Tonight's Big Bang Theory attempted to answer a question that's been weighing on fans' minds for well over a year now: "What's Sheldon's deal?" Not in the "What part of the autistic spectrum does he fall on?" sense, but in terms of "So does he like chicks or dudes or what?" When fawning grad student Ramona Nowitzki starts hanging around Sheldon, bringing him dinner and rubbing his feet and cherishing his every pearl of wisdom, the gang flocks around to see what will happen–taking their seats in "the viewing area"–because they've often wondered exactly how a Sheldon Cooper handles the biological functions of mating. (Howard postulates that one day Sheldon will eat an enormous amount of Thai food and split into two Sheldons.)
It turns out that Sheldon has no romantic interest in Ramona; he just likes the adoration and the free food. And it's not entirely clear if Ramona has any sexual designs on Sheldon, either. Mainly she just wants to push him to be the best Sheldon he can be. To that end, she puts the kibosh on Halo and paintball and comics, and demands that Sheldon focus entirely on his work. When he cautiously suggests that he'd like to watch Battlestar Galactica, Ramona frowns. "I guess I can wait for the DVD," Sheldon says. "And then never ever watch it."
The whole situation resolves fairly cleverly. After Sheldon tries to get first Penny then Leonard to drive Ramona away–"I'm invoking The Skynet Clause of our friendship agreement," he declares to Leonard–he finally screws up the courage to shoo her away himself, after she asks to share credit on his completed theorem. And so the question "What's Sheldon's deal?" remains properly unresolved.
Aside from the wacky montage of Sheldon avoiding Ramona–strictly Benny Hill stuff–I thought "The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem" was top-form BBT, and easily the most satisfying episode of the season so far. Even though it featured yet another Sheldon-driven plot, nearly everyone else got in a good line or two. I liked Howard preparing to prey on grad students once they put on "just enough winter weight to make them needy and vulnerable." And I thought Raj had an especially good night, starting with his dismay when he learns that it's okay to date grad students "if you can talk to them," and continuing to his little impromptu rap when he learned that Howard's mom was cooking brisket for dinner. ("B-to-the-R-to-the-I-S-K .")
Mostly though, I liked seeing a different, more contented side of Sheldon. He's always been pleased with himself–and was again tonight when he praised his own footnote comparing a theoretical phenomenon to "The Flash playing tennis with himself"–but there's usually an undertone of desperation and even nastiness to his pride. Tonight, when another grad student described reading one of his papers and doubling over laughing, Sheldon smiled and made a little joke–"Maybe when I publish it, I'll include an inhaler"–and there was something almost gracious about it, as though he were honestly giving another human being her due. Granted, he was only recognizing his own reflected greatness, but still it was a step.
-If I were Johnny Galecki, I'd be calling my agent and requesting a meeting with Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady right about now, just to politely remind them that this show used to be about two geeky scientists–not one social misfit and his circle of enablers. As much as I liked this episode, I really don't want The Big Bang Theory to become The Sheldon Show.
-I just noticed this week that the drink machine in the cafeteria is almost entirely sold out. Has this always been the case?
-"I weep for the future of science. Now if you'll excuse me, the latest issue of Batman is out."
-Sheldon lives in fear of the three-tine fork.