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The Big Bang Theory: Is Penny A Spy?

Updated on February 26, 2013
One of the most popular comedy series of this decade
One of the most popular comedy series of this decade | Source

Those of us (and there are many) who watch the comedy programme “the Big Bang Theory” will all know Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco) as the ditsy blonde who lives across the corridor from Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons). But is she really all she appears? In this article, I will examine the evidence for and attempt to prove that Penny is in fact a spy. It may sound far-fetched, but in the sections below I will put the evidence to you and you can decide for yourself.

The provocateur preparation

In order to establish our basis, let’s first look at Penny’s background. One thing that immediately leaps into mind here is Penny’s name. We don’t actually know it. She is only ever referred to as “Penny”, in spite of the fact that every other character’s surname is well known and heavily referred to in the show. Why is this, you might wonder? Perhaps it would be revealing. In the episode “the Boyfriend Complexity” we meet Wyatt, Penny’s father (played by Keith Carradine). It is curious that in this episode we also do not discover Penny’s surname. Leonard only ever refers to Wyatt by his first name. Wyatt is around 60-65. This would make him around the right age to be a Vietnam veteran. This would have given ample time for him to have been recruited by a communist agent during his time in the country, or even to have fathered an illegitimate daughter (no mention is ever made of Penny’s mother), who could then have been trained and sent back with her father, the perfect sleeper. It may be that they consider it dangerous to allow a set of internet savvy scientists to know her full name as this would then allow them to discover her real background. Also noteworthy is the fact that Leonard regularly collects Penny’s mail “accidentally” in order to have a reason to talk to her, yet he is still not aware of her surname? How is this? This would suggest that either a) Her name does not appear, just her address, or b) Her name IS on there but is unpronounceable, therefore probably foreign. This would also explain why no-one uses her surname.

Pretty Nebraskan actress or Supervillain?

The friendship circumvention

Penny’s relationships are a prime deciding factor in this theory. Penny has six friends that she regularly interacts with: Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, Howard, Bernadette and Amy. Their respective employment positions are: An experimental Physicist, a theoretical Physicist, a particle Astrophysicist, an aerospace Engineer and Astronaut, a Microbiologist and a Neurologist. In spite of her regular assertion that she cannot understand any of them, shares almost none of their interests and has little in common with any of them, Penny continues to regularly interact with them and quiz them on various aspects of their lives. This often includes their work, which she then feigns a lack of understanding for or lack of interest in, yet continues to ask. When Penny initially meets Leonard and Sheldon, she shows a great deal of interest in their respective white boards containing complex equations, whilst also “pretending” not to understand any of it.

Does this look like a dumb Nebraska farm girl?
Does this look like a dumb Nebraska farm girl?

The Hofstaedter Collaboration

Penny is also involved in an on again off again relationship with Leonard. The fact that it is on again off again may be due to a crisis of conscience. We often see how Penny is warmed by Leonard’s naivety. It is often this that causes her to break off their relationship as she does not have the same feeling for him. Her reasons are often flimsy and they always get back together. There is also the fact that her father attempts to convince her to continue the relationship with Leonard. Perhaps this is because Leonard is a good man, or perhaps it is because this is what Wyatt has been ordered to do. Penny’s father likes fishing and appears quite masculine. He again has little or nothing in common with Leonard, so why try to encourage Penny to date him unless he has another motive?

The Neuroscience disavowal

Penny’s relationship with Amy Farrah-Fowler is also unusual. In spite of the fact that Amy is obviously obsessed with Penny, Penny often overlooks this and encourages their continued friendship. This seems strange considering Penny does not share any personality traits, interests or points of view with Amy. Amy’s sole interest in Penny appears to be the fact that Penny is/was popular and has social graces, whereas Amy was never popular and has little social ability. This makes Penny the perfect person to infiltrate a group of scientists in high positions, as they are all nerds, therefore socially awkward. Penny’s personality has been carefully constructed to appeal to desires nerds cannot satisfy with their mental ability.

The ability equivocation

Throughout the series, we regularly see Penny’s lack of understanding contrasted with the scientific know-how of her friends, but is this really the case? We have already seen how Penny regularly asks about the work of her highly educated friends. In the episode “the Gorilla Experiment”, Penny asks Sheldon to teach her physics. When Sheldon tries to start at the very beginning, Penny tries to manipulate him into talking about current work, particularly what Leonard is working on. She again feigns lack of understanding, however she is later able to give a very precise speech containing complex science which she puts down to her ability to learn lines Sheldon has taught her.

During the episode “the Zarnecki Incursion”, Penny demonstrates her capacity for violence when she retrieves Sheldon’s Bat’leth and World of Warcraft items that have been stolen from him. Her aggressive and strong nature are frequently referred to in the programme and the scientists all appear to be aware of her physical strength and abilities.

The auxiliary revelations

In the pilot episode of the series, Sheldon’s room-mate leaves, citing inability to cope with Sheldon as his reason. This man is Asian in appearance, and as he leaves, Penny moves in. Coincidence? Or is Penny a replacement for a man who had been discovered and fled as he was about to be arrested?

In the episode “the Apology Insuffiency”, an FBI agent (Eliza Dushku) interviews all Howard’s friends. She does not interview Penny, nor does she mention her in any of the other interviews. This would seem strange given her strong association with the group. Surely the FBI would know about her and who she is? It also seems unlikely that the FBI would actually send an agent to interview each one of Howard’s friends just so he can get time on a telescope. Considering he had already been cleared to use the Mars rover, this appears to be overkill on the part of the FBI. Perhaps their motive was something else; perhaps they are aware that one of the group is a foreign agent and this was an attempt to flush them out. Unable to secure any evidence, the FBI then blocks Howard’s use of the telescope, however he later has no problem being cleared for the space programme.....

Convinced? Hmmmmm....

Above is the evidence I have managed to accumulate based almost solely on memory and a quick trawl through some episode guides. Perhaps you have more you can add or evidence that Penny is just a simple farm girl from Nebraska (yeah, right.....). In any case, you can give your verdict in the poll below.

Having read the evidence, do you agree that Penny is a foreign agent?

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