Tonight on The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8/7c), Howard gets a blast from his past when an unopened letter from the father who many years ago abandoned him and “Ma!” resurfaces — and proceeds to be read by pretty much everyone but him.
“The letter first showed up when Howard was 18, and he never opened it,” Simon Helberg told TVLine on Wednesday evening, before Big Bang‘s PaleyFest 2013 panel. “Of course, Sheldon, out of the goodness of his heart, very innocently opens it to try to help Howard, and Howard freaks out a bit. He doesn’t want to know what’s in it.” Then, as other characters learn of the missive’s contents, “Everything gets turned upside down.”
What did the AWOL elder Wolowitz try to share with his son back in the day? “It contains information that you think would be vital to him,” hints series creator Chuck Lorre. But since the addressee wishes to remain in the dark, Sheldon et al “tell him what’s in the letter, and they don’t tell him. But only physicists can do that.”
Holding Howard’s hand through this emotional situation is his wife Bernadette, in scenes that portrayer Melissa Rauch says were “so beautifully written.”
“What’s so beautiful about their relationship is it really feels like a real marriage,” says the actress, “and when something happens to your spouse, it very much feels like it’s happening to you. That’s what’s happening in this episode – her heart is breaking for what Howard’s going through.”
Lightening the mood is a B-story that finds Leonard and Penny — desperate for a departure from the usual “sit around the TV eating takeout” — hosting a gathering that’s “a bit more sophisticated,” says Johnny Galecki. “Cocktails and light jazz, things of that nature – all that drive Sheldon crazy, of course.
“But the episode, at its crux, is really about the group’s friendship and figuring out how to support Howard,” Galecki notes. ” It’s a beautiful episode, actually. … The writers are much more comfortable infusing things with a bit more heart and sentimentality at times.”
All told, Lorre says, “I was very proud of the way we handled it. It has very much a Big Bang Theory conclusion.”