The Big Bang Theory giveth personal growth, and it also taketh away. As of late, Sheldon Cooper has been open to new ideas like cohabitating with Amy Farrah Fowler, entertaining new friends at their temporary apartment, and even potentially putting a Shamy spinoff bun in the oven. Could it be true? Is Dr. Cooper finally growing up?
Not so fast, it seems. Those few steps forward are trumped by a big slide backward in “The Geology Elevation.” Someone who isn’t Sheldon has achieved a major science accolade, and the guy who’s so fond of wearing his Green Lantern T-shirt is bright, blinking, neon-green with envy.
Remember Bert (Brian Posehn), the tall, awkward Caltech geologist with a crush on Amy? Well, he’s no longer longing for her. Bert is the latest winner of a MacArthur genius grant, the prestigious honor awarded by the MacArthur Fellows Program. The recognition, which also comes with a strings-free $625,000 prize, makes Bert suddenly popular among his Caltech co-workers, and has him telling Sheldon he can now do better than Amy.
Although that’s what ultimately leads Sheldon to do a Captain Kirk karate chop on Bert — who probably didn’t even feel it, owing to his hulkiness — it’s far from the whole story. Sheldon’s intense jealousy about Bert’s newfound accomplishment also led him to injure his foot (he tried to symbolically throw away his negative feelings by tossing a rock) and his head (he tried to punch a water fountain, but slipped on and rammed his head into said fountain instead). Let’s focus on the bright side, Sheldon: Bert suggests he might nominate Howard Wolowitz for a MacArthur grant next year!
Yes, jealousy brings out the absolute worst in Dr. Cooper, a regression that finds him scrutinizing Bert’s work and literally sticking out his tongue at any cogent responses. Bert’s success makes Sheldon feel like a failure, plain and simple. Despite encouraging words from Amy and friends, it isn’t until he gets a flattering call from his hero, Dr. Stephen Hawking, that all is right in his egotistical world again. As exhausting as it surely is to be Sheldon Cooper, it is at times just as exhausting to watch him in action, and this is one of those times.
For someone who has been so successful from such a young age, it’s surprising that Sheldon isn’t spurred by Bert’s success to make additional achievements of his own. Instead, he goes right for the low-hanging fruit of Bert’s alleged unworthiness. Like I was saying earlier, TBBT taketh away in this instance. Sheldon does ultimately admit that his Caltech colleague’s work, which could provide proof of life on other planets, is indeed impressive.
As for the episode’s other story line, Stephen Hawking is again front and center, this time in the form of a Hawking remote-controlled action figure, which spins around in its wheelchair and does tricks. Do I even need to confirm that this latest in a long line of TBBT comedy props is a Wolowitz creation, or that he spends much of the episode polling those around him about whether or not they agree with Bernadette that the toy is in poor taste?
Howard insists that it isn’t, despite unanimous support for Bernie’s point of view — and then he shows the toy to Barry Kripke, who loves it. That changes his mind, but only because Howard doesn’t hear what the real Hawking says during his phone call with Sheldon: He’s always wanted a motorized toy version of himself.
- Five geologists have won MacArthur Fellowships: Richard A. Muller (1982), Michael Malin (1987), Maria Crawford (1993), Susan W. Kieffer (1995), and Jillian Banfield (1999).
- Sheldon’s reaction to Bert’s MacArthur grant: “Everything is stupid, and I want to go home.”
- Raj, on Leonard’s admission that he’s jealous of the Koothrappali family’s wealth: “Next to buying things, that is the best part of having money.”
- While he tries to console Sheldon, Stephen Hawking points out he’s never won a Nobel Prize. But he’s okay with it, because he’s been on The Simpsons and Star Trek.
- Yes, a Stephen Hawking action figure does exist.
- Sheldon finally agrees to Bert’s friendship request, so they wind up attending a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show together. Tickled by Ellen’s opening monologue, Sheldon wonders, “Do people know about her? She is delightful.”