Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) have moved beyond the borderline catatonic state we left them in at the end of the last episode, but Sheldon is not doing well. If he can be wrong about asymmetry, it’s possible he can be wrong about anything. As a result, he is challenging every idea he’s ever held true, and Amy is worried that it’s only a matter of time before he starts questioning their marriage.
She turns to Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) for support. When they hear how worried Amy is, Leonard opens a wall safe to retrieve a VHS tape Sheldon left in his care years ago. The tape has a pep talk from the only person whose opinion Sheldon truly respects: himself. Amy borrows a VCR from Howard (Simon Helberg) and hooks it up so Sheldon can hear what Young Sheldon (Iain Armitage) once recorded in case of emergency.
The video starts strong, with Young Sheldon thoughtfully confirming the identity of his future self before launching into his pep talk. Unfortunately, it cuts off just as it’s getting good. Unbeknownst to Sheldon, his dad recorded a high school football game over the pep talk years ago.
Penny and Leonard are concerned about the dark place Sheldon’s gone, so they turn to Leonard’s mom (Christine Baranski) for professional advice. After hearing their description of Sheldon’s mental state, she deduces that he’s in mourning and that a ritual might help alleviate his grief.
The Hofstadters dress in black and go across the hall. They tell Sheldon that Beverly suggested giving the paper a funeral, and he agrees that maybe a viking funeral would do. Rather than an ocean or lake and a flaming arrow, they make do with a bathtub and a wand lighter.
Sheldon says over the disproven theory: “I know this is just a scientific theory, but to me it was more than that. It described the universe in a new and beautiful way. I want that to be the universe we live in, but I guess it’s not.”
They place the paper in a baking pan, light it on fire and set it in the bathtub to burn. Before it drifts to the shower curtain and sets it on fire, it’s a lovely ceremony– and it does lighten Sheldon’s mood a bit.
That night, Sheldon is awakened by Amy watching the high school football game tape. He joins her, and she explains that she’s looking to see if any of his pep talk is still there. He tells her it isn’t important because he remembers everything he’d said. Then the game shifts to the halftime talk Sheldon’s father (Lance Barber) gave the team during that losing game.
He said: “I know we’re down… by a lot. If I’m being honest with you, we’re probably not going to win this one. In fact, we’re definitely not going to win this one. We’re not going to quit, either. And if we do lose, you need to know that doesn’t make you losers. You learn as much about who you are and what you’re made of from failing as you do from success. Maybe more. So you can spend the next half feeling sorry for yourselves, or you can get out there and give them hell.”
The speech touches Sheldon. He realizes that he’s been acting like the game is over, but that it’s only halftime– his first sports metaphor ever. He also notices that he and his father may have been very different, but that their journeys have been more parallel than he’d thought, as they both experienced failures and setbacks. He comments on his new perspective, and something clicks for Amy.
She says: “So from one viewpoint, you and your father’s lives are asymmetrical. But from another vantage point, they’re symmetrical. Sheldon, what if symmetry and asymmetry are observer-relative? That would mean that the Russian paper was right…”
And he finishes: “But only from one perspective. If we look at it from a deeper view, in more dimensions, our theory still stands.”
She escalates: Not only still stands. It might be an even bigger idea than the one we were originally proposing.”
He tells her to go get her laptop. They have a paper to fix.
She runs off gleefully to do so, and Sheldon turns to the freeze frame of his father on their TV and thanks him. They’re going to give the physics community hell. (Cue tears.)
Meanwhile, Howard discovers an old VHS of his own when he’s pulling out the VCR for Amy. He pops it in the machine for a test and inadvertently gives Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) a peek at himself as the young “Howardini.” He tells her that this was part of his audition process for the Magic Castle, and that he abandoned the effort after seeing himself on tape.
Bernadette spends the rest of the episode channeling her pageant mom to whip him into shape so he can complete his dream of auditioning for the Magic Castle. The result is a kiddie pageant-worthy performance of “Magic to Do” from Pippin, which Howard performs for Raj (Kunal Nayyar) in their living room.
Finally Howard tells Bernie that the jazz hands and glitter she’s chosen just don’t fit him. He goes ahead with the audition on his own terms, opening with a trick that involves bashing a judge’s Rolex with a mallet. Sadly, the watch does not survive. Neither do Howard’s chances of joining the “most elite magical society on the face of the Earth.”
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