The show originally centered on five characters living in Pasadena, California: Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, both physicists at Caltech, who share an apartment; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon's similarly geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali.[4][5] Over time, supporting characters were promoted to starring roles, including neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski, physicist Leslie Winkle and comic book store owner Stuart Bloom.
Amy and Howard begin collaborating on a neuroprosthetics project, upsetting Sheldon and Raj, who feel they are not spending as much time with them. When they seek solace with an annoyed Bernadette, she exploits the situation to trick Sheldon into doing Howard's chores. Penny successfully employs the approaches recommended in one of Bernadette's parenting books to deal with Sheldon, but Leonard believes she is coddling Sheldon too much. Sheldon and Raj resolve the issue of missing their significant others by spending time together.
With Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Amy accomplishing so much on their respective projects, Sheldon is forced to admit he has nothing important upon which to work. He makes Amy leave the apartment for a few days so he can focus, but cannot come up with any ideas and calls his mother as a distraction. Leonard and Amy have fun recreating experiments from when they were growing up, boring Penny, so she eats with Sheldon as he mulls over his scientific studies. Penny helps him realize that his study of dark matter is his rebound science from string theory, which Sheldon admits he never truly disregarded, but explaining string theory to her inspires Sheldon, helping him discover a potential breakthrough in the field. Meanwhile Howard is too busy with his family to be in the band with Raj, so Raj brings in Bert. But, when Howard annoys Bernadette by writing an astronaut-themed musical while she is on bed-rest, she makes him rejoin the band. The three are poorly received at a Bar mitzvah after singing Bert's original song about the boulder from Indiana Jones .
When Leonard receives a braggy Christmas letter from his brother, he feels bad about how little he and Penny have achieved in the past year. Leonard wonders if he and Penny should be thinking about the next step after two years of marriage, like buying a house or having a baby. Penny tells him she wants to do all those things someday, but she has a bunch of stuff she would like to do first.
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