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"The Engagement Reaction" is the twenty-third and penultimate episode of the fourth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Thursday, May 12, 2011.[1]


Howard tells his mother about his engagement to Bernadette, then she ends up in the hospital. Penny starts bonding with Priya over Leonard's idiosyncrasies.

Extended Plot[]

Sheldon drinks raj water

Sheldon drinks Raj's water.

The gang (except Amy) is at The Cheesecake Factory. Penny asks Bernadette to take their table for her, because she doesn't want to speak to Priya. At the table Sheldon is drinking water, only to be informed that it was already drunk by Leonard, causing him to worry about germs.

Before or after the theme song, Bernadette comes back with everyone's order; Priya asks if she and Howard have started planning their wedding, and if they have told Howard's mother. Bernadette says he is waiting for the right time, which Howard clarifies to be some time after his mother's funeral. Sheldon returns to the table after accidentally swallowing tequila in an attempt to gargle it to kill the germs from Leonard drinking from his water glass.

Back at the apartment, the boys are playing Mystic Warlords of Ka'a and Raj is annoyingly commenting on every card played, during which Howard gets a text informing him that his mother has arrived at the deli for a "get to know" lunch with Bernadette. After Sheldon drinks some water Raj tells him is his, Sheldon panics and dashes to the bathroom to search for the mouthwash (to kill the germs) which Raj has hidden. Leonard points out that the drink Raj claimed was his is actually Sheldon's, but Raj knew that. He also hid the mouthwash to mess with him further.

Howard arrives home and searches for his mother, who is in the bathroom. He asks, through the door, how the lunch went, and is told that Bernadette is "a lovely girl, cute as a button". He then announces to her that he is getting married to Bernadette. His mother doesn't respond and suddenly he hears a thud as if she has fallen off the seat.

Penny and Sheldon are chatting in the laundry room; she is amused by his "jibber jabber" because she's been keeping her distance from the gang because of Priya. Leonard bursts in with news that Howard's mother has been taken to the hospital, and asks them both to go there with him. Sheldon is reluctant, but then agrees to after Penny points out that he has no characteristics of a hero despite him liking them.

Doctor comes and announces the diagnosis

The doctor announces the diagnosis

At the hospital waiting room, Howard explains that he carried his mother out of the bathroom after breaking down the door (injuring his shoulder), put her in his car, and drove like a mad man to the emergency room. He suspects it is heart-related and explains that his family has a deep heart disease history. Bernadette figures out that Mrs. Wolowitz may have had a heart attack after hearing that Howard is getting married to her.

Priya praises Penny for being there for Howard, and Penny acknowledges Howard as a friend, which Priya finds weird when Penny tells her about breaking Howard's nose in The Killer Robot Instability. Priya also tells her that Raj has a bunch of friends in New Delhi who dress up in leotards and call themselves the New Delhi Power Rangers. They strike up a friendly conversation, which worries Leonard a little.

Sheldon is on his way back from the toilet when he sees a coughing man being wheeled through the hallway. In order to escape the coughing, Sheldon ducks into a room (bearing a biohazard warning sign), before turning and seeing an astonished medical staff who declare he cannot leave as he has been exposed. Sheldon covers his face with his shirt and insists he is fine. Meanwhile, Priya and Penny walk past the biohazard room, chatting about Leonard's odd habits as a lover. Oblivious to Sheldon's cries for help as he is restrained by the medical team.


Playing cards with Sheldon in quarantine.

A doctor comes in and announces it wasn't a heart attack, and says that Mrs. Wolowitz would like to see "the little Catholic girl" first. Bernadette returns to the waiting room and the first thing she does is scold Howard. She explains that his mother got food poisoning from the restaurant where they had lunch, and the reason she wanted to see Bernadette first was because she was worried she might have got it too. As for the engagement reaction (See Title), Mrs. Wolowitz thinks Bernadette is a wonderful girl and Howard is lucky to have her. This revelation comes as a shock and undermines everything Howard believes about his mother (whom he's always seen as an angry, unpleasant crone). Bernadette screams at him with a voice similar to his mother calling him a "putz" and storms off. Howard thinks her new voice is sexy.

In the final scene, Leonard, Howard, and Raj are wearing hazmat and are playing Mystic Warlords of Ka'a with Sheldon, who is under quarantine because he was exposed to a deadly virus, and Raj is still giving annoying comments about every card.


  • The TV Critic: "The irony of Sheldon walking into a bio-hazard room after spending the whole episode avoiding germs was good. I particularly liked the way Penny shamed him into coming to the hospital (using his superhero t-shirt). It suits her character to cut through his motives and push his buttons in a way that Leonard's whining can't do...This [episode] felt lightweight. It felt like an older episode when the show had less momentum. It felt a bit like "the gang go to the hospital this week. Laugh at Sheldon's fear of germs and Raj's lack of a life." There's nothing especially wrong with having a quiet episode but the plot felt like it came to a halt and then practically went backwards."[2]
  • The A.V. Club gives this episode a B.[3]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: Mrs. Wolowitz faints right after Howard announces his engagement to Bernadette.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
  • This episode was watched by 10.78 million people with a rating of 3.4 (adults 18-49).[4]
  • This episode aired in Canada on May 12, 2011 with 2.936 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #2.[5]
  • In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on September 8, 2011 with 1.312 million total viewers and a weekly ranking of #4.[6]
  • Episode transcript [1]



  • Amy doesn't feature in this episode (whether mention, speaking role or background cameo) and there is no regular appearance by Mayim Bialik as a main cast member in any scene of this episode. 
  • Sheldon has a fear of steak knives that can be plunged into his thorax.
  • Leonard dubs himself the "King of Foreplay" because he likes to perform lengthy foreplay.
  • Howard claims if a Christian cross touches his mother, it will burn her, because she is Jewish.
  • Penny mentions to Priya the time that she once broke Howard's nose after he tried to slip his tongue down her throat. That was in season 2's "The Killer Robot Instability" (S2E12).
  • During this episode, Penny and Priya finally start to get along and Priya finally feels comfortable with Leonard hanging out with Penny again; however, it becomes evident that Penny is still jealous of her and Leonard in the next episode. 
  • Last time Bernadette is shown working at The Cheesecake Factory except in flashbacks. She would later receive her doctorate in "The Roommate Transmogrification" (S4E24).
    • Although in "The Cooper Extraction" (S7E11), in the gang's imagination, Bernadette is shown working there (this is used as the "what if" scenario of Bernadette first meeting Howard).
  • Sheldon's Aunt Ruth died after catching something while visiting his Uncle Roger in the hospital. She died a week later and now shares a coffee can with his Uncle on his mother's mantlepiece, as they were cremated.
  • The writers goofed with Sheldon's Mysophobia fear of germs because, in season 3, he went to the hospital with Penny when she broke her arm and, in season 2 when Leonard was with Stephanie, Sheldon went to the hospital twice (once to accompany Leonard after his stitches and again when Sheldon was being a hypochondriac and he visits Stephanie), he doesn't even complain or worry. He later again visited the hospital in "The Werewolf Transformation" (S5E18). To be fair, Sheldon in this episode had already had mishaps with germs when he drank from Leonard's glass. He marches into hospitals in other episodes.
  • Second episode where a main character (Howard) has their arm in a sling after injuring it. The first being Penny in "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency" (S3E8).
  • Howard hasn't met Bernadette's parents yet, but he has already nicknamed them, "Adolf" and "Eva", which is a reference towards Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, his mistress and later wife.
  • Sheldon pronounces the plural of cocci incorrectly.
  • In future seasons, Bernadette proved that she wasn't the weakest member of the group as postulated by Amy by asserting herself and pushing other members around.
  • The pictures of Howard when he talks to his mother are real pictures of Simon Helberg as a child.
  • This is the third time Sheldon is seen (at least slightly) drunk: after accidentally swallowing some tequila while trying to use alcoholic drinks as mouthwash.


Penny: Oh, my God! You're about to jibber-jabber about jibber-jabber.

Sheldon: To a hospital? Full of sick people?

Sheldon: I gargled some tequila and may have swallowed a teeny bit.
Leonard: You all right?
Sheldon: I'm fine, thank you for asking. I love you so much!

(Sheldon has just left the bathroom with his hands trying to avoid touching stuff.)
Sheldon: Finally.
(Soon, a patient on a stretcher, who is coughing terribly, moves past Sheldon and he freaks out. He seeks refuge into a room, which, unbeknown to him is a biohazard room. When he turns around, he sees a patient surrounded by doctors in Hazmat suits and he knows where he is.)
Sheldon: Oh, what fresh hell is this? (turns to leave immediately)
Nurse in hazmat suit: Wait, you can't leave here, you've been exposed!
(Sheldon panics and covers his mouth with his shirt.)
Sheldon: No, I haven't. It's all good.
(Meanwhile, Penny and Priya have returned from the cafeteria with their coffees. They were talking about Priya's mother.)
Penny: You wanna talk about crazy mothers? Leonard's mom wouldn't give him any sort of approval growing up.
Priya: Oh, the poor thing.
Penny: It makes him desperate to please women. That's where the foreplay goes on and on.
Priya: It does, doesn't it?
Penny: It's like he's trying to win a prize. Oh, word of advice, do not dose off, you'll never hear the end of it.
(They walk right past the bio-hazard room, where Sheldon is yelling and struggling to get out of there, but the doctors won't let him.)
Sheldon: Help me! Come back! Penny!

(The scene of Howard, Bernadette, Leonard and Penny sitting together in the hospital waiting room with the nervous Sheldon plodding slowly around the room).
Howard: So I knocked down the bathroom door, picked up my poor unconscious mother, carried her to the car, and drove like a madman to the emergency room.
Bernadette: You’re a real hero, Howard.
Howard: No, I did what any son would do.
Penny: Hang on a second, you picked up your mother? Her own legs are barely able to do that.
Howard: I was filled with adrenaline. It happens to be how women lift cars off babies.
Penny: Yeah, I’m saying, it’d be easier to lift a car.
Howard: What can I tell you? After I found the courage to put her pants back on, I was unstoppable.
Leonard: So, how is she?
Howard: They’re running tests. I don’t know. It may have been a heart attack or heart-attack-like event.
Penny: What’s the difference?
Sheldon: A heart-attack-like event is an event that’s like a heart attack.
Penny: Thanks for clearing that up.
Sheldon: Regardless, coronary problems are eminently treatable. What’s more likely going to kill Howard’s mother are the antibiotic-resistant super-bugs festering in every nook and cranny of this hospital.
Penny: Okay, you’re not helping.
Sheldon: Disagree.
Leonard: Go sit over there.
Sheldon: I’ll sit over there, it looks cleaner.
Leonard: Is there a history of heart disease in your family?
Howard: My family is the history of heart disease. There’s a cave painting in France of one of my ancestors doing this (clutches chest).
Bernadette: (she speaks to Howard crossly) So it’s probably genetic.
Howard: Well, maybe. Mom also had just gotten some news that might have upset her.
Bernadette: (shocked) What?
Howard: It’s not important.
Bernadette: (he is feeling guilty) Come on, Howard, I’m going to be your wife. You can share anything with me.
Howard: You’d think that. But no.
Bernadette: You told her we were going to get married and she had a heart attack?
Howard: You can’t take that personally.
Penny: How else is she supposed to take it?
Howard: What you’ve got to keep in mind is that ever since my dad left, I’ve been the whole world to my mother. :mean, she’d be threatened by any woman who can give me what she can’t.
Bernadette: You mean sexual intercourse?
(Leonard and Penny exchange glances)
Howard: Well, when you say it like that you make it sound creepy.
Priya (arriving): What happened?
Bernadette: (she is mega-fully upset) Howard’s mother had a heart attack because I have sex with him and she can’t.
(She is now off the seat and she runs off in tears and Howard gets up and follows her)
Howard: (now out of vision) Bernie, wait!
Sheldon (to Raj): I’ll give you $1,000 if you’ll drive me home.

Priya: Nice of you to come for Howard.
Penny: Well, he’s my friend. It’s what you do. (Laughs)
Priya: I’m sorry, did I miss something?
Penny: It’s just so weird. Howard Wolowitz is my friend. You know, once he tried to stick his tongue down my throat and I broke his nose.
Priya: That’s a little easier to believe than he’s your friend.
Penny: Yeah, tell me about it.
Priya: You know, my brother had a group of friends like this in India. They dressed up in leotards and goggles and called themselves the New Delhi Power Rangers.
Penny: You mean when he was little.
Priya: Not as little as you’d want him to be.
Penny: You know, this stuff is horrible. You want to see if we can find the cafeteria and get real coffee?
Priya: Sure. We’re going to the cafeteria to get some coffee. You want anything?
Leonard: I’m fine. That’s nice that they’re getting along.
Raj: Your girlfriend and your ex-girlfriend are hanging out together? Oh, yeah, that can only be good for you.
Leonard: What are you talking about?
Raj: One of them broke up with you. Do you really want her telling the other one why?
Leonard: I don’t care. I don’t have anything to hide.
Raj: Good, good. Then you have nothing to worry about.
Leonard: No, I do not. You are a mean little man.
Raj: You’d think it’d be because my parents didn’t love me, but actually they loved me a great deal.

(The hospital scene of Howard and Bernadette on waiting room seats)
Howard: Bernie, it’s not you. She’s just set in her ways.
Bernadette: (she's still upset and very cross) How can we be together if the thought of us getting married might kill your mother?
Howard: It’s the circle of life, sweetie. (Bernadette moves her head around crossly) One day our son will marry someone and it will kill you.
Sheldon: Howard, I have to go to the bathroom and no one will take me home.
Howard: What’s wrong with the bathroom here?
Sheldon: Pneumococcus, streptococcus, staphylococcus and other assorted coccuses.
Howard: Sheldon, my mother is on her deathbed and my fiancée is grief-stricken over putting her there. I’m not taking you home.
(Scene of Bernadette looking more crosser at what Howard had said)
Sheldon: Will you at least go with me to the restroom here, so you can open the door and flush the urinal?
Howard: No!
Sheldon: This might be a good time to point out, Howard, that friendship requires a certain give and take.

(The hospital scene where the doctor has entered the waiting room)
Sheldon: Hold the door!
Doctor: Mr. Wolowitz?
Howard: Is she okay?
Doctor: It wasn’t a heart attack. She’s awake, she’s resting comfortably. We’re still running a few tests.
Howard: Can I see her?
Doctor: Actually, she said, and I quote, she’d like to see the little Catholic girl first.
Bernadette: (she shouts with a quiet shock of anger) Me? Why me?
Howard: (grunting nervously) Jews have been asking that for centuries. There’s no real good answer.
Bernadette: (she is completely nervous) Okay, well, wish me luck.
Howard: (he reassures her) Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Let’s just hide Mr. Cross. (Bernadette sternly walks away after Howard fiddled with the cross her medallion) If it touches her, it burns.
(Bernadette huffingly exits and Howard has a thinking expression on his face. The sound of door closing is played to the mystified Raj and Leonard)
Doctor: You brought a Catholic girl home to your mother?
Howard: Yeah.
Doctor: Why don’t I write you a prescription for Xanax.

(The scene of Raj reading a magazine in the waiting room at the hospital with Leonard sitting net to him)
Leonard: There are a couple of things I did with Penny that might be a little silly, but…
Raj: Like what?
Leonard: Every once in a while, before we’d go to bed, I’d put on a little show for her.
Raj: What do you mean, a show?
Leonard: Well, you know, the way I took my clothes off.
Raj: Like, to music?
Leonard: I’d look pretty stupid if there was no music.
Raj: So you’d do a striptease?
Leonard: I wasn’t swinging around a pole.
Raj: Good, good.
Leonard: There was one time I put body glitter on.
Raj: Well, I don’t think you have to worry about Penny telling my sister that.
Leonard: No, she wouldn’t.
Raj: Your big problem is me telling her.
Leonard: You really are a mean little man.
(Enter Priya and Penny)
Priya: (giggling) Oh, God, that’s so true.
Penny: Yeah, I know, right?
Leonard: Hey, what took you guys so long?
Priya: Oh, we were just chatting.
Leonard: That’s nice. What about?
Penny: We were just comparing notes about how you are in the sack.
(both Penny and Priya giggle they now go off toward their seats)
Leonard: That’s funny.
Penny: Yeah.
(both Penny and Priya giggle go off to their seats)
Raj: What if she wasn’t kidding?
Leonard: It doesn’t matter. I’m the king of foreplay.
(Leonard starts to read a magazine on "Easy Home Living")

(The hospital scene where Bernadette comes back into the waiting room looking extremely unhappy and most angry from visiting Mrs. Wolowitz)
Howard: Hey. How did it go?
Bernadette: (she is so angry with Howard) You're a putz!
(Howard looks a little shocked)
Howard: (quietly) What?
Bernadette: (she asks him angrily) Do you have any idea what that means?!
Howard: (a little bit confused) Yeah, do you?
Bernadette: (she answers him angrily) Your mother just taught it to me. She says she thinks she got food poisoning from that deli and she just wanted to make sure that I was OK!
Howard: Well, are you?
Bernadette: (she's now hugely angry with Howard) No! Because I'm engaged to a putz!
(Howard gazes around a waiting room for two seconds)
Bernadette: (she is still hugely angry) You let me believe I was the reason she had a heart attack!
Howard: Well, sweetie, with the timing...
Bernadette: (she yells at Howard for the final time) Shut up! (Howard jumps) She says that I'm a wonderful girl and you're lucky to have me!
(Bernadette starts to storm off with even more enormous anger)
Howard: Hey, sweetheart, where're you going?
Bernadette: (sounding like Mrs. Wolowitz) TO THE TOILET! IS THAT OK WITH YOU?!
(Bernadette now angrily opens the door and exits in a huff. After that Howard now turns to the surprised Raj and Leonard).
Howard: Is it just me, or does she sound sexy when she's angry?
(Raj and Leonard look at each other with distraught expressions at Howard's question)

(Sheldon is then shown in a hospital bed under quarantine while he plays Mystic Warlords of Ka'a)
Sheldon: Mountian elf!
(The scene then expands to show Howard, Leonard and Raj in hazmat suits playing with Sheldon)
Raj: He takes the elf off the self!
Leonard: Hellhounds!
Raj: (while singing) Hellhounds, who let the satanic dogs out? who? who? who?
Howard: Colossal serpent
Raj: Well I got you're colossal serpent right here!
(he then grabs his groin with his hand)
Sheldon: (looking annoyed at Raj) Must you?
Raj: Sorry, I just trying to chill my body up! Rotting zombie, Sheldon's new facebook photo!
Sheldon: (still looking annoyed at Raj) Zandor, Wizard of the North. Ha! I win!
Howard: Just skip about that part that you were under a two-week quarantine because you were exposed to a deadly disease, absolutely!