The Big Bang Theory

The Zazzy Substitution

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The Zazzy Substitution
Big Bang Theory episode
Season 4, Episode 3
October 7, 2010
Guest star(s)
Episode guide

"The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification"

"The Hot Troll Deviation"
Season guide

Season 3

Season 5

"The Zazzy Substitution" is the third episode of the fourth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on October 7, 2010.[1]


Sheldon and Amy break up after Amy says Sheldon's work is not as important as hers. Sheldon then acquires many cats to replace her. Leonard becomes worried and calls Sheldon's mother, Mary Cooper who gets Amy and Sheldon back together.

Extended PlotEdit

Bbts04e03thezazzysubstitution720pmkv 000882966
Sheldon with his pet cats Zazzles, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Richard Feynman, Edward Teller, and Otto Frisch.
Amy and Sheldon playing Counterfactuals.
Sheldon and Amy are giving away cats and $20 to anyone who wants them.
ZeypherAdded by Zeypher

Sheldon and Amy Farrah Fowler are very compatible with each other, as evidenced by how well they can play "Counterfactuals", a game they invented requiring each player to answer a question about "an alternate world that differs from ours in one key aspect". Leonard fails miserably when he attempts to play this game as he does not seem to understand the thought processes that Sheldon and Amy use while formulating answers during the game, let alone in real life. In addition, bringing Amy into the group is a source of consternation, as the guys can barely handle Sheldon by himself, let alone with Amy who is his female equivalent.

At the Caltech cafeteria, Amy belittles Sheldon's occupation as a theoretical physicist relative to, in her opinion, her more superior occupation of neurobiologist. This leads Sheldon to propose for the "relationship [with Amy to] terminate immediately", much to the delight of the other guys. Amy immediately agrees. As a result of the breakup, Sheldon becomes more peculiar than his normal self, and adopts a cat as a substitute for Amy. This one cat quickly grows into a "clowder or a glaring" of twenty-five cats, named for Manhattan Project physicists. The one exception is named Zazzles because he is very Zazzy and his name is used in the title of the episode. This worries Leonard, who calls Sheldon's mother (Laurie Metcalf) to come for help. When she arrives, Mrs. Cooper, as she never expected this, so she calls Amy to come and help. Amy agrees out of scientific curiosity, because since Mrs. Cooper told her that Sheldon is losing his mind over Amy. As a neurobiologist, Amy wants to see how someone can lose their mind. As Amy, Sheldon, Leonard, and Sheldon's mother sit around the living room, Sheldon's mother employs a technique of reverse psychology which Leonard instantly picks up on, but Sheldon is completely oblivious to. 

She tells Sheldon that it was a good thing he and Amy broke up because they are completely incompatible. Sheldon is instantly offended, so to prove his mother wrong, he offers Amy to reconcile, which she agrees after a negotiation on the amount of responsibility Sheldon has to accept for the break up (Amy offered 80%, Sheldon countered with 40%, settling at 65%). The episode ends with Sheldon and Amy paying $20 to anybody willing to adopt a cat.


  • The TV Critic: "The exploration of Sheldon's relationship with Amy is a good story to tell. I don't think this was the best way to approach it but there was some good stuff in here...They also create the sense that Amy and Sheldon have a real relationship, that they spend time playing games together and that they have a bond that they can't find anywhere else. So I was a big fan of that opening scene for establishing so many things at once...I think there were better ways to tell this story and much exploring of Sheldon's psyche still to be done. But I appreciate that the writers want to make Sheldon last and last as a comedy character and so don't want to rush into anything."[2]
  • The A.V. Club gave the episode a C+[3]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: The title refers to the name of one of Sheldon's cats. He names one of his cats, "Zazzles", because he is just so "Zazzy", as Sheldon claimed. The cats are a substitution for the void left when Amy was no longer a part of Sheldon's life. Sheldon actually got 25 of them, before Leonard interfered and called for Mrs Cooper.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
  • This episode was watched by 12.59 million people with a rating of 4.1 (adults 18-49).[4]
  • This episode aired in Canada on October 7, 2010 with 2.692  million viewers and a weekly ranking of #1.[5]
  • In England, this episode aired on November 18, 2010 with 0.97 million total viewers and a weekly ranking of #27.[6]
  • In Australia, it aired on November 10, 2010 with 1.151 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #21.[7]


  • Sheldon names each of the cats he buys after famous Manhattan Project physicists, mostly Jewish, other than "Zazzles" (almost named Hermann von Helmholtz). Among these, the cats named are Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Richard Feynman, Edward Teller, Otto Frisch, Panofsky, and Weisskopf. When Sheldon introduces the cats to Leonard, he says a white one is Richard Feynman and an orange and white one is Enrico Fermi, but he tells his mom that an orange and white cat is Richard Feynman. Though, there is another orange cat behind him on the bed that could be Enrico Fermi, and since he has so many cats (25) he may have the same names for some of them or renamed them altogether.
  • Sheldon and Amy mention Babinski, Clerk Maxwell, and Dirac. It is unusual that James Clerk Maxwell, or Maxwell, is referred to as "Clerk Maxwell" in the episode.
  • This is the third appearance of Mary Cooper in the show; she was last seen in "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation" (S3E1).
    • As of this episode, Bernadette is the only one in the gang who hasn't met Sheldon's mother.
  • Apparently, the only people who could play Counterfactuals are Sheldon and Amy since their minds appear to think alike. Leonard, who also possesses a high IQ, failed miserably at the game, since his answer was not the one thought by either Sheldon or Amy. It would be relevant to deduce that since Sheldon and Amy invented the game, any answer to the question which is not the one thought by them is wrong, even though it was logically correct, like the one Leonard gave.
  • Sheldon revealed that Leonard sucked at losing, referring to the incident during The Great Jenga Tantrum in 2008, although Leonard implied that Sheldon was a bad loser.
  • Sheldon revealed his first physical contact with Amy, when she licked her thumb to remove a raspberry jelly from the corner of his mouth, an action that the both of them later regret.
  • Leonard initially called Amy judgmental, sanctimonious, and just obnoxious.
  • Leonard revealed that he has an Aunt Nancy, who was eaten by her cats after she died.
  • Sheldon admitted that Amy is more similar to him than anyone he has ever met.
  • Leonard is the first to think he can satisfy his need for a relationship with a cat, that is, in "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary".
  • Amy loves cats too, and calls them the 'epitome of indifference'.
  • Sheldon has an Uncle Stumpy whose real name is Edward.
  • The assertion made by Amy and Sheldon that danishes would not be eaten in a world ruled by beaver overlords is, in fact, completely false. Historically, danishes were actually created in Vienna; thus, they would still exist according to the logic laid out in the episode. They were later exported to Denmark, where the Danes grew to have a penchant for them. It is because of this that the English-speaking world refers to them as danishes. The Danish word for the pastry actually translates into English as Viennese bread.
  • At this time Amy is content to either be with Sheldon or not as she instantly agrees to be with or break up with him.
  • Zazzles Website:
  • Contradiction: This episode contradicts "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary" from Season 1, where Leonard mentions that Sheldon can get asthma from cats. However, Sheldon also said that he had a pet cat named "Lucky" as a child (which got run over) which could mean it is only a very very small asthma attack, all the cats he bought were hypo-alergenic, or he sprayed the cats with something.
  • In "The Plimpton Stimulation" Sheldon said that pets are banned according to the roommate agreement, so Sheldon was likely in violation here. Then again, he was not really in the right mind in this episode so it is excused kinda.
  • Mary Cooper uses reverse psychology on Sheldon in order to get him to make amends with Amy.
  • Both Amy and Sheldon love cats; another trait they have in common.
  • This is the second episode where Howard does an impression which offends someone. The first was "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation".


(Amy and Sheldon are playing a game they invented.)
Sheldon: All right, I'm ready for my next question.
Amy (reads from a card): In a world where rhinoceroses are domesticated pets, who wins the second world war?
(Leonard is in the kitchen making a sandwich and suddenly looks on, curious and confused.)
Sheldon (after a short thought): Uganda.
Amy: Defend.
Sheldon: Kenya rises to power on the export of rhinoceroses, a Central African Power block is formed, colonizing North Africa and Europe. When war breaks out, no one can afford the luxury of a rhino Kenya withers, Uganda triumphs.
(Leonard stares at both of them, still confused.)
Amy: Correct, my turn.
(Leonard shakes his head, and goes back making his sandwich.)
Sheldon (reads from a card): In a world, where a piano is a weapon, not a musical instrument, on what does Scott Joplin play, "The Maple Leaf Rag"?
Amy (thinks for a moment): Tuned bayonets.
Sheldon: Defend.
Amy: Isn't it obvious?
Sheldon: You're right, my apologies.
Leonard: What the hell are you guys playing?
Sheldon (To Leonard): It's a game we invented. It's called "Counterfactuals".
Amy (To Leonard too): We postulate an alternate world that differs from ours in one key aspect and then pose questions to each other.
Sheldon (To Leonard again): It's fun for ages 8 to 80, join us.
(Leonard comes into the living room.)
Leonard: Alright, I like a good brain teaser, give it a whirl.
Sheldon (picks up a card): You're in luck, this is an easy one. (Reads from the card) In a world, where mankind is ruled by a giant, intelligent beaver, what food is no longer consumed?
Leonard: Uh, a B.L.T., where the "B" stands for beaver? Ha?
Sheldon: Leonard, be serious, we're playing a game here.
Leonard: (coughs a bit) I can figure this out, lets see, um, well, beavers eat tree bark, the only tree bark I know that humans consume is cinnamon, so I'll say cinnamon.
Sheldon: Incorrect, obviously the answer is cheese Danish.
Leonard: What?
Amy: In a world, ruled by a giant beaver, mankind builds many dams to please the beaver overlord. The low-lying city of Copenhagen is flooded, thousands die, devastated, the Danes never invent their namesake pastry.
(Leonard stares at them, dazed.)
Amy: (To Sheldon) How does one miss that?
(Sheldon gives her a "I don't know" action.)
Leonard: This is ridiculous, you're just making stuff up.
Amy (To Sheldon): Is he always like this when he loses?
Sheldon: Oh, yes, you should have been here for the great Jenga tantrum of 2008.
Leonard (snidely remarks to Sheldon): You bumped the table and you know it.
(Sheldon gives Amy a "you see" gesture.)
Amy: Perhaps it would be kinder to play a game more suited to his abilities. (To Leonard) We'll close our eyes and count to ten while you hide.
Leonard (starts to leave): I'm going to my room.
Amy: Very good, Leonard, but next time, don't tell us where you're hiding.
(Leonard stares at them and then goes to his room.)

(Leonard, Howard and Raj are at The Cheesecake Factory, waiting for "Shamy".)
Leonard: Did you guys see the paper in the American Physics Journal on Supersolids? It's pretty interesting, this guy's working from a hypothesis...
Raj: Wait, spoiler alert, spoiler alert!
Leonard: What?
Raj: Don't ruin it for me man I printed out a PDF to read on the potty.
Howard: The potty, what are you, five?
Raj: It's a potty, what do you call it?
Howard: Toilet.
Raj: That's a little vulgar for the dinner table, don't you think?
Howard: Oh? And "potty", is OK?
Raj: Well potty's innocent, potty's adorable.
Howard: What do you do on the potty? Wee-Wee?
Raj: If I don't have to boom-boom.
(Sheldon and Amy come in.)
Sheldon: Greetings. You all remember Amy Farrah Fowler.
Howard: Hello.
Leonard: Sure, it's nice to see ya.
Amy: Hello.
Sheldon: Sorry we're late.
Amy: I must take responsibility, I had to stop for feminine hygiene supplies.
Leonard and Howard (feeling uneasy): Uh, OK, Oh.
Sheldon: I believe she's experiencing her menses.
Amy: Actually, I'm not. In order to avoid surprises, I wear them all the time.
Leonard and Howard (even more uncomfortable now): Uh, Oh, OK.
(Raj is feeling uncomfortable too and shakes his head in disgust.)
Howard (To Raj): Toilet's sounding pretty good now, huh.
(Raj nods, Penny comes in.)
Penny: Hey look, it's Shamy!
Amy: Shamy?
Sheldon: Eh, eh, juvenile amalgamation of our names Sheldon and Amy, Shamy.
Amy: Oh. (To Penny) I don't like that, don't do that.
Penny: Heh, alrighty, what's new?
Amy: Well, just recently, I learned that you refer to us as Shamy and I don't like that.
Penny: Uh, I got it. But what I was going for was, you know, how's your life?
Amy: Like everybody else's. Subject to entropy, decay, and eventual death. Thank you for asking. (To Sheldon) Why is she not taking our order?
Sheldon: I should have warned you one has to navigate a labyrinth of social nonsense before one can be fed here."
(Penny looks angry.)
Amy: Really? I assumed an establishment called "The Cheesecake Factory" would function more efficiently.
Sheldon: It's how they lure you in, I believe it's called, "Bait and Switch".
(Amy nods in agreement.)
Penny: OK, I'm just gonna walk away, 'cause, I don't wanna be here.
(Penny leaves, without taking the groups' order. All are in short silence.)
Leonard: So this is nice. First time, we've all gotten together to eat.
Amy (To Sheldon): You're right, he's a festival of hum-drum chit-chat.
(Sheldon gives her a "I told you so" look. Leonard gets annoyed.)
Leonard: OK that's all I got, Howard you're up.
Howard (To Amy): Um, tell us about your work, Amy.
Amy (To Howard): I'd doubt you'd understand. Sheldon tells me you only have a Master's degree.
(Howard becomes very angry.)
Howard: Raj, do you have any questions for Amy?
(Raj just shakes his head.)
Amy (To Sheldon): I'm curious as to why we're not eating alone.
Sheldon: They can't function without me. I'm the social glue that holds this little group together. (To the guys) You're welcome.
(The guys are now completely annoyed at Shamy.)

Amy: Absolutely not. My colleagues and I are mapping the neurological substrates that subserve global information processing, which is required for all cognitive reasoning, including scientific inquiry, making my research ipso facto prior in the ordo cognoscendi. That means it’s better than his research, and by extension, of course, yours.

Mrs. Cooper: Yeah, I get it. You got a lot of cats and you gave ‘em cute Jewish names.
Sheldon: What are you doing here?
Mrs. Cooper: Leonard called, and he said that you were pining for a young lady.
Sheldon: Oh, that’s preposterous. I’m not pining over anyone.
Mrs. Cooper: Oh, lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it’s creepy.

Leonard: Cats, Sheldon. You’re clearly upset about Amy being gone, and you’re trying to replace her with a bunch of cats.
Sheldon: Clowder.
Leonard: What?
Sheldon: A group of cats is a clowder. Or a glaring.
Leonard: Okay, yeah, fine.
Sheldon: It’s the kind of thing you ought to know now that we have one.

Mrs. Cooper: Shelly! Dinner’s ready!
Sheldon: Coming!
Mrs. Cooper: No cats!
Sheldon: Aw.



  • Sheldon and Raj in the cafeteria.
  • Amy and Sheldon playing "Counterfactuals".
  • Amy visiting the gang at Caltech.
  • Mary Cooper solving Amy and Sheldon's relationship dilemma.
  • Leonard trying to talk to Sheldon about his cats and the loss of Amy.
  • Amy visiting at Mary Cooper's request.
  • Sheldon and Zazzles.
  • Sheldon and his clowder of cats.
  • Take a cat, get twenty dollars.
  • Sheldon holding Zazzles.
  • Shamy playing "Counterfactuals".
  • Mary Cooper witnessing all the cats and the smell.
  • Raj can't speak to Amy.
  • Sheldon brings his cat to work.
  • Sheldon's mother shock by the number of cats that Sheldon has collected.
  • Chuck Lorre Productions, #297


  1. The Big Bang Theory - The Zazzy Substitution (TV Episode 2010) - IMDb
  2. The TV Critic's Review
  3. The Big Bang Theory: "The Zazzy Substitution" - TV Club - The A.V. Club
  4. Thursday Finals: Bones, Community, Grey's Anatomy, Big Bang Theory, $#*! My Dad Says, The Office Adjusted Up - Zap2it
  5. Top Programs – Total Canada (English) October 4 – October 10, 2010 - BBM Canada
  6. BARB via Wikipedia
  7. All the drama of Week 46 - TV Tonight
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