The Big Bang Theory ended last season with quite possibly the biggest cliffhanger in the series’ 10-year history: Sheldon’s proposal to Amy. While it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what Amy will say to Sheldon—”You’ll know it in the first five minutes,” executive producer Steve Holland tells us—the bigger question remains how Amy will react once she finds out Sheldon’s reason for proposing at that moment. (In case you forgot, Dr. Ramona Nowitzki’s bold advances toward Sheldon played a big part.)
“Your life will never be the same after watching this episode,” Holland jokes. “I’m obviously super proud of the episode, and I hope we lived up to the finale in a big way.”
Of course, as Holland and his team returned to the writers room over the summer, they knew they had to contend with a bit of backlash following the finale. Die-hard fans felt it wasn’t fair that Sheldon—who finally matured to the point that an engagement seemed organic for the character—would propose to Amy only after he was uncomfortable with another woman making a move on him.
“We thought about it,” Holland admits. “In the premiere, we talk about what was going through Sheldon’s mind, and that it wasn’t just a reaction to [his kiss with Dr. Nowitzki]. It also clarified a lot of things for him about his relationship. For Sheldon as a character, he doesn’t like change, and he likes to take things slow, so I think sometimes he does need a little kick from the outside to motivate him.”
Viewers will also find out that perhaps Sheldon’s proposal wasn’t as sudden as it seemed from the finale. “There may have been a few additional stops for Sheldon between his kiss with Nowitzki and his arrival at Princeton,” Holland reveals. “He realizes that there was someone’s permission he needed before he could ask Amy to marry him.”
What transpires is perhaps one of the series’ funniest episodes—and for a show that has more than 200 of them, that’s saying a lot. Sheldon and Amy aren’t the only ones who will face a major life change; in CBS’ teaser for tonight’s episode, two other characters come face-to-face with some unexpected news. Holland remains coy, but teases that “I can tell you it won’t be expected! That’s one thing I’m sure of.”
Of course, while all the focus is on Sheldon’s proposal to Amy, don’t forget about Penny and Leonard. “They’re still trying to find their place as a couple,” Holland says. “Especially as their friends go through these major life changes, like Bernadette and Howard having had a baby, and Sheldon proposing. I think it’s going to make them reflect a little bit more on the nature of their relationship.”
Speaking of Bernadette and Howard’s baby, what does Holland think about finally seeing baby Halley in real life now that she’ll be turning one this season? “Right now there are no plans to, but we’ve talked about it, [especially as] baby Halley starts to walk and talk.” Holland, who took over showrunning duties from Steve Molaro (who is now overseeing Young Sheldon), says that while the initial reasoning for keeping her off camera was as a nod to the late Mrs. Wolowitz, “We also don’t want it to start to feel forced. You don’t want it to start to be Austin Powers–y where there’s a baby in the room but it’s always hidden by a lamp. We’re trying to figure that out as we move forward and Halley becomes a person. We never want it to become a bit like that.”
The Big Bang Theory‘s eleventh season premieres tonight on CBS at 8:00 P.M. ET.