The Big Bang Theory Season 12, Episode 20 Recap: Leonard’s New Future Surprises Penny

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Sheldon and Amy have taken center stage on The Big Bang Theory the last few weeks, but with less than five episodes left it was time to press pause on Nobel Watch 2019 to focus on the other main characters, specifically Leonard and Penny.

In “The Decision Reverberation,” Leonard admits to Penny that he’s not happy at work and wants a change. Before we get to that, though, we finally see Anu again (for one scene at least) and all seems well with her and Raj. They’re flirty and cute, and I’m bummed we haven’t gotten more scenes with them. Howard and Bernadette are basically supporting players to Raj this week, who is worried that people won’t take him or his work seriously. He hypothesized that there are many unknowns in the universe, which could mean aliens exist, causing everyone to have an opinion. Sure.

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But let’s get back to the episode’s big story: Penny, Leonard, and their future.

Sheldon diagnoses Leonard as a “textbook satisficer,” someone who always put others’ interests above their own. Penny tells Leonard he shouldn’t do things to please others if it constantly makes him feel bad. She wonders when he last did something totally selfish without worrying what anyone else wanted. “Probably when I was born,” Leonard says.

As you might have guessed, the rest of the episode centers around Leonard trying to break free from his people-pleasing ways and take control of his life. Thanks to Penny’s suggestion to be more assertive with his wants and needs, Leonard tells her he wants to have sex and then watch Star Trek: Discovery. That’s followed by the groundbreaking decision to order barbecue on what is typically Chinese food night. And then, a new route on the drive to work the next day.

Best of all is Leonard’s decision to sit in Sheldon’s spot on the couch. “It’s my house, and I’m tried of being told where I can and can’t sit,” he says. When Sheldon storms off in a huff, Leonard tells Penny that standing his ground over Sheldon’s spot was better than sex. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” Penny says, “but yes it was.” New Leonard has arrived, and I’m so here for it.

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The next day Leonard tells Sheldon that all these years he’s been afraid to say what he wanted for fear of ruffling feathers or stepping on toes. Now that he’s feeling more confident, he’s ready to make a change at work as well: He wants to be the principal investigator on a plasma physics study. And if work won’t let him? “Well, there are plenty of other universities that will,” Leonard tells Sheldon.

Except Sheldon doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Leonard thinks that’s because Sheldon doesn’t want to see him be successful, but Sheldon later tells Amy he’s confused if he feels that way because of a noble reason or a selfish reason. “Leonard’s about to demand a job that I don’t think the university will give him,” he explains to Amy. “I’m worried he’s making a giant mistake. Maybe deep down I don’t want him to succeed.”

Amy says the fact that he’s worried about his motivation supports the idea that he genuinely cares about Leonard. “I do,” Sheldon says. “Thank you, Amy.”

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Later, Leonard tells Penny he spent the entire day putting together his proposal so he can tell President Siebert this is what he wants to do. Sheldon comes by and tells him he’s been agonizing about saying something. “I don’t think you should demand to be in charge of a plasma project,” he says. Leonard reiterates it’s because Sheldon doesn’t want him to succeed, but Sheldon says that’s not it. Penny interrupts and says Sheldon shouldn’t worry about what happens because worst comes to worst, the university will just say no.



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