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"The Hesitation Ramification" is the twelfth episode of the seventh season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The episode first aired on Thursday, January 2, 2014.


When Penny’s big acting break on "NCIS" turns into a bust, Leonard struggles to help her, which results in Penny asking Leonard a bold relationship question. Meanwhile, Sheldon tries to learn how to be funny and Raj tries to work on his “game” before talking to real women.

Extended Plot[]

The Hesitation Ramification 8

I've got a television series part!

Amy and the guys are having dinner at Leonard and Sheldon's apartment while all the guys are texting on their cell phones. Amy looks miffed and wonders whether they can have a human conversation. Sheldon mentions that thanks to Steve Jobs, they don't have to talk to each other. Penny breaks in and announces that she got an acting part on NCIS. Leonard and Amy congratulate her while the others guys have to be pushed to do the same. Penny is not sure of the TV show's title, but she does get to flirt with Mark Harmon. Leonard is proud of her, but is worried that it is more than just flirting. He feels that it is sexier if it's left to the imagination though Amy disagrees with him.

At the Cheesecake Factory, Raj is discussing how men who have dogs with them have better chances with women. Raj was letting Cinnamon eat peanut butter off his tongue. Howard thinks that if he wants someone to eat food out of his mouth he'll set him up with his Mom. Sheldon doesn't understand why that is funny. He tries to tell a joke and no one gets it. Penny tells everyone that her show is on tomorrow night and the party is on her though the food is stolen from The Cheesecake Factory. Sheldon claims that if Howard's mother comes, they should serve marbles, since that is what they eat in the game "Hungry Hungry Hippos". No one laughs.

Later walking up the stairs, Sheldon wants to know if he is funny. Leonard does not find him humorous, but does find the fact that Sheldon thinks he is funny humorous. Sheldon is going to develop a unified theory of comedy to make anyone laugh at any time. Leonard observes that he does well with people laughing at him, not with him.

The Hesitation Ramification 12

Watching Penny's debut.

Howard and Bernadette are bringing Raj and Stuart to watch Penny's debut. Bernadette thought he would be bringing a dating|date and he ended up with Stuart. Raj tried to talk to a cute girl who took an interest in Cinnamon, but he panicked and asked to sniff her butt. Howard suggests that he try to talk to regular people if beautiful women intimate him. Raj asks if he means like fat|fatties and uglies. Bernadette quips that maybe he should stop talking completely. Howard tells him to try talking to anybody at the mall while Bernadette thinks he should keep dating Stuart.

The gang watching NCIS

The gang watching NCIS

In Apartment 4A, the gang is watching NCIS as again Leonard tells Penny how proud he is of her. Sheldon is uncomfortable watching the show since he has never seen it before. Amy tells him to think of the previous episodes as the prequels, which Sheldon accepts. Penny turns the TV up as her diner scene comes up, but it was cut. Leonard and the others also look disappointed. Penny doesn't understand why since she thinks she did a real good job. She excuses herself and leaves. Sheldon wants to go over and make her laugh; however, Leonard stops him.

In Penny's place, she is telling her Dad that her part wasn't cut because she was too pretty. He also doesn't need to come to L.A. to kick Mark Harmon's ass. Leonard comes in. All of Penny's relatives were watching in Omaha. Her brother was given a day pass out of drug rehabilitation|rehab, but disappeared with their six foot long sandwich. Leonard feels that just getting the part was a big accomplishment. It was supposed to give her visibility and others would see it leading to more acting parts. Leonard adds that three lines wouldn't be that big a deal. Penny doesn't think that he believes in her. She wants to know if Leonard thinks that she has what it takes to be an actress. When asked to be completely honest, Leonard didn't think so. She is talented and beautiful, however L.A. is full of actresses like that, Leonard explains, digging himself into a deep hole. Penny doesn't want to hear more how she is going to be a waitress for the rest of her life. Leonard informs her that the odds of becoming a successful actress are a million to one. Penny sarcastically thanks him and storms into her bedroom.

Brain lesions


Amy is making tea while Sheldon is researching the topic of comedy. He reads that the element of surprise is a key component of some comedy. He shouts BRAIN LESION!" at Amy and scares her. She finds it absurd that he can read a few books and come up with a theory of comedy. He then drops his pants and she does find that funny.

Stuart and Raj are in the mall food court. They agree to start with talking to someone other than attractive women to start with, but even when the next person they spot is an elderly woman with a walker, they have to rule her out.

Sheldon is reading words to Amy, asking her which are funnier. Kumquat or ointment as an example. Amy is really not interested and then questions whether she wants to go out with him anymore. Sheldon tells her to stop joking and that they have to go through the whole dictionary.

The Hesitation Ramification 6

Leonard comforting Penny after her scene was cut.

Penny is watching television telling every actor on that they didn't get their part cut. Leonard comes in and asks if they can talk. Penny agrees, but is worried that her part in the conversation might be cut. Leonard apologizes for his comments earlier and says that he thinks she should be one of the successful actresses. He brings her an acting audition, a chance for anyone to submit a video for a part in the next "Star Wars" movie. Penny says that it's just a public relations stunt. She has an advantage since she is a professional. Most of the submitters are weirdos and nerds; Howard has already submitted his. He knows it's a long shot, but when Luke Skywalker had one shot to destroy the death star...Leonard quits because he knows that Penny doesn't like his analogy.

Raj and Stuart are eating a meal. They spot a woman who is speed walking and she disappears. Stuart suggests talking to the mannequins in the nearby department store; however, Raj says that they just look stuck up. Then Raj insists that they will talk to the next person who walks by, but nobody does.

Amy greets Howard and Bernadette at the Cheesecake Factory alone. Sheldon is home working on his comedy project. Amy finds the experience exhausting. How many knock-knock jokes can she stand that starts with Sheldon's "Knock-knock-knock, Amy...knock-knock-knock, Amy...knock-knock-knock, Amy". Bernadette finds it easier to just fake a laugh. She denies having done it with Howard, though she doesn't believe that he could identify the fake one. Howard makes a minor quip that she laughs and laughs and laughs (finally pounding the table) at and then suddenly stops. Howard then claims to fake his orgasms.

The Hesitation Ramification 3

Penny proposing to Leonard.

Leonard is at home ordering roses for Penny. First a hundred and then drops the order to three. Penny enters carrying a wine glass. She apologizes for calling his Star Wars suggestion idiotic. Leonard says that she didn't, then she quips that she probably meant to. Penny was upset with herself and not mad at Leonard. Everything is falling apart for her. Her waitress job was supposed to be temporary work. She was getting her big break and it went away. Also at Starbucks, some old underwear fell out of her pants leg twice. She has been in Los Angeles for ten years and has nothing to show for it. Leonard reminds her that she does have him. Penny says that he is right and she tells Leonard that they should get married. She gets down on one knee and asks him formally and Leonard replies "Uuhhh...". Penny (while making herself sound idiotic) exaggeratedly asks him if he seriously just said "UUHHHNGHHH?!!". Leonard tells her that he loves her, but that she is drunk and sad and lost. Penny asks if he doesn't want to marry her. Leonard did not say that, but Penny misguidedly assumes otherwise and withdraws the proposal. Sheldon comes in and asks if everyone wants to laugh. Penny then leaves because she wants to be alone. Sheldon tries to tell him the joke, but Leonard heads to his room.

Raj and Stuart talking to the security guard

Raj and Stuart talking to the mall security guard.

Raj and Stuart are in the mall as it is getting ready to close. They see two pathetic guys on a bench and it's them in a mirror. A security guard comes over to tell them that they're closing. Raj asks him if he likes his job and he tells them that it's all right. They seem happy with the brief conversation.

Later, Leonard can't sleep. Sheldon asks him if he wants to talk about it. Leonard tells him that Penny proposed and he didn't say yes. Sheldon asks him if he thinks his relationship with Penny is over. Leonard isn't sure and is afraid to ask her. Sheldon replies that he is sorry. Leonard is surprised that Sheldon doesn't make a joke or an inappropriate comment. Sheldon replies that he is his friend and that he is sorry as he pats him on the back. Leonard asks if Sheldon put a "Kick me" sign on his back. Sheldon replies that that would not be funny as he rips the sign off of Leonard's back.

Howard is in his bedroom filming his Star Wars audition video starring Howard Joel Wolowitz, a real life astronaut. He can feel Darth Vader's presence on the moon. Bernadette yells at him to replace the toilet paper. Howard tells her that he is in the middle of something. So is Bernadette.



  • Jesse Schedeen for IGN - Well, that was uncharacteristically depressing. I can't say I was expecting The Big Bang Theory to take such a dark turn upon returning from its brief holiday hiatus. But in some ways, that's a very good thing. The show has a tendency to be very lazy when it comes to exploring the more dramatic and less chuckle-worthy character conflicts...However, Bernadette did briefly come to the rescue on that front. The general level of humor this week might have been abysmal, but her spoof of the infamous diner scene from When Harry Met Sally was golden...This episode finally forced Penny to take a long, hard look at her life and deal with the crushing disappointment of failure...(I)t's high time the show started exploring her lingering resentment towards the others and what they have. It allows for a good, solid character arc that emphasizes Penny as a person and not just Leonard's wise-cracking girlfriend...But I hope Penny's struggle for professional success will be an ongoing plot point throughout this second half of Season 7. [1]
  • Dhruv Rao of The DR Club gave the episode a B+, expressing his content at the character development throughout the episode. [2]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: Penny asks Leonard an important question and he hesitates on answering since she is not sober.
  • Taping date: December 10, 2013 [3]
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card. TBD
  • This episode was watched by 19.20 million people with a rating of 5.4 (adults 18–49).
  • The Big Bang Theory was ranked #3 for the week ending January 7, 2014.
  • This episode aired in Canada on January 2, 2014, with million viewers with a weekly ranking of #X.
  • In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on April 17, 2014, with 2.37 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #1.
  • In Australia, this episode aired on March 11, 2014, with 1.08 million viewers.
  • Guest stars: Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom & Marcus Folmar as Security Guard.
  • Episode transcript [4]


Howard in bedroom

Snapshot from Howard's "audition" video. Note the symbol of the Jedi Order on his robe

Jedi symbol

symbol of the Jedi Order from Star Wars universe

  • Penny finally gets a network television series acting job on NCIS.
    • A paradox is created later in 2014 in the NCIS episode "Parental Guidance Suggested" as a clip from "The Santa Simulation" (S6E11) is shown so now, NCIS (and all same-universe shows: JAG, First Monday, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, Hawaii Five-0, and Scorpion) is essentially a TV show within its own story, unless either NCIS or The Big Bang Theory is a fictional version of itself in the other show.
    • Another paradox exists as Margo Harshman appears in this NCIS episode. Margo played Alex Jensen in the previous season.
  • Penny proposes to Leonard, in accordance to Leonard's request in "The Tangible Affection Proof" (S6E16).
  • Sheldon thinks that he is funny while no one else does.
  • Penny does not appear as a waitress in the Cheesecake Factory scene where Bernadette has her fake laugh to Howard and Amy because she is at home that night still upset about her scene being cut. She quits her Cheesecake Factory waitress job in the next isode (S7E13).
  • GOOF: In that same Cheesecake Factory scene where Bernadette does her fake laugh to Howard and Amy there is no different waitress coming up to the trio to ask what they would like to eat and drink before she takes the orders down in her notebook.
  • One of the other guys (either Sheldon, Raj or Leonard) do not come to the Cheesecake Factory with Amy to sit on that empty chair next to Bernadette (before she does her fake laugh) who is sitting opposite her husband Howard.
    • Sheldon is at home trying to use science to determine the basis of humor.
    • Raj is already having dinner and a conversation with Stuart in the mall that evening. So he couldn't be able to come to the Cheesecake Factory that evening.
    • Leonard is busy looking after Penny (who is still upset about her absent movie part) at her apartment. That's why he would not be able to come to the Cheesecake Factory that evening.
  • Bernadette can effectively fake a laugh - sometimes. In the early stages of her relationship with Howard (in season 3), she laughed at his jokes to appease him. Her laugh in this episode was extremely over-the-top in contrast to her normal laughs. The scene in the restaurant was similar to Meg Ryan's orgasm performance in a deli in the film "When Harry Met Sally".
  • Amy wanted to terminate her and Sheldon's relationship, and Sheldon refuted the idea as "Ridiculous"; however, in her defense, she only said that because of her frustration with his attempts to be funny.
  • In Howard's "audition" video for Star Wars film, his lines are Luke Skywalker's from Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi, but his "costume" and motions are not Luke's.
    • In fact, Howard's "costume" seems to be a commercially available Jedi Bathrobe (note the Jedi_Order|symbol of the Jedi Order on it). The robe and the symbol did not appear in any of the six released Star Wars movies.
    • It is possible that he only used his "costume" for his audition. Had he gotten a callback, he would've made more effort to dress the way Luke would.
  • Chuck Lorre explained in his vanity card at the end of the episode that similar to Penny, an actress cast in this episode, Lexie Contursi, had her part cut from the episode. She was originally supposed to converse with Raj and Stuart; however, her part was edited out to bring the episode running time down. Lorre apologized to Contursi, explaining there was nothing wrong with her acting and hopefully he can get her back on the show.
  • Sheldon's definition of a joke is very similar to his hero Spock's definition from the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home movie. "A joke is a story with a humorous climax."
  • First new episode broadcast in 2014.
  • Bernadette is not seen having dinner with Amy and the guys at the opening apartment scene and she is also not seen with the five folks cheering about Penny's news of her acting part on "NCIS" that same opening apartment scene. She is possibly doing different stuff that evening.
  • In the introduction, when everyone except Amy is looking at their smart phones, Sheldon points out that thanks to Steve Jobs, people no longer have the chore of having to talk to each other at communal meals; however, in "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis", he is of the opposite opinion, and says "Isn't the point of a communal meal the exchange of ideas and opinions, the opportunity to consider the important issues of the day?"


Amy: It’s nice that we all get to eat together. [The guys mumble in agreement] Can we maybe put the phones down and have an actual human conversation?
Sheldon: We can, but thanks to Steve Jobs, we don’t have to.
Penny: Guys, guys. You’re never going to believe this.
Leonard: What happened?
Penny: I just got a job on a TV show.
Amy: Congratulations.
Leonard: That’s great. Guys! [Guys mumble acknowledgement.]
Amy: What’s the show?
Penny: NCII or you know NCSC. I don’t know. It’s the one with all the letters and I’m going to be on it.
Leonard: That’s amazing.
Howard: What’s your part?
Penny: I play a customer in a diner and I flirt with Mark Harmon.
Raj: OOO. Mark Harmon. He’s a dreamboat.
Leonard: So it’s just flirting?
Penny: Yeah, why?
Leonard: No reason. I just think it’s sexier when left to the imagination.
Penny: Oh.
Amy: He’s wrong.

Bernadette: Raj, when you said you were gonna bring a date to watch Penny’s thing tonight, I didn’t think you meant Stuart.
Howard: Really? I never for a second thought it’d be anything else.
Raj: I almost met someone last night, but I blew it. I was walking Cinnamon and this girl introduced herself, but she was so cute I panicked and said, wouldn’t it be easier if instead of talking we could just sniff each other’s butts?
Bernadette: (smiling crossly) Well, Stuart’s cute in his own way.
Stuart: When I was a baby, my mother called me her little possum.
Raj: Are possums cute?
Stuart: Not at all.
Howard: If you’re so intimidated by talking to attractive girls, maybe you should practice by talking to regular people.
Raj: You mean like fatties and uggos?
Bernadette: (suggesting crossly) Or maybe just stop talking.
Howard: I’m serious. Go to the mall, talk to anybody, practice, that way when you eventually do talk to a cute girl, it won’t be so scary.
Bernadette: (suggesting crossly again) Or just keep dating the possum.

Sheldon: A joke is a brief oral narrative summary with a climatic humorous twist.

Penny: Are you kidding me?
Leonard: What's wrong?
Penny: Well… the diner scene. Where’s my diner scene?
Sheldon: Well, don’t ask me. Until I see the prequel, I’m lost.
Penny: No. This was supposed the big scene with me and Mark Harmon, but it’’s gone.
Bernadette: What happened?
Penny: They must have cut it.
Leonard: Oh, Penny. I’m sorry.
Howard: That stinks!
Raj: I’m sure you were great.
Penny: This doesn't make any sense to me. I mean..I thought I did a really good job. I…Excuse me.
Sheldon: I've been studying how to make people laugh. They say that comedy is tragedy plus time. Let's tickle some ribs.
Leonard: No.

Penny: You didn't get your part cut. And you didn't get your part cut. Yep, a bunch of old guys rocking out in a band all with erectile dysfunction, you didn't get your part cut.
Leonard: Hey, can we talk?
Penny: We can, but the part of Penny might get cut.

Leonard: (on the phone with a florist) Yes. How much for a hundred long stemmed red roses? Really? How much for three?
Penny: Hey.
Leonard: Yeah, I’ll call you back.
Penny: Look, I know you were just trying to help with your Star Wars thing. I didn't mean to call it idiotic.
Leonard: Well, I don’t think you called it idiotic.
Penny: Oh. Sorry, I meant to. Anyway, um, I was just upset with myself. I wasn't mad at you. I just feel like everything is falling apart.
Leonard: Come on. It’s okay.
Penny: No, it’s not okay. Look at me. OK. I took a temp job as a waitress forever ago, and still doing it. I can’t quit because guess what, I can’t do anything else. And I finally get me a big break and it goes away. I’m such a mess.
Leonard: No, you’re not.
Penny: Really? 'Cause this morning at Starbucks a pair of old underwear fell out of my pant leg. And it wasn't the only one in there.
Leonard: Okay, listen to me. This is just a minor setback.
Penny: No, it’s not! I've been out here for like ten years. I've nothing to show for it!
Leonard: You have me.
Penny: You’re right. I do have you. Mmm. Let’s get married.
Leonard: (caught by surprise) What?
Penny: Ohh. Leonard Hofstadter...will you marry me?
Leonard: (hesitantly) Uhhh...
Penny: (in disbelief, mocking him exaggeratedly and making herself sound stupid doing so) Did you seriously just say, "UUHHHNGHHH?!!"
Leonard: You know I love you, but you’re drunk and sad and feeling lost…
Penny: (making assumptions about Leonard's hesitation) Okay, don’t want to marry me?
Leonard: That is not what I said!
Penny: (still assuming) No, forget it. I take it back! Offer's off the table!
Sheldon: Who’s in the mood to laugh?
Leonard: Really not a good time.
Sheldon: But I used science to construct the perfect joke.
Penny: I’m gonna go.
Leonard: No. Penny, don’t.
Penny: No, no. I just need to be alone! (walks out of the guys' apartment)

Sheldon: Can’t sleep?
Leonard: No.
Sheldon: Would you like to talk about it?
Leonard: Penny proposed and I didn't say yes.
Sheldon: Why not?
Leonard: That’s a good question.
Sheldon: Does that mean the relationship is over?
Leonard: I don’t know.
Sheldon: Why don’t you ask her?
Leonard: Because I am afraid to know the answer.
Sheldon: Well, I’m sorry.
Leonard: That’s it? You’re not going to make some dumb joke or inappropriate comment?
Sheldon: No. You’re my friend and I’m sorry.

Howard: "Star Wars" audition, take 1. Starring Howard Joel Wolowitz, real life astronaut. Vader is here, now on this moon. I felt his presence. He has come for me. He can feel when I’m near.
(Howard suddenly hears a quite angry Bernadette shouting from the bathroom)
Bernadette: (out of vision) How many times do I have to tell you to replace the toilet paper when it’s empty?
Howard: (he shouts to his wife in irritation) I’m in the middle of something!
Bernadette: (out of vision) So am I!