(Editor’s Note: The Big Bang theory has been moved to Monday nights with the debut of its ninth season. Today we bring you the recap of the season opener (from 9/21); on Monday, we’ll resume the recaps with season 9, episode 2.)
At one time, The Big Bang Theory was a television show about highly intelligent scientists who were social outcasts flying their geek flag proudly and, in one case, pining for the cute blonde who moved in across the hall. Over the years, the characters have become less caricature, but in many ways less nerdy and more socially ept as all of them have acquired female companionship in one way or another.
In last season’s finale, Leonard and Penny were on the way to Las Vegas for a quicky wedding (Penny’s second quicky wedding in Vegas, although we should presume that this time she knows it is for real, see season 7, episode 8, “The Thanksgiving Decoupling” for her previous marriage to Zack Johnson). Back in Pasadena, as Sheldon was preparing to propose to Amy, Amy got tired of waiting for him and decided she needed time apart from him to reconsider their relationship. While last season’s premiere took the summer hiatus’s duration into account, this year’s premier picks up immediately after last season’s conclusion.
Not able to allow things to go forward without drama, Leonard also admitted to Penny that he had kissed a woman while they were dating. Although Penny has issues with this, she agrees that they should get married, and so they find themselves at a small chapel in Vegas, where Leonard suggests that they choose the package with music, flowers, and streaming internet, which will allow all their friends to watch them get married and give hope to beautiful blondes who seek short, geeky scientists, or, as Penny points out, give her wedding a comment section. As they are about to pay for their marriage, Sheldon calls to warn Leonard not to get married because women are worse than paper cuts, thus revealing how much Amy’s decision to walk away from their relationship hurt him. Penny responds to the news by calling Amy, who is upset that Penny can’t come over to comfort her, especially when she learns that Leonard and Penny didn’t invite her to their wedding. However, Amy has the option of watching the wedding on the internet.
As Amy exits her apartment to head over to Howard, Bernadette, and Stuart’s house to watch the wedding, she’s surprised to find Sheldon preparing to knock on her door. Apparently, Sheldon considers the eleven hours that have passed since she broke up with him enough time to have come to a decision about their relationship, after all, the eleven hours that it took to watch The Lord of the Rings seemed an eternity to Amy. When he finds out she’s going to watch the wedding, Sheldon asks if he can walk with her. Sheldon has a difficulty understanding that she needs to be apart from him. When Amy explains that he wasn’t invited because their being there together would make everyone feel awkward, Sheldon actually demonstrates enough self-awareness to know that the two of them have a tendency to make other people feel awkward.
A delay at the wedding chapel allows Leonard to suggest going to the all-you-can-eat buffet next door, although he also notes that it is in a strip club. Penny sensibly declines, but the delay gives Leonard the opportunity to remind Penny about his indiscretion. When he again suggests grabbing a bite to eat, Penny points out that they might be called, but Leonard explains he has a vibrating coaster, just like at a restaurant, and Penny’s fairy tale wedding continues, although it seems the only difference between this wedding and her first is that she didn’t realize it was a real wedding when she married Zack.
Amy is commiserating in the Wolowitz’s living room and Howard, wrestling with the wires to connect something to his television notes that she’s happy. The viewer notes that a nerdy engineer like Howard would already have his television set up to be able to receive streaming video from the internet, and so might be wondering why the back of his television seems so devoid of any cables (gaming consoles, Blu Ray, Ethernet, etc.), or why it isn’t wifi enabled. This sort of thing seems to be one of the indications that the writers are continuing to move away from the show’s original premise and make it into more of a generic relationship comedy. Stuart starts talking about his own last breakup, but when asked about it gets all defensive. And suddenly they all notice Sheldon lurking outside the window. He explains through the glass to Bernadette that he was told that his presence would make people uncomfortable and she asks Howard to handle the situation, which he does in the most expedient way possible. Bernadette tells him that his persistence might not be helping, and Sheldon complains that he was the only person not invited. Amy points out that she was invited, but everyone else lives there, which is Raj’s cue to enter from the kitchen bearing cinnamon rolls, and although it isn’t pointed out, he practically lives there, as well, but the damage is done and Sheldon is invited in.
Leonard and Penny are finally in front of the minister who explains how the wedding will work. When Leonard asks about the lack of flowers, a voice from off stage (shades of Carol Ann Susi) calls out that they are out of rose petals, but they could use potpourri from the bathroom, which Penny decides isn’t what she wants.
Always needing to be the center of attention, with the wedding about to start on the internet and everyone watching, Sheldon brings up the lack of affection between himself and Amy to Raj, who explains that he not only hadn’t noticed, but it wouldn’t have even cracked his top ten list. Sheldon insists of living in his own world and sees the most trivial comments as an attack on him, and he chooses Howard as his friend in the breakup, which is strange given how often he’s commented on his willingness to lose Howard as part of his circle. When Howard says there are no sides, Sheldon picks Raj, leaving Stuart again in the cold.
The minister asks whether Leonard and Penny have prepared their own vows and Leonard, the romantic has, while Penny, the more pragmatic of the two, hasn’t given it any thought. Leonard offers not to share his, by Penny explains that she’ll come up with something. Leonard proceeds to make the idea of atoms drifting through the universe for billions of years romantic and Penny responds by quoting the Randy Newman song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” which the minister recognizes as from Toy Story, and after seven full seasons we suddenly learn that Leonard loves Toy Story, despite the film never being mentioned in the past seven years.
Although Bernadette comments on how beautiful the wedding was, she and Howard agreed that their wedding was better and they won the wedding contest (hey, their wedding appeared on Google Maps as seen from orbit according to season 5, episode 24 “The Countdown Reflection”). Sheldon can’t take it any more and insists that Amy make a decision, which allows the writers to show almost every aspect of Sheldon’s misogyny, which has often been alluded to (see, season 6, episode 12 “The Egg Salad Equivalency”). While never a particularly funny part of Sheldon, unloading it directly at Amy, especially coupled with his self-importance, makes him extremely unsympathetic in this episode. Amy decides she’s had enough and storms out of the room, followed by Bernadette. Raj offers Sheldon a ride home and the door slams, leaving Stuart and Howard to miss the pronouncement of Leonard and Penny’s marriage. Perhaps more importantly, it meant that the writers still didn’t have to provide any sort of maiden name for Penny [something] Johnson Hofstedter. Missing most of the wedding isn’t a catastrophe, since Howard notes they can always say something nice in the comments section of the website.
When they get to their hotel room, Leonard insists on carrying Penny over the threshold, explaining that he can do it since he often carries a sleeping Sheldon to bed. He manages to carry her into the room, making it look as awkward as it really is and not romantic at all. As the two snuggle on the bed, Leonard senses something is wrong and Penny admits that she can’t get the image of Leonard kissing the other girl out of her mind. Leonard, never at a loss to make a bad situation worse, mentions that he feels guilty every time he sees her, since the woman works at the university with him. Since the incident happened on a boat, we must assume it happened between seasons 6 and 7 when he was on the North Sea Expedition.
Sheldon calls his mother to let her know he was sending his great- grandmother’s proposal ring back and that she no longer needs to pray for Amy. Laurie Metcalf delivers her lines perfectly, matter-of-factly, and with only a hint of irony when playing up Mary’s Cooper’s devote belief in Jesus. She also suggests that Sheldon keep the ring just in case since Missy is married and won’t need it and Sheldon’s as-yet-unseen brother, George, is dating a whore and Mary won’t let her have the ring. Sheldon points out that Jesus hung out with Mary Magdalene was also a whore. Mary, who has never had a high opinion of Missy or George, explains that when George redeems mankind like Jesus, he could date whomever he wants.
Bernadette, Howard, and Stuart Bloom (another minor character with more of a last name than Penny) try to comfort Amy, and Stuart’s comment that any man would be lucky to have her quickly turns creepy as he begins to hit on Amy. Their disgust in his actions only makes him suggest that maybe Amy needs a “bad boy.” Of course, what is left unsaid is that Sheldon asked Amy to be his girlfriend when she was in the middle of a date with Stuart (see season 5, episode 10 “The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition”).
Apparently, Leonard splurged for a hotel room in Vegas for no reason as the arguing couple ascend to the fourth floor of their building with Penny going into her apartment and Leonard returning to his own. The will-they-or-won’t-they game that the writers have been playing through the first seven seasons now taking an interesting twist with them married, but apparently not quite ready to live together, although an annulment or another post-Vegas divorce for Penny doesn’t seem likely. Sheldon greets Leonard and when he realizes that Leonard is upset, he takes a warm beverage over to Penny. His hands full, he has to verbally knock on her door. When comforting Penny, Sheldon learns the girls identity and mentions that Mandy Chao is brilliant and out of Leonard’s league. Sheldon suggests that if he dates Mandy, it would teach both Amy and Leonard a lesson, although Sheldon can’t see himself with someone with such low self-esteem that she would spend time with Leonard. In return for his revelation, Penny accidentally indicates that she knew Amy was thinking of breaking up with Sheldon and advised her to make herself happy. Sheldon gathers up his tea set and storms off, only to realize that his hands are too full to open and slam the door.
At the Wolowitzes’, Howard, Bernadette, and Stuart learn about the fight and that Penny is back in her apartment, leading Stuart to express interest in her, although he quickly realizes that he crossed the same line with regard to Penny as he did with Amy earlier. Of course, Stuart also has an history with Penny, although it ended on their second date when Penny called him Leonard while they were making out (see season 2, episode 22 “The Classified Materials Turbulence”).
The episode ends with Leonard and Sheldon sitting in their apartment. Sheldon continues his misogyny by listing 100 ways men are better than women and mocking stereotypical things he believes women say. Leonard notes that he never pictured his wedding night sitting with Sheldon. Sheldon comments that he never pictured it any other way.