And so: While CBS advertised last night’s episode, the season nine premiere, as featuring the eight-years-in-the-making marriage of Leonard and Penny (spoiler: It did!), the focus of the show ended up being Sheldon and Amy. Who ended the previous season deciding to go on a break that might have also been—these things are always a little unclear—a breakup.
The trouble came after Amy lost patience with the core dynamic of their extremely slow-moving relationship: her wanting more, and Sheldon resisting, and their settling on some mutually satisfactory, and also mutually frustrating, compromise. Sheldon has been playing The Game, basically, but entirely unintentionally. Amy, for her part, has put up with this, not just because “your personality quirks, which others find abhorrent or rage-inducing, I find cute as a button,” but also because she hopes, against all reason, that Sheldon will eventually come around. To sex, to intimacy, to something that resembles the image Amy holds in her mind of what romance is supposed to be.
Late last season, the couple—on the “date night” stipulated by the “relationship agreement” Sheldon has required—decide to build a blanket fort in Sheldon’s living room. (“I’ll get the blankets,” Sheldon squeals, “you Google how to have childlike fun!”) Amy decides to take advantage of the opportunity. They’re having so much fun, she points out, and it’s a shame to let a good blanket fort go to waste. So “I could stay really late, and sleep over,” she suggests.
Sheldon: That’s a big step.
Amy: It’s a big fort.
Sheldon: Very well. I will agree to a family-friendly, G-rated, boy-girl sleepover.
Amy: PG: Some scenes may be too intense for younger viewers.
Sheldon: G-Rated, with a warning for families with babies and toddlers.
Amy: You’ve got yourself a sleepover.
The last few episodes of The Big Bang Theory, however, found Amy quickly losing patience with this steady-but-extremely-slow state of affairs. At the end of the season eight finale, the neurobiologist—frustrated in pretty much every way possible—finally had enough. She told Sheldon she needed time away from him. Time to “think.” Genius is not required to know what that means.
What Amy didn’t know, though, was that the thing that for so long seemed impossible—to her, to us, probably to Sheldon himself—was that Sheldon had been planning to propose to her. “Well, Gollum, you’re an expert on rings,” he tells his beloved doll at the end of the episode, taking a small box from his desk drawer. “What do I do with this one?”
The show’s season nine premiere doesn’t answer that question, but it does answer another, more interesting one: What happens when a man with an IQ of 187—a man who understands social conventions the way most of us understand string theory—gets his heart broken? As it turns out: He acts just like an average person. He wallows and whines. He gets angry, and petty. “Some important new information has come to light,” he tells Leonard: “Women are the worst. I thought it was paper cuts, but I was wrong. No piece of paper has ever cut me this deep.”