Big Bang Theory Recap: Rules of Engagement

The Big Bang Theory Penny ProposesDamn you, NCIS. Damn. You.

What was supposed to be Penny’s big break — a cameo in CBS’ hit procedural — turns out to be a total bust in Thursday’s The Big Bang Theory. The setback forces the long-suffering thespian to take stock of both her moribund acting career and, more importantly, her stalled relationship with Leonard.

Short story shorter: She goes and pops the question! And he doesn’t say no! Nor does he say yes!

But more on that in a moment…

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Big Bang‘s first episode of 2014 begins on a positive note, with Penny enthusiastically announcing that she landed a role on the TV show “with all the letters.” Jump ahead several weeks and she’s organizing a Cheesecake Factory-catered viewing party for her NCIS debut. The entire nerd herd turns out for the screening, which only makes the forthcoming blow all the more crushing. While watching the episode, Penny discovers that her scene with Mark Harmon was left on the cutting room floor.

Humiliated, she retreats to her apartment to mourn the loss in private. Leonard, naturally, follows behind her and proceeds to make matters much worse by minimizing the importance of the NCIS gig, arguing, “You only had, like, three lines.” (Um, I’m going to side with Penny on this one, LHo.)

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He attempts to make up for his lack of sensitivity by reassuring her that it’s the business — and not her acting prowess — that’s the problem. “I think you’re really good — I truly do,” he insists. “But this is an incredibly hard thing that you’re shooting for. The odds of anyone becoming a successful actor are a million to one.” Oof. He then suggests she audition for the new Star Wars movies via a contest for fans. Like Howard. Double oof.

Later, an inebriated Penny pays Leonard a visit and opens up about how she’s been going at the acting thing for a decade, to no avail. “I finally get my big break and it goes away,” she laments. “It’s such a mess. I’ve been out here for 10 years and I have nothing to show for it” When he reminds her that she still has him, she has an alcohol-induced epiphany and suggests they get married. Actually, she more than just suggests it — she gets down on one knee and flat-out proposes it. The question renders Leonard speechless, save for a “Ummm… ” She takes his response for a no and storms out, leaving Leonard to wonder — via a rare heart-to-heart with Sheldon — if their relationship is kaput.

Thoughts? Is this the Leonard-Penny proposal you always envisioned? Do you think this is just another bump in the road for the lovebirds? Reaction to Sheldon’s tighty whities? And Bernadette’s laughgasm? And Howard’s Star Wars audition? And Chuck Lorre’s super-sweet vanity card? Hit the comments!