Most of us look forward to watching The Big Bang Theory for the nerdy conversations, blatant superhero love, science fiction shout-outs, and odd, yet ideal pairing of Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler. Once or twice each season, the writers purposely include a tender storyline that manages to wiggle its way right into the viewers’ hearts. In one moment, I find myself giggling at a perfectly written, and equally executed joke. In the next, I’m surprised by the sudden lump in my throat. This is why The Big Bang Theory has proven to be such a force in ratings. Very few sitcoms have the ability to offer both laughter and tears when teaching the art of letting go.
Sheldon is the first to experience this life lesson when he learns that Amy helped Barry Kripke with an application in string theory. His inability to forgive Amy for fraternizing with his professional rival causes him to take his frustration out on an innocent dryer sheet. Penny defends Amy. All she was doing was helping out another scientist. Sheldon needs to let it go.
Naturally, Sheldon requires help understanding how one would simply let something go. Penny attempts to walk Sheldon through a few visualization exercises, but like the time she tried to teach him improv, Penny ends up irritated by his propensity to take a very simple task and manipulate it into something else. Sheldon decides to turn the tables. He confides that Amy has been giving Penny small puzzles for the last few months, testing her ability to solve them against the chimpanzees in her lab. How would you let that go?
Newsflash—you don’t. Penny fumes when Sheldon offers he was rooting for her to get the banana out of the box the entire time. He was in on it, too! When Penny confronts Amy, Amy suggests she fill out some paperwork to make a little change on the side during her experiments. Ten bucks for every victory! Penny counters with a crude hand gesture. Letting this one go may take a while.
Across town at a deli, Raj and Leonard spot lovable rogue Nathan Fillion eating a salad. Raj and I are giddy to learn that Nathan hates tomatoes, too! I always knew Captain Reynolds and I had a connection. Raj and Leonard approach Nathan, gushing over Firefly and Dr. Horrible. The man who looks exactly like Richard Castle tells the friends that he is not Nathan Fillion.
Raj is unconvinced and continues to press the matter. Nathan finally admits that he is indeed, Nathan Fillion, and offers to take a picture so the two fan boys will let him eat in peace. Suddenly, Raj is suspicious. He demands that the poser before him quote the line in Firefly about his bonnet. (For the record, the answer is, “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.”)
Nathan Fillion delivers the line in perfect “I’ve done this a million times” deadpan. It occurs to Raj that he himself knows the line, so this guy could still be an imposter. When Nathan becomes physically annoyed, Raj decides to let it go. The picture will be good enough for Facebook, even if it isn’t Nathan Fillion.
Later that evening, Howard and Bernadette join the others at the newly opened comic book store. Mrs. Wolowitz asked her son to check on Stuart, and when Howard arrives, he’s distraught to discover his mother’s living room furniture at the store. Stuart reminds Howard that Mrs. Wolowitz willingly gave him the gift, and Howard reminds Stuart that his mother’s money is the reason the store has reopened in the first place. Howard leaves the store to take a phone call, livid that Stuart is still mooching off his family.
When he returns, Leonard can tell something has happened. A stunned Howard announces to the group that his mother has died. She simply never woke up from her nap. Everyone huddles around Howard as the shock begins to settle. Sheldon speaks up, and a nervous hush falls over the group.
Sheldon: “When I lost my own father, I didn’t have any friends to help me through it. You do.”
There’s that darn lump again. I appreciate the fact that the writers took the time to build an episode around Mrs. Wolowitz’s death. On the outside, it may seem like a random story arc, but in this case, fiction mirrored reality. Carol Ann Susi, the woman who voiced Mrs. Wolowitz, died in November 2014. As the friends gathered around the living room to toast the woman who was a loving mother to them all, it was evident that The Big Bang Theory actors were actually paying tribute to one of their own. Even though they had to let her go, her memory will always remain.
Cheers to Mrs. Wolowitz. You will be missed.
“That doesn’t mean that you should be standing on street corners handing out your math to whatever guy comes along.”—Sheldon, jealous of Amy helping Kripke
“I’m mad at Amy.”—Sheldon
“Did she leave pit stains in your favorite crop top, too?”—Penny
“Why don’t you just take the string art clown I made her in third grade and the ribbon I got in swim class for putting my face in the water!”—Howard, confronting Stuart for mooching off of his mother
“I don’t know why he’s so grumpy. I got mistaken for that guy in Life of Pi once, and I’m still floating.”—Raj, irritated at Nathan Fillion