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"The Rothman Disintegration" is the seventeenth episode of the fifth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The episode first aired on Thursday, February 16, 2012.[1]


Sheldon and his rival Barry Kripke fight it out over the availability of a new office. Penny gets a gift of friendship from Amy that makes her uncomfortable.

Extended Plot[]

TBBT The Rothman Disintegration0397

Sheldon looking over his new office.

The guys return from a retirement party for Professor Rothman, theoretical physicist, who had a breakdown and went insane. The others wonder about Sheldon since he threw out his shrimp because they were all the same size and therefore he didn't know in what order to eat them. Walking by Dr. Rothman's office, Sheldon calls dibs on it, though they find Barry Kripke inside already measuring it for curtains. Sheldon claims seniority over Kripke and both go to President Siebert to settle it while he was trying to go to the bathroom. He tells them to decide it for themselves, mainly because he doesn't care.

Later, Sheldon suggests being diplomatic and Raj suggests Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. (All hail Sam Kass! HAIL!)

The painting

Amy's unsightly gift celebrating their friendship.

Kripke keeps asking him to explain until Howard stops him because Kripke is messing with him. Sheldon then suggests various Star Trek trivia games, but Kripke declines it. Since there's so many things both of them are good at, Raj asks them what one thing is that both of them are bad at. Both Sheldon and Kripke give the answer: sports.

Amy shows up at Penny's door with a huge present as a thank you for being her friend. Before she met Penny, she was a mousy wallflower. But now she's a downtown hipster party girl with a posse, a boyfriend, and a new lace bra that hooks in the front (of all things!. Unbelievable! Penny is clearly embarrassed, opens it and finds an ugly brownish painting of the two of them celebrating their friendship. She can't come to tell Amy that she hates it. Thoughtful Amy brought tools to immediately hang it which also thrills Penny.

Later, Penny looks at the painting with Bernadette, who agrees it is big and ugly, Bernadette thinks that it makes Penny look like a "man" in it. Penny suggests that she tell Amy that she had to take it down because Bernadette is jealous. She quickly tells her not to since Amy might get her one.

Sheldon and Kripke go to the gym and try to play basketball. Leonard first tells them that the first one to get five balls in the basket will win, but time goes on with neither one making a single shot. Leonard decides to change up the rules to a free throw contest, saying the first one to make a basket will win. Forty-five minutes later no one has made one so they decide whoever bounces the ball highest gets the office. Sheldon wins and gets the office.


Art appreciation.

Penny, Amy, and Bernadette are at the apartment and watching "Grease". Amy's mother never let her watch it because she thought it would encourage her to join a gang. Bernadette and Amy leave, but not before she says goodbye to the figures in the painting. Bernadette tells Penny and "transvestite" Penny so long. Penny takes down the painting; however, Amy comes back to borrow the "Grease" DVD and catches her. Penny tries to play it off, but Amy is heartbroken and she takes it away. Penny tries to apologize and she tells Amy that Bernadette was jealous, but obviously their friendship is asymmetrical.

The next day, Penny runs over to Amy's apartment to salvage their friendship.

They both hang it on the wall with her entertainment center where the audience can't see it. Originally, they were nude in the painting, but Amy thought clothes would be better to not challenge their heterosexuality.

Sheldon is decorating his new office, though Rothman is still in it. He is naked and thinks that no one can see him because he is "invisible". Sheldon sees many problems with the office, including the fact that it is directly under the geology lab: he can hear the sieve shakers. He gets his head stuck in the hole trying to figure out what was in there. He tells Leonard to get some help, but only after he takes a picture of Sheldon and posts it to Facebook.



  • The TV Critic: "This was a highly skipable episode. The writers chose some very cheap and easy ideas and compounded their lameness by changing their minds during the story... We seem to be in a mid-season lull where the writers ran out of ideas and so reached into the old sit com bag of bad ideas."[2]
  • The A.V. Club gave this episode a B+[3]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: The title refers to the collapse of Professor Rothman's mental state.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
  • This episode was watched by 15.65 million people with a rating of 5.1 (adults 18–49).[4]
  • This episode aired in Canada on February 16, 2012, with 3.537 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #1.[5]
  • In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on April 19, 2012, with 2.015 million total viewers and a weekly ranking of #3.[6]
  • In Australia, it aired on March 5, 2012, with 1.301 million viewers.[7]
  • Episode transcript [1]


  • When Sheldon first moves into his new office, Professor Rothman is present behind the door reading an issue of the Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics.
  • The Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock game appears again, which is a game that was last seen in season 2 in "The Lizard-Spock Expansion" (S2E10), and mentioned by Howard in the late second-season episode "The Hofstadter Isotope" (S2E20) This time Sheldon emphasizes the creator of the game, Sam Kass, and calls for hailing to him.
  • The basketball contest scene is similar to the wrestling scene in "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis" (S4E10), and takes place in the same gymnasium.
  • Not the first time that Sheldon talks with President Siebert in the man's restroom; in the previous episode, "The Vacation Solution" (S5E16), it is revealed that he has done the exactly same thing before.
  • Sheldon even has a spot in the university men's restroom: the right hand urinal.
  • This episode is the first time Star Trek: Voyager has been mentioned in the show. It is odd that it hasn't been mentioned previously, given that co-creator Bill Prady used to work on the show. Sheldon doesn't like it.
  • When Sheldon suggests trivia topics, he suggest trivia based on every live-action Star Trek series released up to the year that the episode aired with the notable exception of Star Trek: Enterprise. This suggests that Sheldon did not enjoy the series enough to consider extending his encyclopedia knowledge to include it, though this is never discussed during the show's run.
  • Sheldon was sad to know that Kripke didn't view him as a friend, which clashes with what happened in Season 2's "The Friendship Algorithm" (S2E13), where he acknowledged Kripke couldn't be his friend, as he has no more spots left.
  • At the end of the episode, Penny hangs an empty picture frame facing the camera. Even though Penny chose to hang the picture in her apartment, and will always see it, it was hung on the open virtual (or fourth) wall of her apartment set, where it won't be seen by the audience except in certain circumstances (such as the scene in "The Countdown Reflection" (S5E24) where the painting is visible over Amy's shoulder as she talks to Howard through Penny's partially open apartment door). It makes reappearances after Sheldon and Amy move in Apartment 4B.
  • None of the guys (Sheldon, Raj, Howard, Leonard) share scenes with the girls (Amy, Penny, Bernadette) in this episode.
  • Penny tells Bernadette that the painting Amy gave her is very heavy, yet she has no difficulty lifting it off the wall.
  • Professor Rothman may have retired, but he is still hanging around the university without clothes.
  • Professor Rothman's retirement party was previously mentioned by Kripke in "The Beta Test Initiation" (S5E14) in which he mentions that the party has been pushed forward to "next Friday". If all had gone according to plan that would place the start of this episode on the Friday following the aforementioned episode.
  • Song: "We Go Together" from the movie Grease is heard from the television..
  • Second episode where Sheldon quickly resorts to suggesting medical advice based on a character's actions. First was "The Big Bran Hypothesis" (S1E2).


  • When Amy asked to borrow Penny's DVD of Grease, Penny did not eject the disc from the player. She simply gave Amy the case.
  • During Sheldon's explanation of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock, Kripke pronounces the 'rr' in sorry.
  • During Sheldon and Kripke's basketball match, just before the camera cuts after a failed shot by Sheldon, Sheldon looks around and stares at the camera directly for a fraction of a second.
  • Despite Dr. Rothman being described earlier in the episode as a theoretical physicist like Sheldon, the board in his office depicts what appears to be a comparison between chimes and birdsong, a subject much more closely associated with Music Theory, Anatomy, Physiology, Neurobiology, or some combination thereof rather than Theoretical Physics.
  • Possible Goof: The usually germophobic Sheldon does not seem to be bothered by President Siebert not washing his hands after using the restroom.


Sheldon: (walks into the university restroom, referring to a urinal) Kripke!
Kripke: Yes?
Sheldon: You're in my spot.

Bernadette: (1st time: so not very happy) That is big.
Penny: (1st time: so not very happy too) So big.
Bernadette: (2nd time: so not very happy) And ugly.
Penny: (2nd time: so not very happy too) So ugly. (shakes her head and complains) What am I gonna do?
Bernadette: (concerned) I don’t know. You can’t take it down. You’ll break her heart. (indicates the painting to Penny) Look at that face. (very disgusted) That enormous, unsettling, crazy face.
Penny: (asking Bernadette grumpily) Is there any chance I’ll learn to love it?
Bernadette: (very disgusted again) That depends. (asking Penny crossly) Do you like pictures of yourself where you look like a man?
Penny: All right, it’s got to go.
Bernadette: (she has no plans) What will you tell Amy?
Penny: (sighs and speaks defensively) How about I tell her the painting makes you feel jealous because you’re not in it?
Bernadette: (horrified) Nuh-uh. What if she gets me one?
(They both look at the painting for another second)
Bernadette: (completely worried) I already have a picture of me and Howard’s mom getting our hair cornrowed in Venice Beach. I’ve suffered enough.
Penny: Well, I guess I could take it down and put it up when she comes over, but it’s kind of heavy.
Bernadette: Mmm, too bad you’re not as strong as the dude in the painting.
(Penny and Bernadette now look mega-fully horrified at each other)

Sheldon: And let him win? Do I look crazy to you?

Leonard: All right, this is one-on-one. First person to five wins. Any questions? (Sheldon raises his hand) Yes, Sheldon?
Sheldon: Five what?
Leonard: Balls in the basket.
(Sheldon gives Leonard a thumbs up)

Sheldon: Use the Force, Sheldon! (throws the basketball, but it does not even reach the height of the hoop) I may need more Force.

Sheldon: I see no other option but to challenge you to a duel. I'd smack you with a glove, but just last week, I packed away my winter things.

Raj: I'm glad that men are wearing hats again. They're so distinguished.

(The scene where Penny opens her apartment door and sees Amy)
Amy: I got you a little something.
Penny: A little something? Oh, it… what, this is huge.
Amy: What’s huge is what you’ve done for me.
Penny: (defensively) Oh, no, Amy, I haven’t done anything.
Amy: No, no, before I met you, I was a shyness|mousy wallflower. But look at me now. I’m like some kind of downtown hipster party girl. With a posse, a boyfriend and a new lace bra that hooks in the front, of all things. Open it. Open it.
Penny: Okay. (Opens parcel to find a huge and not at all flattering painting of Penny and Amy)
Amy: I wanted to get you something you didn’t have.
Penny: Wow. I-I don’t know what to s… Wow.
Amy: Do you like it?
Penny: Do I like it? Wow.
Amy: So, uh, where are you gonna hang it?
Penny: Oh, my God. Hang it. Wow. Um, you know, I’d have to go get a hook and nails and a hammer and…
Amy: No problem.
Penny: Oh, look. You, huh, you just, you got it all right there. Wow.
(The scene of painting plays for five seconds)

Raj: Would you look at this? I pay $25 to some kid on eBay for a handcrafted Magical objects in Harry Potter#Wand|Harry Potter wand. He sent me a branch|stick. He went into his backyard and picked up a stick.
Howard: It's numbered.
Raj: Ooh, limited edition--nice!

Sheldon: We're gonna work this office situation out like gentleman. And if that doesn't work, I'm gonna poison his tea.

Sheldon: We're trying to think down here, you geode-loving feldspar jockeys! And you, the notes are C, D, E, G, and A! You pick one, or I'm chopping off that tree!

Professor Rothman: Oh. Hello.
Sheldon: Professor Rothman, This isn't your office anymore. You're retired.
Professor Rothman: I think the word you're looking for is "invisible".

Howard: Sheldon was higher.
Leonard: Congratulations, Sheldon, you win the office.
Sheldon: Who's unsatisfactory in P.E. now?

Amy: Oh, what a great movie.
Penny: I cannot believe you’ve never seen "Grease".
Amy: My mother didn’t allow me to watch it. She was afraid it might encourage me to join a gang.
Bernadette: I’ve got to go. I’ve got to get up early. My company’s testing a new steroid that supposedly doesn’t shrink testicles, and the last one there has to do the measuring.
Amy: I guess I should get going, too. Good night, painting Penny. Good night, real Penny.
Penny: Good night, real Amy.
Amy: You don’t have to say good night to painting Amy, ’cause she’s never leaving.
Bernadette: Good night, real Penny.
Penny: Bye.
Bernadette: Good night, transvestite Penny.
(Penny is about to bend down just a sound of door slamming is heard. She now sighs and walks to the painting)
Penny: Ah, okay. Let us take you off the wall. Out of sight, out of mind. I wish.
Amy (entering): You know, can I borrow that movie? Those singing hooligans really got my motor running.
Penny: Sure, sure. Enjoy. I mean, get it back to me when you can, or, you know what, actually, you keep it. It’s just going to be my gift to you. Bye.
Amy: Thank you. Wait. Where’d the painting go?
Penny: It’s right over there.
Amy: Why?
Penny: I have no idea. That is weird.
Amy: You hate it.
Penny: No. No, no. It’s just, it’s a little big.
Amy: I feel like an idiot.
Penny: No, come on, you’re not an idiot. Look, just help me put it back up.
Amy: Why? So you can just take it down when I leave? I don’t need your pity.
Penny: Oh, Amy, come on.
Amy: (she is now huge tears) I’m just glad I didn’t go for the sculpture.

Sheldon: Help! Somebody help!
Leonard: What happened?
Sheldon: I was trying to see what was in here and my head got stuck.
Leonard: Why would you do that?
Sheldon: It’s called scientific curiosity. Now go get butter.
Leonard: Hang in there. I’ll be right back. (Takes out phone and takes a photo. Sits down and starts posting it online.)

Amy: I was a fool from Summer Lovin’ to the very last rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong.