The Big Bang Theory

The Anxiety Optimization

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"The Anxiety Optimization" is the thirteenth episode of the eighth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory and aired on Thursday, January 29, 2015.


Sheldon wants to increase his anxiety level to improve his work performance. Howard starts a game for people, guessing whether Raj's random comments are about Emily or his dog.

Extended Plot

Leonard and Penny are heading out for a date when Sheldon asks them for help testing his new noise canceling headphones. Leonard first asks him if he can hear him and then that he hasn't change the water pitcher filter in two years. Penny tells him that Bernadette's nickname for him is the "virgin pina colada". Leonard admits that Sheldon's George Lucas autograph was made by him. Penny admits to having used Sheldon's toothbrush. As Leonard starts to say that while he was asleep one time Amy took off her...finishing with and that's why you're the best roommate ever as Sheldon takes off his headphones. Sheldon is working on a dark matter theory that doesn't make protons decay. He has been optimizing his work environment to make himself more efficient. His tea is the right sipping temperature; he is wearing fuzzy boxer shorts and has the "Hang in there" kitty poster with Richard Feynman's picture on it. He works on it all night keep repeating the words "Proton Decay" over and over while wearing his noise cancelling headphones. Leonard returns and scares him when he touches his shoulder and asks him how he was doing. Sheldon runs off. Penny comments that she likes him, but if he is broken she doesn't want to get another one. 

The next day Leonard comes into the living area and finds Sheldon in his spot wearing his pajamas. Sheldon is not going to work and can Leonard guess why? Leonard tells him cause he spent all night working on proton decay and he accomplished nothing and is wondering if he made a mistake deciding to study dark matter. So Sheldon is going to stay home and sulk all day. Sheldon adds that he's going to do it like a big old baby. Leonard tells him to call him if he needs something and leaves. Sheldon thinks that he has been in the apartment too long and needs some fresh air. He steps into the hallway and takes a deep breath. He hears groaning coming from Penny's apartment, does his knock and then enters without an invitation. Penny is exercising doing a strenuous routine she hates which makes her work harder at it. Sheldon mistakenly thinks she was being murdered or having spontaneous coitus with Leonard. Sheldon asks her to guess why he is staying home. She says that he spent all night working and he accomplished nothing so he is going to stay home to pout about it. Sheldon comments that he is not as mysterious as he thought he was.

Leonard, Raj and Howard are eating at the cafeteria. Howard says he has invented  a new game: Emily or Cinnamon. Players have to guess whether quotes that Howard has heard Raj say are about Emily or Cinnamon. Raj insists that he can't be embarrassed since both of them love him. First quote: I want you to know that the bed seems so lonely without you in it. Cinnamon. Second quote: Check it out, I got us matching sweaters. Cinnamon. Leonard saw the Christmas card photo that Raj sent to everyone. Raj says that a man can care about a girl and his dog, it's not strange. Leonard heard him say that to Emily. Sheldon arrives and explains that after talking to Penny. She is working harder to stay attractive in her relationship than she is. Leonard pushes his cake away from his place. Also Sheldon thinks that he has created too pleasant of an environment to work in. To maximize performance he must create a state of productive anxiety. He wants the guys to go out of their way to make his life miserable which they are glad to do.

Sheldon is in Amy's lab wearing a cap with sensors on it and taking a test to set a baseline for his work performance. Since he finished a maze, he wants a treat like a mouse would have been rewarded with. Amy reminds him that his brain would also have been removed with tweezers. To check his problem solving rate, Amy starts to make noises rubbing the outside of a balloon. Sheldon gets annoyed and pops the balloon. Sheldon was aiming for her heart. She needs to irritate him to find his optimal anxiety zone. Sheldon vetoed tickling, polka music and watching Amy eat a banana. She eats its sideways because that's the way a good girl does it according to her mother. Amy explains that he is a great scientist who needs to be patient until he makes his scientific breakthrough. Also if he only does solid research, what does it matter? Sheldon feels that she is insulting him which drives his anxiety level up. This result makes him happy which drive the level down. Frustrated his level goes up again starting an anxiety cycle that he continues.

In apartment 4A Raj wants to know which board game they want to play. Howard wants to play Emily or Cinnamon. First quote: You're so lucky. You have the shiniest hair. Leonard can't figure it out as Sheldon enters the door. Sheldon wants them to challenge everything he says. Howard doesn't think that it will help. Sheldon wants to keep his brain active. Leonard doesn't think it will work either. They keep arguing with him driving Sheldon into his room though he does come back and thanks them for their efforts.

Penny and the girls are visiting, drinking wine and talking about a Hawaii trip the Zangen sales rep with the best quarterly sales can win. Amy thinks that that would be romantic though she hasn't seen Leonard on the beach with his metal detector. Amy would rather visit the Mauna Kea observatory. Sheldon wants to increase his anxiety level by spending an evening listening to tasteless uncensored crotch talk. Like when Amy first had girl talk with Penny and Bernadette, Sheldon thinks all they talk about is their body parts and menstrual problems. Penny insists that they talk about the same topics the guys do. Whether werewolves can swim, asks Sheldon. The girls actually submit their opinions on the topic. Sheldon found that fun and want to do it again when they are not PMS-ing.

Leonard wakes up at night to find Sheldon is listening to loud noises while wearing his sensor cap. He is listening to Godzilla's roar, the Joker's laugh and Darth Vader to keep him in the anxiety sweet spot. He tried adding Taylor Swift to the noises, but it turns out that he loves her music. Leonard gets Sheldon to switch to his headphones.

On Shamy's date night, Sheldon is still pursuing his obsession which really bothers Amy. He says he can do two things at once, but his responses to her attempts at conversation show clearly he doesn't hear her. Amy is worried about him because he hasn't been sleeping or eating and the cap is starting to smell.  

Leonard, Penny, Bernadette and Howard are in having dinner and playing Emily or Cinnamon as couples. The score is one for each and Penny is the tie breaker. Quote: It's just so perfect that we're both Libras. Penny goes with Cinnamon which makes Raj upset as he hears them coming into the door. He feels that if she ever finds out it would hurt her feelings. "Emily's feeling?" pipes up Bernadette. Sheldon has been drinking Red Bull and chasing squirrels around the campus to keep working and awake. Bernadette wonders if they should make him stop, though Howard saw that he'd made some progress. Raj observes that it would change the way we view the universe. Now back to Emily or Cinnamon! Next quote: Such a little girl eats such a big steak.

Back at Amy's, she demand that Sheldon take the cap off. Sheldon appreciates the nagging which helps his anxiety level. Amy tells him that agreed to not bring their work to date night. She wants him to take off the cap and put away the notebook even though he is making his most progress in months. Amy doesn't want him to drive himself crazy. Sheldon claims that Newton worked while thinking that he was an armadillo. Amy says that that is not true, though Sheldon claims that has been hallucinating lately. Amy then demands that he take off the cap. Sheldon stops and then asks what she is going to do if he doesn't. Amy kicks him out of her apartment. On the bus ride back, Sheldon hallucinates that the man sitting next to him (whom he is talking to) is an armadillo named Isaac Newton, who surprisingly understands why Sheldon was so frustrated with Amy. 

Finally Penny and Leonard walk Sheldon to his bedroom though he doesn't see the "President of Science". They get him to lie down in bed though Sheldon tells them that he is not going to sleep. He refuses to go to sleep and tells them that they can't make him sleep. Sheldon is already to make another Richard Feynman poster when Penny starts to sing Soft Kitty to him and Leonard joins in. He finally goes to sleep. Sheldon is so peaceful that they once again kid themselves that they could easily use his pillow to smother him.

At the Caltech cafeteria, Sheldon has recovered and is making progress without his anxiety workout. Raj and Emily approaches the gang to join them for lunch. Emily mentions the game they have been playing that involves her. They make think it's funny that Raj is sweet and sensitive, however she finds it sexy and she kisses him.  Afterwards she finds dog hair in his mouth. 



  • Title Reference: Sheldon wants to reach his optimum anxiety level to improve his work performance.
  • Taping date: December 16, 2014
  • This episode was watched by 17.25 million people with a rating of 4.5 (adults 18-49).
  • Total viewers including DVR users 22.49 million.
  • The Big Bang Theory was ranked #x for the week ending xx January 2015.
  • This episode aired in Canada on January 29, 2015 with 4.36 million viewers with a weekly ranking of #3.
  • In Australia, it aired on March 16, 2015 with 0.94 million viewers.
  • Episode transcript[1]
  • Costuming: Sheldon wore "Nanotubes"(c) by Thinker Collection in this episode, available at
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card [2]


  • Jesse Schedeen at IGN - Perhaps "The Anxiety Optimization" wasn't the memorable episode this show needed given how little it's been on the air in the past two months, but it was pretty entertaining all the same...That scene was easily the highlight of the evening, as we learned what Sheldon thinks women talk about when there are no men around... The best part was that Sheldon actually managed to get the whole room debating the question of whether werewolves can swim. Personally, I agree with Amy's argument..."The Anxiety Optimization" wasn't the most memorable installment of the series this season, but it definitely had its humorous moments.
  • Dhruv Rao of The DR Club gave the episode an A grade: The various questions did provide comedy in an already saturated episode, which was great. Another thing that I have noticed about the show is how the laughing track, along with the comedy, is being used more as punctuation and less as a wild eruption of laughs. The various reactions brought about the studio audience feel more natural. So, kudos to the writers! Also, thank you for an episode that provides the viewer with a plethora of the show's finest aspects"
  • IMDb user reviews



  • Emily only appears in the last scene in this episode.
  • Bernadette only features in two scenes of this episode.
  • In this episode, Leonard wears a shirt that bears strong resemblance to the rug from "The Big Lebowski", which co-starred John Goodman, Johnny Galecki's father in law on "Roseanne"
  • First appearance of Emily at Caltech university.  
  • First time Soft Kitty is sung through without an interruption or the scene ending before it was finished.
  • First time Leonard has sung Soft Kitty to Sheldon.
  • First time Penny has sung Soft Kitty to Sheldon since "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification" (S4E2).
  • Leonard previously joked about smothering Sheldon in his sleep in "The Spaghetti Catalyst" (S3E20).
  • Out of Sheldon's hearing, Penny admits that she used his toothbrush, an act that he said would cause him to jump out the window per season one's "The Dumpling Paradox" (S1E7).
  • Bernadette sits in Sheldon's Spot, but he is not around to see it.
  • Amy mentions that she eats bananas sideways because her mother said that that is the way a good girl eats one.
  • Sheldon does his triple knock to the girls just like he did in "The Workplace Proximity". In both cases, the girls were in Penny's Apartment.
    • In the former episode, he does the knock while saying all of their names, while in this episode, he simply says "[Knock, Knock, Knock] Ladies, [Knock, Knock, Knock] Ladies, [Knock, Knock, Knock] Ladies".



Leonard: Hello. Sheldon, can you hear me? I haven’t change the filter in the water pitcher in two years.
Penny: Um, Bernadette’s nickname for you is the "Virgin Pina colada".
Leonard: Your George Lucas autograph is really a “me” autograph.
Penny: Yeah, well, once I was too lazy to walk across the hall so I used your toothbrush.
Leonard: Oooh, and one time when you were asleep Amy totally took off her…( Sheldon removes the headphones) and that’s why you’re the best roommate ever.

Sheldon: Nothing more fun than a paradigm-shifting evening of science.
Penny: And you thought it was soaping me up in the shower.

Sheldon: (repeated) Proton decay.

Penny: So, whichever rep has the best sales for the quarter gets a trip for two to Hawaii.
Amy: That would be so romantic for you and Leonard.
Penny: Yeah, clearly you haven’t seen him on the beach walking around with his metal detector.
Amy: If I were going to Hawaii, I’d spend all my time at the Keck Observatory. Did you know that the telescopes there have better resolution than the Hubble?
Penny: Really? Want to go to Hawaii?
Sheldon: (Knock, knock, knock) Ladies? (Knock, knock, knock) Ladies? (Knock, knock, knock) Ladies?
Penny: Come in.
Sheldon: Ladies.
Penny: What’s up?
Sheldon: Well, as you may know, I’ve been experimenting with elevated anxiety levels, and I thought, what better way to increase my discomfort than to subject myself to an evening of tasteless uncensored crotch talk?
Penny: What exactly do you think goes on here?
Sheldon: Well, conversations that you wouldn’t be comfortable having in front of the opposite sex. You know, who has the best cervix. Which sanitary napkin is all the rage right now. Men’s buttocks, and how you want to pat and squeeze them.
Bernadette: We were talking about Penny’s job.
Sheldon: And how difficult it is to do when she’s bloated, cranky and crampy? Continue.
Penny: Sheldon, we are just people. We talk about the same things you guys talk about.
Sheldon: You talk about if werewolves can swim? See, Leonard says yes, but I say it depends on if the human could swim before he was bitten. What do you think?
Penny: Let’s just talk about our periods.
Amy: No, hold on. All canines instinctively know how to swim. Why wouldn’t a werewolf have the same abilities?
Bernadette: Well, they’re not a hundred percent wolf. They’re a werewolf, that’s only part wolf. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Sheldon: Thank you. Oh, and technically, it’s apples that turn into were-oranges when the moon is full. Hey, this is fun. We should do it sometime when you aren’t all PMS’ing. Bye

Sheldon: You know I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but when a mouse completes a maze it gets a food pellet.
Amy: It also gets it’s brain plucked out with tweezers.

Sheldon: As you may know I have been experimenting with elevated anxiety levels and I thought what better way to increase my discomfort than to subject myself to an evening of tasteless uncensored crotch talk.
Penny: What exactly do you think goes on here?
Sheldon: Well, conversations that you wouldn't be comfortable having in front of the opposite sex. You know, who has the best cervix. Which sanitary napkin is all the rage right now. Men’s buttocks and how you want to pat and squeeze them.

Sheldon: That nagging tone is helping my anxiety. But maybe you could do ten percent less shrill. That would really put zippity in my do-dah.

Sheldon: (on the bus, speaking to the man next to him) And then she threw me out. Me, her very own boyfriend. Where all I've don’t is tried to help humanity reach a more profound understanding of the world we live it.
Armadillo: (clearly still the same man) Yeah, well, women. What are you going to do?
Sheldon: I knew you’d understand Armadillo Isaac newton.

Emily: Well, you may think it’s funny that Raj is sweet and sensitive, but I think it’s sexy. {Kiss.} Ugh, why is there dog hair in your mouth?


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