Yes, it’s THAT Hawking. In this week’s The Big Bang Theory, Howard gets the opportunity to meet the greatest genius the world has known, Stephen Hawking. Since we all know that Howard is an engineer and not a physicist, it’s obvious his involvement in Mr. Hawking’s visit is of a technical nature. We find out that he will be servicing Stephens Hawking’s wheelchair while he is on campus. Since Howard knows that Hawking is Sheldon’s favorite person, he is thinking of introducing him. When Howard shares this with Leonard and Raj over lunch, Leonard pontificates on having a restraining order put on you by Stephen Hawking, and suggests Sheldon’s will go along with Leonard Nemoy’s, Carl Sagan’s and Stan Lee’s. Gotta love nerd humor. Those kind of jokes are we WE watch and THEY don’t.
Before Howard can ask Sheldon if he would like to go with him to meet Hawking, Sheldon manages to insult Howard, as usual it has to do with his status as an engineer without a doctorate. At this point Howard does a one-eighty and tells Sheldon about the meeting, but decides not to take him. Once Sheldon realizes what he has done, he pleads with Howard to still let him meet Hawking, who he sees as his only intellectual equal, comparing the rest of humanity to dogs and then chimps to get his point across to Howard. This, of course, doesn’t help his situation at all.
After Howard’s first meeting with Hawking Sheldon is pained to hear the details. He proclaims he is begging Howard to which Leonard turns to Raj for confirmation that Sheldon doesn’t take begging lightly. Raj states that Sheldon has only begged three times before, “…once when he begged Fox NOT to cancel Firefly (with you all the way there Sheldon), once when he begged TNT TO cancel Babylon 5, and once when he had food poisoning after the Rose Bowl Parade to a deity he doesn’t believe in to end his life quickly”. Sheldon tries to put things even more in perspective for Howard with a story of how he dressed up as Stephen Hawking for Halloween when he was ten years old. He used a Speak and Spell (gotta love the eighties references) and had his sister push him around the neighborhood. Though he concedes most people thought he was R2D2, his costume obviously meant a lot to him. Howard continues to say no, but finally realizes he could be taking advantage of the situation and could get Sheldon back for all the times he looked down on Howard for being just an engineer.
Howard lays several tasks before Sheldon that he must complete in order to meet Stephen Hawking. The first task is to polish all of Howard’s belt buckles, which he mentions may have “splash-back” on them from when he stands too close to the urinals. Howard leaves Sheldon with the buckles and a blacklight and advises him not to shine the blacklight around the rest of the room for his “own piece of mind”. Though it is exceptionally icky, Sheldon complies and goes that extra mile by not only polishing the buckles, but using Turtle Wax, so from there on the urine will bead up and slide right off.
Next, Sheldon is forced to wear a sexy French maid outfit that Howard bought for Burnadette to the university. Howard, Leonard and Raj find it hilarious, but Burnadette feels sorry for Sheldon and makes Howard stop picking on him, after one little activity that she thinks Sheldon can help her with. The final challenge for poor Sheldon is quite the doozy; he has to go dress shopping with Howard’s mother so Burnadette could bow out of the traumatizing experience. Sheldon is goaded into assisting Howard’s mom with a dress that she states, “When I put my front in the back comes out and when I put my back in the front comes out.” He obliges her request for assistance and when he tells her he doesn’t really know what to do, she gives him my favorite quote of the episode, “…pretend you’re putting away a sleeping bag.” And you can take it from there.
Howard brings Raj and Leonard some questionable souvenirs from Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair. They each got either wheels or springs that Howard couldn’t find a place for after making adjustments. Howard still gives Sheldon a hard time about giving his paper to Stephen Hawking. Sheldon is desperate after spraining his wrist helping Howard’s mother “life her bosom”. Howard gives Sheldon one last challenge that may be harder for him than any other; he has to give Howard a compliment. After Sheldon tries to pass “you have very tiny hands” off as a compliment, Howard tells him he wants to know why Sheldon has never thought he was good at what he does. In true Sheldon fashion, he explains to Howard that he is very good at what he does, but what he does is just not worth doing. Leonard advises Howard to take the “compliment” and run.
In the end, Howard lets Sheldon off the hook and lets him know that Stephen Hawking got his paper three days previous. Hawking wants to meet Sheldon and Howard sets up the meeting. Sheldon is obviously giddy meeting Stephen Hawking who really makes an appearance on the show. Hawking takes the time to tell Sheldon his paper is brilliant and was an enjoyable read, but regrettably wrong due to an arithmetic error on page 2. Sheldon is appalled and denies being able to make such mistakes, but suddenly and hilariously faints when he realizes he gave his idol a paper with a mathematical mistake in it.
I think what comes from this episode is that we are all human, no matter how hard Sheldon tries to deny his humanity. Sheldon spent an episode being humbled which is terribly unusual for him, but he takes it like a champ in order to make one of his dreams come true. It is a testament to what we will do for something that we truly, whole-heartedly want and a lesson in humility. I felt for Sheldon in him moment of humiliation and had flashbacks to my own moment of embarrassment with Mark Duplass in my SXSW interview with him. Thankfully I didn’t have such and extreme reaction, but definitely had my own Sheldon-esque moment (read about it here).
What is your regrettable mentor/idol story?
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