‘The Big Bang Theory’ season 10, episode 5 review: Why Sheldon knocks three times

Tonight, “The Big Bang Theory” stepped up its game on all fronts with “The Hot Tub Contamination,” a half-hour that we expected to be somewhat silly and familiar based on much of season 10 to date. Instead, what we received was the most well-written, surprisingly-touching episode of the season, one where our characters became even more fully-formed and a longtime mystery on the show was resolved in an extremely satisfying way.

Let’s not dilly-dally on that: We learned tonight why Sheldon knocks three times before entering any place. During a conversation with Penny, one held at an ice cream parlor where he was supposedly going to “pick up women” after an argument with new roommate Amy, he made it clear that he once walked in on his father cheating on his mother with another woman. While the show glossed it up with some sex humor, the implication of Sheldon’s knocking was that he wanted there to be time for whoever was on the other side of the door to save him from something traumatic. The audience laughing here was almost distracting, since we found this to be a very poignant moment.

Through this heart-to-heart with Penny, Sheldon also realized that he needed to apologize to Amy for his various demands, which included a set bathroom schedule that she should adhere to if she wants things to work out. Amy wanted to stand up for herself more, and maybe she will; for now, she’s still getting what she wants.

Elsewhere, what we saw was Raj revealing to Stuart in a conversation in Howard and Bernadette’s hot tub that the relationships with Emily and Claire didn’t work out, and he’s now single again. He didn’t want anyone to know out of embarrassment, not realizing that these two were listening upstairs. We really enjoyed seeing these guys get personal because it is so rare for the two of them to do so, and we didn’t so much mind Raj’s relationships ending offscreen given that it gave us this moment at the tail end of it.

If there is one quibble, we wish there was a better way to get out of this interaction than seeing a gag about Stuart wearing no pants. We almost would have preferred the big reveal being that Stuart didn’t actually have anywhere else to go because he was homeless, and was going to use Howard and Bernadette’s supposed time away to be a chance for him to get a good night’s sleep. Maybe that would’ve been too sad for “The Big Bang Theory,” but we’re fine with that when the moment is earned.

Grade: A-. As we suggested earlier, “The Hot Tub Contamination” was the best episode of the season by far. It’s the sort of complex comedy we wish “The Big Bang Theory” was more often.

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