kaley cuoco johnny galecki the big bang theory the friendship turbulence recap cbs The Big Bang Theory Season 7, episode 17: Penny faces reality in The Friendship TurbulenceFrom episode to episode, a lot of chatter surrounding “The Big Bang Theory” this season — the show’s seventh — has been focused on the emotional journey of Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper, as the show has been quite remarkably intent on challenging the character to grow and mature. The attention the storyline is receiving is entirely justified, as it’s rare for a show like this to allow its central character to continue to evolve this late in its run.

But in all that, another surprising emotional journey has gotten a bit overlooked. I’m talking, of course, about Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). This season has seen the aspiring actress take stock of her professional situation, go for broke by quitting her job as a waitress and devote all of her time and energy on landing that breakthrough role.

In Thursday’s (March 6) episode, reality has begun to sink in for Penny. Having not landed any work since leaving the Cheesecake Factory while eating away at her savings to get by, she makes a flippant decision to turn down a paying gig as the lead in the sequel to the cheesy film she’s embarrassed of having made, telling the group during dinner that it wouldn’t be right for her career.

Leonard (Johnny Galecki), stunned that his girlfriend would turn down any opportunity for work, finds that he can’t hold back his feelings and tells Penny what a fool she’s being. Naturally, she doesn’t respond too kindly.

When her car breaks down later in the episode, leaving her with a bill too high to pay and no way to get to auditions, the severity of the hole Penny’s dug for herself in order to pursue her dream becomes too much to take, forcing her to make the one decision she’s feared: She decides to ask for her job back.

It’s not a situation that screams comedy, to be sure, but it’s an honest look at an all-too-real crossroads most people come across at a point in their lives. It reflects well on the show that its writers aren’t afraid of taking their characters to these honest places.

The ending, with Leonard surprising Penny with the purchase of a used car, is sweet, but feels a bit too easy. It lets the show hold off on Penny truly pulling the trigger and giving up, while stripping her of any agency. It also opens the door to future trouble for the couple. By buying the car, a truly romantic move, no doubt, Leonard’s become an investor of sorts in Penny’s career. That’s a lot of pressure for a romantic relationship to withstand.

Is Leonard’s gift enough to keep Penny from giving up on acting or will she back serving burgers by season’s end? That is the question.

Spare Parts:

- As the episode’s title, “The Friendship Turbulence,” proves, the episode’s greatest focus was meant to be the work Sheldon and Howard did to improve their relationship. It was fun to see two characters who rarely spend time alone play off one another, but this friendship doesn’t feel especially vital. It was nice to see Sheldon admit to the jealousy he felt when Howard went into space

- Raj and Amy’s plot, another teaming of two characters who don’t often interact on this level, was quite fun. Her exasperation at his utter inability to keep his cool around women yielded some very funny results. One question though: What happened to that cute vet who was into Raj a few episodes back? Wasn’t that supposed to go somewhere? Hopefully she makes a return appearance.

- “Yeah, why wouldn’t I want to get my old job back? It’ll be fun to see everyone. I haven’t talked to them since I said, ‘I quit. See you at the Oscars, b******!”

- “If you weren’t my friend, there would be a hole in my life. Kind of like when ‘Firefly’ was canceled. But not as big.”

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