'The Big Bang Theory' recap: 'The Decoupling Fluctuation' shows cracks in the Penny/Leonard relationship

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'The Big Bang Theory' recap: 'The Decoupling Fluctuation' shows cracks in the Penny/Leonard relationship
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Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) have an awkward dinner during "The Big Bang Theory"

From the very beginning, the relationship between Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) has served as the beating heart beneath the scientific humor in "The Big Bang Theory." Despite major setbacks, the couple moved forward over five seasons with Penny realizing that Leonard is a great guy who really cares about her.

"The Decoupling Fluctuation," the second episode of Season 6, takes away almost all of Penny's growth as a character. While having girl talk with Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Amy (Mayim Bialik), Penny appears ready to send Leonard packing. Bernadette says that her husband is a "sexy Buzz Lightyear," and Amy admits Sheldon ignites her loins just by being near her, but Penny thinks her relationship with Leonard is kind of boring.

As this drama unfolds on Earth, Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) deals with familiar problems 250 miles above Pasadena. Despite his academic achievements, Howard is the victim of pranks initiated by the other astronauts. As the new guy on the International Space Station (ISS), Howard has to clean the space toilet. When another astronaut takes a spacewalk, he glues an alien mask on the outside of Howard's window, causing the engineer to scream for nine minutes.

"The Decoupling Fluctuation" contains some truly impressive moments, though. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) has often been in danger of becoming a one-note character, but the introduction of Amy Farrah Fowler humanized him. After Amy reveals that Penny is thinking of breaking up with Leonard, Sheldon is afraid the homeostasis of his life will be upset.

As he did in the Season 6 premiere, Sheldon throws a curve ball to the audience. While lobbying for Penny to keep Leonard as her boyfriend, Sheldon drops his selfish demeanor when he says "Penny, please don't hurt my friend." Sheldon has a vested interest in Leonard's romantic relationships, but this is one of the few times he honestly went to bat for the sake of his roommate.

Sheldon hasn't grown up completely, though. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) invites Stuart (Kevin Sussman) to join the group at the movies, but Sheldon says he didn't authorize the comic shop owner's inclusion. Because Howard always eats Raisinettes at the movies, he requires Stuart to do the same to maintain the balance.

The relationship between Raj and Stuart continues to unfold in this episode. Because Sheldon and Leonard are bringing their girlfriends to the movies, Raj says he wanted someone to sit next to him, and he chose Stuart. The two friends also talk about heading out for a drink and to meet some ladies, but it seems clear that they simply like hanging out with each other.

Wherever the Raj/Stuart relationship heads, it will be interesting to watch it unfold in upcoming episodes.

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