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Couch Potatoes Anonymous: The Ballad of 'The Big Bang Theory''s Penny and Leonard

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Jan 19, 2012 | 9:36am EST

Penny and LeonardHappy New Year my fellow couch denizens! We’ve fattened up on a whole lot of Christmas ham and turkey and with all of the new and returning shows on television, we’ll most likely stay that way. But there’s still cause for celebration. Tonight is The Big Bang Theory’s biggest showing yet: the 100th episode. Reaching 100 shows is always a big deal for any TV show, and The Big Bang Theory is no different. With recent rumblings about the beginnings of a Leonard and Penny reunion and the big one-double-oh, we look back at some classic Leonard and Penny moments all leading up to a pair of atoms colliding.

Leonard and Penny (and Sheldon) meet for the first time.

Pilot S01E01

Imagine two geniuses with the combined I.Q. of 360 who don’t know anything about women. What a concept, right? This also makes a hysterical premise for the entire series, as roommates Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Coo—ahem, I mean Dr. Sheldon Cooper meet their new neighbor, Penny. Leonard is instantly smitten and tries to be chivalrous by getting Penny’s TV back from her ex-boyfriend. Sadly, Leonard is a thinker and not a fighter and he and Sheldon get pantsed for their troubles.

Their first Halloween party together.

The Middle-Earth Paradigm S01E06

Penny invites the guys to her Halloween party, and the fantasy- and sci-fi-loving nerds are more than happy to oblige. Penny’s ex, Kurt, shows up and once again, Leonard attempts to tell the big slug off. He fails and slinks back off to his apartment. Penny goes to check on him and apologize and in a drunken, upset stupor she kisses Leonard for the first time. Leonard, being the good little geek he is, does not take advantage of the situation.

Leonard stops being a geek.

The Nerdvana Annihlation S01E14

Due to a slight oversight, Leonard and his friends wind up with a life size replica of a time machine from the 1960s film The Time Machine. They’re not able to move it out of the hallway, and it makes Penny late for work. She angrily ridicules Leonard for still playing with toys, which prompts the little guy to get rid of most of his collectibles. Sheldon points out that she is a hypocrite, reminding Penny of her own collectibles, like Hello Kitty and My Little Pony. Penny apologizes to Leonard, who reverts to his old ways after seeing Penny and her new boyfriend, Mike.

Schrodinger’s Cat.

The Tangerine Factor S01E17

In the first season’s WGA Strike-stunted finale, Penny regrets her choices in men and Leonard finally garners up the mustard to ask her out. In the time between this and the actual date, both of them ask Sheldon for advice for preventing their impending date from possibly ruining their friendship. Sheldon uses the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment to illustrate to both of them the good and bad possible outcomes. Leonard plants one on Penny, who concludes “the cat’s alive,” and they head to dinner.

One and done

The Bad Fish Paradigm S02E01

Leonard and Penny come back from their date and Penny says she wants to slow things down. While Raj and Howard try to explain to Leonard that the date didn’t go well, Penny explains to Sheldon that she lied about finishing Community College, afraid that she isn’t smart enough for him. By now, we all know that Sheldon does not fare well keeping secrets and of course Leonard finds out. Dutiful Leonard gives Penny some pamphlets about local schools and accidentally mentions that he is fine dating a girl who isn’t smart. She responds by slamming a door in his face, once again proving that no matter how smart a man can be, we’re often pretty stupid creatures.

A Chivalrous Sheldon?

The Financial Permeability S02E14

With Penny short on funds, Sheldon displays a unique trait; he couldn’t care less about money that he does not need and loans her some. As she becomes more and more neurotic about the loan, Leonard learns that her ex, Kurt, owes her a lot of money. Unbeknownst to Penny, Leonard visits with Kurt and convinces him to pay Penny back. Without telling Penny about his conversation with Leonard, Kurt uses the opportunity to get back together with her.

Parental Damage Beyond Repair

The Maternal Capacitance S02E15

Leonard’s mother, Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, comes to visit and immediately reduces Penny to tears by psychoanalyzing her about her father. Sheldon naturally gets along swimmingly with Leonard’s mother. Leonard and Penny drunkenly seek comfort with each other and are about to have sex, but Leonard can’t keep his genius mouth shut and ruins the moment by using psychology, noting that his mom would probably say he is having sex with her and Penny with her dad. He gets thrown out of his apartment for his stupidity.

Right Idea, Wrong Nerd

The Hofstadter Isotope S02E20

Penny goes to the comic store with the guys to get a gift for her nephew and meets Stuart, the owner of the shop. Stuart asks her out on a date, leaving Leonard jealous so he demands to be taken to a bar to meet women. Sheldon inadvertently helps Leonard out by distracting Stuart in Penny’s apartment with a discussion of who Batman’s successor should be in the event Bruce Wayne dies, and Penny falls asleep on the couch.

Wrong Nerd, Right Name

The Classified Materials Turbulence S02E22

Stuart summons up the courage to ask for a second date with Penny and asks Leonard for advice. Leonard initially declines, but eventually intentionally gives Stuart bad advice. Feeling horrible for what he did, Leonard tries to apologize, but Stuart reveals that the date went fine, except for when Penny accidentally called him Leonard.

Goin’ North!

The Monopolar Expedition S02E23

Sheldon wins the chance of a lifetime, the chance to go on a three month expedition to the North Magnetic Pole to prove the validity of string theory. He decides to go – and to take his three friends, including Leonard, along with him. Penny, seemingly upset, gives Leonard a Snuggie as a gift and says she’ll miss him, giving him an emotional hug. As they’re about to leave, Leonard asks Penny what it means, but she doesn’t tell him. It’s after they leave that she reveals to herself and the audience that “it means I wish you weren’t going.”

Penny and LeonardLeonard and Penny, Part I

The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation S03E01

Oddly enough, the boys’ science expedition was along as the three months in between seasons. So, the newly scruffy scientists (and one engineer) are greeted by Penny, who can’t hold back her feelings anymore and plants one right on Leonard. Sadly, the couple can’t consummate their union yet since Sheldon ran away due to Leonard, Raj, and Howard sabotaging his work and they head off to Texas to bring the neurotic nerd home.

The Friend Zone

The Jiminy Conjecture S03E02

Leonard and Penny’s first time is not that great and Penny does what she always does: talks to Sheldon about her problems. Right, because a guy with an IQ of 187 who knows nothing about the emotional intricacies of human pair bonding is the perfect guy to speak with about your relationship problems. But Sheldon’s logic comes in handy. If things don’t work out, Leonard and Penny can go back to being friends. Even though it’s clear that neither of them want to, they agree to just be friends to relieve the pressure of being a couple.

The Two Worst Words, Ever

The Wheaton Recurrence S03E19

Leonard and Penny would reconcile shortly after the events of “The Jiminy Conjecture” and most of the third season focused on Leonard and Penny’s relationship – they set Howard up with Bernadette, after all. But the big shakeup came when Leonard declared his love for Penny and all the corn-fed Nebraskan could do was say “Thank You” in return. Thanks to Leonard’s own insecurities, Penny’s “love” of French fries, and the ne’er do well assistance of Will Wheaton (who breaks them up just so he can win a bowling match) the geek and the girl are officially over. But, by the next episode, “The Spaghetti Catalyst,” they decide to stay friends.

Truth or Dare Truths

The 21 Second Excitation S04E08

At this point in the fourth season, Leonard is single, although he has dated Raj’s sister, Priya. Amy and Bernadette, on behalf of Penny, hate Priya even though Penny doesn't seem to. During a game of truth or dare between the three girls, the truth comes out: Penny still has the hots for the corn niblet-sized nerd.

The Dad Likes Leonard Too

The Boyfriend Complexity S04E08

Leonard gets an unexpected smooch from his ex. Penny explains that her father is in town and never liked any of her boyfriends, but he thinks Leonard is the tops. What's more is that Penny neglected to tell her dad that they broke up and she begs Leonard to play along. Leonard enjoys pretending to be Penny's boyfriend by mockingly calling her pet names and declaring his love for her. After Penny confesses that they’re not together, her father takes Leonard aside and begs him to not give up on his daughter.

Priya's Back, Penny's Pissed

The Cohabitation Formulation S04E16

After missing out on kissing each their during a New Year’s party in “The Justice League Recombination” and their night in bed together during “The Love Car Displacement,” Leonard gives up on Penny especially because Priya comes back to town. Despite Raj's protests, Leonard and Priya start dating, much to Penny's dismay.

No More Penny?

The Prestidigitation Approximation S04E18

At this point, Leonard and Priya are in full swing, and he seems genuinely happy. Priya has even improved Leonard, getting him contacts and a new wardrobe. Unfortunately, Priya thinks it’s very dangerous that Penny is always hanging around and asks Leonard to tell her to leave them alone. Despite his use of Charles Darwin's Finches as a metaphor, Penny doesn't quite get it and shows up at Leonard and Priya’s dinner later. Leonard still isn't able to ask Penny to leave directly and when she forces herself to leave, Leonard heads after her.

With several episodes to go in the fourth season, we see Penny find the snowflake that Leonard brought her from the North Pole, mistakenly ending up in bed with Raj during the season finale (but we later find out nothing actually happened due to Raj finishing...ahem...first). Priya decides to go back to India and she and Leonard decide to try long-distance. Leonard almost makes a mistake of his own by cheating on Priya, but is heartbroken to learn that she already did cheated on him with an ex-boyfriend. Leonard and Penny decide to go to the movies – but strictly as friends – and Penny is attracted to the new, assertive Leonard.

That sums up the ongoing string theory ballad of Leonard and Penny. It all comes to a head in tonight’s 100th episode celebration, “The Recombination Hypothesis.” Check back tomorrow for my full recap and find me on Twitter @CouchForceOne. BAZINGA!

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