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The Big Bang Theory Season 1 Sheldon Moment That Confuses Fans

The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) is one of TV's most famous germaphobes. His character is established early on in the 2007-2019 sitcom as one who freaks out at the thought of catching germs from others, and it's a perfectly-pitched part of his brilliant, quirky, socially-handicapped personality. It's as fundamental a part of him as his geeky T-shirts and tenuous grasp of humor, leading to many hilarious moments on the CBS series over the course of 12 seasons.

Which is why, when it comes to one particular incident in the first season, fans are a bit confused. After painstakingly developing Sheldon's aversion to germs from other people, as when he gave Penny (Kaley Cuoco) a "strike" for touching his onion rings in the Season 2 episode "The Penny Piñata Polarization," it turns out there are a few moments where his character isn't all that consistent. In fact, this could be construed as a plot hole. 

The baffling moment is in the show's 10th episode

In the first season episode "The Loobenfeld Decay," the scene in question takes place just before the beginning credits. Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon are debating plot points of the Terminator franchise as they enter their apartment building with a take-out bag, get the mail, and head up the stairs. They hear Penny singing badly. When she comes downstairs, they turn around and precede her, probably hoping not to encounter her. When she sees them and asks what they're doing, Leonard makes an excuse that they came down to mail letters and "throw away some chicken." This requires Sheldon to reluctantly, with some looks between himself and Leonard, lift up the lid of a trash can in the lobby and carefully place the bag inside. 

They converse with Penny about a development in her career, making an excuse that would relieve them from attending her performance in a one-night Rent showcase that Friday. After she leaves, Sheldon claims his lying to Penny makes him a sociopath. Leonard heads up the stairs, while Sheldon goes to the trash can, takes out the bag, blows on it, and heads for the stairs. 

This is not an expected reaction — trash cans are breeding grounds for germs, especially those in public places. Even worse, it's a throwaway joke in an episode that focuses on the lie that Sheldon crafts to make their absence from Penny's show seem a foolproof one. 

The discrepancy may be due to characters not being fully developed

The moment probably wasn't as big a deal when The Big Bang Theory episode was first aired. After all, the action is not necessarily odd by itself. Once the scene was pointed out by a user on Reddit, commenters noted that the chicken is protected by several layers — the plastic bag and whatever containers are inside — and it's really only in the trash can for a few minutes. The food is still perfectly good, and Sheldon and Leonard clearly just bought it.

Nevertheless, the action seems so divergent from Sheldon's personality that it can't be justified. Still, there are alternative theories for Sheldon's uncharacteristic actions in this episode. One fan speculates that Sheldon has a particular vendetta against chickens which overrides his obsessive-compulsive tendencies. In a third season episode, "The Jiminy Conjecture," he points out that chickens are not shy, saying that one chased him up a tree once. 

The most convincing theory, however, is that the show was still relatively new back then and the characters had not yet quite settled into their now-legendary personalities completely. As one fan points out, for example, Sheldon doesn't develop his signature knock (three knocks plus the name of the person Sheldon is visiting) until Season 2(via The Big Bang Theory Fansite). His first knock seen by viewers, which took place in the second episode of the first season, "The Big Bran Hypothesis," has Sheldon entering Penny's apartment to take responsibility for the act of coming over in the middle of the night to clean. His knocks remain normal for several episodes after that.

Ultimately, it's hard to imagine that a show with 12 seasons under its belt doesn't occasionally run into some inconsistencies and mistakes over the course of 279 episodes.