November 10, 2011 6:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'The Big Bang Theory': Penny and Leonard Are 'Not Ready to 100 Percent Let Go Yet'
On Thursday's Big Bang Theory, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) will take a stab at something they've yet to try during their long and complicated relationship: going out as friends.
Looking for a companion to the movies, Penny will turn to a very confused Leonard for company as the two will attempt to navigate spending time together -- and free of the likes of Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and company -- for the first time since their breakup.
Considering their history -- he professed his love for her and she thanked him, partially leading to their ultimate split -- things won't go as smoothly as can be expected for two friends with a complex romantic history.
"It kind of works out well then blows up in their face and they're not quite sure how they feel about it," Cuoco tells The Hollywood Reporter. "[They're] learning about each other in a nonsexual relationship, which is basically all they had before."
Cuoco says their "friendship date" will hit a rough patch when the neighbors wind up at a bar and both Penny and Leonard begin flirting with other people with motives that aren't completely on the up-and-up.
"They're both flirting with someone to make the other one jealous and they're pretending the whole time that they're not jealous but it turns out that they are," Cuoco says, noting that the experience will be (another) learning experience for each of them.
"There's definitely some flirting and some jealousy with other people and them realizing that maybe they're not ready to hang out with each other and date other people," Cuoco says. "I think they still have a protectiveness over each other and are just not ready to 100 percent let go yet."
While Penny has been spending much of her free time lately with "besties" Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), the movie night with Leonard will serve as a reminder of her feelings for the lovable nerd across the hall.
"It shows that there's always going to be that special place in each other's hearts for each other," Cuoco says. "Their being friends is a nice turn, and I think it's going to make them love each other even more and hopefully, at the end of the day, end up together."
"I think there's a soft spot for Leonard and Penny," she notes. "If I was watching the show, and I might be biased, I'd want them to end up together and I think a lot of fans want that, too. It's just finding the right path back to their relationship."
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.