I’ll be honest: I love The Big Bang Theory, but I have no idea what super-asymmetry is, nor do I think I’ll understand it anytime soon. But that’s why I write about TV and not science. For Sheldon and Amy, though, super-asymmetry is their baby—and it’s a storyline that Big Bang producers have said will feature heavily into this final season.
But it doesn’t take a scientist to know that being intellectually smart has nothing to do with street smarts or common sense. Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard have been poster boys for that notion since day one—and tonight’s episode, “The Planetarium Collision”—proved my point tenfold.
The episode begins with Amy in the lab working on her own project when Sheldon interrupts to discuss super-asymmetry. Amy says she’s busy, but Sheldon doesn’t get it. Or maybe he does, but he thinks Amy will want to hear what he has to say. Whatever the case, it’s typical Sheldon behavior.
So while Amy is working late, Sheldon recruits Penny as his audience of one to go over the latest super-asymmetry developments. (Perhaps she can explain to me what’s going on? Because I still have no clue.) During their talk, Sheldon confides that it feels like Amy hasn’t had time for their joint project ever since they returned from their honeymooon. He doesn’t understand why she puts her own “dull” projects over their collaboration. It’s frustrating that he’s so clueless about his wife’s passions, but this is Sheldon we’re talking about. Amy didn’t marry him because he says the right things.
Sheldon doesn’t always do the right thing either. In the next scene, he pays a visit to President Siebert and tells him that Amy is too distracted by the commitments she has to her own lab. Maybe he can free her up from that so she can focus on her project with Sheldon?
This is wrong on so many levels—Sheldon really should know better by now—but it’s also obvious that he thinks he’s doing a good thing. Case in point: He couldn’t wait to tell Amy the good news; it’s not like he was hiding this from her. Plus, as we later learn, Amy also told Sheldon she was spread too thin and wished she had more time to focus on her research. So while Sheldon’s move was selfish, I believe he didn’t understand the consequences of his actions. President Siebert, on the other hand, should be fired for his.
When Amy returns to her lab later in the day, she finds a colleague—Dr. Park—in her place. He says he’s taking over now that she’s taking a temporary sabbatical to focus on other work. Amy is beside herself, completely at a loss for how this could have happened. Turns out, President Siebert took Sheldon’s suggestion and never bothered to confirm such a huge internal change with Dr. Fowler herself. Is that even legal? How does someone go on sabbatical without knowing they’re going on sabbatical?
Furious, Amy drops by President Siebert’s office. Siebert says he’s confused because Sheldon assured him this is what Amy wanted. Sheldon—who’s finally starting to catch on how messed up this is—tries to play dumb by adding, “Sure, so a couple of men get together behind closed doors to decide the fate of a woman’s career! I thought we had moved past this!”
Quite a concept, isn’t it? A man making a decision for a woman without actually consulting that woman or listening to what she wants. Infuriating much?
President Siebert apologies and assures Amy that she’s very important to the university. But he says it’s not so easy to course correct and get back her project. I’m not Amy, but if I was, I would have sued the man right there.
The next time we see Sheldon and Amy, they’ve gone to bed angry. Sheldon has a dream with Arthur Jeffries (Bob Newhart) where he learns once again why he was wrong. Sheldon wakes Amy and says he feels terrible about what he did and didn’t mean to be malicious. Amy says he wasn’t malicious, he was selfish. Then she tells Sheldon that the real issue is that she’s afraid of getting lost in their relationship. That the things that are hers are getting subsumed into theirs. Sheldon thanks her for explaining her fears to him—and for using the word subsumed—and the credits roll.
But the problem is that for most women, these infuriating issues in the workplace (and a marriage) aren’t tied up in 22 minutes or with the arrival of Bob Newhart. President Siebert most likely gets to keep his job without being reprimanded for nearly sabotaging a woman’s career. Amy may not. And while Sheldon instigated all of this, Siebert should have done his due diligence before signing off on such a major development. He didn’t. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out how wrong that is.