'The Big Bang Theory' Season 11 Episode 18 Recap: Penny Envisions a New Career


The Bill Gates was the latest in a line of high-profile real-life figures to make an appearance on The Big Bang Theory—and though it set up a hilarious episode, I have to ask: Where are the high-profile female guest stars on the show? Nothing against Bill Gates, of course, but he’s just the latest in a string of older white guys (Adam West, Elon Musk, Billy Nye, etc.) to be touted in promos for the show. The show does regularly bring back dynamos like Laurie Metcalf and Christine Baranski, but just for once I’d love a female figure (other than Carrie Fisher years ago, RIP) to make an appearance. Perhaps someone that Amy can have a freak-out over. Just a thought…

Until then, let’s discuss the latest episode—”The Gates Excitation”—which by all accounts, was one of season 11’s strongest. The show starts out with the guys talking about Batman (typical), while the women gather feet away to talk about how long the guys will talk about Batman. Snooze. We’ve seen this exact scenario on the show before, so I’m just focused on Penny’s perfectly imperfect beach-y waves and how I can recreate the look.

Of course, it’s all just a set up for Penny to tell the guys that Bill Gates is coming to town and she’s going to give him a tour of her company’s office. That’s because his company wants to partner with her pharmaceutical company. It doesn’t matter if that would ever happen in the real world; the point is, Bill Gates is coming, and the guys are jealous. Well, everyone except for Sheldon, who thinks it’s just a cruel April Fools joke.

While the guys continue their freakout, Penny drops a low-key update about her professional life that deserves more than the one line that made the final script. She tells Leonard that she’s nervous to spend the day with Bill Gates because if she does a good job, it’s possible her company will consider her for a PR position. It’s well known that Penny has never been truly happy with pharmaceutical sales, but the fact that she’s finally looking to make a change is a big step. It’s about time that we see Penny find a career that fulfills her creatively, so note to the Big Bang writers: Please don’t abandon this story.

Meanwhile, Leonard wants to meet Bill Gates, but Penny tells her husband no; this is for her job, she needs it to go well, and it’s not a social event. Leonard admits she’s right (as she is when it comes to these kinds of things), and then confides it wouldn’t be the first time he met Bill Gates; his mom took him to a talk he gave at Princeton.

Back over at the Wolowitz’s remarkably clean house (seriously, did anyone tell the set decorator that there’s a toddler and a newborn who live there?), Bernadette and Amy get ready to go out for lunch. If Amy was hoping for an afternoon of adult discussion, she’s in for a rude awakening. Bernadette is in total mom mode and can’t stop talking about her kids. (I mean, with two kids under two, who can blamed her?) When she suggests they talk about other things, Amy brings up a new book she’s reading about female artists during the Renaissance. While I won’t even pretend to be remotely interested in Renaissance art (and neither is Bernadette), kudos to the writers for not having Amy immediately start talking about her wedding plans. That’s not to say she shouldn’t, but it was nice to see Amy talk about other interests.

Back at Leonard and Penny’s apartment, the guys are playing video games and still thinking about Bill Gates. Penny tells the guys she’s going into the office to prep for his arrival tomorrow, which surprises Leonard since it’s Sunday. (That’s right, Leonard—plenty of people go into the office on weekends; it’s called being an adult and having a career.) Anyway, Howard asks Penny to get Bill Gates’ autograph and Penny says sure, which goes against everything she just said previously about being professional during his visit.

However, it seems Leonard has gained some common sense in this moment because he lectures the guys to be more respectful of Penny’s job responsibilities. Unfortunately his moment of clarity doesn’t last long because as soon as he finds out where Bill Gates is staying, he secretly recruits Howard and Raj to join him on a hotel stakeout. Classy.

At the hotel, Raj is too invested in his cosmopolitan to get to Bill Gates first, but no problem because Leonard has already jumped at the chance. He approaches Bill Gates and gets emotional and creepy all over again. Leonard wants a hug. Bill Gates offers a compromise by offering him a tissue instead. It’s official: Bill Gates has brains and street smarts.

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PHOTO: Erik Voake/CBS

Bernadette and Amy finish lunch, and Bernadette apologizes for talking about her never-before-seen children to Amy. “What’s happened to me?” Bernadette asks. “I’m a smart, educated, successful….” When Bernadette struggles to remember the word that comes next, Amy chimes in: “Woman?” Yes, parents, the struggle is real. Amy tells Bernadette not to be so hard on herself, as pregnancy and childbirth actually cause physical changes to the structure of one’s brain. Amy points out that some of these are positive, like being better at multi-tasking and consuming large amounts of information. Bernadette is impressed and spends the rest of the episode trying to teach herself scientific concepts that I’ll never understand.

But let’s get back to the aftermath of Leonard’s encounter with Bill Gates. He returns home—sans a hug from his idol—and Penny surprises him with an invite to be her date at a reception in Bill Gates’ honor tomorrow. Leonard can’t go if he wants to save face with his wife—or perhaps so Bill Gates won’t file a restraining order against him.

So what’s a doofus to do? Play sick and stay home, apparently. But Penny—who’s feeling sorry for her husband—feels close enough to Bill Gates now that she asks him to FaceTime Leonard to cheer him up. You knew this was coming a mile away, but the payoff is 100% worth it. Bill Gates recognizes Leonard and it’s not good. Penny’s dumbfounded, and Leonard hangs up on them immediately. This better not prevent Penny from getting that PR job. I won’t have it.

While all this is happening, Sheldon has been on a wild goose chase around town trying to track down Bill Gates (Leonard decided to mess with his BFF by giving him the name of the wrong hotel). Sheldon’s livid with Leonard, but when he returns home and notices an “I’m Sorry” message printed outside Leonard’s door, he assumes it’s from Leonard to him. (Of course it’s not; it’s from Leonard to Penny.)

But Sheldon doesn’t know that, so when he walks in and sees the, uh, romantic gesture, he forgives Leonard for misleading him and anticipates a glorious five-course meal with his buddy. Leonard doesn’t correct Sheldon before the episode ends, which means one thing: If we don’t pick up next week with the aftermath of this dinner, then it’ll be a lost opportunity for everyone.



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