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"The Retraction Reaction" is the second episode of the eleventh season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The episode aired on Monday, October 2, 2017.


Leonard angers the university – and the entire physics community – after he gives an embarrassing interview. Also, Amy and Bernadette bond over having to hide their success from Sheldon and Howard.

Extended Plot[]

While the gang is having a meal in apartment 4A, Sheldon keeps aggravating the pregnant Bernadette with inappropriate comments. Leonard announces that he is going on NPR radio to discuss the world of physics to help promote Caltech. Sheldon wonders why the university picked Leonard until Amy whispered to Sheldon and he commented that the university picked the right person. Snicker.

Talking with Ira Flatow on NPR, Leonard is supposed to discuss all the exciting physics research that they are doing at the university. He describes the theoretical atomic particles the squark, the selectron and the neutralino which have yet to be found. He wonders out loud what they are doing with all their money since they haven't found anything. His comments worry the rest for gang whom are listening in with dozens of other public radio listeners.

In the cafeteria, Howard and Raj want to be supportive of Leonard while Sheldon just scoffs at the guy that maligned his favorite woman, Lady Physics. (Does Amy know?) Leonard feels that he is a scientist just telling the truth about the subject.

Bernadette shows up in Amy's new lab to have lunch with her. Amy hasn't mentioned about all the new fancy equipment to Sheldon because he would be jealous. Bernadette also hides her success from her significant other and didn't happen to mention her trip to Tahiti and last year's big fat bonus check.



Leonard is keeping an appointment with Janine Davis of Human Resources. Leonard realizes that his interview didn't go well, but he wonders how much damage it could have caused. Donors have been emailing them asking why they are giving the university money if physics is such a dead end. Mrs. Davis wants him to issue a statement that he misspoke and that he is confident that they will soon be making a breakthrough. Leonard interprets her request that she wants him to lying|lie which she doesn't think is that hard.

Amy comes home and finds Sheldon hard at work on the biggest problems in physics. Not solving them, just figuring out that they are the biggest problems. Dark matter, super-symmetry and reconciling gravity and quantum mechanics. Sheldon denies that his motivation was what Leonard had said on the radio. Amy mentions that she has gotten some new lab equipment. Sheldon counters that he got some new markers that have a fruit flavor that he doesn't care for.

Over in apartment 4A, Penny brings a depressed Leonard a glass of wine. No one would talk to him in the physics department not unlike the time when he was in high school. Leonard describes his trip to the administration office and how he might get fired. No one else is going to hire the guy who said that physics is dead. He needs to work on his retraction and had to sell out to keep his job. Penny encourages him to get on it while she walks away with the bottle of wine.

While Sheldon is still working though not making any progress, Leonard come over and asks for help with his retraction statement. Now even Sheldon is agreeing with Leonard that not all science works out. Leonard now understands why everybody hates him. On the bright side, Sheldon tells him that after fifteen years, he can tell Sheldon that he was right. Since Leonard might be unemployed, his minor victory is bittersweet. Later they are writing about the Hadron collider, but can't come up with any positive discovery to justify the cost. Leonard asks if he has any alcohol, so Sheldon breaks into his supply of Romulan ale from Star Trek. Penny, who just arrived, thinks that it looks like mouthwash.

Amy describes to Bernadette how the more she talked about her lab, the worse Sheldon got. Both agree that they should be able to brag about how successful they are just like their guys do. Then they agree that they could brag to each other though they start a game of one ups-man-ship.

Leonard and Sheldon have no idea where physics is going next so Penny tries to be supportive and ends up calling physics boring. Howard and Raj show asking everyone what they could do. Penny sums it up as science is dead thanks to Leonard and the Romulans whose ale she is drinking really know how to party. Raj exclaims that they sound like babies and no one wants to be stuck with two whiny babies. Now the expectant father Howard is depressed. Then realizes that he'll never have kids and everyone is depressed. Penny thanks them for coming.


These Romulans know how to party.

Amy and Bernadette end up arguing whose work and careers are better and more important. Amy thinks her work will change the world while Bernadette plans on seeing that world from her yacht.

With everyone drinking, Leonard wonders what they would be if they weren't scientists. "Popular," suggests Howard. Penny says that they have just hit a rough patch and that they need to go out and get inspired. Howard wants everyone to go see Richard Feynman or rather his grave since he is dead. Next they are wandering around a cemetery in Altadena. They find Richard Feynman's grave and Leonard comments that he used to listen to his lectures as a kid. He states that Richard Feynman played musical instruments, learned foreign languages and just did physics for the fun of it. Leonard admits that science is only dead when they stop being excited about. To celebrate Richard Feynman's wisdom (All right, Sheldon said it!) they toast him and pour some Romulan ale onto Feynman's grave. Sheldon runs off to be sick.

Leonard is called back into Mrs. Davis's office, and is shown the email he sent her while he was drunk. He wrote that physics is undead like a zombie. If he came back as a zombie, Leonard would be cool about being bitten by Richard Feynman. And then he goes into Leonard having been being bitten by a squirrel when he was a kid. He finishes with a request for a ride home from the cemetery since Sheldon got sick.



  • Title Reference: Leonard has to retract his negative opinion on the state of physics.
  • Taping date: August 22, 2017
  • This episode was watched by 14.06 million people with a rating of 3.2 (adults 18–49).
  • Total viewers including DVR users 19.20 million.
  • This episode aired in Canada on October 2, 2017.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card. [1]


  • Caroline Preece at Den of Geek! - As the series progressed and new cast members were added, the characters started to mirror the real-world tendency for people to focus less on work as we grow older and more on relationships and families. But while that shift for the most part worked in the show's favour, it's a shame we can't have both...The catalyst for the episode's main drama is a disastrous radio interview done by Leonard...But the setup also feels oddly nostalgic, from Penny's sudden reversion to the smug popular girl whose only purpose is to support Leonard and Sheldon, to Raj's borderline alcoholic ramblings about dying alone. They may as well have thrown Howard a pervy line and called it a day....So The Big Bang Theory is still The Big Bang Theory, and none of us should be surprised. [2]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Sheldon identifies the three largest problems in physics as dark matter, quantum gravity, and supersymmetry. All of these address 'incompleteness' in either of the standard models of cosmology or Standard model of particle physics|particle physics.
  • Mrs. Davis returned in this episode, her last appearance was in "The Junior Professor Solution" (S08E02), which was 72 episodes ago.
  • We have no idea of if Leonard, Howard, Raj or Sheldon are fired, since they messed up the retraction.
  • In response to Amy telling Bernadette that Sheldon has been acting rude, the latter responds with "He said that to your face? What a dick!", being the only usage of such word in the entire series.
  • In "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary" Penny asks what's new in physics and Leonard replies "nothing".
  • After Raj accidentally makes Howard realize he's about to have to raise two babies, he tries to convince him it'll be okay while Penny is holding her glass of Romulan ale with both hands. In the very next shot where Raj flumps on the couch after making himself depressed, her hands are suddenly both at her sides with only her right hand holding the glass.


Interviewer: So what have you found?
Leonard: Nothing actually!

Leonard: If we weren't physicists, what would we be?
Howard: I don't know. Popular?

Penny: [Penny is drinking Romulan Ale -vodka with blue dye- with Sheldon and Leonard] I don't know who the Romulans are, but those guys know how to party!