Richard Cartwright/CBS
Adam B. Vary
October 08, 2010 AT 04:21 AM EDT

Amy Farrah Fowler may have been called Sheldon’s Yoko on tonight’s episode of The Big Bang Theory, but I’d say she comes closer to being The Big Bang Theory‘s Heather Locklear — i.e. the hard-charging, take-no-prisoners new woman on the block who snaps the show into tip-top shape. There were so many quotable moments, so many laugh-out-loud exchanges, that if it wasn’t completely ridiculous to do so on this early October date, I’d be severely tempted to declare “The Zazzy Substitution” the best Big Bang episode of season 4. At the very least, it’s the best this season so far by a good parsec or two.

The evening started off with Amy and Sheldon playing a game they concocted called Counterfactuals, one of those great Big Bang geeky inventions that is sure to spawn a series of hipster t-shirts. (The front, a shot of a rhinoceros on a leash; the back, a map of Uganda.) If anyone doubts that Jim Parsons deserved his Emmy, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Sheldon so subtly at ease and content than he was playing that game with Amy. For one thing, the man is clearly relieved to have found someone who understands just how ridiculous Leonard and the rest of his Rebel Alliance* actually are. To suggest that Sheldon bumped the table playing Jenga — how absurd! (*Internet, I am very disappointed that Googling “Big Bang Theory Star Wars t-shirt” did not net any actual Big Bang Theory/Star Wars t-shirts. I expect better. Please rectify by next Thursday night.)

Yet as much pleasure as Amy’s presence was bringing Sheldon, she brought an equal measure of misery to Penny, Leonard, Howard, and Raj. So much so that Leonard actually broached the topic to Sheldon: “Amy is judgmental, sanctimonious, and frankly just obnoxious.…We already have you for all that.” (I especially enjoyed Leonard’s perfectly pitched pique after Sheldon argued that he “suffered in silence” for eight months while Leonard was dating Penny and forcing him to watch “night after night of uninformative TV documentaries about the Jersey shore.”)

But it was Amy herself who made the best case for why she’s not the easiest person to be around when she said to Sheldon, with not a small helping of withering relish, “Compared to the real-world application of neuro-biology, theoretical physics is — what’s the word I’m looking for here, hmm — cute.” After a quick back-and-forth employing more Latin than has been spoken on network television since the season 2 finale of The West Wing, Shamy was suddenly no more.

To cope with an emotional loss he never actually came close to acknowledging, Sheldon purchased a cat he named Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and took with him wherever he went. This was cute, and funny, and provoked genuine feelings of concern not just from Leonard, but from Howard as well. But then the episode took a turn into what I do feel completely safe in saying is one of my favorite Big Bang plot developments ever: Leonard came home to find Sheldon surrounded by five more cats, all named after famous physicists, save one he christened Zazzles: “I was going to name him Hermann von Helmholtz, but he’s so zazzy.” We’ve never seen Sheldon quite this cluelessly bumfuzzled, and it was truly priceless to behold.

NEXT: A little quibble about Raj’s out-of-character behavior.

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