Summary of The Big Bang Theory Season 9 Episode 20

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Virtual reality allows Dr. Sheldon Cooper to experience the "wildernesses" before being stopped by Dr. Leonard Hofstadter and his wife Penny. (Lorre et al., 2016). He is questioned by Leonard as to why he is acting as though he is in the woods but dislikes being outside. Sheldon responds that Dr. Amy Farrah, his girlfriend, advised him to do it because it improves reasoning abilities by 50%. (in people who spend time outdoors). Sheldon is startled out of his virtual world when Amy shows up with tea, but she eventually convinces him to go with them for a weekend at a cabin in the woods. Sheldon comes out wearing an insect protection hat.

On the other hand, Dr. Rajesh “Raj” Koothrappali arrives carrying shopping bags with Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz at her home and finds her husband Howard Wolowitz playing a video game (Lorre et al., 2016). Raj had taken Bernadette to a baby doctor and then to the grocery store. Howard is concerned that Raj is being too overly supportive, especially when he tells Bernadette that he has forwarded to her a list of top five lactation consultants in Los Angeles. Howard then finds Bernadette watching a video of childbirth which she says were found by Raj. He airs his concerns to her about Raj’s involvement during this pregnancy period. She excitedly tells him that Raj bought them an ultrasonic microphone for listening to the baby’s heartbeat but she warns that they should not open it without him since she promised.

Sheldon, Amy, Leonard and Penny finally arrive at the cabin in the woods but the it starts to rain as soon as they get it (Lorre et al., 2016). Since they cannot go out for hiking in the rain Leonard suggests they play a board game but Sheldon (who is happy for staying in the cabin) tells them that most of the letters are missing. Penny suggests they play the “Never Have I Ever” drinking game to which they oblige. Sheldon reveals that Leonard has a secret bank account that his wife does not know about hence making her angry though she understands. She ten proceeds to tell him that she does not like her job (pharmaceutical sales) and she would not want to go back to either waitressing or acting, thus she opts to remain at her job and repay her credit card debt. Amy agrees to having once pushed all the buttons in an elevator while Sheldon confesses to having been arrested on one occasion for jaywalking.

Howard confronts Raj and tells him that he is too involved with the pregnancy yet the baby is not his (Lorre et al., 2016). Raj accepts to give them space and leaves while sad with a massive Costco teddy bear he brought. Bernadette is upset with Raj’s departure and wants the bear and him back. Raj comes back and after Howard apologizes the three listen to the baby’s heartbeat together as Rajesh gets too close once again.

Text Analysis

Genre Codes

The genre of The Big Bang Theory TV series is sitcom. Televisions texts that fit in this category exhibit some level of uniformity in their presentation. The features which are considered to be similar throughout the texts categorized as sitcoms is what can be referred to as the genre codes (Feuer, 1987). These codes are found across most if not all the texts which can be said to belong to the genre. Sitcoms belong to the wider genre of comedy to which jokes and light moments that can make the audience laugh are essential. As a text for television, sitcoms usually revolve around certain fixed characters appearing in every episode from the begin to the end of the series. It is very easy to tell regular fixed characters across in almost every television series that can be identified as a sitcom since they will be featuring from episode to episode.

In The Big Bang Theory, there are certain fixed characters that not only carry on from one episode to another but also from one season to another. In season 9, these characters include: Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, Howard, Raj, Amy, Bernadette, Stuart David Bloom, and Dr. Emily Sweeney. Most of the above characters have appeared for many seasons of the series on CBS including the next one. This text can be said to be similar to other sitcoms such as The Carmichaels Show, War at Home, and Mind Your Language which also happen to revolve around a fixed set of characters appearing from an episode to the next. These shared uniformity across the genre offers both limits and possibilities of the text as it provides the opportunity for exploration and exploitation within certain parameters (Feuer, 1987). For instance, most sitcoms are limited by social domains and cultural meanings since the audience has to be able to relate with the text.

When attempting to identify the genre of a supposed sitcom the other features might also be considered as well. It is important to look at the format of production whereby some are recorded in front of a live studio audience (Quaglio, 2009). Nonetheless, sitcoms usually have a laugh track which enhances or imitates the impact of a live studio audience. In the opening scene of the 20th episode of the ninth season of The Big Bang Theory, an image of the forest appears with Sheldon saying it is beautiful before being shown in his virtual reality headset which is followed by a laughter (laughing track).

Audiences for sitcoms usually expect jokes and things that they can laugh at while watching (Quaglio, 2009). Therefore, one can always expect or predict a text for this genre to carry comical content since it is comedy. For instance, it is ironical that Sheldon has the phobia of being outdoors yet he is spending time in the forest. He says the forest is beautiful yet he is only using virtual reality, thus he us not in an actual forest. He thinks he is touching a butterfly only to find it is Leonard who moves closer. He also uses an air refresher to simulate the smell of the forest and Penny points out that it is not how the forest smells like. Leonard offers to drive him to any part of the wildernesses and leave him there yet he knows Sheldon does not like to be outdoors.

Sitcoms are recognized for their efficiency in making fun of serious issues in the society (Russell et al., 2006). As such one can always tell what to expect even without having watched. For instance, Raj’s overly involvement in Bernadette’s pregnancy shows how friends should be there for one another without overstepping the boundaries of friendship. Penny’s discomfort with her current pharmaceutical sales job demonstrates how youth in today’s society find themselves in jobs they do not want as well as their uncertainty regarding to what they would like to do. As long as the job is able to sustain the cost of living people will persevere. Relationships and friendship is one of the major themes in the contemporary society yet the episode presents them with ease and amusement as per the demands of the genre. As mentioned, it attempts to show how friends and partners should or can relate during times of need.


This episode is set in Los Angeles which can be inferred from Raj looking for the top five lactation consultants in Los Angeles. There are three locations that have been used: Sheldon and Leonard’s home, Howard and Bernadette’s home, and the Cabin in the woods (Big Bear).

In this episode there are various events that lead to changes in different situations (Cohen & Linda, 1988). The story in the narrative came be said to be Sheldon and his friends finding out a number of things they did not know about each other while Howard and his friend fall apart then mend their relationship. With both Penny and Leonard learning about each other’s secrets as Raj and Howard mend their friendship, the story can be said to be people breaking apart due to certain compromises then coming back together because they value each other and their relationship.

The story follows a very interesting plot since it is not easy to tell where exactly it will lead you even though you can tell what is happening. Sheldon is enjoying virtual reality then his friends interrupt suggesting they go to the woods. They go to a cabin but as it starts to rain they cannot go out for hiking, thus they resolve to stay indoors (to Sheldon’s pleasure). Having nothing else to do Leonard suggests that they play a board game (scrabble) but Sheldon points out that it has only seven tiles meaning they cannot play. They try to find something to do and Penny suggests that they light a fire. Leonard admits he has never lit a fire before but while they are trying to figure out through thermodynamics, Amy and Penny start the fire.

Penny suggests that they play a drinking game to which everyone obliges after expressing concerns about her drinking. (Lorre et al., 2016) During the game the friends reveal secrets about each other starting off with minor secrets then moving onto grittier and gory ones. Sheldon causes a chaos in the Hofstadter family when he discloses that Leonard has a secret bank account which Penny does not know about. She gets angry but Leonard explains the reason for keeping the secret and she reluctantly agrees. Penny tells him about her dissatisfaction with her job (which he likes) but she resolves to stick with it so as to complete paying her credit card debt. The couple kisses each other expressing their affection for one another having resolved their issues.

At the same time, Raj and Bernadette arrive at the Wolowitz’s house and find Howard playing a video game (Lorre et al., 2016). The latter is uncomfortable with the formers overly involvement. Finding his wife watching childbirth videos offered by his friend, Howard finally expresses his discomfort about Raj to Bernadette. She does not seem to agree with him though. He then finds an ultrasonic microphone bought by his friend. She says she promised Raj they will only open it up with him present hence making Howard feel disgusted. She warns him that they should not argue about Raj’s involvements, thus suggesting she likes it and wants him around.

Howard sees his friend pulling up in the driveway and promises to tell him off but his wife tells him to leave Rajesh alone (Lorre et al., 2016). An excited Raj then arrives with huge teddy bear which shocks Bernadette as well. Howard then tells him his concerns. Raj agrees to back off then drags the teddy bear as he leaves angrily with sadness. Howard admits that he did not treat his friend quite well to which his wife agrees. She is upset as she starts crying and she agrees that Howard should fetch his friend with the bear. Howard apologizes and the three listen to the baby’s heartbeat together.

The story unfolds depending on the character the camera follows. The audience only gets to know what is happening through the characters’ experiences with the, not knowing what will happen next (Quaglio, 2009). As seen above, one situation is lead to another by a certain event (Russell et al., 2006). There is narrative logic even though it does not follow the same one as real life. In this fictional world, a married couple is sharing a flat with a friend; gender is shown to be equal even though some roles have been defined indirectly; and friends are shown to be extremely close. The story articulates some of the issues found in the social domain including job dissatisfaction and relationships (Cohen & Linda, 1988). It should be noted it is normal for both genders to work as shown by Penny earning more than her husband. The narrative ends with a resolution as characters with conflict agree to work together (Howard and Raj).

Function of Characters

All the characters have been used for the purpose of developing the plot (Russell et al., 2006). For instance, Sheldon’s phobia of outdoors leads to Amy persuading him to join them at the cabin Penny has been given. The conflict between Penny and Leonard is as a result of what Sheldon says in the game started by her. The couple end up resolving the conflict. Therefore, Sheldon is seen as an agent of change when brings about changes in the Hofstadter’s marriage. Penny helps us to learn about the characters’ secrets since she suggested the game and takes part in it. The audience only gets to know the story as it unfolds with respect to the characters’ experiences. The story is about Leonard and Penny learning each other’s secrets and finally resolving while Howard and Raj recognize their differences and agree to work together for the better of the baby.

In terms of genre codes, all the seven characters seen in this episode appear in the previous and the next episode as well as season (Cohen & Linda, 1988). The series is centered on them and how they deal with the challenges of friendship (Quaglio, 2009). The character’s crack jokes while carrying on from episode to episode. Through the game Sheldon and his friends bring to light some of the peculiar things people do in reality such as pushing all elevator buttons.


Russell, C.A., Stern, B. B., & Stern B. B. (2006). Consumers, characters, and products: A balance model of sitcom product placement effects. Journal of Advertising, 35(1), 7-21.

Quaglio, P. (2009). Television dialogue: The sitcom friends vs. natural conversation. (vol. 36). John Benjamins Publishing.

Lorre, C., Prady B. (writers) & Cendrowski, M. (Director). (2016). The Big Bear Precipitation (Televisosn series episode). In F. O. Belyeu (Producer), The Big Bang Theory. Los Angeles, CA: Warner Bros. Television Distribution.

Feuer, J. (1987). ‘Genre Study and Television’ in Robert C. Allen (ed.), Channels of Discourse: Television and Contemporary Criticism. London, LN: Routledge.

Cohan, S. & Linda M. S. (1988) Telling Stories: A Theoretical Analysis of Narrative Fiction. New York, NY: Routledge.

July 15, 2023

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