Jim Parsons as Sheldon, Mayim Bialik as Amy.
Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS
Let’s get this out of the way: The Big Bang Theory completes Sheldon and Amy’s reunion with — wait for it — a real big bang. You were probably thinking it, or you saw it in a headline somewhere, so, yes, let’s acknowledge that the show’s title works as a double entendre.
Let’s move on to talk about everything that’s right about “The Opening Night Excitation,” which is the most perfect TBBT episode. The spoiler is right there: Sheldon and Amy, who spent much of their five-year relationship avoiding physical intimacy, celebrated her birthday by losing their virginity to each other. It’s the biggest moment, character-development-wise, in the show’s history: bigger than when Howard and Bernadette got married, bigger than when Howard’s mom died, bigger than Penny and Leonard’s marriage, and bigger than a potential a Shamy marriage. This seemed like it might never occur. Sheldon has, gradually, become ensconced in a relationship with Amy, so a legal coupling — Sheldon does love to make things contractually binding — shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise.
But … sex? This is a character who considered it a major deal to hug Penny when she presented him with a Leonard Nimoy–autographed used napkin. (Which, as he noted, also contained Nimoy’s DNA.) Sheldon is deathly afraid of germs, and hadn’t even kissed Amy until halfway through season seven. The amount of touching necessary for coitus — his preferred word for sex — made it seem less likely than a wedding for Shamy. And yet, when they finally had coitus, it was as sweet, loving, intimate, and funny as any TBBT viewer could hope.
Six reasons why Shamy’s devirginization is a classic episode:
- Sheldon makes a major sacrifice for Amy. Does it take some prodding by his friends and a visit from the ghost of his mentor, Professor Proton? Sure, but Professor Proton is essentially Sheldon’s conscience. He knows the loving and respectful choice is to spend Amy’s birthday with her rather than see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening day. Sheldon and Amy’s breakup in the season-eight finale was caused by the ways he habitually took her for granted, and this decision — the ultimate sacrifice for a Star Wars fan — proves he finally recognizes his needs and wants can’t always come first, and that he’s willing to make Amy a priority.
- Star Wars! There are few bigger events than the Force Awakens premiere outside of the show, and it’s a clever bit of timing to make Shamy’s big night coincide with the premiere. The fact that the writers carried it throughout the episode — from Sheldon’s sacrifice and the Star Wars–esque opening crawl to Professor Proton’s Jedi robes and Wil Wheaton’s ornery pro–Star Trek jabs — is exactly the kind of homage this latest big-screen Jedi installment warrants from TBBT fanboys.
- The return of Emmy winner Bob Newhart. His Arthur Jeffries, a.k.a. Professor Proton, is the perfect voice of reason to reaffirm to Sheldon what he already knew: He should be celebrating Amy’s birthday with her. Arthur shows up in Sheldon’s room in the aforementioned Jedi robes, complaining about the uniform’s lack of underwear, and later expresses disbelief that young people now refer to their genitals as “junk,” adding some uniquely Newhart-ian humor and heart to the proceedings by telling Sheldon he could see the movie anytime, but he only has a limited number of days to spend with Amy.
- Wil Wheaton was at his cheeky best. The Star Trek: The Next Generation alum is always a delight when he plays this pot-stirring version of himself, but it’s one thing for him to ruffle Sheldon’s excitable feathers with a fake-out story about his dead grandmother or by using his celebrity status to cut in line at a movie theater. Here, Wheaton, the recipient of Sheldon’s presale ticket after Sheldon opts to spend the night with Amy, turns his fictional douchebaggery on a theater full of Star Wars fans, arriving in a Star Trek costume and telling the booing crowd to “Live long and suck it.”
- The theater audience’s hatred of Trek-touting Wheaton (and Leonard, Howard, and Raj’s giddiness about the premiere) makes for an over-the-top and very funny scene. It also provides a tone-balancing juxtaposition for the more nervous scene at Amy’s apartment, where she and Sheldon got into bed together for the first time. The details were perfect: Earlier in the episode, Amy was wearing what can only be described as nightwear reminiscent of Laura and Mary Ingalls’s sleep outfits on the prairie. For her first night with Sheldon, Amy opts for something modest, but prettier and less enveloping. And though she was the one who’d voiced her desire for sex with Sheldon for years, she was still shy and openly, understandably nervous when the time came. “I don’t know what to expect,” she says. “Neither do I,” Sheldon says. “But we can find out together.” And they kiss. The scene switches immediately to the theater, where Leonard waits for the movie to begin and tells his friends, “I’m really nervous.” Howard: “I know. We’ve been waiting so long for this.”
- Sheldon’s still Sheldon, and Amy’s still Amy. Amy and Sheldon’s first night together honors the show’s characters by showing they’ve evolved, and by doing so without trashing everything the writers built for eight-and-a-half seasons. Sheldon’s decision to have sex with Amy is one he makes intellectually, and then emotionally. It’s a good gift idea, as he hashes out during a discussion with Penny and Bernie, but also an important step forward in his newly rekindled relationship with Amy, as he discusses with Arthur. Amy, who has been the randier half of the couple, is very excited about the gift — but also, as you would expect, nervous about her first time. When the episode returns to the duo in the afterglow of their inaugural intercourse (another term of which I think Sheldon would approve), both express satisfaction with the experience. Sheldon says to a smiling Amy, with her hair all askew, “I look forward to your next birthday, when we do it again.” And the thing is, I think he means it. So, score one for Amy — and for Sheldon. Miss Fowler still has some work cut out for her, though. Sheldon’s still Sheldon.
- More things to love about the episode: the tone, which isn’t coarse, but still manages to sneak in a few naughty lines. Sheldon, telling Penny and Bernie that he’d decided on sex as the best birthday gift for Amy: “Then it’s settled. Amy’s birthday present will be my genitals.”
- And Amy, deciding what her first move should be after Penny and Bernie clued her in on Sheldon’s birthday gift: “Let’s get me waxed!”
- Sheldon’s still Sheldon, Exhibit B: While trying to argue with Penny that seeing Star Wars is as important as spending Amy’s birthday with her, he says, “No one can spoil Amy’s birthday for me. ‘Surprise, she’s even older, who saw that coming?’”
- This episode truly has it all, including a switch-up on Sheldon’s OCD door-knocking habit. He goes across the hall to visit Penny, but is thrown when Bernadette tells him to come in at the end of his “knock, knock, knock, Penny” routine. He shifts to “knock, knock, knock, Bernadette,” which Penny responds to, prompting him to say that if he wanted to watch mean girls, he’d stream Netflix.
- The glowing, Jedi-robed Arthur, upon showing up in Sheldon’s dream for the second time: “Why isn’t it ever Angie Dickinson’s bedroom?”
- Even after Amy makes it clear with a kiss that she is ready to receive her birthday gift, Sheldon insists she give him her verbal consent. For legal reasons.
- The best line of this stellar episode comes from Amy, after Penny and Bernadette tell her what Sheldon plans to give her for her birthday: “You shut your damn mouths!”