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"The Pants Alternative" is the eighteenth episode of the third season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Monday, March 22, 2010.


Sheldon needs help to overcome his fear of public speaking when he earns an award. First the gang helps him individually and then Penny plies him with wine to help him loosen up. When he goes up to the stage he embarrasses himself.

Extended Plot[]


I'm ready!!!!


Sheldon giving his speech

Raj is going on about the ponytails found on the aliens in the James Cameron film, Avatar. Leonard comes in and tells everyone that he knows who has won the Chancellor's Award for Science. Sheldon wonders which self-important preening fraud the committee is honoring this year, to which Leonard replies that he was so glad you asked it like that. “You.” Sheldon gets excited and plans to tell his mother first, but then comes up with the idea of conducting an interview with himself and posting it online.

While watching Avatar in 3-D (2-D for Raj since he didn't want to spring for the Slurpee to get 3-D glasses) Sheldon gets a call from Chancellor Morton, who expects him to make a speech at the banquet. Sheldon has spoken in front of small groups before, but any group large enough to trample Sheldon to death scares him. is his limit. Penny was once very scared; however, the world looks a lot different on a haystack in the back of a Ford F-150 as a part of the Corn Queen's Court. Leonard thinks Sheldon is being ridiculous, but Sheldon wants to tell them a story. ("Where's 70 children when you need them?") Sheldon tells them that as the valedictorian of his college at 14, his heart started pounding in his chest, his vision became blurry, and he fainted.

Later, the gang decides to team up and help Sheldon. They'll be his X-Men to Sheldon's Professor Xavier. Penny will help him a nice new suit to give him confidence. Leonard will try and analyze his fears him thanks to his mother's psychiatry training and his long time in therapy. Raj whispers to Howard some "Indian meditation crap." Howard has the ability to pretend to give a damn about his piddly-assed problems. Sheldon agrees, but since he is Sheldon Cooper, they'll be his C-Men (semen). Another irony impaired moment.

In Sheldon's living room, Raj conducts a meditation exercises to help him overcome his fears. Sheldon has to find a place of peace. Sim City's Sheldonopolis. He goes to Shel-Mart in Sheldon Square to get a 15% discount on a sweater. Then Godzilla attacks Sheldonopolis and he starts helping his citizens escape, whilst Raj makes a quick getaway.

Penny is next helping Sheldon. She buys clothes whenever she is stressed out. Sheldon has several outlandish choices including prom and county singer outfits and he finally buys the first suit that Penny picked out for him. Sheldon wonders how a new suit will prevent him from passing out. He thinks he looks like a clown in that nice suit.


Wondering where his pants are in the morning.

Next up is Leonard, who has the notepad out and is asking questions. He at least tries to interpret Sheldon's dreams, discusses the standard inkblot test and the Adler Inferiority Complex. Leonard thinks Sheldon might subconsciously think he doesn't deserve the award. When he was young he had to give back a ribbon he won for an experiment seeing if Lima beans grew better with classical music. His mother pointed out his younger brother did a Lima beans growing worse with rock ‘n’ roll music experiment already. The session dissolves into Sheldon discussing how Leonard is still angry at his mother reducing Leonard to tears. Sheldon feels cured because if someone like Leonard can crawl out of bed every morning, he ought to be able to face a room full of people.

At the banquet, Leonard gets to introduce Sheldon, but first reads a letter that his mother sent him. Sheldon is getting nervous so Penny hands him her glass of wine. Sheldon claims that the alcohol Penny gave him is defective. She then proceeds to give him Howard's glass of wine. Sheldon is now ready and feeling no pain. Sheldon starts with calling Leonard "Shorty" and starts telling jokes. Then he gets serious and questions why the scientists are gathered; in his words, "to study the universe". He breaks into "The Elements" by Tom Lehrer.

In the morning, while suffering a hangover, Sheldon comes out of his room, without his trousers, as Penny and Leonard have their morning coffee. His answer to where his pants went is already on YouTube under "Physicist Melts Down." He starts talking about higher dimensions where he could take off his pants over his head. And just when Sheldon thinks it can't be any more humiliating, he continues: "And now for the astronomers in the audience, get ready to see the dark side of the moon. And HERE'S URANUS!" - implying that he has mooned the audience. Sheldon is in shock as Penny and Leonard laugh.



  • "The structure of the plot was perfect, the execution was not. Sheldon has a problem which he can't solve. So his friends graciously offer to help him out and each one tries and fails leading up to the moment where he must face his weakness...So what was wrong with this? Nothing in theory. This was what it was. Sheldon turned to alcohol to cure his fear and did what all characters in sit coms do, he humiliated himself. This episode was in no way bad, but it was vanilla when it could have been really funny." The TV Critic's Review
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: Sheldon takes off his pants during his acceptance speech for the award.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity [1]
  • This episode was watched by 13.42 million people with a rating of 5.1 (adults 18–49).
  • This episode aired in Canada on March 22, 2010, with 1.939 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #8.
  • Episode transcript [2]

Costume Notes[]

Green Lantern jersey TV Test Pattern Optiblocks

  • The OptiBlocks t-shirt is one of the few shirts that Leonard has also worn (in S02E03).


  • Despite Sheldon's stage fright, he seems to have no problem speaking in front of large groups in "The Jerusalem Duality" (S1E12) and "The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem" (S2E6)
  • Second time an embarrassing video of Sheldon's antics is leaked to YouTube. The first was him fighting with Leonard in Season 1's "The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization" (S1E9).
  • Embarrassing YouTube videos would seem to be a recurring theme. Howard would become a victim in Season 5's "The Stag Convergence" (S5E22), in which Raj's drunken toast (where he reveals details of Howard's sordid sexual past) is recorded by Wil Wheaton and published on YouTube, where it nearly wrecks his impending wedding when it's viewed by Bernadette.
  • Penny compares being a member of the Corn Queen's court in high school back in Omaha to the Caltech Chancellor's Award for Science, to which Sheldon says he would keep that in mind if he's ever nominated for the Hillbilly Peace Prize. She similarly thinks a celebration pie is even remotely comparable to a Nobel Prize in Season 3's "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation" (S3E1), and Sheldon questioned her on the matter.
Sheldon in the Pants Alternative

Sheldon in a white formal suit.

  • Sheldon declares, "The X-men were named for the 'X' in Charles Xavier." In Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee describes the origin of the title as follows: "Mutants are, in a sense, people with something extra. And, if we think of the word "extra" in phonetic terms, we might think of that phrase as 'people with something x-tra'. And a man with something x-tra could conceivably be called an X-Man! Therefore, since we were discussing a whole group of mutants, why not call the book The X-Men? Even our peerless publisher couldn't claim that the youngest reader would have difficulty recognizing the letter 'x,' and the word 'X-Men' did have a juicy, mysterious ring to it; so we had our title, and a comic book was born." He further explains, in the Foreword to X-Men: The Ultimate Guide, "After thinking about it for a while, it occurred to me that all our characters had an extra power and their leader's name was Professor Xavier;so I suggested the name 'The X-Men.'" Professor X simply explained to Jean Grey, "You, Miss Grey, like the other four students at this most exclusive school, are a mutant! You possess an extra which ordinary humans do not!! That is why I call my students...X-Men, for Ex-tra power!" (Uncanny X-Men (1963) #1) Within the fictional Marvel Universe it's recognized that the X-Men were named after Professor Xavier. However, in Uncanny X-Men #309, Professor X insists that the name "X-Men" was never intended as a self-tribute, but instead as a recognition of this Glossary:X-Gene|X-Factor. (Comic Books: How the Industry Works)
  • Drunk Sheldon makes a reference to the famous album "Dark Side Of The Moon" by Pink Floyd.
  • The second episode where alcohol causes Sheldon to reveal his inner entertainer. The first was "The Grasshopper Experiment" (S1E8).
  • Second episode where the gang has an intervention for Sheldon. The first being "The Euclid Alternative." (S02E05). Coincidentally, both episodes have the word "Alternative" in the title.
  • If you look behind Penny when Sheldon yells "JUST THE ASIANS!" and keeps singing, there is an Asian women actually singing along with him who many people including Howard look at weirdly.


(Sheldon comes home from work to find the others waiting for him)
Sheldon: Hello.
Leonard: Sit down, we wanna talk to you.
Sheldon: Am I in trouble? Did my mother call you?
Penny: Just sit.
Leonard: We think we can help you with your stage fright.
Sheldon: Oh, I doubt that. I haven't figured out a way and I'm much smarter than all of you.
Penny: Yes, but you're not smarter than all of us put together.
Sheldon: I'm sorry, that is what I meant.
Penny: OK, your problem is, you're trying to do this all by yourself.
Leonard: We can help you, we can be your team; like Professor Xavier and his X-Men.
(Sheldon grins at the thought)
Sheldon: I do like the X-Men.
Penny (to Leonard): Did I see X-Men?
Leonard: Yeah, we saw it last week, you said you liked it.
Penny: Oh, I say a lot of things sweetie. So, how about it Sheldon?
Sheldon: I don't know. If you're my X-Men, what are your powers?
Penny: OK, well I'm gonna take you shopping and get you a nice suit, might give you more confidence.
Sheldon: It's not exactly a mutation that will get you into Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, but go on, Leonard.
Leonard: I thought I could try to analyze you and get to the root of your anxiety.
Sheldon: What qualifies you to attempt to understand my mind?
Leonard: My mother is a highly regarded psychiatrist and I've been in therapy ever since she accused me of breast feeding co-dependently.
(Raj whispers to Howard to what he has to say)
Howard: Raj says he can teach you... what do call it? (Raj repeats it to him again.) Uh, I don't know. Some Indian meditation crap.
Sheldon: I see, I assume since the rest of you have set the bar so low, you're saving the most impressive contribution for last. Go ahead, Howard, dazzle me.
Howard: Well, my power is the ability to pretend like I give a damn about your piddly-ass problem. And that's 24/7 buddy.
Sheldon: And I appreciate the pretense.
Penny: So what do you say Sheldon, are we your X-Men?
Sheldon: No. The X-men were named for the "X" in Charles Xavier. Since I am Sheldon Cooper, you will be my C-Men (sounds like semen to the others and they are in disgust.)
Howard: Oh, that's not a good name.

(Sheldon, without his pants and hung over from the previous night, is watching his performance on YouTube and is humiliated.)
Sheldon: Oh Lord. This couldn't be anymore humiliating.
Leonard: A dadadada, give it a minute.
Sheldon (On Youtube): Now for the astronomers in the audience, get ready to see the dark side of the moon (He turns around and moons the audiences). And here's Uranus!
(Sheldon looks horrified, while Penny and Leonard are laughing their heads off at Sheldon's clip.)

Sheldon: And you want to rub my nose in the fact that my contributions are being overlooked again? I am the William Shatner of theoretical physics.

Sheldon: A Godzilla-like monster is approaching the city. I have to get my people to safety. People of Sheldonopolis, this is your mayor. Follow me. If the children can’t run, leave them behind. Oh, the simulated horror! (Sound of door slamming) Raj? Just as I suspected. Meditation is nothing but hokum.



Physicist Melts Down

Here is a clip from the episode where Sheldon is so drunk, he overcomes his stagefright.