Last night’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory” was the hit show’s 100th, a milestone that is usually celebrated with some sort of big event. And in the case of “Big Bang,” any big event has to revolve around the on-again, off-again relationship between Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), and producers Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre told reporters that the couple would be falling back into a romantic way in the landmark episode.
What they didn’t tell us, though, was that they were going to introduce the “Recombination” in a pretty unique way, at least for this show.
In a move that you’d expect to see on “Bang’s” former Monday schedule-mate, “How I Met Your Mother,” we see how a newly-rekindled relationship between Pen and Lenny would play out… and it was all in Leonard’s mind.
The clever part was that we didn’t know that as we were watching the episode. As Sheldon (Jim Parsons) complains about getting a Zachary Quinto version of a Spock stand-up instead of a Leonard Nimoy version, Leonard asks Penny on a date. We then see the preparations, a date that goes awry when the past is dredged up, anger sex, and then the two of them trying to figure out how to be “Penny and Leonard 2.0,” where they try to keep things on the down-low while they shake the bugs out.
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Of course, none of this ends up working, and we flash back to Leonard thinking about asking Penny out as Sheldon whines about his Quinto standee. Despite what he thinks is going to be a horrible ending, his feelings for Penny win out anyway, and he asks her out.
Here’s what we want to know, though: do we need to go back to seeing these two together? It’s not like it really worked well from a comedic standpoint the first time around. Perhaps now that the cast has been expanded with Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) along the ride with Penny, the possibilities of a new Pen-Len romance have expanded.
We already saw the possibilities when both Bernadette (in the fantasy) and Amy (in the reality) hope to go on double dates with Penny and Leonard. Remember, while all this was going on, the boys were across the hall playing board games, with Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg) laughing at Sheldon, who seems to be unaware of the double meanings of the words “wood” and “erection”. The boys are too busy snickering like 12-year-olds to worry about Leonard and Penny. But the girls will be all over this new/old relationship, and it might be fun to see how they react to it.
But it just feels like well-worn ground already. This is an odd couple, to be sure, and maybe the passage of time, along with some non-Penny romantic experiences under Leonard's belt (pun intended) might give the two of them a chance to not be as boring and annoying as they were the first time around.
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For this pairing to work again, it needs to stick, like a nerdy version of “Mike & Molly.” “Big Bang” is too fun of a show to get weighed down by will-they-won’t-they drama, and considering the ratings it’s been getting — it actually beat “American Idol” last night — it doesn’t need to resort to those tricks to get a big audience.