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"The Barbarian Sublimation" is the third episode of the second season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Monday, October 6, 2008.


Penny is at a low point in her life and goes geeky when Sheldon gets her addicted to online gaming, which leads to chaos once her addiction interferes with Sheldon's life too much.

Extended Plot[]

The Barbarian Sublimation 14

Penny frustrated and crying in the hallway.

Sheldon becomes distracted from playing Age of Conan by Penny, who accidentally tried to use her car key to open her apartment door. He learns that Penny is frustrated by her failures in life, as she complains about not getting into any of the parts in plays she's tried out for, not having sex for six months, not receiving a raise at work and on her way up The Stairs, she swallowed a fly, before the bottom of her grocery bag falls out and spills her groceries on the floor. This accident proves the final straw as she breaks down and begins to cry. Sheldon invites her into his apartment to wait until the locksmith arrives to open her door. Penny sarcastically refuses, saying she would rather sit and wait in the hallway while sobbing like a three-year-old. When Sheldon, who has no understanding of sarcasm, takes Penny's comment literally and turns around to go back inside, a frustrated Penny, who does not know of Sheldon's lack of understanding of sarcasm, storms into his apartment. Penny notices Sheldon playing his game and curiously inquires.

Leonard comes back to see a cat eating Penny's ice cream outside her apartment from her groceries that got dumped after her grocery bag broke open. When he enters his apartment, he sees Penny, now obsessed with Age of Conan, and Sheldon who is helping her. By Leonard's request, Sheldon catches Leonard up on how Penny got there.

The Barbarian Sublimation 05

Sheldon Helps Penny under her orders

The boys are having some fun with a simple Non-Newtonian fluid (corn starch and water mixture) when Penny interrupts them to seek Sheldon's advice on the game. Penny's obsession for the game grows as she interrupts Sheldon again, this time in the middle of his sleep to ask him for advice.

The next morning, Sheldon confronts Eric Gablehauser to mediate his problem with Leslie Winkle. But then, Penny suddenly calls his cell phone, in which he refused to answer. Soon, Gablehauser's office phone rings. It was Penny calling, and she proceeded to ask for Sheldon's advice on the game again. Because of this call, Sheldon lost his argument with Leslie.

Sheldon returns home frustrated by Penny. He has exhausted all his methods in getting Penny to leave him alone, so he turns to Leonard and claims that he will be in a foul mood if Leonard doesn't succeed. Worse than normal? So Leonard went over to Penny's and tries to reason with her, and, after failing to do that in person, he tries doing it in the Age of Conan game world, but Penny's character chops off Leonard's character's head so he won't bother her.

The Barbarian Sublimation 16

Penny going down hill.

The next day, the boys are eating at the cafeteria, when Leslie comes by and mocks Sheldon again. He then tries to retaliate, but is too tired to do so. Leonard explains the reason, then Leslie postulates that Penny is escaping into the game world because she is not having sexual intercourse. Sheldon accepts her hypothesis and proceeds to ask the first guy (Blaine) he sees if he is interested in a sexual relationship and his phone number. Sheldon doesn't realize that Blaine is probably gay as he accepts Sheldon's requests. Everybody but Sheldon realizes what happened.

Later, Sheldon tries to find a mate for Penny by filling out a form with Penny's details for online dating. When Leonard came back to his apartment and bumps into Tom, who is the result of the online dating algorithm. But when Penny comes by she's a mess and not interested in Tom at all who says Penny doesn't look near like her picture.

In the final scene, Penny's character meets Howard's character in the game and she agrees to go on a quest followed by a drink at a tavern. It's then scared Penny realizes she needs help and tosses her laptop away.


  • Guest starring:


  • "The writers are making great attempts to be funny and they largely succeed. But they are ignoring proper character development and the show is much weaker for that. I’m glad they address Penny’s frustration here but will it be forgotten next week?" - The TV Critic's Review


  • Title Reference: The title refers to Penny coming under the influence of the barbaric on-line game "The Age Of Conan".
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card [1]
  • This episode was watched by 9.33 million people with a rating of 3.7 (adults 18–49).
  • Episode transcript [2]

Costume Notes[]

The Barbarian Sublimation 09

BDG Blue/Grey

The Barbarian Sublimation 10

Flash jersey

The Barbarian Sublimation 13

Bat Question

The Barbarian Sublimation 11

Spazz Stone by VolCom

Sheldon starts the episode in a BDG tee, blue with gray horizontal stripes. Later as the boys are playing with the dancing cornstarch, Sheldon is wearing his Flash athletic jersey. When Penny bursts in on him in the middle of the night, Sheldon is wearing his Monday pajamas, and can't get out of bed to assist her because he's not wearing the bottoms, having spilled juice on them. The next day at the university, Sheldon is befuddled over what to do about Penny and appropriately wears his Riddler - Bat Question shirt. Finally, as Sheldon tries to set Penny up with Tom, he's seen in a purple VolCom t-shirt with a pattern called "Spazz Stone", which appears to be discontinued ( used to have them but they no longer appear available for purchase).
[[File:DeterPenguinsS01E02.jpg|thumb|215x215px|Deter Penguins]
The Barbarian Sublimation 07

Antlers by Heavy Rotation

Leonard comes home wearing his Deter-3 Penguins tee from Urban Outfitters. As Sheldon helps Penny with her game, Leonard wears an unknown light blue tee. At the university, Leonard wears an unknown happy-looking robot shirt. When he goes to talk to Penny about her gaming addiction, he's wearing his Antlers shirt by Heavy Rotation (discontinued). Leonard also wears the OptiBlocks t-shirt usually worn by Sheldon.

Green Lantern 25

Set Notes[]

  • Sheldon is playing, and teaches Penny to play, Age of Conan.
  • On the fridge, we see a menu for The Bollywood Cafe, a real restaurant in Studio City
  • As Penny bugs Sheldon in bed, we see new comics in the bins behind her:
    • Green Lantern, Volume 2, Issue #25 "Prize Fight" (June 1992)
    • The Spectre, Issue #3 "Crimes & Punishments" (February 1993)
    • Superman, Volume 2, Issue #89 "Desperation" (May 1994)


  • When Penny comes into Leonard and Sheldon's apartment to ask Sheldon for help the first time if you look closely when she's leaving you can see a blank screen on her laptop.
  • Penny's key got stuck because her door lock is a Baldwin brand, using edge-mounted cylinders, while her Volkswagen key uses center-mounted cylinders. In other words, the door key has notches on the top/bottom, while the car key has grooves on the sides (and flat top/bottom).
  • Sheldon and Penny are playing Age of Conan (Conan the Barbarian) as the characters "Sheldor, The Conqueror" and "Queen Penelope", respectively, and to the psychological concept of sublimation - transformation of sexual energy into non-sexual endeavors (in this case, into online gaming). Howard has a character named "Sir Howard of Wolowitz".
    • Penny's online name, "Queen Penelope," may imply that her real first name is Penelope. In "The Apology Insufficiency", when describing Howard to the F.B.I. agent, Sheldon says that Howard broke into his World of Warcraft account and changed his character's name from "Sheldor" to "Smell-dor".
  • Non-Newtonian fluids (like equal parts cornstarch and water) do behave in that unusual way on a bass speaker (though do protect your speaker with something like plastic wrap as the guys did if you try
    Superman 89

    Superman #89

    this thing at home.)
  • The cat that Leonard saw eating Penny's ice cream is a Calico cat.
  • The fictitious online dating service Sheldon signs Penny up for is "".
  • While Leonard and Penny's relationship disappeared after one date ("The Bad Fish Paradigm"), in the previous episode ("The Codpiece Topology") both started seeing other people, but clearly tried to make the other jealous of that fact. Now both intermediary relationships dissolved, but throughout this entire episode, Leonard never steps up to help Penny learn more about Age of Conan (he has a virtual character in the game as well), nor helps her break her habit, and it's instead Sheldon who's her mentor throughout this episode.
  • Dr. Eric Gablehauser's white board is about the Mayan calendar ending on December 21, 2012. In the corner it clearly reads "Dec 21, 2012!!" and the Mayan calendar term "b'ak'tun"
    Game Steed

    Penny's game character about to go off on a date with Howard's.

    can be picked out (among other terms).
  • Sheldon is filling out an online dating application without Penny's knowledge the same way Howard and Raj did using Sheldon's information without his knowledge resulting in finding Amy Farrah Fowler. Penny's last name is only listed as "?????".
    • Sheldon describes the algorithms of on-line dating as "Hokum", which is the same answer Raj and Howard use as his answer to the question "How do you feel about on-line dating?" in "The Lunar Excitation".
    • Sheldon fills out information for an online dating website for Penny without her knowledge; however, this information is inconsistent with his inability to lie in later episodes (such as "The Irish Pub Formulation").
  • It is revealed that like Penny in this episode, Howard escapes into the online world to compensate for his sexual frustration. This foreshadows his temporary breakup with his future girlfriend Bernadette.
  • Episode deals with addiction.


Sheldon: Leonard, you have to do something about Penny. She's interfering with my sleep, she's interfering with my work...and if I had another significant aspect of my life, I'm sure she'd be interfering with that, too.
Leonard: Why should I do something? You're the one who introduced her to online gaming.
Sheldon: Yes, but you're the one who said hello to her when she moved in. If you'd simply restrained yourself, none of this would be happening.
Leonard: Why don't you just tell her to leave you alone?
Sheldon: I did! I told her, I texted her, I sent out a very emphatic Twitter, I even changed my Facebook status to "Sheldon Cooper wishes Penny would leave him alone"! I don't know what else to do!
Leonard: Well, what am I supposed to do?
Sheldon: I don’t know, but if you don’t figure something out, I warn you I shall become very difficult to live with.
Leonard: You mean, up until now we’ve been experiencing the happy funtime Sheldon?
Sheldon: Yes.
Leonard: I’ll go talk to her.

Penny: [whispering] Sheldon.
Sheldon: [Jerking awake] Danger! Danger!
Penny: Sheldon, it's me.
Sheldon: You're in my bedroom.
Penny: I need your help.

Penny: Why? I’ll tell you why. Because today I had an audition, it took me two hours to get there, I waited an hour for my turn, and before I could even start they told me I looked too Midwest for the part. Too Midwest? What the hell does that even mean?
Sheldon: Well, the American Midwest was mostly settled by Scandinavian and Germanic peoples who, well they have a characteristic facial bone structure….
Penny: I know what it means, Sheldon! God, you know, I have been in L.A. for almost two years now, and I haven’t got a single acting job, I have accomplished nothing, haven’t gotten a raise at work, haven’t even had sex in six months, and just now when I was walking up those stairs a fly flew in my mouth and I ate it.
Sheldon: Well, actually, insects are a dietary staple in many cultures, they’re almost pure protein.

Penny: Uh, Queen Penelope AFK. What?
Leonard: Okay, um, here’s the thing, um, sometimes people, good people, you know, they start playing these games and they find themselves through no fault of their own, you know, kind of, addicted.
Penny: Yeah, get to the point, I’m about to level up here.
Leonard: Well, i-i-i-it’s just if a person doesn’t have a sense of achievement in their real life it’s easy to lose themselves in a virtual world where they get a false sense of accomplishment.
Penny: Yeah, jabber jabber jabber, okay boys, Queen Penelope’s back online.
Leonard: Penny, you’ve got Cheetos in your hair.
Penny: (pulling cheeto out of hair) Oh, thanks. (Eats it.)