Last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory saw Sheldon trying to make sense of his breakup with Amy by filtering his feelings through Spock, his pop culture icon. Reason and logic have always ruled Sheldon’s life, so when heartbreak, the least logical of all feelings, came his way, he wasn’t sure what to do with it. Considering that Sheldon is basically incapable of self-analysis for a number of reasons, some of which could come down to brain chemistry, it makes sense that he’d look anywhere else for reasons why his five year relationship didn’t work. Of course, by the end of last week’s episode, Sheldon is no closer to understanding his feelings or coming up with the real reasons why him and Amy didn’t work out.
With the principles of logic not working for Sheldon, he seeks to do the complete opposite in “The Mystery Date Observation” and steamroll through his emotions and just move on. That means he wakes up in the morning chipper and ready to tackle the day. He’s eager to start looking for a new “female companion,” as he puts it, even turning down Leonard’s carb-heavy breakfast of oatmeal and French toast because it’s not a suitable diet for a man on the market. Despite the fact that Sheldon believes he’s changing his ways and just forging ahead like a new man—the old Sheldon wouldn’t be so bold in trying to find a new partner—his plan is flawed from the start because he’s still relying on his old friend logic to guide the way forward.
What’s great about Sheldon’s search for a new woman in his life is that sheds some light on just how entrenched Sheldon’s behavior is. When he comes out of his bedroom in the morning with a renewed sense of purpose, there’s hope that he’s ready to change, ready to fix the mistakes he’s made in the past and move forward. Penny even says as much, basically congratulating him for recognizing that he was too focused on his work while he was with Amy, a factor that contributed to their breakup. But as Sheldon is quick to note, he needs a new partner specifically so he can go back to being focused on his work.
It’s a small but interesting moment that could be read in two ways, both of which I think are valid. On the one hand this is just a joke about Sheldon’s inability to connect emotionally, to remove himself from his work and deal in the messy world of human emotion. On the other hand, it shows that perhaps Sheldon is finally starting to reckon with his coldness. If he needs a partner so that he can re-focus on his work, that means he’s been unable to do so since his separation from Amy. It’s a nice bit of character development, and more proof that their breakup has done wonders to shake up the status quo of the show, now in its ninth season.
In some ways, Amy’s plot this week parallels that of Sheldon’s. When we first check in with her she’s getting ready for another date with her suitor from the previous episode, the one who Sheldon saw kissing her goodnight. She’s in Penny’s bedroom trying on a dress “a little outside her comfort zone,” and when she walks out to the living room, it’s a modest dress that shows off a scandalous bit of calf. “I don’t think any of your comfort zones are showing,” replies Penny. Much like Sheldon’s initial interaction with Penny and Leonard in the morning, Amy’s dialogue here is more than just a punchline. She, like Sheldon, is trying to present a “new” self to the world, attempting to switch things up and try something new in order to attract a new partner. It’s a natural reaction to a breakup. Breakups tend to get us thinking in a negative way. We focus on all the bad things we did and the things we should have changed, from mannerisms to our personality and the way we dress. It’s all part of the process, of coping with loss and trying to make sense of it.
For two socially awkward people like Amy and Sheldon, it makes sense that their way of moving forward and trying to change their ways would involve barely moving away from the people they were while together. They’re creatures of routine and reason, so anything too far removed from their carefully crafted, vulnerability-free personalities would be a risk. What’s intriguing too is the way that their plots play out, essentially leaving them in the same places that they started. Amy’s date doesn’t go so well, her suitor (Stephen Merchant) losing his mind when he finds out that Amy just broke up with Dr. Sheldon Cooper, an idol of his. Then there’s Sheldon, who with the help of Raj and Howard, posts a series of puzzles on Craigslist that, for whoever solves them, will lead to Sheldon’s apartment. A beautiful woman solves them but she shows up after Sheldon’s imposed deadline, so after having a nice chat with her, he shuts the door in her face.
While most of “The Mystery Date Observation” works on a comedic level, it’s the musing on post-relationship behavior that elevates the episode, the two separate endings tying everything up nicely. “The Mystery Date Observation” begins with the premise that Sheldon and Amy are going to move past their breakup and move on as individuals, but as with any breakup, reminders of each other are everywhere. Amy spends her whole date talking about Sheldon, and Sheldon spends his night essentially looking for a replica of Amy. Breakups are a chance to move forward, but Sheldon and Amy, for better and worse, are still stuck in the past.
- Sheldon in response to dating site bots: “No one’s better at pretending to be human than me.”
- Also, according to Sheldon, he has “the soulful eyes of a cow.” Raj agrees.
- I was kind of bummed that that was all we got out of a Stephen Merchant guest appearance.