The Big Bang Theory: The Five Labors of Sheldon Cooper

The Big Bang Theory S05E21: “The Hawking Excitation”

Howard Wolowitz has gotten a lot of flack over the years for being the only guy in his group of friends without a PhD to his name, and the worst offender by far has been Sheldon Cooper, ScD.

This week, the joke was on Sheldon when Howard was hired as a tech to work on Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair. Even Penny knows who Stephen Hawking is: “He’s the wheelchair dude who invented time.” The others were excited by the opportunity to meet the theoretical physicist, but none of them were as fanboy-tastic as Sheldon, who penned a paper right up Hawking’s alley. He pleaded with Howard to give Hawking the paper and it looked like Howard would agree...until Sheldon yet again insulted his M. Eng.

Ah, the classic “I have something that you want” trope. It would have been a shame to let that pass and Howard knew it. Thus began the tale of The Five Labors of Sheldon Cooper (loosely adapted from The Twelve Labors of Hercules).

Labor #1: Polish Howard’s Massive Belt Buckle Collection

This wasn’t so bad. Well, it wasn’t so bad until Howard pointed out his habit of standing too close to the urinal, resulting in unfortunate splashback. (Really, dudes? Is this a common problem?) He handed Sheldon a blacklight to check his work and warned him not to shine it around the rest of the room. I couldn’t tell if Howard was being serious, or just trying to traumatize Sheldon a little more. I don’t think it matters.

Sheldon went the extra mile and buffed those bad boys with Turtle Wax. The man at the auto supply store told him it would repel any future splashback droplets. Ew.

Labor #2: Wear the French Maid Costume

Once upon a time, Howard bought a sexy French maid costume for Bernadette to spice things up in bed. She was, of course, not down with the idea and when Howard handed the box over to Sheldon, Sheldon assumed that the next task would be to return the costume to the sexy costume store.

Not quite.

Man, Jim Parsons has some really pale man thighs.

Labor #3: Take Mama Wolowitz Out on the Town

Labor numero tres has the distinction of being my favorite task, as well as the one I found most horrifying, which is saying a lot considering the aforementioned alchemy of turning car wax into pee repellent—though, technically, isn’t car wax already pee repellent? Kinda sorta?

Anyway, Labor #3 is my favorite because Bernadette came up with it and I love when Bernadette goes from sweet and adorable to ruthless and moderately evil in a mere two seconds.

Howard shared his gleeful trail of revenge with Bernadette, who chastised him for torturing his supposed friend until Mrs. Wolowitz hollered up to their room to remind Bernadette about their impending dress shopping adventure scheduled for the next morning.

Bernadette cringed and yelled back down that she was busy, but Sheldon would take her. She was entirely unrepentant and that was just COLD.

The disturbing part was the shopping trip itself. Mama Wolowitz needed help folding herself into the dress she chose. When Sheldon protested, she assured him that it was just like “rolling a sleeping bag.” Oh god.

Labor #4: Do Howard's Laundry

Sheldon washed Howard’s leopard print man panties and all I could think was, “How did Howard EVER get laid?”

Labor #5: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

At the end of it all, Howard admitted that all he really wanted was for Sheldon to give him a compliment. “I want you to tell me that I’m good at what I do.”

It took a great deal of effort, but Sheldon finally managed it, “You’re OBVIOUSLY good at what you do.”

Aww. That was sweet, Sheldon.

Now, if only he had stopped there instead of continuing, “I never said that you’re not good at what you do. It’s just that what you do is not worth doing.”

Leonard pointed out that backhanded compliments are really the only kind that Sheldon is capable of giving, and that his statement to Howard was nicer than most of the “compliments” that Sheldon had given Leonard in the past.

Howard accepted it and admitted that he had given Hawking Sheldon’s paper three days earlier.

So Sheldon got to meet his idol, who complimented him on the paper and then pointed out an arithmetic mistake on page 2 that discredited everything that followed. I loved that when Sheldon fainted out of mortification, Stephen Hawking mocked him: “Great. Another fainter.”

The Stray Observation Addendum and Questionnaire

– I love the action figures in Howard’s room and I’m amused that they’re almost all female heroes. I spotted Jade and Silk Spectre. Who else did you notice?

– I totally understood Sheldon’s Halloween dilemma. He dressed up as Stephen Hawking one year and everyone mistook him for R2D2. When I was 12, I dressed up as Princess Leia and everyone thought I was a nun despite the fact that I was carrying a freaking lightsaber. And yes, I know, there is no Leia lightsaber action in A New Hope. I wanted the lightsaber. I was 12. No judging—Halloween can be a hard time for a nerd. Have you ever experienced similar costume confusion?

– Still no Amy Farrah-Fowler, which was unfortunate. I think she would have been a fun and reluctant sidekick on Sheldon’s labors.

– What did you think of the episode?

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