Did that headline fool you? Did you think Leonard began the new year by actually moving out of his and Sheldon's apartment and into the abode across the hall with wife? Nah. The big relocation effort is Stuart's — he moves from Howard and Bernadette's house into his own apartment. And it comes just in the nick of time too, because we learn new details on the creepiest of Stuart's habits.
To wit: While talking to the Wolowitzes' in their bedroom, he says that it's weird being in there while they're awake. Unsettling. The episode also ends with Stuart returning to the house in the middle of the night, standing over Howard and Bernie as they sleep. I'm not saying Stuart has serial killer tendencies, but if anyone ever shows up at the comic-book shop wearing what appears to be a suit made of Howard or Bernadette, Stuart should immediately be the lead suspect.
Okay, that's an exaggeration — I hope — but until this season, Stuart had been an odd dude who gave off a sweet, lonely vibe. In season nine, he's made unwelcome advances on Amy, delusionally assumed she was hitting on him, and set up a webcam on a breastfeeding station at the comic-book shop. His loneliness has definitely taken a turn for the desperate (and criminal). It's not an exaggeration to say that Stuart needs some companionship, if only for the good of everyone around him.
Elsewhere in the episode that marks the official halfway point of season nine, Raj gets his "Sheld-on" — Sheldon's little joke about how "today's youth" would describe the chance to hang out with him — and collaborates with Mr. Cooper on a day of science exploration that leads to the discovery of an asteroid; Howard and Bernie happily bid Stuart adieu, only to realize they miss him (this realization comes, of course, without the knowledge of his late-night stalking); pharmaceutical sales rep Penny talks Leonard into posing as a therapy patient to gain access to a psychiatrist she wants to sell a new drug to; and both Penny and Leonard learn some insights into their personalities — with very different reactions — while in the company of Dr. Gallo (guest star Jane Kaczmarek).
Which is to say that, after spending the rest of the first half of the season getting us through Sheldon and Amy's breakup, reconciliation, and first sexual experience together, TBBT writers have shifted the focus from Shamy to the rest of the gang. The result is fun, even if it's not the five-star perfection of "The Opening Night Excitation."
The unexpected pairing of Sheldon and Raj (made possible by the fact that Amy was out of town at a convention, freeing others to get their Sheld-on) not only leads to a new asteroid, but a happy Sheldon surprising Amy with news that an asteroid had been named after her. Sheldon wrangles that honor after trying to name the asteroid after the scientists themselves: the "Koo" from Koothrappali added to the "per" from Cooper to form … "Cooper." Sheldon rejects his own idea, however, when Raj wants to spell it as "Kooper." Naming the asteroid after their girlfriends — the "Am" from Amy, combined with the "y" in Emily — doesn't exactly fool Rajesh, though. As Sheldon explains to Amy, the asteroid is named for her, but they have to name all their future children "Raj." Even the girls.
As for Howard and Bernadette, they're now alone in a big house they plan to renovate. As they clean out Stuart's room, finding a teddy bear in a closet, they're left with what can weirdly (but accurately) be described as a case of empty-nest syndrome. The writers could not be driving it harder with this hint that parenthood is in the Wolowitzes' future.
Penny and Leonard, on the other hand, are a bit more than a teddy bear and a build-your-own nursery away from rearing another human. Leonard's fake appointment with Dr. Gallo turns into a genuinely helpful session, as she helps him unpack his mommy issues and conclude that he's a worthwhile person whose feelings matter. "I learned that for free from a cat poster, but good for you," replies Raj, in his best line of the season.
Unfortunately, Penny doesn't walk away from her meeting with Gallo with the same confidence boost. The sales call turns into a therapy session, complete with Penny stretched out on Gallo's couch, running down the list of ways her husband behaves like a child, turning her into someone whose behavior often mirrors that of his domineering mother.
And she doesn't even make the sale.
- Leonard is still trying to get his "Sheld-off."
- Did we know Sheldon is a synesthete? He sees numbers in colors and experiences them as scents. A Fudgesicle, he says, tastes like the speed of light.
- We did know that Sheldon can be a stickler for rules, but not how that tendency led him to narc on his father. When he was a kid, he tells Raj, he helped his dad's boss figure out who was stealing money from the company … and it was Papa Cooper. Dad lost his job, and Sheldon was rewarded with a Fudgesicle.
- Sheldon and Amy's discussion of what constitutes good Best Western hotels and Best Buy stores is tongue-twisting fun. "They have the best buys, but having the best buys isn't the only thing that makes a Best Buy the best Best Buy," he says during their flirty Skyping.
- Sheldon, when Raj asks him to analyze some data in the telescope lab: "Look at that … an Indian guy outsourcing a computer job to a white fella."
- Leonard tells Dr. Gallo his mother didn't allow him to celebrate his birthday when he was a child. Why? His birth was her achievement, not his. "To this day, I send her a card every year with a little money in it."
- He may be a man with feelings, a man who's had coitus at least once, but in some ways, he's the same old Sheldon, like when he sees an extra upside to naming the asteroid after Amy: "It appears romantic, but it's really just a rock in space that gets me out of Valentine's Day forever."