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Jim Parsons' Best Episodes In The Big Bang Theory

Few modern television characters have entered the popular lexicon as thoroughly as Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons in "The Big Bang Theory" (later portrayed as a kid by Iain Armitage in the prequel series "Young Sheldon"). A child prodigy from Galveston, Texas, Sheldon earned his Ph.D. at age 16 before moving to Los Angeles to work as a theoretical physicist at Caltech. Despite being a brilliant scientist, Sheldon often has difficulty engaging in everyday life, and is socially maladroit to the extreme. Any interruption to his strictly regimented routine sends him into a tailspin, and he doesn't suffer fools lightly. Yet with the help of his roommate Leonard (Johnny Galecki), his neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco), his girlfriend Amy (Mayim Bialik), and his friends Howard (Simon Pegg), Raj (Kunal Nayyar), and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), Sheldon eventually grows into a (somewhat) more open-hearted guy.

Created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, "The Big Bang Theory" ran for 12 seasons on CBS, during which time Parsons earned six Emmy nominations and four wins for best actor in a comedy series. Of the show's whopping 279 episodes, how many count as Sheldon standouts? Let's take a look back at Jim Parsons' best episodes in "The Big Bang Theory," narrowed down to 12 highlights (one from each season).

The Luminous Fish Effect (Season 1, Episode 4)

Viewers get a glimpse into Sheldon's backstory in "The Luminous Fish Effect," which features Laurie Metcalf's debut appearance as his mother, Mary Cooper. In this first season installment, Sheldon loses his job at the university after getting on the wrong side of his boss, Dr. Eric Gablehauser (Mark Harelik), with one of his trademark barbs. Out of work with nothing to do, Sheldon takes up a few hobbies, including experimenting with scrambled eggs, weaving on a loom, and making nightlights out of luminescent fish. As he spirals into depression, Leonard calls upon Sheldon's mother to come visit. Deeply religious and kind-hearted, Mary couldn't be any more different from her prickly son, leading his friends to wonder how they could possibly be related. She convinces Sheldon to apologize to Dr. Gablehauser, and although humility isn't exactly his strong suit, he's rehired after his mother employs some of her down-home charm.

Mary Cooper became a major part of the "Big Bang Theory" universe, making 14 appearances throughout the show's 12 seasons. She provides insight into Sheldon's life before moving to California, which is further filled in on "Young Sheldon" (where she's played by Metcalf's real-life daughter, Zoe Perry). Her appearances are always a highlight, and reveal so much about what made Sheldon the man he is. The episode also provides us with our first look at what happens when Sheldon incurs any interruption to his daily routine, which happens more often as the series goes on.

The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis (Season 2, Episode 11)

Parsons earned his first Emmy nomination for the second season of "The Big Bang Theory." He chose "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" as his episode submission, and it's easy to see why, since it shows off so many dimensions of Sheldon's character: his obsessiveness, his prickliness, and even his sweetness. It also shows how he (begrudgingly) allows Penny into his tightly structured life, forcing him to change.

An avowed atheist, Sheldon has no use for Christmas, so he's shocked when Penny gives him a gift for the holidays. Desperate to find a present of equal value to hers, he enlists Raj and Howard to go shopping with him. He settles on a basket of bath items, but still unsure of which ones will be the equivalent of her gift to him, he buys a wide variety to cover his bases. It turns out that was a good call, since Penny got him a napkin that was both autographed and used by Leonard Nimoy. Overcome with emotions (and the prospect of creating his own little Spock from Nimoy's DNA), he gives her both every bath item imaginable and a rare Sheldon hug. It's one of the first signs that Sheldon's hardened shell is starting to crack, as he lets new people get close enough to literally touch him.

The Pants Alternative (Season 3, Episode 18)

Parsons won his first of four Emmys as lead actor in a comedy series in the show's third season. "The Pants Alternative," shows off a looser, sillier side of Sheldon, made possible through some alcoholic libations. It also shows the ways in which the famously antisocial scientist's best friends will come to his aid when he needs it most, even if it doesn't exactly work out for the best.

Sheldon is ecstatic to learn he's won the Chancellor's Award for Science, but his excitement quickly dissipates when he realizes he'll have to give an acceptance speech. The gang bands together to help him overcome his fear of public speaking, with Leonard employing the analytical training used by his psychiatrist mother, Dr. Beverly Hofstadter (Christine Baranski), to try and unlock the root cause of Sheldon's anxiety. Penny, meanwhile, takes him shopping for a new suit, since shopping always calms her down. When nothing works, Penny gives Sheldon a glass of wine at the awards banquet, and the alcohol kicks in just as he's taking the stage. His loosey-goosey speech, in which he drops his pants and moons the audience ("Here's Uranus!"), goes viral.

The Agreement Dissection (Season 4, Episode 21)

In "The Agreement Dissection," Sheldon finds himself bristling at Leonard's burgeoning relationship with Raj's sister, Priya (Aarti Mann). Things come to a head when Sheldon catches the two taking a shower together, thus violating multiple rules in their roommate agreement. Yet Priya uses her skills as an attorney to get the charges thrown out. She later violates Sheldon's very particular eating schedule by ordering Greek food for the guys on pizza night. He seeks refuge with Penny, who's organized a girls' night with Amy and Bernadette so they can trash-talk Leonard's new girlfriend. 

After some drinks and dancing, Sheldon takes Amy back to her apartment, where she encourages him to stand up to Priya. The two share a kiss before Amy drunkenly throws up in her bathroom. The next day, Sheldon blackmails Leonard into a revised agreement by threatening to tell Priya's parents about their relationship. A severely hungover Amy calls Sheldon to ask if anything happened between them last night, and he assures her that it didn't. Aside from the hilarity of learning that Sheldon used to dance at debutante balls as a child (which he demonstrates on the dance floor), this installment also shows him beginning to grow through his relationship with Amy, which at this point was just an on-again, off-again flirtation.

The Werewolf Transformation (Season 5, Episode 18)

Sheldon is nothing if not particular, and his adverse reactions to an interruption in his daily routine reach new heights in "The Werewolf Transformation." In this fifth season installment, his regular barber, Mr. D'Onofrio, has fallen into a coma, leaving his nephew, Angelo (Peter Onorati), in charge of his barbershop. But Sheldon is reluctant to let this new guy touch his hair, and he isn't open to the new barber suggestions given by Amy and Raj. Penny offers to cut his hair, but he chooses instead to visit the comatose Mr. D'Onofrio at the hospital, where a horrified nurse finds him with a pair of scissors. 

His haircut routine in shambles, Sheldon decides to forgo the rest of his meticulously planned life, letting his hair grow wild and learning to play the bongos. When his loud playing wakes up Leonard and Penny, he seeks refuge on Amy's couch, where he finally falls asleep. Sheldon allows Penny to cut his hair, and she does a pretty good job before accidentally shaving off the back of his head. It's a hoot watching Sheldon try to break free from his regimented lifestyle when the slightest change comes up, only to have him go back to normal in the end.

The Habitation Configuration (Season 6, Episode 7)

Sheldon is obsessed with all things nerdy, from "Star Wars" to comic books. In "The Habitation Configuration," he scores a major win when he convinces Wil Wheaton to appear on his Youtube show "Fun With Flags" for a special "Star Trek" themed episode. But things go awry during taping when Amy doesn't get along with their famous guest. She asks Sheldon to tell Wheaton to leave, and when he refuses, Amy storms out. Sheldon recounts their confrontation with Penny at the Cheesecake Factory bar, and she chides him for failing to stand up for his girlfriend. She encourages Sheldon to channel his inner Texan and confront Wheaton, which he does with the aid of a little liquid courage. Sheldon goes to Wheaton's home and demands he apologize to Amy, later vomiting in his shrubs. He makes up with Amy, and they reshoot the podcast with special guest LeVar Burton — who also can't get along with her.

In addition to tapping into Sheldon's nerdiest obsessions, it also showcases his continual growth through his relationship with Amy, as he begrudgingly realizes that he really does care for her. Plus, just like in "The Pants Alternative," it gives Parsons another opportunity to indulge in one of comedy's oldest staples: Playing drunk.

The Relationship Diremption (Season 7, Episode 20)

Parsons won his fourth and final Emmy award for "The Big Bang Theory's" seventh season (which was also the last year he was nominated for the series). "The Relationship Diremption" finds Sheldon coming to terms with nothing less all-consuming than his life's work. Needless to say, Sheldon doesn't do well with existential dilemmas, and any degree of personal regret causes him to spiral out of control in spectacular fashion.

Sheldon has spent the majority of his professional career trying to prove string theory, which starts to unravel with the announcement of some new big bang theory discoveries. Worried that he's wasted his life on bad science, he tries to find a new area to study, which is easier said than done. One thing he definitely doesn't want to study is geology, which he doesn't consider to be a real science. After a night of drunkenly commiserating with Leonard, Penny, and Amy, a hungover Sheldon awakens to find a geology book in his arms. He also discovers he's left several drunken voice messages on the answering machine of leading string theorist Stephen Hawking. As evidenced by this, "The Pants Alternative," and "The Habitation Configuration," Sheldon and alcohol definitely don't mix.

The Septum Deviation (Season 8, Episode 9)

Before meeting Amy, Sheldon's closest relationship was with his roommate, Leonard, who was also (almost by default) his best friend. Although he'd hate to admit it, Sheldon cares deeply about Leonard, and that's on full display in the eighth season episode "The Septum Deviation." Of course, Sheldon being Sheldon, any open display of emotions causes him to act out in hilariously outlandish ways, and his actions in this installment are no different.

When Leonard announces he's having surgery to fix a deviated septum, Sheldon tries to talk him out of it by outlining every possible adverse side effect (broken down with mathematical precision on his handy whiteboard). Leonard sneaks off to the hospital with Penny, but Amy fails to keep their trip a secret. A desperate Sheldon races to the hospital, only to break his own nose when he runs into the glass door of the operating room. While Sheldon and Leonard are recovering at home with matching bandaged noses, Leonard jokingly tells Sheldon that he tried to stop the surgery because he secretly loves him. Sheldon proves Leonard's point by unwrapping a package he had specially delivered for him: Matching engraved funeral urns. Sure, it's morbid, but it's also poignant (and expensive, since Sheldon can't get a refund once the engravings have been done).

The Opening Night Excitation (Season 9, Episode 11)

Sheldon's on-again, off-again relationship with Amy hit a milestone in "The Opening Night Excitation," when the two finally consummated their relationship after six years of dating. It's the first time either one has had sex of any kind with another person, and considering how much they've grown to care about each other, it was well worth the wait. The same is true for "Big Bang Theory" fans, who had waited just as long to see these two end up together.

A "Star Wars"-esque opening credits crawl teases another huge milestone in Sheldon's life: The opening night of "The Force Awakens," which happens to fall on Amy's birthday. Since the two have broken up, Sheldon buys a ticket for opening night, though Penny encourages him to spend the evening with Amy instead. While sleeping, Sheldon is visited by the ghost of his favorite children's TV scientist, Arthur Jeffries (Bob Newhart), aka Professor Proton, who comes dressed as a Jedi. Arthur convinces Sheldon to give up his ticket to "The Force Awakens," since Amy is more important. In a stunning display of personal growth, Sheldon decides to skip the new "Star Wars" movie to spend time with his girlfriend, and after batting around gift ideas with Penny and Bernadette, he decides to give her the gift of coitus. Although they're both nervous about this new experience, they enjoy it so much that they decide to do it again for her birthday next year.

The Cohabitation Experimentation (Season 10, Episode 4)

Sheldon took a major step in his relationship with Amy in the 10th season episode "The Cohabitation Experimentation." As the title would suggest, the two experiment with living together when Amy's apartment becomes flooded due to plumbing problems. This is music to Leonard and Penny's ears, who will live alone in the boys' apartment while Sheldon and Amy stay across the hall in Penny's. But Sheldon being Sheldon, things can't help but go wrong. Not used to sharing a bed with someone else, he keeps Amy awake their first night with his excessive tossing and turning. The next morning, they have a fight over — what else? — scientific integrity. The two work themselves up into such a lather that the only thing that can calm them down is making out on Penny's couch.

Throughout the run of the show, Sheldon was dragged kicking and screaming into relationships with other people. His romance with Amy experienced many ups and downs, most of which were caused by Sheldon's inability to express his feelings in any meaningful way. Yet step by step, he learns to share his life with another person, even when it disrupts his carefully structured routine. Parsons did an expert job of charting that development throughout the series, imbuing Sheldon's journey with equal measures of humor and pathos, even in episodes as absurd as "The Cohabitation Experimentation."

The Bow Tie Asymmetry (Season 11, Episode 24)

"The Big Bang Theory's" 11th season began with Sheldon finally popping the question to Amy, and ended with the two of them walking down the aisle together in "The Bow Tie Asymmetry." It was a moment fans of the series had been anxiously awaiting since Sheldon and Amy went on their first date in the third season finale "The Lunar Excitation." Their wedding was a highlight, filled with laughs, tears, and celebrity cameos. It also features some of the most nuanced work by Parsons, both comedically and emotionally.

Everyone has gathered for Sheldon and Amy's wedding, which is to be officiated by Amy's former nemesis, Wil Wheaton. But Wheaton is replaced at the last minute by Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, who owes Howard a favor for saving his lost dog. Sheldon and Amy, meanwhile, are dealing with various problems from their visiting families, with Amy's pushy mother (Kathy Bates) and complacent father (Teller, of Penn & Teller) meeting Sheldon's mom, Mary, estranged brother, George (Jerry O'Connell), and pregnant sister, Missy (Courtney Henggeler), for the first time. But all Sheldon can focus on is making his bow tie completely symmetrical, which leads to greater pontifications about supersymmetric theory. Their wedding gets further delayed when Sheldon, Amy, and Leonard get into a deeper discussion about super-asymmetry, forcing Penny to get things back on track. Amy and Sheldon exchange their vows, with Sheldon opening himself up in surprising ways during his.

The Change Constant and The Stockholm Syndrome (Season 12, Episodes 23 and 24)

The 12-season run of "The Big Bang Theory" came to an end with a two-part finale that showed just how far Sheldon had come in his personal development. In "The Change Constant," Sheldon and Amy learn they've earned the Nobel Prize for their work in super-asymmetry (which they started at their wedding). When Amy gets a makeover ahead of their trip to Sweden, Sheldon demands she change back to the way she was before. At the Cheesecake Factory, Penny explains that change is the only constant in life, and that he should accept all of the changes in his own life as positive.

In "The Stockholm Syndrome," the gang travels to Sweden to watch Sheldon and Amy accept their Nobel Prizes. On the plane trip over, Sheldon gets worried that Penny might be sick because she keeps going to the bathroom. Turns out Penny is pregnant, a secret she's keeping from Leonard. When she tells Sheldon, he's relieved that she won't be sick during the ceremony, and uncaringly breaks the news to Leonard. He also reacts selfishly when Howard and Bernadette want to return home to check on their kids, leading Amy to reprimand Sheldon for constantly hurting his friends, which they only put up with because they know he can't help it. During his acceptance speech, he forgoes talking about himself to instead thank each of his friends individually, apologizing for not always reciprocating their love. It's a moment of genuine humility for Sheldon that was well earned over the show's long run.