As with most television shows, the most popular episodes of the legendary CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory are the ones that give some weight to them. Episodes highlighting relationship or career milestones, holiday episodes and notable guest star appearances typically top the series’ most beloved episodes list. However, a humorous episode is sometimes sufficient for entertainment, and the same goes for The Big Bang Theory.
The third-season episode “The Einstein Approximation” may lack significant plot twists and character-defining moments, but it’s still an excellent half-hour television. In the episode “The Big Bang Theory,” Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is experiencing a manic episode while struggling to solve a mathematical equation. His progressive attempts to fill in the missing pieces become increasingly absurd and disruptive to his friends as each day passes without sleep. In reality, the episode could be titled “Sheldon Is Extremely Annoying,” but the attention to detail makes it feel like a minor classic.
Let’s analyse why “The Einstein Approximation” is the most underrated episode of The Big Bang Theory.
The Einstein Approximation is replete with physical comedy.
The climax of “The Einstein Approximation” is Sheldon’s dogged search for the flaw in his equation. He begins facing away from a whiteboard with his formula written on it, quickly whipping around to steal one-second glances at it to “only view my work as a fleeting image to engage the superior colliculus of my brain.”
Sheldon suggests that he wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start when it becomes apparent that he is not progressing. Sheldon thanks him for the excellent suggestion and promptly throws the whiteboard out the window, causing a car accident on the street below. Throughout the remainder of the episode, Sheldon attempts to solve his problem by employing increasingly ridiculous tools, resulting in hilarious physical comedy.
He steals his friend’s peas and beans for lunch to map the electrons and protons, causing him difficulty. Later, Leonard and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) return home to discover that Sheldon is again attempting this mapping technique with dozens of marbles, and they both fall.
Sheldon eventually enters a children’s playground, climbs into the ball pit, and tries to map the equation. The building’s security guard summons Leonard to retrieve his friend, which requires him to first wrestle Sheldon out of the balls like a child having too much fun and refusing to go home. All the gags are simple yet highly effective, keeping the episode buoyant and amusing throughout.
Sheldon’s stint as a waiter at The Cheesecake Factory is hilarious.
The episode’s climax results from Sheldon’s most recent attempt to crack the code. According to the episode’s title, Sheldon decides to emulate one of his heroes, Albert Einstein, who developed his theory of relativity while employed in a patent office. Sheldon decides he needs a menial job to keep his mind occupied enough to allow his thoughts to flow freely.
After considering the most mind-numbing jobs he could perform, he comes up with three options: “an Apple Store Genius,” a toll booth attendant, and “what Penny does.” He chooses the third alternative and surprises Penny at her place of employment. Sheldon now works as a busboy at the Cheesecake Factory. Penny wants to know how he got a job there so quickly. He replies that he just walked in, grabbed a bucket, and began clearing tables since he didn’t need the money.
Sheldon is eventually promoted to waiter, a position in which he excels. Even when his customer service career turns for the worse after he drops a large food tray, Sheldon makes the most of his experience. The splatter of nachos and shattered plates on the ground inspires him to have an “aha!” moment, which leads to the resolution of his issue. From beginning to end, the entire sequence is hilarious and absurd.
Jim Parsons gives an outstanding performance.
Jim Parsons’ performance is fundamental to this episode’s exceptional quality. Sheldon’s particular brand of prickly elitism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he comes alive when he’s thrust into an unfamiliar situation. Not only is he incapable of solving a physics problem, but he is also seen working and playing in a ball pit at The Cheesecake Factory. Sheldon spends most of the episode wandering in the dark, and Parsons plays all these interactions flawlessly.
Mania is an additional theme of the episode. He had been awake for several days when people tripped over his marbles on the floor. A lesser actor might deliver a loud, obnoxious performance, but Parsons makes all the right choices to convey Sheldon’s instability. Because of the intensity in his eyes and vocal inflexions, he never has to rely on formulaic line readings or physicality in his performances. That’s one of the primary reasons “The Einstein Approximation” is one of The Big Bang Theory’s most enjoyable and underrated episodes.
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