On the sixth-to-last episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Inspiration Deprivation,” Amy (Mayim Bialik) is spiraling in the wake of her uncharacteristic outburst in a room full of Nobel Laureates. 

RELATED: Catch up here with our recap of the last episode!

Last week, Amy melted down at the usurpers who are trying to steal the Nobel Prize from her and Sheldon (Jim Parsons). As a result, they both get called in to a meeting with Ms. Davis (Regina King) in HR and President Siebert (Joshua Malina), where they’re told that they’re being benched in an effort to preserve their chances at the award. 

Having to surrender to fate in this way is extremely difficult for Sheldon, but it’s Amy who starts spiraling after Ms. Davis points out that if they win, Amy will be only the fourth woman ever to do so in physics. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) try to advise their fretting friends about how to stay calm, and after eliminating a number of options, they settle on trying sensory deprivation float tanks. 

In the tank, Sheldon finds his ultimate happy spot. The bacteria-free, temperature-controlled environment allows him to disconnect from all the assaults on his senses that the real world has to offer and basically leaves him a disembodied brain. Before long he’s practically tripping, swimming through beautifully colored iterations of infinite Mandelbrot sets. 

Amy does not find peace. Instead, Ms. Davis’ words echo in her head as she succumbs to a growing sense of responsibility to win the Prize for the sake of all womankind. By the time their hour in the tank is up, Sheldon is completely at ease and Amy is a basket case. 

At home, Sheldon can’t stop talking about how wonderful his experience was while Amy frantically scrubs down the refrigerator. She’s cracking under the pressure of having to be a role model for all women, and Sheldon has no idea how to help. He googles what to do when someone’s freaking out, and settles on going for a walk– which he does alone. 

When Sheldon’s walk doesn’t calm Amy down, he seeks solace at Penny and Leonard’s and tells them what’s happening. They suggest that all he really needs to do is be there for Amy, and that he probably doesn’t know how to help her because she’s usually the one doing the caretaking. This inspires him. He decides he needs to melt down so that Amy will be distracted from her own feelings by needing to attend to him. It isn’t what Penny and Leonard meant, but Leonard thinks it might be Sheldon’s best move.

Sheldon returns to Amy and tries to fake a fit, but she isn’t buying it. She tells him she can’t deal with having to represent women in physics for the whole world, and she collapses on the couch. Finally he figures out how to help and goes to her, taking her in his arms (after politely offering to let her smell his hands before they touch her). He cradles her and sings her “Soft Kitty,” and she calms down. 

Meanwhile, Howard (Simon Helberg) and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) spot a red scooter for sale in the university parking lot, and Howard impulsively buys it in a wave of selfish nostalgia. He wants to relive some element of his premarital days, when he and Raj would double up on his old scooter and cruise for girls. Knowing Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) won’t approve, he tries to keep the scooter a secret by parking it at work.

For some reason, Howard and Raj bring the scooter back to the Wolowitz house to take turns riding it around the neighborhood while Bernie is alone at the park with the kids. (So much wrong with that, but OK.) She, of course, comes home early and catches Howard in his lie. 

The fact that Howard would do something like this without talking to her is most of what makes Bernie mad, although the obvious risk involved in riding a scooter is another element. Howard tries to defend himself, but when Bernie asks if the scooter is the hill he wants to die on, he capitulates and sells it to Bert (Brian Posehn). It works great for Bert, who meets a girl (an ER nurse!) almost immediately after taking it for a first spin.

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Leona Laurie