Tonight’s episode of The Big Bang Theory got off to a rather odd and uncomfortable start: Howard went in for a vasectomy, Sheldon unintentionally referred to wanting to “touch as many children as possible” as the host of a kid’s science show, and Amy was shot down (by Sheldon, ugh) for suggesting the new search for Professor Proton be a female candidate. Yeah, things weren’t off to the greatest of starts in “The Proton Regeneration.” But, as with most classic episodes of The Big Bang Theory, the best moments happen when the characters are faced with real-life issues that challenge the very essence of who they are. It’s not always the most emotional or ground-breaking scenes, but the most truthful.
In tonight’s episode, Howard spent the bulk of it recovering from his surgery. Meanwhile, Bernadette—who was told she was pushing herself too much at her 16-week checkup—was put on bed rest. Ever since Bernadette’s first pregnancy was announced, I’ve been holding out hope for a Sheldon/Halley babysitting scene, but the show actually gave us one better: Penny as the caretaker.
This new development happened by chance: Penny stops by the Wolowitz household to check in on Bernadette and Howard, thinking Raj is already there taking care of baby Halley. But he had to go to work, so Bernadette and Howard are left to do what they can—which isn’t much. When Halley starts crying, Penny offers to go in and check on her, but in what’s possibly the biggest insult since, well, Sheldon’s comments minutes earlier, Bernadette and Howard suggest Stuart might be a better option than Penny.
Now, I get that this is a sitcom, but the fact that this show still plays into the dumb-blonde stereotype with Penny is 10 seasons too late. As we saw last week, if she can handle and manipulate Sheldon, she’s probably the wisest one of the whole group. She’s also not the same character we first met in 2007. She’s a successful pharmaceutical rep, happily married, and an amazing friend to everyone else in their time of need.
When Penny questions why Bernadette and Howard don’t trust her, they hem and haw until Bernadette says, “It’s not that we don’t trust you…you’re just not much of a baby person.” Um, Bernadette wasn’t much of a baby person until she had one of her own either. Sure, Penny might joke that she gave Halley some of her bourbon or that she’ll light some incense if Halley poops, but having the entire gang send Amy over to check in on Penny’s care-taking skills was complete overkill. (I’ll admit, though, that the scene was pretty funny, as with anytime the ladies are together.)
That’s why what happened at the end of the episode was pure gold: Bernadette and Howard ring the bell to summon Penny, and she chastises them for sending over a spy (Amy) to check in on her. They don’t do a very good job convincing Penny they didn’t mean it negatively, so when Penny leaves the room to check in on a crying Halley, Bernadette feels bad for how she’s treated her friend. Seconds later, Bernadette and Howard feel even more guilty when they overhear Penny on the monitor telling Halley that she’ll never let anything happen to her because she loves her so much. With that, Halley utters her very first word, and it’s directed at Penny: “Mama.”
“You hear that suckers? She called me mama!'” Penny gloats. While it may not undo years of outdated stereotypes and assumptions thrown at Penny, it was definitely a start. Justice for Penny! Keep it coming.