous coitus with Leonard. Luckily, it was not either or. She was only exercising, and doing a workout that she absolutely hates. Sheldon is baffled by her willingness to exert so much energy into something she dislikes, but her reasoning is that her hatred for the workout actually makes her work that much harder. It is here that Sheldon learns two things: One, Penny is trying much harder than Leonard to stay attractive in the relationship. And two, the reason why he may not be progressing in his research is that he’s created too pleasant of an environment for himself.

Thus, his solution is anxiety. He must create a state of productive anxiety where he might be able to finally produce some useful work and achieve a breakthrough. To help him with his stress levels, he enlists the whole gang to help out. First stop is Amy. In her lab, she has all kinds of equipment, including a funny looking skullcap that can measure anxiety levels. In order to spike the levels, she needs to induce an anxiety-inducing stimulus to see how it affects his problem solving, and ultimately find his optimal anxiety zone. In other words, she needs to irritate him, and the only way she could is by rubbing a balloon near him. She offered tickling, polka music, and even allowing him to watch her eating a banana, but those were all a no go for Sheldon, and so is the balloon, so he pops it. Amy gets upset, they argue because he’s ruining the experiment, but wait. His levels are rising. They’ve found the spot!

For the rest of the episode he then proceeds to take part in anxiety-inducing activities. He tells the guys to disagree with him whenever they can, and they start immediately. He asks the girls if he can partake in their wine night, or as he calls it, a night of “crotch talk.” He also listens to a medley of voices simultaneously, including Darth Vader, the Joker, and Godzilla’s roar. It is all very stressing, and it’s starting to take a toll on him, and more importantly, Amy.  His fixation on trying to achieve a scientific breakthrough is interfering in their relationship. It’s date night, and Sheldon is there, skullcap and all, but not really there, and Amy has had enough, so she kicks him out. He’s sleep deprived, he’s hallucinating, but he miraculously makes it back home. Penny and Leonard try to put him to bed, he fusses for a bit, but then they bring out his kryptonite: Soft Kitty. He doesn’t even make it through the end of the song.

While Sheldon was acting like a mad scientist, the boys spent the whole episode playing a game Howard has invented, “Emily or Cinnamon,” where the objective is to guess whether a phrase Raj used was in reference to his girlfriend or his dog. Let’s play!


Phrase 1: “I want you to know the bed feels so lonely when you’re not in it.”

Phrase 2: “Check it out, I’ve got us matching sweaters!”

Phrase 3: “You’re so lucky you have the shiniest hair.”

Phrase 4: “It’s just so perfect that we’re both Libras.”


Phrase 5: “How can such a little girl eat such a big steak?”

Answers: All for Cinnamon!



Best Bazingas!

“I love him, but if he’s broken, let’s not get a new one.”—Penny


“You sounded in distress. I was worried something unpleasant was happening to you. Like a murder. Or spontaneous coitus with Leonard. —Sheldon


“Boy, I’m not nearly as mysterious as I think I am.”—Sheldon


“Look, I know you don’t like it, but that’s the point of the experiment. I need to irritate you to find your optimal anxiety zone. And you said no to tickling, polka music, or watching me eat a banana.”—Amy

“Who eats them horizontally?!”—Sheldon

“My mother said that’s how good girls do it.”—Amy


“As you may know, I’ve been experimenting with elevated anxiety levels, and I thought, what better way to increase my discomfort than to subject myself to an evening of tasteless uncensored crotch talk?”—Sheldon


“Uh, I need to keep my anxiety at the right level, so I’m using Darth Vader, the Joker, and Godzilla’s roar to keep me in that sweet spot. Uh, I tried including Taylor Swift in the mix, but turns out I love her.”—Sheldon


“Boy! Taylor was right–Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”—Sheldon



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