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"The Empathy Optimization" is the thirteenth episode of the ninth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The episode aired Thursday, January 14, 2016.


The gang decides to head to Vegas for a Sheldon-free weekend on a party bus. Sheldon learns about the importance of empathy and saying sorry, though his apologies tend to backfire.

Extended Plot[]

As Penny, Bernadette and Emily are setting up dinner, they are discussing superheroes, Superman, Batman and Iron Man. The guys are in shock until their conversation veers to Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio and other movies. Sheldon enters in his pajamas announcing that all his flu symptoms are gone and he can return to work, to which he receives lots of sarcastic joy.


  • Sheldon wanted Penny to rub on his Vicks after she did everything else for him that morning. He remarks sarcastically that she'll grope every other male on the planet except him.
  • Bernadette brings over some flu medication from work. Sheldon snarks that he hopes that laughter is the best medicine because her present was a joke. Howard tries to defend her as Sheldon sneezes in his face.
  • Raj shows up with Emily so she can take a look at him. She may only be a dermatologist, but she did go to medical school. Sheldon then near objectifies Raj once he tells her to remove that irritating patch of dark skin next to her.
  • Leonard brings him a meal which angers Sheldon because it was chicken and stars soup instead of chicken noodle.

Let's take a party bus to Vegas!

Skyping with Amy who is still at the neurobiology conference, Sheldon complains that everyone is mad at him for no reason. Amy asks him to tell her what happened and she will in a gentle and loving way tell him how he is wrong. Sheldon explains that when one is sick, they can be cranky and say things where other people's feelings don't matter. Knowing that her gentle and loving explanation will be tricky, she tells Sheldon that he can be unbearable when he is sick and that is why his friends skip out to the movies...or spend an extra few days at a neurobiology conference. Sheldon is surprised, but Amy finds Detroit beautiful when it's sleeting.

The guys visit the comic book store to take a break from Sheldon. He had been there to buy a comic book and told Stuart that death was now at his door. Leonard tells him not to take it personally; however, Stuart is on so many anti-depressants that nothing bothers him. Wanting to do more things without him, they noted that Amy's break from Sheldon improved their relationship. Raj is in as long as it doesn't end up with having sex with Sheldon. Leonard and Penny were thinking of a weekend in Las Vegas, so maybe they could all go. Raj suggests the party bus which excites Leonard and Howard. Chanting "party bus" does not excite them.

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Sheldon, you are annoying when you're sick.

Penny gets interested in the party bus idea as long as its booze and music and not juice boxes and video games. Sheldon comes in and asks where they were going. Vegas did not appeal to him since it was Atlantic City without the taffy. Leonard tells him that he's not invited and that everyone else is going. He has to hang out with Stuart.

Again Sheldon is skyping with Amy who asks "What's new?" He says that all his friends are jerks and he is mad at them. That wasn't new to Amy. He tells her about their trip. She asks if he refused to apologize and acts like they were stupid for being mean to him. Sheldon tells her that there is no mystery left in their relationship. Amy realizes that he is upset, but he should just apologize to everyone and that he should do it because he feels bad. That is empathy. Sheldon says that he has empathy. Very sarcastically he says that Leonard made him soup and he was mean to him. Amy wants him to try again. Saying it more convincingly, Sheldon actually does feel terrible having had said it. Neat. Amy is glad that she could help. Then Sheldon wants her to apologize for staying in Detroit. She says flatly that she feels so, so bad. Sheldon thinks that they are both getting better at this.

Sheldon marched into the living area to tell Leonard to get ready for an apology. Leonard took care of him when he was sick and he was mean to him. He is truly sorry. Leonard accepts his statement. Back handedly, Sheldon then wants to be invited on the trip even though he claims that that was not he reason for the apology. Leonard explains that he upset a lot of people and that they all must agree to let him on the trip. Sheldon accepts his challenge and decides to embark on the Sheldon Cooper Apology Tour. Leonard sarcastically hopes that it is as much fun as the Sheldon Cooper Spell Checks Local Menus Tour.

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Sheldon's apology tour t-shirts and commemorative picture.

Sheldon goes to the Wolowitz House and apologizes. They accept it and are impressed. Then Sheldon wants to play Brenda Lee's song "I'm sorry" on the pan flute. Not necessary. And to memorialize the event he has T-shirts for them which say "Sheldon Cooper apologized to me." on the front and "and he made it better." on the back. Sheldon also takes a commemorative photo.

Later Sheldon apologizes to Penny while she's in the shower. She accepts it. Sheldon still wants to take a picture of her with the T-shirt. Naked? She ends up screaming for Leonard to get him to leave.

At the comic book store, he apologizes to Stuart who accepts it. He wasn't doing it to just to get to go on the trip to Vegas. Stuart asks about what trip he was talking about.

Visiting Raj he says that Raj is a good friend and he treated him badly. Raj accepts his apology. To Emily, he apologizes that he called a dermatologist not a real doctor. She must hear that all the time. Now she is insulted again and doesn't accept it. Also she gets mad at Raj for not standing up for her and walks out on him. Now Sheldon again feels terrible and tries out a couple of apologies on Raj who is not happy with him.

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Emily will not accept his apology.

Now having dinner, Penny asks Sheldon if they had a bad fight. Sheldon counters that it was excellent for a fight. Sheldon did go over to Emily's place to straighten things out and finally reduced her to tears. Sheldon thinks that he should go over and apologize and everyone screams, "No!". Emily is not going on the trip if Sheldon is going, Sheldon tells them that the only way to show true remorse is for him to not go at all. Now on the party bus, Howard finds the stripper pole that he figures Raj will be on before they reach the freeway. With champagne, Leonard proposes a toast to a well deserved weekend of... Sheldon pops out from the bathroom surprising everyone. He was going to pop out later, but one of his nose plugs fell in the toilet. Penny asks why can't he give them one weekend alone. Stuart then pops out telling them all that he thought it was a bad idea. Sheldon also wanted to apologize again to Emily who looks thrilled. He tells her that he is a bit odd, but that he means well and that she is a smart and wonderful woman. And can do better than Raj. So he apologizes for his past and future gaffs. She is satisfied and says that Sheldon can go. Sheldon declines since they will have a better time without him. He leaves dragging Stuart along. Leonard and Penny really feel bad now and invite them back.

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Finally, Sheldon tells Emily that he was glad she and Raj could patch things up. She doesn't think so at the moment, because Raj is dancing on the stripper pole and the other girls are jokingly slapping his ass and shoving dollars down his pants like they'd do to a stripper.



  • Title Reference: Sheldon tries to understand empathy by trying to apologize to his friends.
  • Taping date: December 15, 2015
  • This episode was watched by 15.75 million people with a rating of 3.8 (adults 18–49).
  • Total viewers including DVR users 20.93 million.
  • The Big Bang Theory was ranked #1 for the week ending January 17, 2016.
  • This episode aired in Canada on January 14, 2016.
  • In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on Thursday, March 31, 2016.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card
  • Episode transcript [1]

Props Notes[]


  • Jesse Schedeen of IGN - These scenes started the episode off on the wrong foot because they made it seem like Sheldon hasn't evolved one iota since the beginning of the series. It's a hallmark of sitcoms that there's little real character evolution from week to week...Luckily, things picked up once the emphasis shifted from "Look how mean Sheldon is" to "Look how desperate Sheldon is to make amends." Jim Parsons was great about selling the notion that Sheldon was genuinely embarrassed by his behavior and wanting to make amends...It was a welcome change to see Emily become a focal point of an episode for a change. Even though Laura Spencer was made a regular cast member for this season, more often than not it's as if the writers have forgotten her character even exists. Finally she was given some juicier material to dig into...(W)hat's with Amy lately? This is the second week in a row where she's only appeared via Skype conversation...On the plus side, her deadpan conversations with Sheldon were pretty entertaining, reinforcing the notion that even Amy can only tolerate so much of Sheldon's nonsense at a time. [2]
  •  IMDb user reviews [3]



Penny: Hey, so I saw a movie trailer the other day. How could Batman possibly fight Superman? I mean, isn't that dumb?
Bernadette: Maybe he uses Kryptonite.
Emily: Well, Batman's got a lot of money. Maybe he builds a suit that can do everything Superman can do.
Penny: No, no, no, no, no. I've seen that movie. It's called Iron Man.
Leonard: (quietly): What is happening?
Howard: I don't know.
Raj: But it's beautiful.
Penny: And now Ben Affleck is Batman?
Emily: Oh, he was great in Shakespeare in Love.
Bernadette: Ooh, we should watch that next girls' night. We could do a double feature with the Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo + Juliet.
Penny: Oh, I love me some Leo.
Leonard: And it's gone.
Sheldon: Oh, hello, everyone. I am happy to report I'm feeling much better.
Leonard: Good for you. (In an unenthusiastic tone)
Sheldon: My fever is gone, my sinuses are pressure-free and my mucus is as clear as a Yosemite waterfall.
(Penny looks disgusted for a second)
Howard: Glad to hear it. (Not glad at all)
Sheldon: I'll be able to return to work tomorrow.
Raj: (Sarcastically) Yay.
Sheldon: Well, why isn't everyone happy? Your little ray of sunshine is ready to beam again.
Penny: You really don't know why?
Sheldon: No. But I knew that his “yay” was sarcastic. Not bad for a guy whose last bowel movement sounded like rain on a roof.
Leonard: Let me refresh your memory.

Sheldon: Penny, rub Vicks on my chest.
Penny: (she's really cross) Sheldon, I cooked you breakfast. I made your bed. I checked your mouth for thrush. You can rub your own chest.
Sheldon: Oh, sure, grope every other male on the planet, but draw the line with me.

Bernadette: I brought you a little care package from work. It's our latest antiviral and the best decongestant we make.
Sheldon: I hope laughter is the best medicine, 'cause this care package is a joke.
(Bernadette is now slightly disgusted by this)
Howard: (he starts to tell Sheldon off) Hey, she came all the way here... (Sheldon sneezes)
Bernadette: (she's suggesting to Howard crossly) You're gonna want to take these with food.

Raj: Sheldon, stop being a baby and let Emily take a look at you.
Sheldon: She's a dermatologist.
Emily: (she's telling Sheldon crossly) I went to medical school.
Sheldon: Well, in that case, try removing the irritating patch of brown skin standing next to you.
(Emily is now completely shocked by this)

Leonard: All right, here you go.
Sheldon: Leonard, I'm dying.
Leonard: You're not dying. It's just the flu.
Sheldon: I asked for chicken noodle. This is chicken and stars. It's killing me.

Sheldon: I never did get that chicken noodle, did I?

[Scene of Skype ringing in Sheldon's bedroom]
Amy: Hi, Sheldon.
Sheldon: Hello.
Amy: Are you feeling any better?
Sheldon: Physically yes, but I’m upset because everybody’s mad at me for no good reason.
Amy: Why don’t you tell me what happened, and in a gentle, loving way, I’ll explain to you why you’re wrong.
Sheldon: You know how when you’re sick and you’re allowed to be cranky and say whatever you want and other people’s feelings don’t matter?
Amy: Ooo. Gentle and loving – this is gonna be tricky.
Sheldon: I had a 101 fever. If that’s not the time to verbally abuse my loved ones, when is?
Amy: Sheldon, when your sick you can be…unbearable. That’s why your friends have been known to work late or sneak out to the movies or stay at a neurobiology conference three days after its ended.
Sheldon: You stayed in Michigan all week to avoid being around me?
Amy: No, no, not just that! I mean…Detroit is beautiful when it’s sleeting.
Sheldon: You know, I’m not the only one who’s unpleasant when he’s sick. When Penny got food poisoning, she threw up so loudly I could barely hear the television.
Amy: Oh, I just heard something. Might be hail, might be gunfire. Either way, I’m gonna take pictures. Bye.

Amy: Hi, Sheldon. What’s new?
Sheldon: Our friends are jerks, and I’m mad at all of them.
Amy: I said, “What’s new?”, but sure.
Sheldon: Can you believe they planned a trip to Las Vegas and didn’t invite me?
Amy: Did you refuse to apologize and act like they were stupid for being mad?
Sheldon: You know, I liked it better when there was still a little mystery left in our relationship.
Amy: Everyone tried to take care of you, and you were nothing but mean to them.
Sheldon: I can’t believe you’re not on my side. I was on your side when someone stole your car radio.
Amy: Who else’s side could you have been on?
Sheldon: I don’t know. A music loving hobo with a heat of gold?
Amy: Sheldon, I understand that you’re upset because you feel left out, but I don’t know why we’re even talking about this. Just apologize to them.
Sheldon: Fine, If that what takes to go on their dumb trip.
Amy: Maybe you should try apologizing because you actually feel bad. It’s called empathy. It’s something you could work on.
Sheldon: I have empathy. Watch. [Nastily] Leonard made me soup and I was mean to him.
Amy: Great. Now try as if it isn’t your first day as a person.
Sheldon: Fine. [Flatly] Leonard made me soup and I was mean to him. Hey, I felt a little something. Let me try it again. Leonard made me soup and I was mean to him. I was mean to him. He must have felt terrible. Oh, now I feel terrible. Neat.
Amy: Glad I could help.
Sheldon: Now let me see you feel bad for lying and staying in Detroit longer than you needed to.
Amy: [Flatly.] I feel so, so bad.
Sheldon: Hey, we’re both great at this.

Sheldon: Howard and Bernadette, you tried to comfort me when I was ill, and I treated you terribly. I'm sorry.
Howard: Wow. (chuckles) I'm impressed.
Sheldon: No, no, no, wait. I'm not done. Allow me to underscore my sentiment with a haunting rendition of Brenda Lee's “I'm Sorry” played on the pan flute.
Bernadette: Forgiven, forgiven!
Howard: Apology accepted!
Sheldon: All right, that's eight hours of practice down the drain.
(Bernadette is now very cross by Sheldon's remark)
Sheldon: And to memorialize this occasion, here are your commemorative T-shirts.
Howard: Sheldon Cooper apologized to me
Bernadette: And he made it all better. (camera clicks)

Sheldon: All you did was offer maternal care and affection, and all you received in return was rude and insensitive behavior.
Penny: Can this wait?
Sheldon: I'm afraid it can't. The trip is tomorrow. And I have more apologies to make.
Penny: Okay, fine, I accept your apology, now get out!
Sheldon: Wonderful. would you mind holding up this shirt while I take a quick...?
Penny: Leonard!

Sheldon: You brought me my comic books when I wasn't feeling well. That-that was thoughtful. And I was insensitive. I'm sorry.
Stuart: Thank you, Sheldon. I appreciate that.
Sheldon: And I want you to know that I mean it, you know? This isn't me just wanting to go on the trip to Las Vegas.
Stuart: What trip to Las Vegas?
Sheldon: The one everyone's taking this weekend on the party bus.
Stuart: Of course, I wasn't invited.
Sheldon: That would be my understanding. On a less painful subject, what size T-shirt do you take?

Sheldon: Raj, you were being a good friend, and my illness was no excuse for my behavior. I hope that you can accept my apology.
Raj: Of course I do.
Sheldon: And, Emily, I'm sorry for saying dermatologists aren't real doctors. And I'm sure you're tired of hearing that.
Emily: Do you honestly think I hear that a lot?
Sheldon: Well, I would imagine when your job is popping zits and squirting Botox into old lady faces...
Raj: Okay! Okay, the point is that we accept your apology.
Emily: Uh, maybe you do. He just insulted me again.
Raj: Yeah, but he doesn't mean it.
Emily: Why are you defending him?
Sheldon: (stammers) I believe I can answer that. Uh, like me, Raj is demonstrating empathy. Now, why don't you accept my apology, receive your free T-shirt, uh-- I hope extra small is okay. For some reason Wolowitz took a medium.
Emily: Well, I don't accept your apology.
Raj: What are you doing?
Emily: It's called standing up for myself. You should try it some time.
Raj: Fine, how about this? You're making me uncomfortable by prolonging this ridiculous fight, and I wish you'd stop.
Emily: Oh, you want me to stop? No problem.
Raj: No, come on, please don't leave! (Sheldon stammers)
Sheldon: Point of clarification-- are you still going on the trip? Because if not...
Emily: Don't worry, you're good.
Sheldon: I caused that fight, I feel terrible. (stammers) Wait, I can do that better... I caused that fight. I feel terrible. Yeah, wow, I don't know which one I like more.

Howard: Ooh, check out the stripper pole.
Bernadette: You know what that means.
Leonard: That Raj'll be on it before we make it to the freeway?
Raj: You know it! (whooping)
Bernadette: This is so cool.
Penny: Here's some champagne! Mm-hmm.
Leonard: Well, I would like to propose a toast to a well-deserved weekend of...
Sheldon: Aha!
(all scream)
Leonard: (asking Sheldon crossly) What are you doing?!
Sheldon: My plan was to jump out at the state line, but one of my nose plugs fell into the toilet.
Penny: (she's very cross with Sheldon) You couldn't give us just one weekend?
Stuart: I told him this was a bad idea.
Leonard: What do we do-- kick them off?
Penny: If we drop them off at a fire station, they have to take them; no questions asked.
Sheldon: Before you do, please give me one more chance to apologize to Emily.
Raj: (so fed up) Oh, God.
Sheldon: Emily, as I'm sure you know, I'm considered an odd fellow. But what you don't know is that, while I often say the wrong thing, in my heart I mean well. I think that you are a smart and wonderful woman, you know? And we all think that you can do better than Koothrappali.
Raj: You know, Sheldon...
Emily: Shh, let him finish.
Sheldon: So, for all the times I've offended you and all the times that I'll offend you in the future, I'm sorry.
Emily: Thank you.
Sheldon: Good. Then I'll be leaving now.
Emily: Oh, it's okay, Sheldon. Come with us.
Sheldon: Oh, that's very kind of you. But I'm sure you'll all have a better time without me. Let's go, Stuart.
Stuart: But I want to stay.
Sheldon: Stuart, now!

Emily: You know, I know he's a jerk, but I actually feel bad for him.
Penny: And now you see the problem.

Leonard: Come on, you pain in the ass!
Sheldon: That's me! Bye, Stuart.
Stuart: Wait! I'm a pain in the ass, too!

Sheldon: Are you relieved that you and Raj were able to patch things up?
Emily: At the moment? No, not really.
(Raj is seen shirtless and lap dances on Penny and Bernadette)
Penny: Shake it, baby!
Bernadette: (whoops) Work that thing!