'The Big Bang Theory's' 100th Episode: Is It a Dream?

The Big Bang Theory Kaley Cuoco Johnny Galecki - H 2011

The Big Bang Theory Kaley Cuoco Johnny Galecki - H 2011

When CBS’ The Big Bang Theory airs its 100th episode Jan. 19, it will be a look at what has come before for the show’s pivotal couple, Penny and Leonard, as well as the on-again/off-again duo’s future in a unique way.

“We went back and watched the pilot, and we talked about that, and we tried to do a 100th episode that connects emotionally to the pilot,” co-creator/EP Bill Prady tells The Hollywood Reporter during a December event celebrating the milestone at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

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The bulk of the episode, which is titled “The Recombination Hypothesis,” will explore Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) past, present and future. Co-creator/EP Chuck Lorre calls the installment “a little risky."

“We wanted to go back to the relationship which started the series, which was Leonard’s attraction to Penny, and it was a sweetness to it," Lorre says. "It’s where we started, and it felt like we’d come full circle on the 100th and explore it again." Adds EP Steve Molaro, “We’ll be exploring Leonard and Penny’s relationship and where they’ve been and the possibilities of where they can go in the future.”

The cast, meanwhile, noted that the milestone will be different than what other shows have done for similar feats, with Cuoco, Mayim Bialik (Amy) and Simon Helberg (Howard) all citing the episode’s departure from the norm.

“This 100th episode is a real departure for us creatively,” Cuoco tells THR. “It’s definitely a different episode than we’ve done. It’s kind of a brain-teaser a bit; you don’t know what’s going on until then end. The end comes, and then you realize it all makes sense.”

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Meanwhile, Bialik describes the episode as featuring a lot of ensemble scenes and said the half-hour is a “really quirky episode” that is “breaking the format and breaking a little of our standard format.” She adds, “It’s a little bit different, and they’re mixing it up a little bit."

CBS’ official episode description also points to more of a look forward than a highlight episode featuring Leonard and Penny, who broke up after he professed his love for her and she thanked him: “Everything could change when Leonard spontaneously invites Penny to a romantic dinner.”

“It has sort of an homage quality, in some ways, to the pilot,” Helberg tells THR. “It is its own thing; it’s a simple story that’s not quite what it seems with some twists and turns in it. It’s like how little we’ve traveled in five years and how slow the growth is for these guys but still how interesting they are to watch.”

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So it’s a “brain-teaser,” “quirky,” “homage to the pilot” with “twists and turns” – but is it a dream?

Asked just that, Cuoco would only smile and say, “Possibly, we’ll see.”

“Penny and Leonard have a lot to learn,” she says. “Personally, I’m a sucker for the romance and the adrenaline for any sort of leap of faith, and they might be taking that sooner than I had predicted. I love the two characters, and I love them together. I think Leonard is especially hoping for reconciliation. The breakup between Leonard and Penny really put things in perspective for him; he’s heartbroken. As much as these two have had their friction, I don’t think they could survive without one another.”

What do you think? Do you want to see Penny and Leonard back together, even if it’s in a dream sequence? Sound off in the comments below.

The Big Bang Theory returns from its holiday hiatus Jan. 12 with the 100th episode airing the following week. Check out photos from the 100th episode party here.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit