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The Big Bang Theory Fans Are Split Over Howard's FBI Background Check Fiasco

The four scientists whose wild antics anchor "The Big Bang Theory" actually have to deal with a lot serious, high-profile procedures at work. Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) is an experimental physicist who works at a high level position at Caltech. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) is a decorated theoretical physicist who eventually finds himself competing for a Nobel Prize. Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) works in the field of particle physics. And Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) is an aerospace engineer whose series-long dream to make it into the International Space Station finally reaches fruition late in the series. 

It's the ambitious Howard's career which helps form the plot for Episode 7 of Season 4, "The Apology Insufficiency." In "The Apology Insufficiency," when Howard requires a higher level of security clearance at CalTech for a special government project, the FBI shows up to interview his friends. Howard, Sheldon and Raj put anything but their best foot forward with FBI Special Agent Angela Page (Eliza Dushku). Raj gets drunk to overcome his shyness, but paranoia about her true motivation sets in. Leonard tries to ask her out on a date (and is rejected). And Sheldon, meanwhile, tries to settle an old score with the FBI instead of focusing on Howard and his character. 

Ultimately, Howard is denied clearance, and learns that it's due to an embarrassing gaffe made by one of his friends during the set of interviews. It's now up to Raj, Leonard and Sheldon to set the record straight, and for the guilty party to try to make things up to Howard. Years after the episode aired, though, fans of the show are still torn over whether or not Howard's anger at the person who ruined his chance to be a part of that project is fully earned.

Was Howard's anger toward Sheldon justified?

Fans posting to the "The Big Bang Theory" subreddit have a lot of mixed opinions about whether or not Howard should be as angry at Sheldon — who ultimately proves to be the reason why Howard didn't score the clearance he needed — as he is in the episode. "Was Howard justified in being mad at Sheldon for the flopped FBI background check?" wondered u/kabovetti in their post.

Subreddit members ultimately had mixed opinions about Howard's reaction to Sheldon's incautious actions. Many fans responding to the thread sympathized with Howard and remember the many times Sheldon had flown off the handle during the show whenever he has to deal with a personal or career-related setback. "How do you think Sheldon would act. Howard acted pretty calm while Sheldon jeopardized a big step in his career[?]" wondered u/Colinsclapped. Several fans spoke up to blame Sheldon and his behavior for ruining Howard's attempt at bettering his career. 

But Sheldon also has a number of defenders willing to point out that Howard had ruined his own chances to work on the project thanks to his reckless behavior. "Howard deserved it considering he destroyed NASA equipment trying to show off for a girl. It was simply karma catching up to him," u/Roman64s said, bringing up an incident which took place during Season 2's "The Classified Materials Turbulence," and the story that Sheldon repeats to Page which causes Howard's request for further clearance to be rejected. u/Silencer271 agreed with this, believing that Howard doesn't deserve to succeed due to this very behavior.

This isn't the only Big Bang Theory episode involving Sheldon having to apologize

Sheldon Cooper is an obstinate and opinionated fellow, which means his apologies are extremely rare during the course of "The Big Bang Theory." But Sheldon is called upon to beg the forgiveness of others during his time on the show, especially during this memorable Season 9 episode. In "The Empathy Optimization," Sheldon comes to realize that empathy is a good thing when the rest of the gang snubs him after he treats them poorly while he's sick with the flu. Sheldon promptly goes on an apology tour in an desperate attempt to get everyone else to speak to him again. In Season 11's "The Sibling Realignment," he also apologizes to his brother, Georgie (Jerry O'Connell) for failing to realize how difficult taking care of their mother was for Georgie after Sheldon fled their family for life in college.

Jim Parsons is on the record about Sheldon's lack of sensitivity when it comes to his friends — and he loves it. Per a 2016 interview with Variety, Parsons explains that what attracted him to the role of Sheldon was his refusal to give in to schmaltz, arguing that this very quality is what makes him so compelling. "I feel very lucky to be playing a character that, nine times out of 10, when something sentimental is happening in a script, I get to be the one to burst that bubble. And that gives me such great pleasure, I cannot tell you."