If The Big Bang Theory follows through on the things it set in motion in “The Procreation Calculation,” I will stand at the end of the series finale and give the show a serious slow clap.
If you guessed because of the title of this week’s episode that we’d be talking about Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) taking steps towards starting a family, you’d be wrong. In fact, it’s Raj (Kunal Nayyar) who inadvertently leads Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) to talk seriously about whether they want to have children, and her answer surprises everyone.
Raj finally meets the woman his father has set him up with, Anu (Rati Gupta). The gang is extremely skeptical about his decision to pursue an arranged marriage, but he insists that the questionnaire he and Anu have already filled out, their shared background and the harmony between their families gives them at least as good a shot at a happy marriage as anyone else has. He drives this home by asking Leonard what Penny’s dream vacation is. When Leonard flubs the answer, Penny throws out that maybe Raj should send them the questionnaire.
He does, and things begin tamely. Neither Penny nor Leonard is that religious. They aren’t terribly close to their families. Leonard thinks he’d be good with a pet because in all the years he took care of Sheldon he only got bitten twice. When the question of kids arises, though, Penny is non-committal.
The next day she drops into Bernadette’s (Melissa Rauch) office to invite her to lunch. Bernie declines because the kids being up all night made her so tired that she’s running behind with her work. The kids weren’t sick or anything, they just kept playing and laughing in the night (“like jerks”).
Penny uses Bernadette’s apparent complaint as an opening to share that she doesn’t think she wants to have kids. Bernadette dismisses her feelings as typical of women who haven’t yet had children and discovered how wonderful it is, but Penny is adamant and leaves angry.
At home later, Penny awkwardly reopens the conversation about kids with Leonard. He initially misinterprets what she’s saying as a pregnancy reveal, and when she clears up the misunderstanding he is so upset that he storms out of the apartment.
Leonard cools down enough to talk it through with her the following evening. She greets him with a peace offering of his favorite dinner (In-N-Out burger with the wrapper off, served on a plate) when he comes home. He tells her that he’s willing to concede that there are certain things he’s always imagined having that he’ll never get, like a Nobel Prize or a working Batmobile… or children. These surrenders are balanced by things he never imagined having… like her.
She embraces him, grateful for his acceptance of her desires, but their sweet moment is interrupted by Penny’s father (Keith Carradine) calling. He demands answers from her about why she’s told Leonard she isn’t giving him grandbabies. Leonard escapes with his burger, throwing over his shoulder that he might be willing to surrender kids, but Penny’s dad isn’t.
It seems they work things out after this, because the episode ends with Leonard getting to drive the Batmobile.
The best part of the whole story is Amy’s reaction to finding out she and Penny won’t be getting pregnant together and raising kids who will be best friends. Penny reassures her that her kids will make other friends, and Amy retorts that her DNA and Sheldon’s DNA cannot possibly result in kids who know how to make friends. Amy sells herself as the cool aunt of ShAmy’s future children, which Amy reluctantly accepts… although she regrets that she and Penny will never get to breastfeed each other’s children. (And Penny regrets that Amy said that.)
If the series can stick with Penny’s conscious choice not to have kids until the season’s end, I will slow clap their having presented one option for adults that doesn’t get a lot of positive screen time. I was as impressed with this episode for Penny as I was when Bernadette’s breast milk leaked during that non-starter “girls’ night out” a while back.
While Penny and Leonard talked honestly about kids, Raj took steps towards actually going through with an arranged marriage– another excitingly unusual option for a mainstream American sitcom. His first date with Anu is eye-opening. She is a no-nonsense career gal who knows what she wants. Her personality is sassy, in the style of Mindy Kaling, but her life’s focus is serious– and it’s entirely about her hotel management aspirations.
(Notable during their first date, the waiter is my friend Matt Knudsen. Isn’t that cool?)
Raj may find her intimidating, but he isn’t deterred. At lunch the next day, he asks Howard (Simon Helberg) to be his best man. Howard freaks out a little and challenges Raj’s choices in a way that does not go over well.
Once they’ve had time to cool down, Howard apologizes to Raj and explains that it makes him sad to see his hopelessly romantic friend taking such a practical approach to marriage. With that said, he asserts that if Raj is happy, he’ll have Howard’s support all the way.
On date number two, Anu and Raj agree matter-of-factly that they’re going to get married. She tells him that since this is the case, they should talk about finances. She begins laying out what her accountant has recommended for their filing status in the early years of their marriage, and Raj decides Howard was right.
He cuts Anu off and tells her that he really likes her, but that this isn’t the story he wants to tell his grandchildren. He gets up to leave, and Anu jumps out of her chair and tells him that she doesn’t want him to go. She gets down on one knee and asks him to marry her, and he enthusiastically agrees. As the restaurant applauds their engagement, she invites him to kiss her and warns him that she has a tongue piercing. Anu may be a strong vegetarian woman with a master’s degree from Cornell, but she’s apparently passionate enough to be a solid partner for Raj, too. I love her!
Meanwhile, Bernadette and Howard are experiencing some discomfort at home how that Denise (Lauren Lapkus) and Stuart (Kevin Sussman) are a thing. Every time the couple comes back to Stuart’s room, Sade‘s “Smooth Operator” begins blasting. When the Wolowitzes try to drown it out with Britney‘s “Work B**ch,” it wakes the babies. It doesn’t seem like they can stand being party to Stuart’s love life for long, so fingers crossed that a solution arises soon!