NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Big Bang Theory are present in this review
After a two-week hiatus, following the already lengthy Winter break, The Big Bang Theory returned on a solid note with “The Anxiety Optimization”, an episode that once again played up reliable Sheldon shenanigans. The episode gradually runs out of steam as it goes on, but it’s a solid return for the show after so much time away.
The main plot of the episode involves Sheldon deciding that he is not getting anywhere with his dark matter research because he has allowed himself to exist in overly comfortable surroundings. To combat this, he encourages his friends to argue with him and make him miserable at every turn, so that his anxiety level surges, and he is able to be more productive. Obviously, this doesn’t go as planned, particularly since Sheldon inevitably goes a bit batty when pushed beyond his comfort zone.
Meanwhile, Howard comes up with an admittedly hilarious new party game to continually enjoy with the group, at Raj’s expense. “Cinnamon or Emily” challenges Howard’s friends to determine whether a quote by Raj was spoken to his girlfriend or his dog, and naturally, hilarity ensues. This game never gets old for the audience, as much as it doesn’t for the characters, and often delivers this episode’s biggest laughs. We even get to see Emily in the flesh again for the first time in a while, though only toward the conclusion of the episode in one final bit.
Most of the episode still revolved around Sheldon though, who still ends up driving everyone crazy, even when he tries to challenge his comfort zone for scientific gain. Wearing a brain-measuring helmet everywhere, Sheldon soon quickly comes off as a true mad scientist, to the point where even Amy kicks him out of her apartment! Naturally, Sheldon is still Sheldon, so he’s still annoying, and naturally, his quest for increased productivity is for naught, but the joke is fun while it lasts for the most part.
The joke does get old however. Over the course of the episode, the Sheldon bits start hitting with gradually less aplomb, and by the end of the episode, the whole bit has overstayed its welcome. It certainly doesn’t sink the entire thing, as the episode is still filled with enough laughs to get by, but it’s disappointing to see most of the episode’s best moments spent entirely in its opening bits.
Still, there was a bit of a cute conclusion to be had from all of Sheldon’s craziness, as Leonard and Penny put a delirious Sheldon to bed, complete with Penny singing, “Soft Kitty”, and the two continuing to act as the adopted parents that the man-child Sheldon never had. It would have been almost too sweet if Leonard hadn’t capped off the scene by debating smothering Sheldon with a pillow.
There’s very, very little to say about “The Anxiety Optimization” though. It felt like a comfortable way for the show to get back into its usual groove after such irregular airtime. There wasn’t much in the way of ambition, but the episode was funny for what it was. Hopefully a more novel concept is delivered next week though.