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Leonard And Penny Shippers Thread (Possible Spoilers)


C-Trayne
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@chiara and @bangermain, I'm very much enjoying our discussion and your posts exploring the nature of Lenny. If it sounds like I'm bearing down hard on Penny, it isn't because I don't like her. She and Leonard are by far my favorite characters, to the extent that I've never finished watching "The Wheaton Recurrance", nor have I watched "The Spaghetti Catalyst" or "The Plimpton Stimulation". I didn't want to watch Penny dump Leonard, and  was in mourning for Leonard. I couldn't watch her do it and still like her, I think. I accept that it was a necessary thing to do, but it is kind of like watching surgery. I want the results, not see the blood.

 

Penny just needs to be with Leonard, and I think she's still protecting herself too much. She'll never bee happy until she really commits to him without something triggering it. Based on what we've seen of her, there is no reason for her to be so averse to commitment. The only reason I've been able to think up is that she's still fighting the mismatch between her dreams of being an actress, and whatever social activities that would involve, and her reality. She is now (again from tvtropes.org) the Dungeon Master's Girlfriend. She can still be an actress, but her life partner is a nerd/genius/professor. It actually is a common thing, that there are many highly attractive actors and actresses that are just as nerdy as the guys. They just happen to be actors rather than physics professors. Vin Diesel, Natalie Portman and Courtney Ford are three examples.

 

One of the problems with Leonard and Penny 1.0 is that Leonard was very aware that Penny's commitment to the relationship was weak at best. I think it was "The Vengeance Formulation" where I recall Raj, Howard and Leonard discussing Howard's problem with Bernadette's request for a commitment. On their third date, Bernadette brought up the "Third Date Rule" regarding sex, and asked Howard what was his level of commitment. When he fumbled the ball, she said goodnight and for him to think about it. Howard asked Leonard about any commitment requests that Penny made prior to sex, and he said that she had made it clear that she was keeping her options open. Basically, you're fun, but if anyone better comes along, I'm out of here. At least that's how I take it. Also, later evidence shows that Penny knew that Leonard's need to please women was deeply rooted in his relationship with his mother. She and Priya explicitly discuss this in "The Engagement Reaction". So, Leonard explicitly knows that his relationship with Penny is tenuous, and he's wired to please women. He's an experimental scientist. What doe he do? Use the best tools he has available, his experimental physicist training, to observe Penny and try to figure out what to do to please her. As he is wired by his mother to have a desperate need to please the women he loves. It didn't work in the end, but it led to his necessary character development. But my point is that Penny knew a lot about what was happening and why.

 

She knew a lot early. @chiara, you are right about the definition of crush. Usually it refers to "schoolgirl crush", a momentary infatuation. The problem I believe is that Penny is downplaying what she likely suspected in "The Tangerine Factor". Recall the conversation with Sheldon where she confuses the unit light-year with time rather than distance. She knows herself then that Leonard is a commitment kind of guy. Given that she was pondering what to do about her date with Leonard, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine she Googled Helen of Troy, as Sheldon made a pretty emphatic point about the degree of Leonard's infatuation with her. Knowing all this, knowing the guy for a year, and liking him well enough to blackmail his roommate into throwing a birthday party for him, she accepts the date. Good. Afterwards, she had a good time on the date, but expressed concerns to the one person sure to inadvertently blab to Leonard about her education deficiency, and her lie about not finishing community college. So then freaks out and run when he does something socially awkward, which she knows he is prone to doing. All he was trying to do was to help her get over an expressed problem.

 

In Season 3 later, he says I love you in a perfectly reasonable context (just had sex, been dating for months, she had just spontaneously quoted significant dialog from one of his personal canon movies (even knowing the right movie). Then on the advice of a highly suspect character, dumps Leonard. Was she more afraid of turning into The Dungeon Master's Girlfriend by adopting his nerdy interests, or of hurting Leonard? Several episodes later, she berates him for ruining her for dumb, handsome guys to the point where she can't have sex with one while roaring drunk, and demands that she have loud, vigorous sex with him because she's horny and drunk. In vino veritas.

 

I guess where I'm going with this is that some really plausible reason for her being this way is missing in the narrative. Her dad seemed to be a perfectly reasonable guy, and their relationship seemed about right, so there is nothing there to go on. For a character that is generally spontaneous, fly by the seat of her pants, Penny is remarkably reserved and cautious with Leonard. Maybe it is because he's important, but it comes across as parsing her statements and emotions, not opening up, shading her words, needing to be cross examined, overall being a hostile witness to her feelings for Leonard. It is a testament to Leonard's patience and love for her that he's put up with this. He knows her pretty well now, and learns fast. Penny needs to have a good talk with her girlfriends, and take a page out of their books, and accept her destiny. Leonard deserves it. He's not perfect, but that is where she belongs. Maybe we'll get a little of what I'd like to see in "The Closure Alternative". I wonder if they have some pre-taped scenes that we don't know about. 

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Leonard was playing a long game at this point. As long as neither he or Penny was in a permanent relationship he could afford to keep the prospect of a reunion alive. Leonard had to know on some level that his relationship with Pryia (which was still in the future at this point ) wouldn't last (not unless he could win over her parents). For all we know he's changed his aftershave to match Penny's father's to help things along (as per Beverly's suggestion).

I agree. The mystery for me is what can he do next, but wait. He's not the sort to play emotional games, not would he want to. I like the point made earlier that @Nogravitasatall made, that this is the first time that an external source of peril has entered into their relationship. It may be that the writers don't have anything else that he can do, Penny apparently isn't budging anytime soon, so something external that isn't Leonard's doing is a good option to move things along. @sram is right. A long term job will be turned down as they don't want to split the group and it is altogether too dramatic. A short term job like visiting scientist would set up the need for them to decide if Penny goes with him or not. My money is on Penny going with Leonard, if he goes. Having them Skype redoes Howard in space, and Priya in India (cheating on Leonard all along). I hope that latter point gets brought up, as I would expect that Leonard would not be cool with another long-distance relationship with the level of commitment he has from Penny right now. Given how sensitive to other women sniffing around Leonard she is lately, I don't think she'd be OK with it either. The only power she is sure of over Leonard right now requires her physical presence. Edited by hamerman55
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I am terribly sorry, and it may be that my understanding of nuances in English is far from perfect, but isn't a "crush" supposed to be the same thing as an infatuation ? And Penny even goes as far as calling it a "little crush"... Now, if she had known who Menelaus and Helen of Troy were, Sheldon's little comment would have set her right immediately. Regardless, her description of what she thought were Leonard's feelings makes me think she genuinely did not know how strong they truly were.

Had she been aware of the real intensity of his feelings, she would have had to make a call (either let him know she was ok with it or turn him down once and for all) much quicker. Anything else would have been cruel. Now, as the protagonist's love, she cannot be malicious so I doubt she was written as privy to the full spectrum of Leonard's emotions back in season 1 (and maybe even season 2).

She knew he was "into" her, like a highschool boy is "into" a highschool girl. Puppy love, if you wish. That I can buy she was completely aware of. And even reciprocated. She thought he was very much fond of her (and sexually attracted to her) much like she was very much fond of him (and quite sexually attracted to him too). I believe she definitely could have gone for a "friends with benefits" sort of thing but sensed that may not be his thing : as a matter of fact, it truly was not considering how chaotic his experience with Leslie turned out to be.

Quite crucially, Penny never heard the "smart and beautiful" comment or any other such remarks from Leonard. We did but she did not, not until the dreaded Wheaton Recurrence's ILY which pretty much threw a spanner into the works.

 

Tensor explained very well, so I'll reaffirm that typically here in the US, there is definitely a difference between a "crush" and "infatuation". Infatuation would more along the lines of physical interest while crush describes a strong emotional feeling along with the physical attraction. And again Penny says that she's aware that Leonard isn't going to want just some fling, so she's aware enough to know that his feelings run deeper and that what he really wants would be something that would potentially turn into a real relationship.

 

 

 

Leonard, on their non-date, pretty much admitted to shaping every single aspect of his behaviour in such a way as to ensure Penny's gratification and gratitude. Granted, everybody tries to be on their best behaviour when dating but to the point of fashioning even the most minute of their responses so as not to displease their SO in any way ? That is not entirely normal. And I, for one, would be surprised if I were to find out a boyfriend of mine ever did this.

Make an effort ? Yes. Downright lie (as Leonard did whenever he said he liked hiking and karaoke) ? A bit weird.

Leonard could have made it clear when they were together that he, personally, did not enjoy these things but was willing to do them for her sake. It would have been perfectly fine. That is what Penny used to do : she would participate in the gang's (and Leonard's) activities to be nice but did not mind telling them when she had had enough. Leonard did not. He pretended his way through it all. I thought Penny's surprise was not faked. Especially when he displayed a rather interesting amount of bitterness about it, as if she had made him do those things, as if she had victimised or forced him in some way.

 

Nobody likes doing something they don't like to do, no matter how much they are aiming to please a significant other because it is something they like, people simply don't work that way. But this is something quite common, especially in relationships that are in hindsight still "new" so to speak. This is something that was especially heightened on Leonard's case because he was going out with a girl who would often be classified as "out of his league". But this kind of thing is about as common as it gets which is why it such easy comedy fodder and precisely why the writers "went there". As for being surprised if you found out a boyfriend ever did this, well of coarse you would because in real life 99 percent of the men and women who do this wouldn't own up to doing so even though deep down they know they do. But given this show is a sitcom we the audience get to see this happen. But this type of behavior is most common when the relationship is still fairly young. When you look take the long view, eventually this "posturing" behavior stops when the relationship is deep enough that usually both parties are no longer afraid of the "small" disagreements or differences.

 

The other thing to keep in mind about Leonard's behavior on the "Platonic date" has roots in the hurt the Penny caused him with the way she dumped him. She dumped him in easily one of the worst ways possible, not only in a public place, but in-front of all his friends as well. Then  That "date" was probably the first time they had been out alone together in that kind of scenario.

Edited by DPK

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@ all of the above.

And all done without tossing glyphs. Yay.

I still think they are now solid. It will be external obstacles not internal ones going forward. She literally put her body on the line for him in the Tenure ep. The fist bump showed they were in synch and on mission.

Maybe they will run with self doubt from Penny in future eps. They need a source of tension though no one could swallow yet another fraking internal meltdown ('i tell you three times' is powerful).

The drama will come from fighting maternal/familial challenges, work conflicts and snobs in the faculty (cos snobs are real).

They wont yet be allowed to be the happy couple, as Bernie and Howard have that space. So @sram's plan, which i heartily endorse, may have to wait.

Or they retool again and then i leave.

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@hamerman55

I do enjoy this exchange tremendously as well. And do not worry, I understand completely there is not an ounce of Penny-bashing in what you write.

My main problem is that, because Leonard is the hero, he is the one we audience empathise with immediately. He is the one we want to see happy, get what he wants. Now, "what" he wants is Penny... And a couple of kids, and a house, and a dog. All of which is perfectly understandable considering his personality, life and the intensity of his feelings, to which the audience was quickly made privy.

Penny, conversely, did not immediately want Leonard : she could not for, had she, there would not have been much of a story. So, while she cherished him as a very dear friend, she did not, for a rather long while, think of him in terms of potential husband/father. To her, he was this great guy who had a "big crush" on her (thank you for the clarification, Tensor), whom she might date but did not want to lead on in case it turned out he was really in love and she was not.

This dissonance between the hero's wishes and his love's initial seeming limited interest does not work in Penny's favour, to be honest. Neither in the writers' room nor in the eyes of the audience. More often than not, Penny stands in the way of Leonard's eternal happiness with... Penny herself and it gets a bit confusing and frustrating.

However, I do believe there is logic to her madness.

Fact of the matter is, due to extreme differences in personalities and circumstances, Penny and Leonard could not, at first, want the same thing at the same time : Penny is younger than Leonard (by 5-10 years) so settling down may not be as much of a priority to her as it is to him; Leonard is more mature than Penny, not only because he is older but also because he has been evolving in the adult world for much longer (he got his doctorate at 24); Penny has yet to make it professionally whereas Leonard's career is pretty awesome already; Penny is not financially secure yet but Leonard appears to be doing fine in this department; etc.

Add to that a nagging feeling (which she will mention in an upcoming episode) that she should not be "here", that her true life (as an actress) is waiting for her out there, that she is on the move really, about to leave for another world entirely. Just another couple of months of waiting tables and then, the big break ! Hardly the perfect recipe for a stable relationship with the asthmatic physicist from across the hallway.

And, on top of it all, there is the fact that Leonard is her best friend as well as her (potential, at times) boyfriend : the stakes are much higher with him than with any partner she might have had in the past ("If things don't go well with [him], I risk losing a really good friend" The Tangerine Factor). I do believe her extreme caution is a testament to the care with which she tries to handle this relationship, as opposed to those she jumped into carelessly in the past. She tries to get this one just right, not shortchanging Leonard or herself in the process. She alluded to it in The Wheaton Recurrence ("It's just that I've said the L word too soon before, and it did not work out too well") : she does not want to repeat the same mistakes with Leonard because this time, it matters. But by doing so, she makes the relationship that much more difficult to handle, paradoxically.

All put together, these many factors do, I believe, account for much of her behaviour towards Leonard and their relationship, both past and present. They also explain why things have changed over time : now Penny is 27 (Leonard's age bracket when they first met); she has been living as an adult for a little decade; she has hit some rough patches; she has been disappointed by others and herself; she is coming to terms with the fact that perhaps her big break is not just six months of table waiting away but may take much longer to happen and not be as spectacular as she had initially imagined; etc.

As she is growing up, she is also coming to terms with being commited to Leonard in the very long term.

While they may be inconsistent at times, I think the writers have done a pretty good job with Penny on that front : they started out with a glorified (21 years old) baby with stars in her eyes and a bit of a 'tude to, six years later, end up with a woman who, while she is still struggling a bit, is slowly finding her way around things. Poor Leonard has had to wait in the meantime, which is unfortunate, but it seems pretty sensible to me.

Should Penny go with Leonard to wherever that is he is going ? Yes, if her reason for going is not fear. Should he ask her to come with him ? Yes, if his request is not fuelled by fear either. I believe they have been shown to have matured enough as a couple not to dread breaking up just because of distance. So I am with Nogravitasatall on the "external obstacles" boat. Whatever "loop" Penny is about to be "thrown for", I would prefer it to come from the outside world than from either her and Leonard.

Edited by Chiara
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After reading the spoilers...it looks like we might finally get a mutual ILY.

 

@Chiara.... I don' think the writers have given the audience much of a chance to sympathize with Penny's character....basically in first three seasons she mostly was the secondary characters...her character was always under-defined..

 

and in the later half of season 3 her character was made to do things which were quite bad.....plimton episode....lunar episode....

 

Then when Priya came by we finally had the chance to sympathize with Penny...root for Penny....but from a normal audience point of view i can say that all that sympathy that writers gathered for her character was dumped when they made her almost break-up with Leonard again....that left a serious taint on her character.....and I don't think it's even that hard to understand....when Leonard was with Priya , she acted as if she ever gets a chance with Leonard again ...she would never even think of breaking up again.....but boom ...here she goes thinking of breaking up again....and almost goes through with it....it takes sheldon and another girl (again) for her to realize that she does want to loose leonard again...

 

and the reason for that given by the writers was also pretty poor.....it was not her career , not her education......but infact it was somthing about Leonard being not exciting  enough for her...now I would like to question ..if she felt that at the time...i do not understand why would she feel sad when was Leonard with priya because this season 5 leonard according to her had much more back-bone than the season 3 Leonard she used to date.......

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Part of the problem with Penny's character was you never saw her point of view the first three seasons. You really only got Leonard's. It was easy to have sympathy for him and hate Penny. I actually there breakup was caused just as much by Leonard as it was by Penny. Obviously the ILY not returned and the actual breakup was by Penny. But the lead up to it Penny was already feeling bad and she was sort of forced to go to the bowling alley when she should have never been there. She really needed a friend at that time and all she had was Leonard's friends. At the time Wil Wheaton's advice sounded good and when she broke with Leonard I think she thought it was best for him. 

In the Plimpton episode if Leonard was so in love with Penny why would he sleep with Plimpton. It was pretty quick after their breakup.

In the Lunar episode Penny was drunk so Leonard should have just said no.(Granted easier said than done.)

Youa re right about Penny being the one you rooted for when Leonard was dating Priya. What really helped Penny was Amy. She pointed how beautiful Priya was and actually made Penny cry. She always kept Penny focusing on Leonard and helped reinforce he was a great catch.

I like you thought the episode this season when Penny was thinking of breaking made no sense. The only purpose I see was to bring Alex in to make Penny jealous

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The real problem we're having now is  that all we know is: "Sheldon and Penny are thrown for a loop when Leonard is offered an exciting job opportunity overseas." We're like the three blind men and the elephant.

First, we know why Sheldon is thrown for a loop... He has to find someone else to oppress and enslave while Leonard is gone.

Second, we know Leonard, if he takes the offer, won't be gone for an extended period of time because that would disrupt the show (so probably a few months at most).

Third we don't know exactly what Penny's reaction will be because we don't know the details of the 'job offer'. Since it's 'overseas' it could be in Switzerland, Germany, France, England or anywhere else.

The location could be why Penny is thrown for a loop. If we presume Leonard asks Penny to come with him, to a place where she has to learn a new language could be a problem. We don't know if Penny has finally received some job offers and has to stay home because of her career. It could just be that living with Leonard while they're out of the country could be the problem (if living together in LA stresses her out what would it be like living together in say... Berlin where she not only has to learn a new language but doesn't know anyone except people she's met through Leonard). Sure she'd adapt after a while, but it's a scary prospect.

To add to this, we're all viewing this through our own myopic points of view. 

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I'm going in a bit of a different direction with her almost breaking up with Leonard. I don't think you can look at the 6.02 almost breakup in isolation vs the rest of the shows this year, or possibly even from previous years. Penny thinks it's boring and tries to compare her and Leonard's current relationship with Amy and Bernadette's, which can't be done. L/P previous attempt at being together was based almost solely on sexual reasons, as were basically all of Penny's previous relationships. Neither Bernadette or Amy had this type of relationship with Howard or Sheldon. Penny and Leonard 2.0 was a deeper, more meaningful, and more emotional type of relationship, something Penny wasn't used to. Is it any wonder that if Penny was comparing the current with her previous, she would think it not as exciting as her previous ones?

One of the things I think this episode provided, along with 6.5 was that it showed that Penny was not putting enough effort into the relationship. This kind of relationship was something new to her and it seemed that she didn't quite know how to handle this type. As demonstrated in 6.5 Penny has a rather one-sided view of what needs to go into a relationship. Also, it may have something to do with how Leonard viewed her, trying to make her happy. Once Bernadette and Amy pushed her into putting more effort into it, and having her work on making Leonard happy with something other than sex, the boring part she was evidently feeling in 6.02 was no longer there. While bringing in Alex was one catalyst (for the sexual part of the relationship), Penny's changing ideas of what was necessary to keep a relationship going also had a role in bringing Leonard and Penny closer than they had been (the emotional part of the relationship).

In the end, I think the whole purpose was to show the bottoming out of how Penny viewed the relationship. The writers could show how, starting from the bottom, the problems and their resolutions simply showed how the relationship has been built up from that low point and gotten stronger throughout the year.

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Part of the problem with Penny's character was you never saw her point of view the first three seasons. You really only got Leonard's. It was easy to have sympathy for him and hate Penny. I actually there breakup was caused just as much by Leonard as it was by Penny. Obviously the ILY not returned and the actual breakup was by Penny. But the lead up to it Penny was already feeling bad and she was sort of forced to go to the bowling alley when she should have never been there. She really needed a friend at that time and all she had was Leonard's friends. At the time Wil Wheaton's advice sounded good and when she broke with Leonard I think she thought it was best for him. 

In the Plimpton episode if Leonard was so in love with Penny why would he sleep with Plimpton. It was pretty quick after their breakup.

In the Lunar episode Penny was drunk so Leonard should have just said no.(Granted easier said than done.)

Youa re right about Penny being the one you rooted for when Leonard was dating Priya. What really helped Penny was Amy. She pointed how beautiful Priya was and actually made Penny cry. She always kept Penny focusing on Leonard and helped reinforce he was a great catch.

I like you thought the episode this season when Penny was thinking of breaking made no sense. The only purpose I see was to bring Alex in to make Penny jealous

 

I agree that the writers haven't done as good a job of giving us Penny's point of view. This is one of the big reasons that the addition of both Bernadette and Amy as permanent characters has helped the show. They have been their as a sounding board for Penny to voice her concerns and fears. Yes, while Leonard may have played a role in leading Penny down the road to deciding to end things with him, it doesn't change the fact that she did it in the worst way possible. That is completely on her. She could have and should have simply waited for the the event to be over and then broke up with him in private. But not only did she dump and run out on him in public, which is bad enough, she also did it in front of his friends. That adds a level of humiliation on top the the emotional damage she was causing by just breaking up with him.

 

The Plimption thing should be obvious. Leonard had just gotten publicly humiliated and rejected by the person he had just told he loved some hours earlier. He was a wreck and somebody in that state will look for any kind of validation he or she can get. Often times it's done by having sexual intercourse with somebody else. It isn't pretty but it happens. Leonard being the kind of guy he is would be extra vulnerable to the physical attentions of a beautiful women who seemingly wanted him. It didn't help that Penny was so quick to judge him considering her own admittance to doing the same thing in the past.

 

The Lunar Excitation, yes Leonard should have said no but he was still very vulnerable emotionally and Penny to his perception(keep in mind he isn't very socially savy so he wouldn't necessarily be aware)wanted to be with him again. This of coarse didn't end well.

Edited by DPK
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i agree that we weren't given a clear read on Penny's internal processes. This was a manifestation of her alienness to the four proto-men and was an inevitable consequence of part of the initial premise- women as unknown territory.

Without Amy, Penny had only Sheldon as a vehicle for exposition and he was played only for comic contrast, not for empathy - because he cant do that. There was no device for Penny to explain her feelings about Leonard to a third party until Amy arrived. As noted we then got some of the story.

And i agree with Tensor about the s6 near breakup. It was the crystallisation of her awareness that this was something different to her previous experiences. But this time she had the girls to give her a reality check and reinforcement.

Prior to that (Amy) we never saw her weeping into her pillow. But the show would not support soliliquies. So she may have looked mean, but she was likely protecting herself.

Edited by Nogravitasatall
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I'm going in a bit of a different direction with her almost breaking up with Leonard. I don't think you can look at the 6.02 almost breakup in isolation vs the rest of the shows this year, or possibly even from previous years. Penny thinks it's boring and tries to compare her and Leonard's current relationship with Amy and Bernadette's, which can't be done. L/P previous attempt at being together was based almost solely on sexual reasons, as were basically all of Penny's previous relationships. Neither Bernadette or Amy had this type of relationship with Howard or Sheldon. Penny and Leonard 2.0 was a deeper, more meaningful, and more emotional type of relationship, something Penny wasn't used to. Is it any wonder that if Penny was comparing the current with her previous, she would think it not as exciting as her previous ones?

One of the things I think this episode provided, along with 6.5 was that it showed that Penny was not putting enough effort into the relationship. This kind of relationship was something new to her and it seemed that she didn't quite know how to handle this type. As demonstrated in 6.5 Penny has a rather one-sided view of what needs to go into a relationship. Also, it may have something to do with how Leonard viewed her, trying to make her happy. Once Bernadette and Amy pushed her into putting more effort into it, and having her work on making Leonard happy with something other than sex, the boring part she was evidently feeling in 6.02 was no longer there. While bringing in Alex was one catalyst (for the sexual part of the relationship), Penny's changing ideas of what was necessary to keep a relationship going also had a role in bringing Leonard and Penny closer than they had been (the emotional part of the relationship).

In the end, I think the whole purpose was to show the bottoming out of how Penny viewed the relationship. The writers could show how, starting from the bottom, the problems and their resolutions simply showed how the relationship has been built up from that low point and gotten stronger throughout the year.

 

The no-sexual thing was actually Penny's idea....taking things slow was what she wanted...so she does'nt get any points for thinking of their relationship as boring...this all IF she was considering their relationship is boring because of sexual reasons...because I don't think it was quite clear...

 

but anyhow making her thinking of breaking-up again  and that too with Penny putting the entire blame on Leonard for their issues ......i'm sorry but it was a bad bad bad bad move by the writers...

 

I don't think L\P first time was almost based solely on sexual reasons....otherwise probably Penny would have clearly moved on as she has in the past...

 

i agree that we weren't given a clear read on Penny's internal processes. This was a manifestation of her alienness to the four proto-men and was an inevitable consequence of part of the initial premise- women as unknown territory.

Without Amy, Penny had only Sheldon as a vehicle for exposition and he was played only for comic contrast, not for empathy - because he cant do that. There was no device for Penny to explain her feelings about Leonard to a third party until Amy arrived. As noted we then got some of the story.

And i agree with Tensor about the s6 near breakup. It was the crystallisation of her awareness that this was something different to her previous experiences. But this time she had the girls to give her a reality check and reinforcement.

Prior to that (Amy) we never saw her weeping into her pillow. But the show would not support soliliquies. So she may have looked mean, but she was likely protecting herself.

 

I don't think she ever cried over Leonard before Priya came by (probably once during break-up episode and once in the costume episode she had tears in her eyes)

she clearly was enjoying herself in the episode after their break-up....she was  planning a trip to disney-land.......when Leonard according to Sheldon was spending most of the time crying over her....nor she did have any problems reverting back to normal after she booty calls him after the date with Zack....

Edited by vasu
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For everyone contributing lately, I have very much enjoyed reading your analyses. It has helped me appreciate Penny better, and I'm having fun! Thanks to @chiara, @bangermain, @tensor, @vasu, @eirwinrommel, @dpk, @nogravitasatall and @chrismo.

 

It just struck me that this is the third show I've seen the pattern of early hookup of the protagonist with the love focus, followed by a quick breakup. Friends , How I Met Your Mother and now TBBT. They aren't exactly alike, but there are parallels. Friends is closest. Clearly Ross and Rachel are too different to work. Ross is nerdy, wants to get married and have a family, and professionally settled. Rachel is newly on her own, working as waitress, and generally wet behind the ears. They get together, then break up for something trivial, albeit after mutual ILY (like I said, not exactly the same, but I doubt their ILY was as serious as it seems to be taken in TBBT). Then they spend eight years waiting for Rachel to grow up to truly be ready for Ross. Getting Ross with Rachel early was an early exit strategy to roll with audience interest in the couple. The writers actually planned on hooking Rachel up with another character (Joey I think, which made more sense at the time) but couldn't deny the chemistry Ross and Rachel actors had. There was no long term "Bible" for the show. They admitted however that getting them together that soon was a bit of a mistake in hindsight, but that hindsight includes knowing it would be the massive hit Friends was. 

 

In HIMYM, I've read the writers explicitly had two exit strategies. First, Victoria was to be the wife in case the show got canceled after the first season. They were nice enough to realize the fans deserve to know who the mother was even if the show wasn't renewed. Once things looked solid, they went with the second strategy of putting Ted with Robin. Once the show really had legs, they broke them up and headed down the path they are on where I find the show quite unwatchable.

 

In TBBT, we have the early coupling of the hero with the leading lady, then the early breakup. The parallel with Friends is clear. Penny simply wasn't mature enough to handle Leonard, and quite frankly, Leonard was too damn insecure in any of his relationships for them to work. The point has been nicely made as to why Leonard is so insecure - Beverly. Penny is the one that doesn't make sense yet, but the show has mostly been told from Leonard's point of view. The introduction of Bernadette and Amy has turned out to be far more important to expand on Penny than I previously realized. She now has a venue for self-explanation, so the writers can fill us in on why she is so afraid of commitment, and really, why she has the need for external validation, as Beverly pointed out. As an earlier poster noted, as obnoxious as Beverly is (however funny), her analyses of the characters has been spot on. I am hoping that the result of "The Closure Alternative" is that Penny comes around to the realization that her need for external validation can be satisfied mostly by Leonard and her group of close friends. She can still act, as that is important to her, but she's actually been getting what she needs from Leonard and her friends. What is better, a loving SO and a group of friends that are always there, or a faceless crowd of fans? 

 

The parallels with Friends and HIMYM are not strong. Both of these shows didn't have anything else really going for them other than the intergroup relationships and the girlfriend/boyfriend of the week. Ted is the only character who's career was of any significance to the plot in his show. In TBBT, the careers of all the characters, including Penny, are often central to the plots. Penny's less so because of the focus of the show, but also because she is unsuccessful at it. They guys all work together, and one has to be highly career focused to be a scientist. You also have the nerd interests of science fiction, gaming, comics and collectibles. We've had whole episodes focused on one or more of these things, with no mention of the relationships (I'm thinking particularly of "The Bakersfield Expedition"). Just think, the entire was about the guys dressing in in cosplay, and the girls going of their own accord to a comic books store and buying comics. Albeit to learn more about their boyfriends, but by the end, they were arguing about Moljnir. The guys were clearly not on their minds. This is what I think is so wonderful about the show. We can have whole episodes about their lives and nerdy interests, rather than the relationships. I think this is because now the relationships are mostly settled. Unless something insane happens, three of the four guys are now in relationships that are stable. That isn't to say there aren't bumps in the road ahead, but It is highly unlikely that any of the existing couples break up. The core cast is knit together too tightly, and there is much to do with the characters they have. They now have a mechanism to explain Penny's fear of commitment, for one. I see many plot lines available to the writers now, particularly because the relationships are pretty set. The hint we have for the finale is one example. There are lots of external things to introduce. Penny actually getting an acting job would be one. The whole plot line of Alex is a good example, as Leonard didn't even get that she was an issue, while Penny went crazy (with Amy's prodding). One great value of the girls is that they are schooling Penny on how to be a woman in a real relationship. As in Leonard is a great catch for a marriage. Maybe not so much for a drunken 36 hour fling, but definitely for real life. As has been wisely discussed above, this is part of what Penny is learning. He's different in the right sort of way, as Penny is fundamentally right for him. 

 

It also just struck me that Sheldon and Leonard are getting each other's mothers, in a sense. Leonard envies Sheldon for how warm and caring his mom was. Penny is very similar to her. Raised on a farm, warm, caring, and affectionate. She satisfies his emotional needs by reflex, as we saw even in the first episode with the hugging. He satisfies her need for emotional validation as he worships her and is at the same time highly accomplished and a genius. The obvious conclusion is that someone of great intelligence has decided that she is wonderful. This isn't some guy infatuated with her looks, as he hung in there during the celibate part of the beta test. In fact, she was the one to break the no sex rule, so Leonard is clearly willing able to wait her out, and be with her just for the pleasure of her company.

 

Sheldon has the best parts of Beverly in Amy, without the ice queen soul. She's into how the brain works (this is important to Sheldon since he's so fascinated with his own), she's an accomplished scientist (in a field unrelated to his so there's no competition), she dresses conservatively like his mother, will clearly comfort him when needed, but he can keep her at arm's length when he doesn't, and worships his intelligence. She also craves his body, but that is a need he has yet to acknowledge he has.

 

The fact that the core relationships are essential set and at the root stable allows the writers to play with light stuff, sort of like family sitcoms but without the children being the focus (as there are none, and hopefully won't be!). We still have people with issues trying to sort out relationships and friendships, while also working for a living in complex jobs with interesting colleagues. The guy's jobs provide plenty of things to go on about. Let's hope the writers appreciate the great situation they've written themselves into for many seasons to come.

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The no-sexual thing was actually Penny's idea....taking things slow was what she wanted...so she does'nt get any points for thinking of their relationship as boring...

She was quite aware that they were compatible sexually. Their problem was (as Leonard had Penny verbalize in the 6.13 fantasy) "when we talk". For her to recognize that and hold off on sex while they see how the non-sexual part of the relationship works is rather perceptive. If the non-sexual part isn't worked out, or is thought of as boring, there isn't much reason to continue in the relationship. Hence, Penny's thinking she should break up with Leonard, since she thinks it's boring.

 

this all IF she was considering their relationship is boring because of sexual reasons...because I don't think it was quite clear...

It wasn't that it was boring because of sexual reasons, the non-sexual reasons were boring to her. I said she was comparing the more sexual relationship of season three, with the non-sexual part of the season five (I'd say season six, but it's not far enough into the season) As far as being clear, in season three, almost all their one on one time was in a sexual context (think of all the bedroom scenes). This season, almost all their one on one time is in the more mundane tasks of living (think the kitchen and eating scenes).

 

but anyhow making her thinking of breaking-up again  and that too with Penny putting the entire blame on Leonard for their issues ......i'm sorry but it was a bad bad bad bad move by the writers...

Go back and watch the episode. She doesn't put the blame on Leonard. She says nothing but good things about Leoanrd, admits she loves him(by her definition of love, Bernie doesn't agree with her definition), but is confused about how she feels about the status of the relationship.

 

I don't think L\P first time was almost based solely on sexual reasons....otherwise probably Penny would have clearly moved on as she has in the past...

Solely was a bad choice of words, the main thrust of the relationship was sexual. They almost broke up after the first episode, because the sex wasn't great. The thing that saved it was the sexual attraction.

There are a couple of additional things. While all of us here are aware the previous break up, not all viewers were. This, as I said, gives newer viewers a place in the relationship to compare with the "fixes" of Penny's problems later in the season. And, of course, as I continue to say, there isn't really enough time provided (most of the time L/P is on for 6-8 minutes). Six to Eight minutes out of entire week is not a good representation of what is going on in the relationship. As a result, there is not enough unambiguous evidence to actually determine what is really going on. There is plenty of interpretation that can go various ways. Which is why we can keep going back and forth, debating our own interpretations and giving examples to support our contentions.

I also want to thank all the participants for the enjoyable and civil discussions that we've been having.

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I just think we will see growth in Penny's character when faced with the prospect of Leonard leaving for a job overseas. By that I mean, she will

tell Leonard how she feels and not just shut the door on him and then say what she feels (end of season 2). Guess I'm hoping for Penny to tell

Leonard she loves him etc without blurting it out or having to run away in order to stop the crying fest of joy between her and leonard.

 

Personally I don't think the writers will break Lenny up again in the show, as the only way left to play that is for Leonard to do the dumping.

Penny and Leonard living together is a situation that would create the bumps in the road that the writers have talked about.

Just not sure when they will pull the trigger on that one, as Sheldon will likely freak out over that news.

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How about, Leonard takes the overseas job and moves there, skyping daily with Penny. A few months after he settles in, he comes home to find Penny waiting for him with a proposal?

This is over the hiatus? Sure. It changes the ground rules by removing the insecurities. However, do they have four seasons in coupledom?

I have no examples at hand of shows that go up a gear in the 7th plus seasons.

Eta. I'd watch them changing nappies but I don't know broadly popular that would be. I could see them in Nebraska too.

Edited by Nogravitasatall
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I've been looking and have yet to find an example of an increase of 20% year 6 over year 5( in TBBT case, that's 3 million viewers) or an increase of 50% year 6 over year 4(6.5 million viewers). This type of increase is just not something that happens in television. So going up a gear may not be a problem

Edited by Tensor
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This is over the hiatus? Sure. It changes the ground rules by removing the insecurities. However, do they have four seasons in coupledom?

I have no examples at hand of shows that go up a gear in the 7th plus seasons.

Eta. I'd watch them changing nappies but I don't know broadly popular that would be. I could see them in Nebraska too.

I'm not saying bring in kids right away (if before the last season). I'm just suggesting it as a way to break up the log jam their relationship seems to be in now. It also forces Penny to be the one to take the chance in the relationship for a change. The idea being Leonard's miserable without Penny and is considering coming back early, when he finds Penny waiting for him.

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For everyone contributing lately, I have very much enjoyed reading your analyses. It has helped me appreciate Penny better, and I'm having fun! Thanks to @chiara, @bangermain, @tensor, @vasu, @eirwinrommel, @dpk, @nogravitasatall and @chrismo.

It has been fantastic, hasn't it ? Everybody is so polite, sweet and articulate. I even get to learn things (not being sarcastic for a second here, I am genuinely glad I found out about the real usage of the word "crush"... Had no clue)

Virtual group hug ! :)

 

In TBBT, we have the early coupling of the hero with the leading lady, then the early breakup. The parallel with Friends is clear. Penny simply wasn't mature enough to handle Leonard, and quite frankly, Leonard was too damn insecure in any of his relationships for them to work. The point has been nicely made as to why Leonard is so insecure - Beverly. Penny is the one that doesn't make sense yet, but the show has mostly been told from Leonard's point of view. The introduction of Bernadette and Amy has turned out to be far more important to expand on Penny than I previously realized. She now has a venue for self-explanation, so the writers can fill us in on why she is so afraid of commitment, and really, why she has the need for external validation, as Beverly pointed out.

I see your point and, you are absolutely right, Penny's father has been mentioned on the show as a root for her problems. However, I believe Penny's less-than-stellar record when it comes ot her relationship with Leonard can be explained by other factors than daddy issues : age, uncertain professional and social circumstances and, above all, inexperience.

 

As Tensor pointed out, she is not used to having meaningful relationships that go beyond the purely physical. For years, she was more than happy to date complete idiots just because they had nice cars, nice hair, nice abs and/or nice bums. She did not expect much from them; they did not expect much from her : everybody was merry, with the occasional bout of disappointment. Then came Leonard...

 

The reason why Leonard and Penny 1.0 did not work (aside from the writers realising they could milk the drama for a couple of seasons) is that it was a bad case of the blind leading the blind : Leonard assumed Penny, being the more socially and "romantically" experienced of the two, would guide them through it. So he followed her. Meanwhile, Penny had absolutely no idea what was going on; she had never been in such a situation before and was very much playing it by ear : sometimes treating the relationship like one of the casual affairs she was used to; sometimes trying to make things a bit more meaningful and failing. Contrarily to what one might have thought, both Penny and Leonard were both equally ill-equiped to handle such a relationship.

 

Leonard and Penny 2.0, conversely, are better prepared : Leonard now knows what it is like to be dumped (thanks to Penny) and cheated on (well done Priya); Penny has experienced the pain and frustration of not being able to replace a former flame with just about any dofus who happens to be in the vicinity, as well as the guilt of having hurt somebody she truly cares for. 

These days, Leonard is able to sense how far he can push an issue without making Penny run for the hills. Unlike with the ILY crisis of season 3 when he got all snarky and passive-agressive (I felt for him back then. It must be frustrating not to get an ILY back but you cannot bully/guilt trip people into telling you that), he displayed remarkable sensitivity during what could have been an absolutely apocalyptic date on VD : he made his point in as clear a way as possible yet allowed Penny enough space to breathe and relax. 

And she responded in kind. In the past, she would have found a way out of the confrontation : she would have cried, got obfuscated, shut the door in his face, tried to distract him with sex, etc. But this time, she listened to him and went through the trouble of verbalising her fears. She can do that now. 

They are both much better at this relationship thing because, quite simply, they have grown into it. And grown up, especially Penny. They can now be incredibly intimate with each other without resorting to sex, quite a prowess considering it was very much the glue that kept them together in season 3.

 

 

As an earlier poster noted, as obnoxious as Beverly is (however funny), her analyses of the characters has been spot on. I am hoping that the result of "The Closure Alternative" is that Penny comes around to the realization that her need for external validation can be satisfied mostly by Leonard and her group of close friends. She can still act, as that is important to her, but she's actually been getting what she needs from Leonard and her friends. What is better, a loving SO and a group of friends that are always there, or a faceless crowd of fans?

I have to say I do not quite know what to make of Beverly. I do find her hilarious but is she really as good as we may be tempted to give her credit for ? 

 

Because she is very much like Sheldon, I tend to think her observations, much like his, are hit-and-miss at best. Had Raj and Howard really created an "ersatz homosexual marriage to satisfy their need for intimacy" ? If so, how come they maintained a huge chunk of their symbiosis after Howard met Bernadette ? If Leonard is into women who represent the opposite of his mom (as postulated by Beverly in her book Needy Baby Greedy Baby... though the book may have been imagined by Leonard and not exist in "real life"), how come he fell for Priya who was unlike both Penny and Beverly ? If Penny's father was so dismissive of her because she was a girl, how come he was so nice and attentive to her when we met him ? If she understands her son so well, how come she did not spot he just needs a hug from time to time ? The woman is a bit of a mystery !

 

I believe Beverly was meant by the writers ad the characters' resident "stirrer". She just waltzes in, makes everybody bar Sheldon feel very uncomfortable by clinically assessing them in the least flattering light possible and she leaves.

Because she is a sitcom shrink, she cannot help but think of everyone in terms of symptoms, pathologies, mommy/daddy issues and sexual deviance. Now, TBBT's gang is not the healthiest of bunches : they have quite a few issues. However I do not think they can be as neatly summed up as Beverly does. 

 

Is Penny eager for external validation ? Well, she does enjoy being flattered but I doubt it singles her out in a very significant way.

After all, the guys turned into meerkats when they learnt about the tenure position. Tenure, in real life, is a very precious thing : it means one cannot get fired. Nevertheless, from what we have seen on the show, the FabFour are already unfirable : Sheldon dropped foam on the dean yet did not get dismissed; the guys falsified data but kept their jobs; etc. So what is tenure to them if not external validation ? 

I think the really big lesson Penny needs to learn (and will learn in an upcoming episode) is not to put her life on hold while waiting for her dream to come true. The dream, in and by itself, is fine but it should not maker her dismissive of what she already has. It should not be the gold standard to which her reality is compared (Is it just me or is this post starting to sound like some third-rate emo ballad ?). She has to stop thinking her real life is about to begin and realise that it started about six years ago.

Edited by Chiara
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One thing I am hoping with the next step Penny takes in the relationship is that it be something she thought through, like Howard deciding to ask Bernadette to marry him. I would rather she not react to a crisis or threat. We've seen that. Leonard's proposals apparently come without a lot of thought. The first time I think they actually sat down and discussed how they felt more or less calmly was in "The Tangible Affection Proof". While they were both wound up emotionally, they discussed how they felt, thought about the responses, and moved things forward. There was not crisis or threat. Everything was internal to the relationship.

 

The discussions in "The Egg Salad Equivalency" (Alex asking Leonard out) and "The 43 Peculiarity" (Penny studying with the English guy) were borderline cases. In each episode, a new person triggered the discussion, but they were discussing their insecurities and trust issues in each case. They were having a relationship discussion, i.e. talking, which in Leonard's thought experiment in "The Recombination Hypothesis" was something that didn't work for Penny. The key seems to be talk to each other about things, but don't over think it, and don't let it fester until it boils out in an argument. In three of the key episodes, "The 43 Peculiarity", "The Egg Salad Equivalency" and "The Tangible Affection Proof", Penny is the one saying the important things. In the first, she blurts out that she loved Leonard (I wonder how long she would have sat on that little fact otherwise?). In the second, she confesses her insecurity with her education and intelligence (which first appeared after their very first date). In the third, she confesses to commitment issues. Could it be that her realization that she loved Leonard is what opened her up to talking to him?

 

Anyway, I hope that the next step by her comes more organically, where she brings it up to the girls, talks about it with them, and then goes to Leonard. No shooting from the hip. An actual considered action moving the relationship forward. I'd rather see her decide to do something with good data, rather than react to external events. She's capable of it, as we saw in "The Decoupling Fluctuation". She decided to break up with Leonard, talked to the girls, and was ready to act on it. It was a bad decision, as she hadn't really worked at this or any other relationship before, but it was a considered, planned action with regard to her relationship. Now let's see her do the same thing, but moving the relationship forward.

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