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503 - Potential Energy and Hooch on a Park Bench

Aired Thursday, October 21, 2021
Potential Energy and Hooch on a Park Bench

Sheldon seeks Dr. Linkletter's help to convince Dr. Sturgis to return to the university. Meanwhile, Dale unwittingly encourages Georgie to make a life-changing decision.

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Episode Notes

  • Title Reference: "Potential Energy" refers to Adult Sheldon's explanation of the physics principle, and "Hooch on a Park Bench" refers to Dr. Sturgis's drunken antics with Dr. Linkletter.
  • Opening Credits Sequence: Sheldon is dressed in his normal clothes as a black cow with horns approaches the family.


Quote from Sheldon

Missy: How come Sheldon doesn't help with the dishes?
Sheldon: When you do their taxes, I'll do the dishes.
Mary: If you don't like washing dishes, that is a good reason to stay in school and get your diploma.
Sheldon: You have a high school diploma, and you wash dishes every day.
Mary: Thank you. Helpful.

Quote from Dr. John Sturgis

Sheldon: But why are you wasting your time here when you could be doing science?
Dr. John Sturgis: I told you, I'm happy here.
Sheldon: How could you be happy? You have a doctorate in physics, and you're sticking labels to a case of beans.
Dr. John Sturgis: I had to work here a month before they let me use this thing. And yet, I could go buy a real gun on my lunch break. Ha! Texas, huh?
Sheldon: But don't you miss trying to unlock the secrets of the universe?
Dr. John Sturgis: Sheldon, I spent my life chasing theoreticals. Here, I have tangible accomplishments and I get to listen to relaxing Top 40 music. Do you know this band, Air Supply? They're terrific. [sings] ♫ I'm all out of love ♫ ♫ I'm so lost without you ♫ ♫ I know you were right ♫ ♫ Believing... ♫

Quote from Dr. John Sturgis

Dr. Linkletter: So what does it all mean, John?
Dr. John Sturgis: Maybe you should ask someone who isn't drinking on a park bench. [both chuckle]
Dr. Linkletter: You work your whole life. It all seems so important at the time, but is it?
Dr. John Sturgis: That's a good question. It puts me in mind of, uh, Camus' The Myth of Siphisus... Siphaphis...
Dr. Linkletter: Sisyphus.
Dr. John Sturgis: That's the guy. Every day he rolled the rock up the mountain, and every day it rolled back down.
Dr. Linkletter: That's what it seems like. But you escaped. You stopped rolling that rock.
Dr. John Sturgis: Well, that's what I thought. But every single bag of groceries I fill, there's another one right behind it.

Quote from Dr. John Sturgis

Dr. Linkletter: Well, I'm here to convince you to come back to the university. A mind like yours needs to be working on the advancement of science.
Dr. John Sturgis: Well, I did that for 50 years. Now I'm content just keeping these cucumbers crunchy.
Dr. Linkletter: But exciting new things are happening in string theory. Don't you want to be a part of that?
Dr. John Sturgis: Wasting years scrambling away at the academic hamster wheel? Constantly worried that your life's work is just one big dead end?
Dr. Linkletter: Sure, some paths of research may not pan out, but we still have to try, right?
Dr. John Sturgis: Do we?
Dr. Linkletter: Of course.
Dr. John Sturgis: I don't know. Einstein spent the last 30 years of his life on the grand unified field theory and got nowhere.
Dr. Linkletter: Well, I wouldn't say nowhere, but I suppose he never did crack it.
Dr. John Sturgis: And to this day, no one has.
Dr. Linkletter: True.
Dr. John Sturgis: In fact, most of his major accomplishments occurred when he was a young man, which you and I most certainly are not. [chuckles]
Dr. Linkletter: Sometimes I look in the mirror and I think, "Who is that?"
Dr. John Sturgis: Would you like to give these cucumbers a spritz?
Dr. Linkletter: No, thank you. Do you sell liquor here?

Quote from Dale

George Jr.: [o.s.] Did you like school?
Dale: Hated it. I quit and I joined the Army.
George Jr.: [o.s.] How was that?
Dale: Less girls, more getting shot at.
George Jr.: [enters] Well, at least you made it out alive.
Dale: Well, then I got married. Made me kind of miss getting shot at.
George Jr.: Have you ever been happy?
Dale: Ooh, let's see. No.

View more quotes from this episode

Featured Music

  • All Out of Love
    Air Supply

    All Out of Love Dr. Sturgis sings along when the song is played in the grocery store as he talks to Sheldon.

  • Lollipop
    The Chordettes

    Lollipop Dr. Sturgis and Dr. Linkletter sing the song while drinking on the park bench. Later, the song is played as Dr. Linkletter is woken up by a cop.

Episode Trivia

  • Which of these activities did Coach Wilkins NOT suggest for George's date night?
    • Line Dancing
    • Mini Golf
    • Ice Skating
    • Bowling
  • Which TV show did Missy say she was going to watch after washing the dishes?
    • ALF
    • Full House
    • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
    • Who's The Boss?

Episode Recap

Over a shot of a spring-loaded Sheldon toy, Adult Sheldon talks about potential energy, where objects like springs store energy when they're coiled, waiting to unleash their full potential and soar to the heavens. Over a similar toy of Dr. Sturgis, Adult Sheldon says human potential is harder to determine. Sometimes, people seem to have all the potential in the world, but for some reason stay stuck to the ground.

At the grocery store, Sheldon talks to Dr. Sturgis as he works. Sheldon can’t understand why John is wasting his time there when he could be doing science. John insists he’s happy working there. Sheldon can’t see how he can be happy when he has a doctorate in physics and is currently sticking labels to tins of beans. John points out he had to work there a month before they gave them the price gun. After Sheldon wonders whether John misses the wonders of the universe, John says he spent his life chasing theoreticals, but here he has tangible accomplishments and gets to listen to Top 40 music. As John sings Air Supply’s “All Out of Love”, Sheldon walks off.

In their office at the school, George asks Coach Wilkins where he takes his wife on dates. Wayne says he and Darlene like to go line dancing, but George isn’t receptive to that idea. After Wayne mentions going to the ice rink instead, George can’t believe that Wayne would try to put him on skates after he dismissed dancing. When Coach Wilkins suggests bowling, George pictures Brenda Sparks working at the bowling alley and declares he doesn’t want to go there.

In Dale’s office at the sporting goods store, he’s on the phone telling someone they don’t stock hockey sticks. He suggests a place up north where they can find them: Canada. When Georgie enters, Dale notes that he’s early. Georgie explains he was in algebra and realized he doesn’t know what “x” is and he doesn’t care what “x” is. As Georgie goes to change in Dale’s private bathroom, he asks Dale if he liked school. Dale says he hated it so he quit and joined the army. How was it? Less girls and more getting shot at. After Georgie says at least he made it out alive, Dale says then he got married and missed getting shot at. When Georgie wonders if he’s ever been happy, Dale says no.

After Dr. Linkletter climbs into his car, Sheldon sits up in the back seat and says he needs his help. Sheldon explains he wants Linkletter to speak to Dr. Sturgis, who’s wasting his time working in the grocery store. Sheldon wants Linkletter to talk some sense into John, but Linkletter says Sturgis is a grown man… albeit one who is in a little apron with a name tag. Sheldon asks Linkletter if he will talk to him as John’s wasting his potential. Linkletter is curious - if he could get Dr. Sturgis back to the university, would Sheldon spend more time with John and less time with him? Sheldon’s supposes so. Why? No reason, Linkletter says.

At the grocery store, Dr. Linkletter walks over and says hello to John. When John asks Grant what he’s doing there, he says he’s there to convince him to come back to the university, where he should be working on the advancement of science. John says he did that for 50 years, now he’s happy keeping the cucumbers crunchy. Linkletter argues exciting things are happening in string theory, doesn’t John want to be there for that? Wasting years on the academic hamster wheel, worried his life’s work is just one big dead end? Linkletter concedes some paths of research don’t work out, but they still have to try, right? John asks if they do. After all, Einstein spent the last 30 years of his life on the grand unified theory and got nowhere. Grant accepts he didn’t crack it. And nobody has, John points out. All of Einstein’s biggest accomplishments happened when he was a young man, which they most certainly are not. A suddenly dejected Linkletter says he sometimes looks in the mirror and wonders “Who’s that?”. When John asks Grant if he wants to give the cucumbers a spritz, he says no and asks if the store sells liquor.

At the school, Georgie goes to Principal Petersen’s office. Petersen wanted to see Georgie the day before but he wasn’t at school. After saying he’s noticed Georgie has been absent lately, he asks what’s going on. Drinking? Drugs? Unplanned pregnancy? Georgie explains it’s about work, but Petersen doesn’t have a leaflet for that. After Georgie says his boss has been letting him pick more hours lately, Petersen tells him he can’t ditch school as it’s important to get his diploma. Georgie wonders why when he’s earning money and getting real work experience. After Petersen asks if he’s saying he’s going to drop out, Georgie guesses he is. Petersen asks if Georgie has told his father. He has not and doesn’t really want to. Petersen tells Georgie if he doesn’t tell his father, he will. Georgie is delighted by the offer and gets up to leave, turning back only to pick up the teenage pregnancy pamphlet.

As Missy watches TV, Mary walks out in a dress as she puts on her jewelry. After Missy says she looks nice, Mary explains she and George are having a date night. Missy thinks they have enough kids, but Mary says that’s not what date night means. When George enters in a huff, he wants to know where Georgie is. Mary says he’s in his room and asks what’s going on. George doesn’t answer and heads straight to Georgie’s room.

When George walks into Georgie’s room and finds him listening to his Walman on his bed, George asks his son what the hell’s wrong with him. Mary follows George and asks what’s up. After George explains Georgie is dropping out of high school, Mary tells her son he’s not. Georgie argues it’s not a big deal, but Mary and George disagree. When Georgie says it’s his life, George reminds him it’s his house. If Georgie doesn’t go to school, he can’t live here. Mary tries to calm things down and insist they’re not kicking him out, but George is adamant. After Georgie offers to pack his bag right now, Mary tells Georgie he doesn’t have to go. George says yes he does, it’s his house and his rules, but Mary points out it’s her house, too.

An angry Mary goes over to her mother’s house and asks if Dale’s there as she wants to speak to him. Meemaw says better him than her, and warns Dale that Mary’s coming in hot. In the kitchen, Mary asks if Dale really told Georgie to drop out of high school. He didn’t, he just told Georgie that’s what he did. Mary points out Georgie looks up to Dale and asks him if he’d tell Georgie he’s making a mistake. Dale can’t do that as he doesn’t think Georgie is making a mistake. Mary wonders how he can say that. Dale points out he dropped out of school and did fine. When Mary asks Meemaw to back her up, she says she agrees with Dale. Meemaw says Georgie is a natural salesman and school isn’t going to help him with that. After Mary asks if she’s happy to have her grandson throw his life away to sell fishing rods and baseball bats, Dale says those fishing rods and baseball bats provided a nice living for his family. What family, Mary wonders, pointing out Dale is divorced and his kids don’t talk to him. Since Dale doesn’t have an answer, he asks Meemaw to help him out. Meemaw says a high school diploma would not have made Dale’s life any better on that front.

As George, Mary, Sheldon and Missy sit around the dinner table, George is surprised to hear Meemaw supports Dale. Mary doesn’t want to talk about it. After Missy mentions her parents were having date night, Mary doesn’t want to talk about that either. When Sheldon questions why Georgie isn’t eating with them, George wants to talk about anything else, so Sheldon tells a physics joke. Missy wonders if she could have Georgie’s room if he’s kicked out. Mary insists they’re not kicking him out, but George doesn’t want to start that argument again. They should just be made at Dale and Meemaw. And Georgie, Sheldon helpfully offers. After Missy asks if anyone can drop out of school, Sheldon explains they can’t stop you once you’re 16. Mary says this is what she was afraid of, but George wonders what he’s supposed to do about it. Sheldon proposes they focus their attention on their one kid who is destined for success.

When Meemaw opens the door to a glum looking George, she shouts “Dale, it’s for you.” In Meemaw’s kitchen, George asks Dale what he is thinking. Dale says he’s thinking he should have gone home after Mary left. George says his son has only got one more year of school and then he can do whatever he wants. Meemaw knows George is upset but says the person he should be yelling at is Georgie. George admits he tried that but it didn’t help. After Meemaw asks if this is helping, George says it is a little bit.

As Georgie drives with Jana, she wonders if she’s now dating a dropout. No, she’s dating someone with a full-time job, Georgie says. Georgie admits his parents aren’t on board, but insists they will come around. After he asks Jana if he can crash at her place, she says no. Her father already thinks he’s not good enough for her, she doesn’t want to know he’s right. After Georgie says he thought she’d be more supportive, Jana tells him she thought they’d be high school seniors together: homecoming court, prom king and queen, voted most likely to stay together forever. Jana tells Georgie she doesn’t think this is gonna work out. After Georgie asks if she’s breaking up with him, Jana says she feels like she doesn’t have a choice, and asks him to take her home.

When Sheldon makes a phone call, he gets Dr. Linkletter’s answer machine. Sheldon says he hasn’t heard back from Dr. Linkletter and hopes things went well with Dr. Sturgis. Sheldon wonders if they got caught up talking about physics. Time does fly when you’re having fun.

Meanwhile, Dr. Linkletter is drinking liquor from a brown paper bag on a park bench with Dr. Sturgis. After Linkletter asks John what it all means, John suggests he ask someone who isn’t drinking on a park bench. Linkletter says you work your whole life, it all seems so important at the time, but is it? John says that’s a good question, and puts him in mind of Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”. Every day he rolled the rock up the mountain, and every day it rolled back down. Linkletter says John escaped that, but John isn’t so sure. After every bag of groceries he fills, there’s another one right behind it. So what do they do about it, Linkletter asks. John says they sing. John starts singing the song “Too Old to Work, Too Young to Die” by the Vigilantes. Linkletter doesn’t know that one, so they both sing “Lollipop” instead. As Georgie and Jana drive by, she remarks to Georgie that those two probably dropped out of high school.

On his way out, George apologizes to Meemaw and Dale for getting riled up. Meemaw says Mary’s always over there yellin’ about something, so it made a nice change of pace. When George opens the door to leave, Georgie is standing on the porch. They both wonder what the other’s doing there, so Georgie explains he was hoping to spend the night there. After George says he can’t, Georgie points out it’s not his father’s house. Meemaw reminds them she decides who stays and goes, telling Dale to stay and George to leave.

Back home, Missy wonders why Sheldon doesn’t have to help clean the dishes up. Sheldon tells Missy if she wants to do the family’s taxes instead, he’ll do the dishes. After Mary tells Missy that not wanting to do the dishes is a good reason to get a high school diploma, Sheldon points out Mary has a diploma and has to wash dishes every night. Nonetheless, Sheldon agrees that Missy should finish high school as women have typically been undervalued in the workplace and you don’t want to make that easier. Missy suggests that’s not a problem if she marries rich. Mary says she should marry for love, but Sheldon points out that his mom and dad married for love and there’s a lot of bickering. After Missy corrects Sheldon by saying they married because their mom was pregnant, Mary tells them she can do the dishes by herself.

Over at Meemaw’s, she tells Georgie he can stay there for night but then he’s on his own. George insists one night is fine as he’ll soon be able to rent his own place with the extra money he’s making. Dale breaks the news that he’s not going to let Georgie work full-time at the store. Georgie’s parents are unhappy and Dale doesn't want to get in the middle of that. Georgie says fine, he’ll get a job elsewhere. When the doorbell rings, Meemaw wonders who else it could possibly be. She answers the door to a drunk Dr. Sturgis, who is delighted to have finally found the right house.

Meanwhile, at the Coopers’ house, George asks Mary if the kids are in bed. Mary says not all of ‘em. George insists that if they let Georgie stay there they’re making it too easy for him. Mary doesn’t want to fight, she just wants to know their son is okay. George says he is, he’s sleeping over at her mother’s. Mary is relieved, although she wonders where her mother gets off thinking it’s a good idea for Georgie to drop out of school, and then letting him live there after he does. George says that’s what he told Meemaw. When a tired Sheldon comes into the den to ask his parents to stop arguing, Mary insists they’re not fighting, they’re just agreeing with each other angrily.

Back at Meemaw’s, she says you get one night here and then it’s out… to John. After Dale stands up and tells Meemaw that there’s no one at his house, Meemaw thinks it best to stay there and look after these two. Dale says it wasn’t an invitation, just something he was looking forward to. Dale says “later” and he heads out.

Later, Dr. Sturgis asks Georgie why he’s over at Meemaw’s. Georgie explains he dropped out of high school and his father’s mad at him. John thinks it’s ironic since Sheldon’s mad at him for not wanting to return to the university. They’re both a couple of dropouts. When Georgie points out John has a PhD, John says he was just trying to find something they could bond over. Georgie says okay and tells John about his day: his dad kicked him out, his girlfriend broke up with him, and now he’s got to find a second job. John says he drank hooch on a park bench while singing “Lollipop”. Georgie tells John he thinks he saw him, but wasn’t he with some other guy? After John says yas, Georgie wonders what happened to him.

Back on the park bench, Dr. Linkletter is awoken by a police officer who tells him he can’t sleep there. As Dr. Linkletter comes around, he asks the office if he happened to see a small bald man around there possibly singing “Lollipop”.

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