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408 - An Existential Crisis and a Bear That Makes Bubbles

Aired Thursday, February 18, 2021
An Existential Crisis and a Bear That Makes Bubbles

As Meemaw tries to save Sheldon from his existential crisis, she confronts his philosophy teacher, Professor Ericson (Melanie Lynskey). Meanwhile, George Sr. learns Georgie has been cutting class.

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Episode Notes

  • Title Reference: "An Existential Crisis" refers to Sheldon's difficulties following his first philosophy class and "a Bear That Makes Bubbles" refers to the item which Dr. Linkletter bought for Sheldon in the previous episode that prompts Sheldon's rethink about science.
  • Opening Credits Sequence: Sheldon is dressed in his normal clothes as a cow approaches the family.
  • Zoe Perry (Mary Cooper) does not appear in this episode.


Quote from Meemaw

Meemaw: Okay, I'm here. What's up?
George Sr.: Sheldon won't get out of bed, and I'm gonna be late for work. He's gonna be late for school.
Meemaw: So you want me to get him up and drive him?
George Sr.: Yeah.
Meemaw: I like it better when I just come eat your food and leave.

Quote from Meemaw

Adult Sheldon: While my meemaw wasn't able to acquire a jungle cat, the idea of tormenting a child did tickle her Texan fancy.
Meemaw: [singsong] Sheldon. [chicken clucking] I have someone else who wants to talk to you.
Sheldon: What are you doing with that filthy thing?
Meemaw: Why do you care? If nothing is real, then neither is the chicken. [Sheldon jumps out of bed] Oh. Good. We're standing now. That's progress.
Sheldon: Get her out of here.
Meemaw: Well, I would, but... [chuckles] apparently, I can't know what "here" is. So maybe I could just... set her on your bed.
Sheldon: Okay! Okay. I'll get dressed.
Meemaw: Make it snappy.
Sheldon: This still doesn't solve my existential crisis.
Meemaw: Say what? You want to hold her?
Sheldon: [gasps] No.
Meemaw: Less talk. More pants.

Quote from Adult Sheldon

Adult Sheldon: To figure out which school of philosophy suited me best, I decided to sample each one. The same way I determined my favorite flavor of oatmeal... Plain.

Quote from Dr. John Sturgis

Meemaw: Shelly, Dr. Sturgis is on the line for you.
Sheldon: Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but very well. [takes phone] Hello?
Dr. John Sturgis: [on the phone] Hi, Sheldon. I hear you're going through some sort of existential crisis.
Sheldon: I suppose so. I just don't know if we can tell what's real or not. And if nothing's real, I don't know what to think or if I'm even thinking at all.
Dr. John Sturgis: I went through something similar once.
Sheldon: Really? What happened?
Dr. John Sturgis: I was trekking through the Amazon, and I saw two frogs, one hallucinogenic and the other not. [chuckles] I tried to lick the normal one, and, by mistake, I licked the hallucinogenic one. It really rocked my world.
Sheldon: Why would you lick either of them?
Dr. John Sturgis: I'm not sure. Probably low blood sugar. But the point is, I also lost track of reality.
Sheldon: How did you handle it?
Dr. John Sturgis: I saw a jaguar, and I realized I didn't care if it was real or not. I just hauled my tushy out of there.
Sheldon: I appreciate the call. I'm giving you back to my meemaw now.
Dr. John Sturgis: Bye!
Meemaw: [quietly on the phone] Hey, John, any luck?
Dr. John Sturgis: Not unless you have access to a jaguar.
Meemaw: I don't think I do.
Dr. John Sturgis: Really, any jungle cat will do.

Quote from Sheldon

Meemaw: What's this philosophy teacher's name?
Sheldon: Professor Ericson. Why?
Meemaw: I might pop in and say hello.
Sheldon: Be careful. She may make you question your most deeply held values.
Meemaw: I'm a stubborn old crank. I'll do just fine.
Sheldon: I'm a stubborn young crank, and it didn't help me.

View more quotes from this episode

Featured Music

  • Tiny Bubbles
    Ray Conniff

    Tiny Bubbles The song is playing on Meemaw's radio when she drives Sheldon to college. Later, it plays as Sheldon blows bubbles in Dr. Linkletter's office.

  • Amarillo by Morning
    George Strait

    Amarillo by Morning Plays as George confesses to Principal Petersen and Coach Wilkins that he's not sure he's happy in work or at home.

Episode Trivia

  • What cartoon does Dr. Linkletter reference after Sheldon disrupts his lecture?
    • Rugrats
    • Rocko's Modern Life
    • Ren & Stimpy
    • Doug
  • Sheldon says his mother puts Velveeta on which vegetable when she's trying to be fancy?
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Eggplant
    • Tomatoes

Episode Recap

When George Sr. goes to see Sheldon and ask why he isn’t getting up, Sheldon explains he doesn’t know what’s real. George says that’s a fun thing to think about on his way to school, so get up and get dressed. Sheldon suggests he may already be dressed. George says he doesn’t have time for this nonsense, and starts to count to three. Sheldon reminisces about when things used to mean things, when he believed in numbers, but he doesn’t move. Sheldon asks his dad if he’s ever wondered whether he’s the tongue of a multi-dimensional being trying to taste something you can never understand.

Missy is eating her breakfast in the kitchen when George returns from the twins’ bedroom. When George wonders where Mary is, Missy explains her mother had to go to work. George points out he has to go to work, too. Missy says he also gets to take her to school. When George asks what he’s supposed to do with Sheldon, Missy suggests her dad should spank him. George admits Mary won’t let him.

When George answers the door to Meemaw, she asks what’s up. George explains Sheldon won’t get up, so he’s going to be late for work and Sheldon will be late for school. Meemaw realizes she has to get Sheldon up and drive him. When Meemaw goes to Sheldon’s room to ask him what’s going on, Sheldon says that’s an excellent question, too bad there’s no answer. After Meemaw says he needs to get out of bed now, Sheldon says he doesn’t need to do anything. When Meemaw starts counting to three, Sheldon says his dad already tried that. Meemaw tries “the Texan thing” instead, telling Sheldon that when a Texan gets knocked off a horse, he gets right back on. Meemaw says that’s the second most important part of being a Texan, after thinking you’re better than everyone else. Sheldon posits that maybe the horse gets back on the Texan, who’s to say?

As George and Coach Wilkins work in their office, Coach Wilkins is marveling that the pen he’s been using for seven months is still working. When George gets a phone call, he says he’ll be down in a bit. When Wayne asks where he’s going, George admits he’s off to the principal’s office. Back home, Meemaw goes into Sheldon’s room to tell him Dr. Sturgis is on the phone. Dr. Sturgis tells Sheldon he understands he’s having a bit of an existential crisis. Sheldon admits he is, saying he doesn’t know what’s real anymore. John explains he had a similar crisis once. He was trekking through the Amazon when he came across two frogs - one hallucinogenic, one not - and went to lick the non-hallucinogenic one but mistakenly liked the other. It really rocked his world, causing him to lose track of reality. When he thought he came across a jaguar, John admits he didn’t care whether it was real or not, he just hauled his tushy out of there.After Sheldon says hands the phone back to Meemaw, she asks John if he had any luck. John says not unless she has access to a jaguar - although any jungle cat will do.

When George Sr. arrives in Principal Petersen’s office, he says with Sheldon no longer in the school he thought it’d be a while before he was called to the principal’s office. Petersen explains the reason he called George down there: Georgie has been cutting class. George promises to have a word with him. When Petersen asks how the football team’s faring this year, George says they just had one difficult conversation, let’s not have another.

Adult Sheldon says that although his meemaw didn’t have access to a jungle cat, the idea of tormenting him did tickle her Texan fancy. When Meemaw walks into Sheldon’s room with the Sparks’ chicken, Sheldon is nervous. Meemaw says he doesn’t need to be worried if nothing is real, since the chicken wouldn’t be either. When Sheldon jumps out of bed to get away from the chicken, Meemaw is happy that he’s standing, describing it as a progress. After Sheldon tells Meemaw to get the chicken out of here, Meemaw says she would, but she doesn’t know where “here” is, so maybe she could just put it down on Sheldon’s bed. As a panicked Sheldon agrees to get dressed, Meemaw tells him to make it snappy. When Sheldon says this still doesn’t solve his existential crisis, Meemaw pretends to hear him ask to hold the chicken.

As Meemaw drives Sheldon to college, Sheldon explains his first class is solid-state physics at 11:30. After Meemaw says they’ll make it just in time, she asks Sheldon what his philosophy professor’s name is. Meemaw says she might pop in and say hello. Sheldon warns his grandmother to be careful as Ericson may make her question her most deeply-held beliefs. Meemaw isn’t worried as she’s a stubborn old crank, but Sheldon points out he’s a stubborn young crank and it didn’t help him.

When Georgie goes to his father’s office as requested, he asks if this is going to take long because he’s got a class to get to. George says from what he hears Georgie doesn’t care about going to class. Georgie says he cut a class, who cares? George says he understands it was more than one class, warning him that if he doesn’t start showing up to class he’ll be kicked off the team. When Georgie responds “fine”, George asks if he doesn’t care about football now either. Georgie says not really. George doesn’t know what he’s going to do with him, but tells Georgie to get his head out of his ass. Georgie argues football’s a waste of time, and points out he’s got a job he could be at. After George reminds him he made a commitment to the team and he’s going to honor it, Georgie wonders if they’re done. George tells him to get back to class, and he better see him at practice. Georgie isn’t sure he’ll be able to find it with his head up his ass.

In Dr. Linkletter’s class, a dejected Sheldon raises his hand to answer a question. Sheldon gives the right answer, velocity, but goes on to say maybe it’s a velociraptor. Or a velveteen rabbit. Or Velveeta. That’s a cheese his mother puts on broccoli when she’s trying to be fancy. When Linkletter asks Sheldon if this is from his philosophy class or that Ren & Stimpy cartoon he’s heard about, he answers philosophy. After Linkletter asks Sheldon if he really believes de Broglie’s equation contains Velveeta cheese, Sheldon admits doesn’t know, positing that maybe de Broglie was just trying to be fancy.

When Meemaw goes to Professor Ericson’s office, she explains she’s Sheldon Cooper’s grandmother. After Ericson says Sheldon is a remarkable young man, Meemaw says he’s a remarkably impressionable young man - kind of like a lump of clay with a bowtie. Ericson argues all she did was teach him about epistemology. Meemaw says what she’s teaching has got Sheldon questioning everything. That’s the goal, claims Ericson. Meemaw reveals she had to threaten Sheldon with a chicken to get him to put his pants on.

As George and Coach Wilkins eat lunch in their office, George says he doesn’t know what’s gotten into Georgie. After Wayne points out Georgie is allowed not to want to play football, George wonders if he could just once take his side. Wilkins says it’s not his fault George is never right. When George says in his family we don’t just quit, Wilkins points out George quit his book club pretty quickly. George is talking about football, a team sport which provides “confidence, leadership, discipline”. Wilkins says so does holding down a job, which Georgie seems to shine at. George decides they should eat in silence.

Back in Dr. Linkletter’s class, he says although a block of cheese is fairly tasty, it is not a number. After Linkletter grumbles about why they’re still talking about this, Sheldon suggests maybe they’re not talking at all. Dr. Linkletter has had enough for today and calls time on his lecture. Sheldon concedes it wasn’t Linkletter’s greatest lecture.

Meanwhile, Ericson tells Meemaw that it’s common for first-time philosophy students to have their world-view shaken. When Dr. Linkletter arrives with Sheldon to scold Professor Ericson, he is pleasantly surprised to see Meemaw, apologizing that he’s about to talk harshly to his colleague. Linkletter asks Ericson to speak to Sheldon and explain that reality is real, and it’s possible to know things as fact. Linkletter says Sheldon is at this school because of his brilliant mind, yet he spent the entire lecture talking about processed cheese. After Linkletter accuses her of breaking Sheldon, Ericson bends down to talk to Sheldon and ask why he didn’t want to get out of bed today. Sheldon says if he can’t know what’s real, what’s the point? Ericson says he has the right words, just the wrong tone. She says wondering what’s the point is what gets her out of bed in the morning. Sheldon says that’s interesting and notes that Richard Feynman said “the greatest joy in life is the pleasure of finding things out”. After Sheldon says it’s all making sense to him now, he tells Dr. Linkletter he’s dropping his class and changing his major to philosophy. 

As Meemaw drives Sheldon home from college, he says it’s funny that this morning he couldn’t get out of bed and now he’s standing before a whole new exciting field of study. Meemaw suggests instead of making a big switch, he could just study both physics and philosophy. After Meemaw points out that Dr. Linkletter didn’t look too thrilled about Sheldon leaving science, Sheldon says Linkletter never looks happy, that’s just his face.

When George goes to the sporting goods store to ask Georgie why he wasn’t at practice, Georgie says he can’t talk as he’s working. After George insists they’re going to talk about it, Georgie wonders what his dad wants from him. Georgie says he doesn’t want to play football, he wants to work. After George points out he’s got the rest of his life to hold down a job, Georgie says he likes his job and it’s not his fault his father doesn’t like his. After a moment’s silence, George tells him to do whatever he wants and walks off. 

Back home, Sheldon is reading a book on the history of Western philosophy as he tries to figure out which school of philosophy suits him best. After Sheldon climbs onto the top of the couch and rests his feet on the cushion, he explains to Missy he’s trying out cynicism which argues the rules of society should be ignored. Missy says if you’re gonna break rules you can do better than that. After Sheldon asks how, Missy pushes him off the couch.

In the garage, Sheldon is giving renaissance humanism a go as he sketches a portrait of Billy Sparks, who is holding a bowl of fruit. Later, Sheldon slumps on the couch as he gives nihilism a try. When Missy asks if she can put MTV on, Sheldon says it doesn’t matter as they’re all going to die anyway. Missy says “deep thought, dingus” as she grabs the remote. As Sheldon shakes a jar in the kitchen, Adult Sheldon explains that traditionalism is the philosophy that the best way of life is a return to the past. When Georgie asks what he’s doing, Sheldon explains he’s making his own butter. Adult Sheldon says his arms are still sore from that. As Sheldon tries altruism, he puts down a plate of cheese and crackers in front of Missy and says these are for her. As Adult Sheldon explains egoism, Sheldon takes the plate back and starts eating the crackers. Outside, Sheldon attempts transcendentalism by staring up at the sky. “Eh,” he shrugs.

When George and Coach Wilkins join Principal Petersen in his office for a drink, George tells them Georgie claimed he hates his job. George admits this isn’t where he thought he’d end up. George says the worst part is he thinks Georgie might be right. When Petersen asks him if he’s not happy with his job, George admits he’s not sure he’s happy anywhere. Petersen tells George he didn’t expect him to be such a bummer when he invited him for a drink.

When Sheldon goes to Dr. Linkletter’s office, he asks Linkletter to sign a sheet of paper so he can drop his class. Linkletter points out Sheldon is there on a science scholarship, so switching class may not be well-received. Sheldon would ordinarily be concerned but he explains he’s practicing hedonism now, as he takes a candy from Linkletter’s desk. Linkletter warns Sheldon if he abandons physics for philosophy, he could be making a huge mistake. Sheldon gets distracted as he starts blowing bubbles from the bottle Linkletter bought him ahead of his arrival at college. As Linkletter prattles on, Sheldon marvels at the beauty of the bubble he just blew. Adult Sheldon explains the bubble made him wonder if this was the key to smoothness of matter in the universe; the stars and galaxies held together like the polymers in soap. Sheldon realized this could be a whole new area of research. As Dr. Linkletter signs the document and wishes Sheldon luck in philosophy, Sheldon says he’s back on science now and has work to do.

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