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This Is The Big Bang Theory's Most Underrated Episode

It's no surprise that, as is the case with most TV shows, the most popular episodes of the legendary CBS sitcom The Big Bang theory are ones that have some weight to them. Holiday episodes, episodes that feature relationship or career milestones, and popular guest star spots tend to fill the list of the best-loved installments of the series. When it comes to enjoyment, however, sometimes an episode that's just plain funny is all we need.

Season 3 episode "The Einstein Approximation" may not have any big twists or character-defining moments, but it's a darn good half-hour of TV. In the episode, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is experiencing a manic break while trying to figure out the solution to a formula on which he's stuck. As he goes day after day without sleep, his radical attempts to fill in the missing pieces become more and more absurd, and more disruptive to his friends. In truth, the episode could just be called "Sheldon Is Really Obnoxious," but the details are handled so well that it feels like a minor classic.

Let's break down exactly why "The Einstein Approximation" is The Big Bang Theory's most underrated episode.

'The Einstein Approximation' is full of physical humor

The crux of "The Einstein Approximation" is Sheldon's unrelenting quest to find the problem with his equation. We begin watching Sheldon facing away from a whiteboard with his formula written on it, quickly whipping around to steal one-second glances at it in an attempt to, "Only view my work as a fleeting image so as to engage the superior colliculus of my brain."

When it's clear Sheldon's not getting anywhere, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) suggests that he wipe the slate clean and give himself a fresh start. Sheldon thanks him for the good idea and promptly throws the whiteboard out a window, causing a car crash on the street below. Throughout the rest of the episode, we see Sheldon attempting to solve his problem by using a series of increasingly over-the-top tools that result in some killer physical comedy bits.

He steals his friend's peas and beans at lunch to try and map out the electrons and protons that are giving him trouble. Later, Leonard and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) come home to find that Sheldon is trying this mapping technique again, this time with several dozen marbles, on which they both slip.

Eventually, Sheldon breaks into a children's play place to climb into the ball pit and try mapping the equation again. Leonard is called by the building's security guard to come collect his friend, which first requires him to wrestle Sheldon out of the balls like a toddler who is having too much fun playing and isn't ready to go home. The gags are all simple, but very effective, and keep the episode feeling buoyant and humorous throughout.

Sheldon has a hilarious stint as a waiter at The Cheesecake Factory

The grand finale of the episode comes thanks to Sheldon's latest tactic to try and crack the code. Per the title of the episode, Sheldon decides to take a cue from one of his heroes, Albert Einstein, who came up with his theory of relativity while working in a patent office. Sheldon decides he needs his own menial job in order to occupy his mind just enough to let his thoughts flow freely.

After thinking about the most mind-numbing jobs he could do, he produces three possibilities: "A toll booth attendant, an Apple Store Genius, and what Penny does." He decides on the third option and surprises Penny at her job at The Cheesecake Factory, where Sheldon is now working as a busboy ... sort of. When Penny asks him how he got a job there so quickly, he tells her that, because he doesn't actually need the income, he just waltzed in, picked up a tub, and started clearing tables.

Sheldon eventually promotes himself to waiter, a job at which he's remarkably good. Even when things go south for his customer service career after he drops a large tray of food, Sheldon makes the most of his experience. The splatter of nachos and broken plates on the ground causes him to have an epiphany, which leads to him solving his problem. From start to finish, the whole sequence is brilliant and absurd.

Jim Parsons delivers an incredible performance

At the heart of what makes this episode so superlative is Jim Parsons' performance. Not everyone is a fan of Sheldon's particular brand of prickly elitism, but the character is on fire when he's thrust into a situation with which he's not familiar. Here, we not only have him unable to solve a physics problem, but also playing in a ball pit and working at The Cheesecake Factory. Sheldon is wandering in the dark throughout most of the episode, and Parsons plays all of these interactions perfectly.

Sheldon's mania is another theme of the episode. By the time people are tripping over his marbles on the floor, he's already been awake for several days straight, with no end in sight. This scenario is something a lesser actor might run into the ground with a loud, abrasive performance, but Parsons makes all the right choices to telegraph Sheldon's instability. He gives enough with the intensity of his eyes and vocal inflections that he never has to resort to trite line readings or physicality. It's one of the reasons that "The Einstein Approximation" is one of the most enjoyable and underrated episodes of The Big Bang Theory.