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'Big Bang Theory': Penny and Leonard kiss, and Sheldon runs away

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The Big Bang Theory

Greetings, fellow Big Bang theorists! I shall be your ship’s captain on our voyage this season through the oft-mirthful lives of Messrs. Hofstadter, Cooper, Wolowitz, and Koothrappali, as well as the lovely Ms., er, Penny. (Curious — I just realized that we’ve never learned Penny’s last name. Most curious.) If my measurements of the volume and frequency of my spontaneous diaphragm expansions during last night’s premiere episode was anything to go by, it should prove a most entertaining season indeed.

All right, I’ll stop with the Sheldon-esque semantic shenanigans. (For now, anyway.) I just couldn’t help myself, given all the standout moments among our geeky quintet last night — and, yes, with Penny effortlessly referencing plot points in the new Star Trek movie, I’d say the Cheesecake Factory waitress long ago started her irrevocable journey into permanent geekdom. My confidence in the strength of this premiere was bolstered by the fact that I watched it with my visiting parents, who had never once seen the show and who concluded at the end, with a twinge of surprise in their voices, that it was indeed “really funny!”

I was kinda wary of last night’s premiere, to be honest. I’d heard about how this season we’d finally see some honest-to-goodness Leonard/Penny romantic comminglings, and I was concerned that (A) The couple would mawkishly dominate the episode and like a warmed over Ross-and-Rachel, and (B) Said domination would consist of a teasing slow burn leading to a furtive smooch backed by rote audience woooo!-ing. Oh, how I was so blissfully wrong:

The humiliation in the eyes of his colleagues and the odious Barry Kripke, losing an unquestionably Nobel Prize-winning scientific discovery and setting back his entire career, all caused by the betrayal of his best friends — it was just too much for Sheldon to bear. He resigned the university in disgrace and ran back home to Texas, forcing Wolowitz, Koothrappali, and a severely blue-balled Leonard to fly to the Lone Star state after him. I didn’t exactly buy this set of circumstances — the epically stubborn Sheldon doesn’t seem like the type of person to give up quite that quickly, for one thing. But it was worth it just for the sight gag of a mustachioed Wolowitz, looking like an extra from Welcome Back, Kotter, trying to blend in with the Texans in a bright red kiddie cowboy hat. (My parents found his explanation for the purchase — “Hello, I’m wearing a red turtleneck!” — especially hilarious.) Also quite welcome was the return of Sheldon’s God-fearing mama, played by the indomitable Laurie Metcalf, who knew exactly the right button to push with her son to get him back on a plane to Pasadena: Calling evolution an opinion instead of scientific fact. (As my sister is herself a Ph.D candidate in biological science, I can report that scientists do tend to take that particular cornerstone of empirical knowledge kinda seriously.)

We ended with Penny and Leonard finally post-coitus, and it was again a relief to see that it was an immediately weird experience for them. There are really only two acceptable paths for these two — a Jim & Pam-style functional relationship, or a Jerry & Elaine-style semi-functional friendship — and I think we all know which path would provide far more lasting laughs.

Favorite line: “In the world of emoticons, I was colon capital D.”

Nerdy reference I was jazzed to understand thanks to The West Wing:Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Nerdy reference I think would’ve been even funnier if I’d understood it: Einstein’s cosmological constant

What did you think of the Big Bang Theory season 3 premiere, dear readers? Did you find Sheldon’s “force choke” technique to be one-and-the-same with the standard “I’m squishing your head from afar” technique? Was Leonard’s gift of a snowflake from the North Pole charming, cute, or almost so sweet it made your teeth hurt? Were you slightly scandalized by Penny’s goodbye kiss to Leonard before he left for Texas? And are you pulling for the couple, or are you counting the days until they’re apart?