Tonight’s episode of The Big Bang Theory almost resulted in Sheldon and Amy’s wedding—but for diehard Shamy shippers, City Hall vows were thankfully not in the cards. Long-time fans of the couple have been hoping for a big wedding, and it seems that’s exactly what they’ll get.
To recap, Sheldon and Amy were fighting so much that they thought a no-frills wedding at the clerk’s office would solve everything. Sheldon, however, came to his senses and recognized that he needs a brain transplant. OK, not really, but he did finally act like a decent adult when he realized a successful relationship involves really listening to a partner’s wants and dreams. In this case, that’s a proper wedding to Amy with a real first dance and plenty of Little House on the Prairie references. As for when—well, that’s anyone’s guess, but at least things are finally moving in a more positive direction.
But the true heart of tonight’s episode—titled “The Confidence Erosion”—was Raj. This moment in the spotlight has been a long time coming: For years, the character has been the brunt of cheap jokes, ranging from his accent to his metrosexual tendencies. By now, those jokes have become outdated and stale. Raj knows this, but he’s never been one to make too much of anything. That all changed tonight, though, when Raj’s dad encouraged his son to take a long hard look at how Howard—Raj’s BFF—has treated him.
Raj tried to defend his friend—”Howard doesn’t mean anything by it. I think it’s cultural. His people come from a very sarcastic village called Brooklyn.”—but Raj’s father wasn’t hearing it. “Don’t make excuses,” he said. “What kind of friend acts that way? A bad friend!”
Dr. Koothrappali’s words stuck with Raj, who later went over to Penny and Leonard’s apartment to get their opinion. While Leonard agreed that Howard does make fun of Raj a lot, Penny dismissed it as good fun. “That’s just want friends do,” she said. “They bust on each other. It doesn’t mean anything.” That’s rather ironic coming from Penny, who has been the brunt of lame jokes from the guys for the better part of 200 episodes. Of course, she hasn’t been the nicest person either—especially to her husband—who called her out on her behavior.
But let’s get back to Raj, who later crushed it in this exchange with Howard:
Howard: Wanna grab some lunch?
Raj: No, I don’t think so.
Howard: Lemme guess, you’re not eating because the mean girls circled your chubby bits in marker.
Raj: No, that, that right there! That’s the reason. You’re always making fun of me.
Howard: Those are just jokes. It’s my way of saying we’re friends. And it wouldn’t hurt you to drop a few!
Raj: See, no wonder I don’t have any confidence.
Howard: Come on, you can’t blame that on me!
Raj: Why not? 15 years of constant ridicule! I think our relationship has become toxic.
Howard: What are you saying?
Raj: I think you and I need to spend some time away from each other.
Howard: Look, I can see you’re upset, but I’m gonna need some ground rules. While we’re apart, can I see other needy Indian men?
Raj: GET OUT!
If that didn’t make Howard look like enough of an ass, then the fact that he later told Leonard and Sheldon that “Raj is trying to blame me for his pathetic life,” surely did.
And then, in a moment we never thought we’d see on the show, Raj showed up to Penny and Leonard’s with his natural hair. He revealed that when he first moved to the United States, he wanted to fit in: Because Howard’s hair was straight and he was the coolest person he knew, he took his lead.
The moment represents a breakthrough for Raj, who truly seems ready to embrace his authentic self. He doesn’t need Howard to be his therapist and leave him smiley face stickers on his lunch tray, but he certainly doesn’t need him to bring him down either. So, after Raj bombed an interview earlier in the episode to conduct presentations at the Planetarium, he mustered up the courage to go back to the hiring committee and make a stronger case for himself. His newfound confidence (and a little help from external circumstances) helps him get hired, but it’s a bittersweet achievement given that he can’t go and tell his best friend. Leonard urges him to do so anyway, but Raj remains steadfast in his decision. “No, I don’t need his negative energy in my life right now,” he explained. “Standing up to him was hard, but it made me realize I can do anything.”
It was a profound moment for myriad reasons, namely that by the time the credits rolled, Raj and Howard hadn’t reconciled. They may very well next week, but it was nice to see the weight of Raj’s feelings act as a connective tissue through each scene. He was undoubtedly sad to cut Howard out of his life, but empowered by his ability to do so. If and when the two repair their friendship, it will only be because Howard has understood the hurt caused by his actions, and Raj finally understands his worth.