Oh, okay, so we’re going to start the Penny/Leonard angst early this season? Fine. Let’s treat it like a Band-Aid, just rip it right off and deal with it... and then slap another Band-Aid on there to deal with at a later date. I know how this show works.
Obviously, Penny has been having second thoughts about her relationship with Leonard since his worst proposal ever; it was only a matter of time before she was going to be forced to deal with them. In true The Big Bang Theory fashion, the most convenient way to deal with them was to avoid dealing with them. Bernadette and Amy grilled Penny about whether or not she thought she'd ever marry Leonard and she confessed that she wasn’t sure what to make of her feelings toward him. Whenever she'd been in love before, it was more your typical butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of love. She theorized that maybe her love for Leonard was a new, mature, boring kind of love.
Amy and Bernadette didn’t really buy that, and despite Penny’s request that what happens in Ladies Night stay IN Ladies Night, Amy accidentally spilled to Sheldon—who, for the sake of homeostasis, sought to keep Penny and Leonard together. He'd had a hard week. Stu had joined the gang for a night at the movies and, according to Sheldon, made a poor substitute for Wolowitz, who was still in space basically getting hazed by his fellow astronauts. Sheldon doesn’t like change. He reminds us of this all the time and he didn't disappoint when he encouraged Penny to stay with Leonard regardless of her feelings simply to maintain the balance. While he was at it he mentioned that he’d appreciate it if she could go back to using her apple-scented shampoo because coconut makes him uncomfortable.
At least he didn’t tell Leonard. It was close. Oh, it was close. He danced around the subject until finally, Leonard suspected that they needed to have a talk about Sheldon’s “budding sexual desires.” This horrified both of them and sent Sheldon across the hall to confront Penny. It wasn’t all awkwardness and neuroses, though; after laying out his entire case in Leonard’s favor ("He has a perfect driving record!"), Sheldon simply asked Penny, “Please don’t hurt my friend.”
She said that hurting Leonard was the last thing she wanted to do, which is true, but you can care a whole lot about somebody, not want to hurt them, maybe even love them... and still not want to be in an intimate relationship with them. It happens all the time. Fitting that criteria is practically a prerequisite for admittance to the Friend Zone.
I’ve never been entirely convinced that Penny and Leonard NEED to be together the way so many sitcom couples are often portrayed. Leonard adores Penny, carries an eternally burning torch for her, but how much of that is tied up in the fact that she’s a hot blonde chick who actually pays attention to him? A lot, probably.
In Penny’s case, I think that there CAN be a less manic kind of love; one that, if not experienced before, might seem like a letdown to an individual who is accustomed to every love affair being an intense physical and emotional experience. It's no less valid than than the kind that involves butterflies and heart palpitations. However, the fact that Penny repeatedly voices disappointment and concern over her muted feelings for Leonard IS a problem, and if she isn’t happy with the way he makes her feel, if she doesn’t feel that she loves Leonard as much as she's capable of loving someone, then I’m not so sure that they’re meant to be together right now, if ever.
Penny’s love is complicated, but Leonard’s is almost a fanatical sort of goddess worship that, put bluntly, is no more healthy than what Penny struggles with. Penny attempted to talk to Leonard about where their relationship stands, maybe even break up with him, but then they had sex—Penny blamed Leonard’s puppy eyes.
Everybody put those Band-Aids back on, we’ll return to this later. In the meantime, what do YOU think those two crazy kids should do?
The Stray Observation Addendum
– One-liner(s) of the night: Leonard on taking Sheldon to the dentist: “I told him if he didn’t try to bite the hygienist, I’d take him for ice cream. ...I didn’t have to take him for ice cream.”
– Okay, so Stu is more Howard 2.0 than boyfriend material. It’s cool. I think he fits in well (shut up, Sheldon) and I’m glad Raj has a bro to hang out with again. “Watch out ladies, a little coffee and cream is coming your way.”
– I agree with everything Sheldon had to say about fish with tools on their heads.