Penny and Leonard.
Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Big Bang Theory was the most-watched prime-time TV series – of any genre, and on both network and cable – last season. And with its ninth season officially launched, TBBT is also the longest-running non-animated sitcom on network TV. Which is to say, despite all those who may consider the show’s longevity to be a head-scratcher, there’s no disputing that Sheldon Cooper and his geeky gang do continue to have a very devoted fan base. This season premiere is the perfect example of why.
Nine seasons in, and with just seven regular cast members, it’s no small thing to keep story lines and characters fresh. TBBT writers are accomplishing it by working that original premise: The group of socially awkward scientist buds are constantly evolving. Sometimes it’s at a glacial pace, and sometimes even the evolution from awkwardness is awkward, but Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj have changed in ways big and small and important since first we met them in the 2007 pilot. Howard, a kinda-creepy lecher back in the day, now directs his attention to wife Bernadette; Raj, while still unmatched with a compatible mate, can talk to women now without having to get blotto first; Leonard is confident enough not to only ask dream girl Penny to marry him, but to believe he’s worthy of her (issues at hand in the season premiere — see below — notwithstanding); and Sheldon, the snarkiest, most ill-at-ease geek of his tribe, is now thinking about engagement rings and making babies (again, issues at hand in the season premiere — see below — notwithstanding).
Now, about the aforementioned issues, which ensure our heroes and heroines evolve at a realistic pace: Penny and Leonard, picking up from last season’s finale, are at the wedding chapel in Las Vegas, having decided to continue with their elopement plans despite Penny having just learned that Leonard once made out with another woman earlier in their relationship. They’ve agreed to back-burner the topic while taking advantage of a wedding package that includes flowers, music, and an internet stream of their ceremony. “I’ve always wanted a wedding with a comments section,” says Penny, who, as much as any of the guys, continues to develop, with dry observations and quick-witted rejoinders to their oft-pretentious science-speak. Leonard’s a fan of the online viewing of their nuptials “because there’s a lot of gorgeous blondes out there who don’t believe they can land a short, nearsighted scientist.”
Meanwhile, Leonard gets a call from an unhappy Sheldon, who, in the season-eight finale, had been told by a growingly impatient Amy Farrah Fowler that she wanted a time-out to think about their relationship. Sheldon wants Leonard to reconsider the wedding to Penny because, “Some important new information has come to light. Women are the worst,” Sheldon says. “I thought it was paper cuts, but I was wrong … no paper ever cut me this deep.”
As Leonard and Penny await their turn at the altar — he suggests grabbing breakfast at the strip club next door, but she prefers her scrambled eggs sans glitter — Sheldon decides to visit Amy. He arrives at her door as she’s leaving, and she’s frustrated that he isn’t giving her the time to think she had requested just 11 hours earlier. “The Lord of the Rings trilogy was nearly 11 hours,” he says. “I made you watch that, and you said it was an eternity.” Sheldon Cooper, literal man. As Amy walks out, he asks if he can walk with her. She says yes. “I’m glad we’re going out again,” he says, forcing Amy to dash that literal fallacy, and tell him she’s going out — not with him — to watch the online wedding at Howard and Bernadette’s house.
He follows her there. He stands outside, peeking in through the window, upset about Amy, and that he wasn’t invited to the viewing soirée. They let him in, and while hosts Amy, Raj, and Stuart (yep, he’s still mooching at Casa Wolowitz) watch Penny and Leonard say their vows to each other, Sheldon starts to bug Amy again about her wish for time to think.
“You should think fast, because men can sire offspring their entire lives, but those eggs you’re totin’ around have a sell-by date,” he tells her.
Now, from that insensitive remark, you can take two things. One, Sheldon Cooper, who still acts like it’s a chore that he has to kiss his girlfriend as part of their boy-girl relationship, is thinking about, even planning, that he and Amy would one day have intercourse (which is exactly how he would describe it) and procreate (again, almost certainly the way he’d describe it).
The other takeaway: Sheldon has been such a dolt about his insensitivity throughout his relationship with Amy that he doesn’t even recognize what a dolt he’s been, and doesn’t acknowledge or respect her request for a break.
Amy, who’s grown enough in her own self-confidence that she is now willing to demand more respect, focuses on takeaway No. 2, telling Sheldon, “You’re immature, you’re selfish, you just insulted me to my face. I don’t need more time to think. We’re broken up!”
Because of this public display, everyone misses Penny and Leonard actually saying their “I do”s — “We’ll say it was beautiful in the comments section,” Howard decides — but the Hofstadters are already on their way to their honeymoon room, where Mrs. Hofstadter (Penny finally has a last name!) is having trouble forgetting about the other woman Leonard kissed while he’s putting the post-nuptial moves on her. Does he even feel guilty about what he did? she wonders.
“Yes, I felt guilty as soon as it happened,” he assures her. “I feel guilty every time I see her.” Because they work together, another fact he had yet to mention. More discussion and anger ensue.
“Instead of fighting, why don’t we dim the lights, get naked, and make a baby?” he suggests, prompting Penny to look at him like he’s just suggested they dim the lights, get naked, and make a baby.
Back at Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment, Sheldon calls his mom and declares he’s done with women. “Like when I swore off Pop Rocks,” he says. “They both hurt you on purpose.”
But Mary Cooper tells him not to rush any decisions, and not to return the ring … his beloved Meemaw’s ring, the one he was going to use to propose to Amy. (Note: Yes, it’s perfectly okay to feel a little bad for him here, even after the sell-by-date comment he made to Amy.)
Shortly after, warring newlyweds Leonard and Penny return home, her to her apartment, him to his apartment with Sheldon. Concerned about Penny, Sheldon takes a tray of hot beverages to her apartment but, with his insensitivity muscle still flexed, makes the situation worse. When she tells him Leonard’s kissing partner was a co-worker named Mandy Chow, Sheldon tells her not to worry. “She’s brilliant and attractive,” he says. “She can do way better than Leonard.” Sheldon then suggests that now that he’s on the market again, he could date Mandy, thus getting back at both Amy and Leonard. It’s an idea Penny finds ridiculous.
“You’re right,” he says. “I could never be with a woman whose self-esteem is so low she’d be with Leonard.” (Note: Yes, it’s perfectly okay to feel a little less bad for him here.)
Back at their apartment, one wedding and one breakup — both equally unhappy — down, Sheldon and Leonard commiserate. Sheldon: “Would you like to hear another reason why men are better than women?”
“Sure, let’s make it an even hundred,” Leonard says.
“You would never kiss me and make me say ‘I love you,’ and then break up with me,” says Sheldon. “And you know why? Because you’re a man, the Champagne of genders.”
Leonard: “I may be a man, but I think I’m the one that screwed up on this one.”
Sheldon: “Well, you admit it. Like a man. All I hear women say is, ‘I’ll just have a salad.’ ‘Where’s my lip gloss?’ ‘I think the element should be called radium.’ That last one was Madam Curie.”
Leonard: “I figured that out.”
Sheldon: “You know what? She was kind of an honorary man. She had a penis made of science.”
Leonard: “I can’t believe I’m spending my wedding night with you.”
Sheldon: “Really? I never imagined it any other way.”
Never said anyone had fully evolved yet.
- Leonard’s heartfelt vows to Penny: “Penny, we are made of particles that have existed since the moment the universe began. I like to think those atoms traveled 14 billion years through time and space to create us so that we could be together and make each other whole.” Hers: She quotes lyrics from “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” But, as she defends to the officiant, Leonard does love Toy Story. He tearily confirms it.
- Howard, on Sheldon and Amy’s breakup: “She was in love with her captor, and somehow managed to escape his dark and crazy dungeon.”
- When Sheldon takes the tray of hot beverages to Penny’s apartment, his hands are too full to do the trademark Sheldon knock. So he knocks in words. He also asks Penny to slam the door for him when he angrily leaves after finding out she knew Amy was considering putting their relationship on hold and advised AFF to do what makes her happy.
- About the other woman, Mandy Chow: We’ll meet in her next week’s “The Separation Oscillation,” and she’ll be played by Mom guest star Melissa Tang.