The Autistic Journalist makes up for lost time with a critique of The Big Bang Theory episode:”The Friendship Contraction.”
The month of February featured heavy rotation of Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) antics further aggravating his friends while amusing viewers, making his emergency preparedness drill at the beginning of this episode a foreboding for fans.
His continued obliviousness to social empathy manifests with an emergency drill for possible but highly unlikely disaster scenarios (including an invasion from neighboring Canada, a United States ally). Waking up Leonard (Johnny Galecki) in the early morning hours to participate in the drill only annoys his roommate, whose tolerance for this activity has evaporated.
Naturally, Leonard becomes lethargic at work and refuses to drive Sheldon to the dentist. Sheldon highlights the roommate agreement, requiring that Leonard assist him, but is rebuffed. He offers Leonard a clause that would relieve him of all obligations except paying rent and utilities. Leonard accepts instantly.
Sheldon soon finds himself stranded as none of his other acquaintances are willing to help with his logistically challenging requests. Desperate to get Leonard back (without actually admitting it), Sheldon turns off the power switch to the apartment (not revealed until the end of the episode) and shows off a detailed emergency kit, but Leonard goes to Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) apartment for wine.
Penny convinces Leonard to settle their dispute when she notices Sheldon unable to cope with his perpetual loneliness. Leonard suggests that Sheldon show appreciation when he does favors for him, but Sheldon replies with creating a day to honor his selfless actions, which is merely a ruse for his continued belief that everyone is inferior to him.
Autistic or not, the episode illustrates the burnout that often occurs when a friend or colleague does a favor for another and gets little or nothing in return. Sheldon’s emergency drill also defines how a lack of communication can result in tension. While having an escape route and back-up kit in case of a disaster is highly encouraged, creating scenarios based on a highly unlikely probability or disturbing the needs of others is a poor implentation of an emergency procedure.
While each episode is meant for comic entertainment, parents and mediators can reference this show when discussing what to consider when autistic children (and their non-autistic peers) make requests that sometimes cannot be met, requiring other short-term solutions.