Eleven seasons in, there’s not much The Big Bang Theory hasn’t explored with its characters, but the subject of Sheldon Cooper’s big brother Georgie is one the writers were wise to save for this date.
It’s one week until Sheldon and Amy’s long-awaited wedding, a day that seemed unlikely to happen even several seasons after Amy Farrah Fowler was introduced in the season-three finale. If not for Amy’s almost endless reserve of patience for Sheldon’s demanding quirks and oftentimes carelessly offensive remarks, he wouldn’t have become the kind of guy who’s caring and sensitive enough to make up with the big brother who tormented him when they were children.
Georgie — George Jr. — has been painted by Sheldon as a bully who sat on his head while he tried to watch Star Trek, and did cruel things like stealing his Halloween costume. He and Sheldon haven’t talked to each other in a decade, as hurt feelings from their childhood linger. But with the Shamy nuptials at hand, Mrs. Cooper demands Sheldon invite his brother to the wedding, or she won’t show up either.
Sheldon tries calling Georgie, but he’s recorded a voicemail greeting that makes it clear Sheldon’s phone calls will not be returned. With a mom boycott of his big day looming, Sheldon drags Leonard along on a flight to Texas, where they’ll extend the wedding invitation in person.
Another Sheldon description of Georgie: He says his brother is a loser who sells tires. But that’s dismissive and snooty Sheldon at his worst. It’s also Sheldon at his most grossly inaccurate. Georgie doesn’t just sell tires – he’s the owner of the Dr. Tire chain of stores, and he sells more than anyone in Texas. A life-size cutout of Georgie inside the branch Sheldon and Leonard visit features Georgie wearing a white lab coat and holding a stethoscope up to a tire.
“What is he even using that stethoscope to listen to?” Sheldon snarks.
“I don’t know … maybe a small leak?” Leonard suggests.
Sheldon has to admit that makes sense, and it will be the first of many things he’s forced to acknowledge about his big brother. Georgie comes out of his office to greet the travelers, and he and Sheldon start bickering right away. Georgie lets Sheldon know he knows their mother’s demand is the only reason he’s going out of his way to get his sibling to the wedding. He tells Sheldon to ask him nicely, and then he’ll attend. Sheldon does; Georgie mocks him. Sheldon flees, but Leonard returns by himself to try to patch up the Cooper brothers’ rift.
It’s a miscommunication issue at its core. Sheldon remembers Georgie as a bully who made his life as a boy genius even more difficult, making him feel afraid in his own home. But when George took that costume away all those years ago, it was because Sheldon was going to dress up like Madam Curie. Georgie tells Leonard he was trying to spare his kid bro from getting a beatdown from the neighborhood kids. Sitting on his head during Star Trek? Yeah, that was just for fun, Georgie confirms, but there were a lot of sacrifices made on Sheldon’s behalf. Most of the family’s resources were used to send Sheldon to college, including studying in Germany. After their father died, Georgie had to become the man of the house, taking care of his grieving mother and teenage sister. Georgie worked hard to earn the cash to start his tire business, while Sheldon was off doing his Sheldon thing, being taken care of by his mom and brother.
That never occurred to Sheldon. He was studying in Germany, and his mother told him she was doing fine after George Sr. died. He took what people told him literally, at face value, and was so self-involved that he wouldn’t have doubted his mother was telling him the truth. It wouldn’t have occurred to him that Georgie was forced to take on an incredible amount of adult responsibility, or that his whole family made him the priority so he could pursue his education, or that — as viewers of Young Sheldon have learned — Georgie and Sheldon’s twin sister Missy spent most of their childhoods thinking they were dumb in comparison to their brother.
Now, the person Sheldon has evolved into across 11 seasons — with a big dose of credit also due to the patient and caring friendships of Penny, Raj, Howard, and especially Leonard — can recognize and appreciate the role Georgie has played in his life and his successes. Sheldon is even in a place where he can say “I’m sorry” for his missteps, and “thank you” to George Jr. It ensures his whole family will be in Pasadena to witness his wedding to Amy.
Sheldon’s trip to Texas also ensures there will actually be a wedding for Georgie, Missy, and Mrs. Cooper to attend. Back home, the Wolowitz children have pink eye, which Amy, Howard, Raj, and Bernadette also catch. (Penny, much to her amusement and her friends’ annoyances, remains clear-eyed.) It turns out to be the bacterial kind, which means it will heal before Amy’s wedding date, but as she points out, she’s got a germophobic fiancé who would probably cancel the whole shindig if he knew.
The goopy eyes do put a damper on Raj’s romance efforts, temporarily, as he drips into his date’s dinner, the very date he planned to take to the Shamy wedding. Luckily, he meets a new wedding companion whom there’s little fear of alienating … because she’s in line ahead of him at the pharmacy, picking up her own prescription for pink-eye medication.
• Just one quibble about the perfectly cast Jerry O’Connell as Georgie: What is up with that awful wig? It’s sort of mullet-y, but even by fake-mullet standards, it’s bad.
• Amy asks Bernie and Penny to help fill welcome bags for her out-of-town wedding guests. The contents from Amy: a schedule of events, a local map, and chocolate. From Sheldon: a mini bottle of Purell, the phone number of poison control (in case someone accidentally drinks the Purell), and a laminated table of elements “because the American school system is a failure.”
• Bernadette has a helpful suggestion in case Sheldon does find out about the pink-eye outbreak: “What if we tell him the theme of the wedding is Walking Dead, and this is our zombie makeup?” Amy: “That’ll probably work. We’ll call that plan B.”