"The Re-Entry Minimization" is the fourth episode of the sixth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Thursday, October 18, 2012.[1]


Howard has returned to Earth to a very disappointing welcome where everyone is busy. Meanwhile, it's Penny and Amy versus Leonard and Sheldon in a battle of the sexes during game night.

Extended Plot

Finally in Bernadette's arms.

Over dinner, the gang can't wait for Howard to return. Sheldon tells Stuart that he had a good run as the "fake Wolowitz", but an offer for 30% off comic books from Stuart makes Sheldon change his mind and say, "Welcome aboard, old chum." Sheldon also commends Howard with, "he left a boy and returned a boy-size hero."

Howard and his fellow astronauts plummet through the atmosphere with Howard alternately praying and screaming. He feels a jerk and remarks that "that wasn't so bad". Unfortunately that jerk was the parachutes opening and they have six more miles to go. Howard starts screaming again.

Howard feels dejected when he finds out that his friends are not waiting for him at the airport at the request of Bernadette. In the waiting room he hears shouts of "Howie, Howie", but the reporters present are covering the arrival of comedian Howie Mandel (who doesn't believe that Howard is an astronaut). At Bernadette's (and Howard's as well) apartment she dresses in a negligee and tells him that it's like their honeymoon since he left right after their wedding ceremony. After coughing a few times due to an allergy, she falls asleep on him from the Benadryl.

Later, Howard goes to his mother's house where she doesn't let him in. He hears a man's voice which his mother says is the television and then Howard's dentistwhom she is having an affair with, hops out the window.

Howard's next stop is Raj's who is very glad to see him. The twist is that Stuart is now living with him and they have tickets to the sold-out Sound of Music sing-along. Howard leaves them to their night out.

Spinning math game.

At the apartment, Sheldon laments that he wasn't getting to see Howard's expression that night when he gives him his admiration for the first time. Amy and Penny are playing Pictionary against Leonard and Sheldon. Sheldon's drawing concepts and guesses are too complicated and confusing for Leonard and the girls win. For the word "polish", Sheldon draws things that are Polish like sausage and Madame Curie while Penny waits a few minutes to enjoy his act and then draws a hand, paints the nails and Amy says (nail) polish. Then they tell the boys that they can beat them in any contest. Penny does not want to play "Physics Fiesta" where physics questions are given in Spanish since Sheldon just made up the game. Sheldon doesn't want to play darts, pool, beer pong, or have a wet t-shirt contest since they are bar games and Penny has been going to bars since she was of age. Amy suggests water polo and Operation with real cadavers. Next, Amy and Leonard try Where's Waldo? without their glasses and Amy wins. Penny and Sheldon try a contest where they are spinning around a lightsaber and then rush over to do a division problem while still dizzy. Although she spun a bit faster than him, Penny beats Sheldon at mathematics because he falls over and knocks down his whiteboard. Next, Penny is wrestling] with Sheldon who is pinned almost instantly and can't get up. Then Penny has to try and kiss Sheldon. Sheldon asks Amy to do something, so she joins in also kissing him.


Finally, it is a standard state fair pie eating contest. After they start, Howard shows up.  The gang looks up with their faces covered with blueberry pie filling, and yell, "Not now", too busy with their rivalry to give him any kind of attention.

Finally, Howard ends up at a diner where the waitress recognizes him as an astronaut and offers him a free piece of cheesecake. Howard starts to tell her his problems and she replies asking whether he wants the cheesecake or not. He starts eating singing "Rocket Man" quietly to himself. A quick sneeze makes him think that he caught something from Bernadette and he sarcastically says "perfect".



  • The TV Critic: "It’s no surprise that the comic ambition of the show would have atrophied after six seasons. It’s just a shame when at one stage the writers were so close to crafting something really good."[2]
  • The A.V. Club gave this episode an A-.[3]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: The title refers to Howard's return to Earth and his disappointing reception in Pasadena.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
  • This episode was watched by 15.73 million people with a rating of 4.8 (adults 18-49).[4]
  • Total viewers including DVR users 19.87 million.
  • This episode aired in Canada on October 18, 2012 with 4.565 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #1.[5]
  • In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on December 6, 2012 with 2.772 million total viewers.[6]
  • Episode transcript [1]

Costume Notes

  • Penny's red shirt with two pockets is no longer available from Target stores.


  • After Raj mentions that Howard's Soyuz capsule should be re-entering Earth's atmosphere, he exclaims "The Fantastic Four reunited!" Fittingly, the members of that superhero team are astronauts, led by aerospace engineer Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards). Further references to the Fantastic Four in previous episodes consist of citing issues of the Marvel Comics series. In "The Jiminy Conjecture" (S3E2), Howard wagers his Fantastic Four #48, first appearance of Silver Surfer. In "The Excelsior Acquisition", Leonard ponders whether he should select his copy of Fantastic Four #5, first appearance of Doctor Doom, to be autographed by Stan Lee. In "The Countdown Reflection" (S5E24), Howard gives the guys mint condition issues of Fantastic Four Annual #3 from 1965 (the one where Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Girl get married) as a groomsmen gift before his wedding.
  • Bernadette does not share any scenes with the other five members of the gang (Raj, Penny, the 'Shamy' duo [[[Sheldon and Amy]]] and Leonard) in this episode after reuniting with Howard at the airport since his return from outer space. She obviously might be ill in bed for a day or two to which is why Howard had to go and see the five other gang members (Raj, Leonard, Penny, Sheldon and Amy) on his own throughout the rest of this episode.
  • When playing Pictionary, Sheldon draws unnecessarily complicated and extraordinarily confusing pictures; he also did exactly the same in "The Bozeman Reaction" (S3E13). His interpretations of others' pictographic representations in the game are similarly convoluted. For instance, when Leonard depicts a chocolate chip cookie on the whiteboard, Sheldon initially inputs that it is an illustration of a quark-gluon plasma (QGP), specifically asymptotically free partons in a quark-gluon plasma. In the quark matter phase diagram, QGP is placed in the high-temperature, high-density regime; whereas, ordinary matter is a cold and rarefied mixture of nuclei and vacuum. This exotic phase, which constitutes the primordial soup of matter that existed only split-seconds after the Big Bang, consists of a number of point-like constituents – asymptotically free quarks and gluons, collectively termed "partons". Following the rejection of his first answer, he surmises that it must then be an observational rebuttal of the ΛCDM model of the universe, as there is no glass of milk to accompany it. The current standard model of the universe, Lambda-Cold Dark Matter (ΛCDM), assumes that the universe is expanding in accordance with the geometrical term Λ (Lambda) – which represents the cosmological constant used in Einstein's general relativity. Dark matter is then assumed to be the scaffolding that underlies the distribution of visible matter at a large scale across the universe. Leonard's picture, on the other hand, resembles a model of Einstein's static universe, in which space-time is neither expanding nor contracting.
  • Bernadette's voice turns a bit lower-squeaky and less high pitchy-squeaky in the scene where she is becoming down with a rather sickly-cold in hers and Howard's bedroom at their apartment in the bedroom scene of their apartment in this episode.
  • Second reference made to asymptotic freedom. Previously, in "The Hamburger Postulate" (S1E5), Leslie Winkle had corrected the sign of the beta function of quantum chromodynamics (QCD) appearing on Sheldon's whiteboard, permitting him to show that quarks are asymptotically free at high-energies.
  • Just before Kaley Cuoco plunges her face in the blueberry pie, she takes one worried look at the camera like she's saying, "Here I go, folks!" or "It's all for the craft!"

    Kaley looking at the audience before her fateful pie plunge.

  • First episode in season 6 that Howard appears on camera with the other regular cast members. 
  • Second episode where a female character gets sick and spreads their disease onto a male character, this time it is Bernadette to Howard. The first time it happens was when Penny spreads her disease onto Sheldon in "The Large Hadron Collision" (S315).
  • Second episode where Howard screams. First was "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis" (S4E10).



Penny: Boys vs Girls.
Sheldon: That's hardly seems fair. But I guess any team that I'm not on has a decided disadvantage.

(Sheldon doing hand gestures)
Leonard: Sausage? Unidentified flying liverwurst?

Penny: Oh my god, we're gonna kill them.

Howard: Bernie, you okay?
Bernadette (off): Yeah, I’ll be right there. (Hacking and coughing noises)
[Howards look at the bathroom door in shock for five seconds]
Howard: Did you get a sea lion while I was gone?
Bernadette: (coming out of the bathroom) It’s just allergies.
[She takes her glasses off and puts them down on the bedside table]
Howard: Okay.
Bernadette: Took some Benadryl. I’ll be fine. So, did you miss me?
Howard: Oh. Are you kidding? Every minute of every…
Bernadette: (has a coughing fit) Ew. Excuse me.
Howard: Sweetie, we don’t have to do this now.
Bernadette: Yes, we do. You left right after we got married. This is like our honeymoon. Now, hold on to your hat. Oh. Uh-oh.
Howard: You okay?
Bernadette: A little dizzy. Must be the Benadryl. Switch places with me.
Howard: Okay.
Bernadette: Now, kiss me. (He does. She starts snoring)
Howard: Bernadette? Bernie? Bernie?
Bernadette: (waking suddenly) That was amazing. You made me feel things I never… (starts snoring again)
Howard: Well, that was quick, and a little gross. Now, I know how she feels.

Sheldon: He left a boy. He returns a boy-sized hero.

Howard: We did it! We survived!
Mike: That was the parachute. We still have another 6 miles to go.

Leonard: Sheldon, we haven't won a single game all night. Now either you put your face in that pie or I'm gonna put that pie in your face!

Amy: All right, let's keep this simple. How about darts?
Sheldon: No, that's not fair either.
Penny: Why not?
Sheldon: Darts is a bar game. You've been frequenting drinking establishments since you were of legal age.
Leonard: Yeah, that's when it started.
Sheldon: Well, regardless, she has a distinct advantage in all tavern-based competitions. Pool, beer pong, wet T-shirt contests, they're all out.
Penny: Okay. Just for the record, I have never entered a wet T-shirt contest, I've won a few, but that's just because I spill when I'm drunk.

Amy: Ready, set, wrestle!
Penny: Ha! (rolls Sheldon onto his back)
Amy: One, two, three, pinned! (Penny kisses Sheldon while holding him down)
Sheldon: Stop that. (Penny kisses him on the cheek) Amy, do something! (Penny kisses his other cheek) Amy! Help. (Penny kisses Sheldon again as Amy also starts kissing him) What...? (sees that Amy is also kissing him against his will) Amy! Stop that. Amy-- Penny, both of you, stop it! (Amy and Penny ignore Sheldon and keep on kissing him)


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