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Twelve plot progressing “The Big Bang Theory” episodes

Updated on August 27, 2014
A photo from the opening of the show with the main characters.
A photo from the opening of the show with the main characters.

As of April 4th 2013, 131 episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” have aired. Most of them are about four nerds and their everyday lives at work and at play. However, there are a few episodes that were important for the advancement of the show itself and changed it from just four nerds and their comic books to four men coming to terms with the fact that there is more to life than comic books. This list of course is my personal opinion, and different episodes hold different meanings for everyone.

  1. "The Tangerine Factor" (Season 1, Episode 17)

There were many episodes in the first season that were important for future storylines in the show, including the pilot episode that shows Leonard’s instant attraction to Penny, episode 5 that introduced Leslie Winkle, or episode 8 that showed that Raj could speak to women, but only when he was drunk.

This episode is important since this is the episode where Leonard finally gets the courage to ask Penny out on a date. Although both Penny and Leonard were unsure whether or not it was a good idea to say yes to the date, with the help of Sheldon, they opted to go on the date. Without this episode, there wouldn’t have been any advancement for the second season, or much farther either, since the ramifications of this first date are shown throughout season 2 and beyond.

2. "The Monopolar Expedition" (Season 2, Episode 23)

This episode sees the boys off to the North Pole for three months in the summer. What’s important about it isn’t so much that they are going to the North Pole, but that their leaving will affect Penny who doesn’t want Leonard to leave for so long, which shows the viewers that she does have romantic feelings for him even though she tries to hide them from Leonard and everyone else.

They finally get together! (Season 3, Episode 1)
They finally get together! (Season 3, Episode 1)

3. "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation" (Season 3, Episode 1)

This is the episode where Leonard and Penny finally get together. Leonard’s absence for the summer allowed Penny to realize just how much Leonard meant to her and she made sure to let him know her feelings by basically pouncing on him as soon as he got home from the Arctic. How this changed the direction of the show is rather self-explanatory; it is the beginning of Leonard and Penny’s becoming and “official” couple, something that the rest of the season is built around.

4. "The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary" (Season 3, Episode 5)

It seems like most episodes that “changed” the direction of the show involve a romantic interest and this is no exception. This is the episode that introduces the audience to Bernadette, who later becomes Howard’s wife. Penny was very reluctant to set Howard up with one of her friends, but decided to go ahead and set him up with a co-worker who was studying to become a micro-biologist. The date doesn’t begin that well, but thankfully they find common ground with their overbearing mothers and hit it off. Bernadette became a part of the main cast as Howard’s girlfriend early in the fourth season.

5. "The Wheaton Recurrence" (Season 3, Episode 19)

Leonard tells Penny that he loves her and Penny just can’t say t back to him and says thank you in return. This creates tension in their relationship and a conversation with Wil Wheaton pushes Penny to break up with him in the middle of a bowling match. Since this marks the end of their relationship, it marks a turn in the storyline, since until now it was about how Penny and Leonard eventually got together where now it changes to how Penny and Leonard move on with their lives.

6. "The Lunar Excitation" (Season 3, Episode 23)

Simply put, this is the episode where, thanks to Raj and Howard, Sheldon meets the female version of himself, Amy Farrah Fowler. She starts off as a recurring character but later is made into a permanent addition to the cast. Amy is the first person that Sheldon appears to think of as an intellectual equal and genuinely seems to enjoy her company.

Amy reviewing the Relationship Agreement that was written by Sheldon.
Amy reviewing the Relationship Agreement that was written by Sheldon. | Source

7. "The Herb Garden Germination" (Season 4, Episode 20)
This is the episode where the ladies’ man Howard asks Bernadette to be the only woman in his life. Of course, she says yes, which sets the tone for the entire fifth season of the show, since one of the main plots of that season is Howard and Bernadette’s upcoming wedding.

8. "The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition" (Season 5, Episode 10)
From the point of their first encounter until this episode, Sheldon simply states that Amy is a girl that is his friend, but not his “girlfriend”. However, the events in this episode lead Sheldon to see that his feelings for Amy are more than friendship and he asks Amy to be his girlfriend (complete with a Relationship Agreement) which Amy gladly agrees to.

9. "The Beta Test Initiation" (Season 5, Episode 14)
At the end of the previous episode, Leonard asked Penny out again. In this episode, we find that they are dating again but they are taking it slow so they don’t run into the same problems that they did the first time. This impacts the series since once again the episodes (either in a main or sub plot) will revolve around their rekindled relationship and how they will work out any problems that they run into.

Howard's mother is in the lower right corner, as shown by the arrow.
Howard's mother is in the lower right corner, as shown by the arrow. | Source

10. "The Countdown Reflection" (Season 5, Episode 24)

The season finale for season 5 sees Howard marrying Bernadette and heading into space. It’s also the first time that Howard’s mother is seen on camera (you see her in the corner as the camera pans out after their wedding). It’s also important as it very subtly shows how highly Sheldon thinks of Amy. Sheldon does not like touching anyone and in this episode he is the one that initiates contact with her, much to her shock and joy.


The opening of the show as of season 6 with the addition of Bernadette and Amy.
The opening of the show as of season 6 with the addition of Bernadette and Amy. | Source

11. "The 43 Peculiarity" (Season 6, Episode 8)
Some interesting things happen before this episode (Howard returns from space, moves in with Bernadette and then moves back to his mother’s and Sheldon hires an assistant who hits on Leonard) but what makes this episode important is the Penny is the one to finally confess her love for Leonard, albeit, completely by accident. The Penny/Leonard interactions were the sub-plot in this episode, however this scene, given what was said, stole the show.

12. "The Tangible Affection Proof" (Season 6, Episode 16)
Some interesting things did happen in the first 15 episodes of the series Leonard moves in with Penny but then goes back to live with Sheldon, and Sheldon admits that it is possible that one day he and Amy’s relationship could get physical) however this one is important as it shows Raj meeting a girl at the comic book store on Valentine’s Day and leaving the store with her. It also further cements how Sheldon is seeing Amy as someone very important in his life since, for his Valentine’s Day gift to her made her his emergency point of contact. Amy is so overjoyed with this gift since it shows her that she really does mean something to him since, now she will be responsible for his well-being should something happen to him.

Season 6 is still being aired with the final episode of the season airing on May 2nd. While there have been, as of this writing, 4 additional episodes after episode 16, they don’t have a large impact on the direction of the show. Episode 18 showed Raj going on a date with the girl from the Valentine’s day party, however nothing was mentioned of her or that date after that episode so we can’t say at this point if there will be more dates for them or if Raj will be single again.

Again, this is a list of my views on which episodes were important to the series as a whole. I am sure I left out some that others may view as important or included some that people don’t see as important. I love all of the episodes of the series (except maybe one or two of them) and I had problems weeding out just 12 of them for this list!

Do you agree with the choices?

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