What a great episode title. The status quo did, indeed, combust. Arguably, it’s been overdue.
Sheldon’s life is ordinary and predictable and he likes it that way. In his mind, change is to be feared and avoided. This episode had a lot of change, and poor Sheldon ran from it. Ironically, this is the biggest change of all.
To be fair, Sheldon got hit with a triple whammy. First of all, the president of the university won’t let him change his field of study from string theory. I see the president’s point. My guess is that Sheldon’s grant is prestigious and worth a great deal of money to the university. The man who runs the institution would be less concerned about his staff and more concerned about his bottom line.
Secondly, Leonard and Penny naturally feel they should live together now that they are engaged. Sheldon is completely taken aback by the suggestion that his living arrangements will change and seems genuinely astonished that Leonard wants to please Penny and not him.
Sheldon goes to Amy for support, but is just as amazed that she sees the new arrangements as a good step forward and he is shocked when she suggests that they could live together. I was interested in Sheldon’s sarcastic response to her suggestion. He did exactly the same thing just before he kissed her for the first time. The final shot with the strawberry syrup was subtle, but telling. The new is better, but Sheldon doesn’t like it because it’s new.
Sheldon did take the news of the engagement surprisingly well. We didn’t see as much of the new engagement as I thought we would this episode. We did get to see Leonard tell his mother and, as always, I wanted to hit her. For someone whose specialty is children, Beverly is cold and removed to the point of pathological. I hate the way she talks to Leonard and I hate that he keeps seeking her approval. It’s no wonder this man has such self-esteem issues, but it does help us understand how he has managed to care about and deal with Sheldon for as long as he has.
Finally, Sheldon goes running to the comic book store, the one place he feels secure when he is feeling sad or lonely. Only to find that the place has burned to the ground because Stuart left a hot plate on when he went to take a shower at the car wash. I loved the way the writers brought together this story and the story about Debbie (have we ever heard her name before?). It’s nice to see Stuart happy.
The burned out store, however, is the final straw for Sheldon and he runs to the train station. It is here that the status quo really changed. Sheldon admits that everything that is happening is too much and that he is overwhelmed. The Sheldon of even a few months ago would never have been so open with his emotions.
Leonard responds by going into caregiver mode, trying to reassure his friend that everything will be all right. Sheldon just wants to run away and think, a very natural impulse when life gets too much.
With some prompting from Penny, Leonard realizes that he has to let Sheldon go, let him grow up, let him make his own decisions. Surprisingly, Sheldon goes, but he keeps his promise to stay in touch.
This season has shown Sheldon going through an enormous amount of growth as a person, as a friend, and as a boyfriend. Although his leaving is a reaction to all the change, he did leave. Life on the road will force him to continuously face change and I am sure he will come back the better man.
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.