Sara Gilbert as Leslie Winkle (recurring season 1, starring season 2, guest seasons 3, 9): A physicist who works in the same lab as Leonard. In appearance, she is essentially Leonard's female counterpart and has conflicting scientific theories with Sheldon. Leslie has casual sex with Leonard and later Howard. Gilbert was promoted to a main cast member during the second season but resumed guest star status because producers could not come up with enough material for the character. Gilbert returned to The Big Bang Theory for its 200th episode.
After Sheldon has a food truck moved away from the building, Leonard and Penny are shocked to find he is the leader and sole member of the Tenants' Association for the building. Amy doesn't want to be caught in the middle but secretly suggests they rally support from the other tenants to vote Sheldon out. Nobody else supports Leonard so Amy tells them Sheldon was never added to the lease when he moved across the hall with her. Sheldon fires back with his own legal technicality so Amy is forced to support Leonard. She makes Sheldon happy by saying he can be Leonard's official opposition, making Leonard believe he made a mistake. Meanwhile, Howard and Raj find a drone. Raj returns it to the cute owner Cynthia and gets her number. Unfortunately, Cynthia watches footage of Raj on the drone and is immediately turned off.
The sixth season boasts some of the highest-rated episodes for the show so far, with a then-new series high set with "The Bakersfield Expedition", with 20 million viewers, a first for the series, which along with NCIS, made CBS the first network to have two scripted series reach that large an audience in the same week since 2007. In the sixth season, the show became the highest rated and viewed scripted show in the 18–49 demographic, trailing only the live regular NBC Sunday Night Football coverage, and was third in total viewers, trailing NCIS and Sunday Night Football. Season seven of the series opened strong, continuing the success gained in season six, with the second episode of the premiere, "The Deception Verification", setting the new series high in viewers with 20.44 million.
Penny, who admits to missing Leonard in "The Roommate Transmogrification", accepts his request to renew their relationship in "The Beta Test Initiation". After Penny suggests having sex in "The Launch Acceleration", Leonard breaks the mood by proposing to her. Penny says "no" but does not break up with him. She stops a proposal a second time in "The Tangible Affection Proof". In the sixth-season episode, "The 43 Peculiarity", Penny finally tells Leonard that she loves him. Although they both feel jealousy when the other receives significant attention from the opposite sex, Penny is secure enough in their relationship to send him off on an exciting four-month expedition without worrying in "The Bon Voyage Reaction". After Leonard returns, their relationship blossoms over the seventh season. In the penultimate episode "The Gorilla Dissolution", Penny admits that they should marry and when Leonard realizes that she is serious, he proposes with a ring that he had been saving for years. Leonard and Penny decide to elope to Las Vegas in the season 8 finale, but beforehand, wanting no secrets, Leonard admits to kissing another woman, Mandy Chow (Melissa Tang) while on an expedition on the North Sea. Despite this, Leonard and Penny finally elope in the season 9 premiere.
After Sheldon reminds the guys about the time they mined Bitcoin without him, the guys go on a quest to find their suddenly valuable missing cryptocurrency. They realize the currency is on a laptop which Leonard gave to Penny when they dating, which she then gave to her ex-boyfriend Zack. After Leonard and Penny go to Zack's apartment, he shows them a seven-year-old video that Penny recorded on the laptop soon after she broke up with Leonard. Leonard is touched by the video which shows a drunk Penny lamenting the break-up of her relationship with him.