'The Big Bang Theory' recap: 'The Higgs Boson Observation' introduces a new variable into the romantic equation

Sheldon hires a graduate student with an interest in Leonard

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'The Big Bang Theory' recap: 'The Higgs Boson Observation' introduces a new variable into the romantic equation

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Amy feels threatened when Sheldon hires a young female assistant.

"The Higgs Boson Observation," the latest installment of "The Big Bang Theory," is best described as a transitional episode. While the plotline offers additional insights into the childhood of Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), the jokes about Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) floating in space have begun to wear thin. It's high time to bring the engineer -- and the show -- back to Earth.

Sheldon hires a female graduate student

A running gag throughout the series has been Dr. Cooper's appeal for young female graduate students at Caltech. In "The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem," for instance, a grad student named Ramona (Riki Lindhome) worships Sheldon so much that she takes over his life to free his mind for greater things. Sheldon can't shed her affections until she suggests the unthinkable: sharing credit on a published paper.

Alex (Margo Harshman), another graduate student, is a more grounded devotee of the theoretical physicist. During a hilarious interview for an assistant, Sheldon determines whether Alex uses any stimulants ("May I offer you a refreshment: water, coffee, tea, a marijuana cigarette?"). When he chides her for attempts at flattery, Alex says it can't be flattery if what she says is true. Sheldon can't argue with that logic and immediately hires her.

Sheldon plans to use Alex to sort through boxes of his childhood research, including a very detailed potty-training journal. Like Peter Higgs, the scientist who suggested the existence of what is now known as the Higgs boson particle in 1964, Sheldon hopes to uncover groundbreaking discoveries in these boxes.

Amy (Mayim Bialik) isn't happy with this turn of events, though. She's afraid that Alex will fall victim to Sheldon's charms. When Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Amy pay a surprise visit to the guys at Caltech, they find Alex deep in conversation with Leonard (Johnny Galecki). A relieved Amy tells Penny that "the skank is your problem."

Two relationships up in the air

With news that his Soyuz ride home could be delayed for another 10 days, newlywed Howard develops a bad case of space fever. Throughout the episode, he misses gravity so much that he begs Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and other characters to drop pencils for him on camera. It's time to bring Howard back to Earth and have him properly settle into married life with his bride.

The Penny/Leonard relationship also took another turn this week. Amy points out that Alex displayed primate behavior and was obviously courting Leonard in the cafeteria. Though unsure about how she feels about Leonard, Penny "marks her territory" by dragging Leonard to the bedroom after Alex shows up at the apartment.

The Alex character fits very nicely into "The Big Bang Theory" dynamic. It would be intriguing to have her return on a regular basis to stir up Leonard and Penny's wavering relationship.

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