Michael Yaris/CBS
Maricela Gonzalez
September 27, 2013 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Can you believe The Big Bang Theory has been on for seven seasons? Seven seasons is no walk in the park even for a traditional sitcom on CBS. But America loves Sheldon! And Jim Parsons delivers on his Emmy gold as he continues to play the brilliant but socially challenged Sheldon Cooper.

The season starts off with Leonard still away on a Stephen Hawking sea expedition. Sheldon is not happy about it, not one bit. He’s even dreaming of sea monsters attacking Leonard — or worse — DVDs in the wrong cases. The horror! Sheldon steals over to Penny’s apartment across the hall, just to check in if she missed Leonard and had a nightmare. Penny, playing along with Sheldon’s conceit, lets him in to stay over for the night. (Even if she is soon kicked out of her own bedroom.) Although Penny and Leonard have very little in common on the surface, their interaction with Sheldon is much the same. The patience and tolerance for Sheldon’s idiosyncrasies that they both display suggest how similar their sensibilities truly are. The characters — and the show — have always been best when Penny and Leonard are a couple, even if they aren’t in every scene together.

Sheldon and Penny spend most of their time together in this premiere — bonding over the absence of Leonard. Sheldon and Penny’s interactions have always been a highlight of the series, since its early days. Leonard, while a likeable enough character in his own right, often acts as the excuse for these two opposites to interact. There’s a sweet, childlike quality that comes out of their relationship.

As the odd couple talk, Penny shares that she appeared a topless scene in a terrible horror movie when she first moved to L.A. But Sheldon is already aware of Serial Ape-ist (groan). Howard found the movie immediately after meeting Penny. Sheldon also shares that he is not okay with YouTube’s rating changes, which Penny brushes off. Sheldon gets suddenly serious, stating that Penny hurt his feelings.

When Sheldon gets serious, he reverts back into a hurt, naive child. It’s awkward — and meant to be to a certain degree — but it brings the momentum of the episode to a halt. Sheldon having more dimensions than geeky, smart-assy, or childlike is a good thing, but it can be jarring when viewers are used to seven seasons of a more-or-less the same Sheldon.

Raj hasn’t gotten over his short-lived relationship with Lucy (Kate Micucci). Everything from an oil slick to the crust of his chicken pot pie remind him of her. Howard doesn’t like seeing his bestie down in the dumps nor does he particularly enjoy his friend’s incessant woes, so they attend a post-grads meet and greet. This new side of Raj is more relatable and less of the caricature of (another) socially stunted geek. Now, he’s the socially awkward geek that tries too hard. Nonetheless, he has a “moment” with Mrs. Davis (Regina King), but he’s still nowhere near ready to be in a relationship with her — or anybody for that matter.

Bernadette and Amy enjoy their time together at a convention. That is until Bernadette makes a comment insinuating Amy could do better than Sheldon as a boyfriend. (She’s right!) Sheldon is Sheldon, and regardless of how well Sheldon and Amy interact with one another, they don’t have a physically romantic relationship. That may be okay for Amy now, but will it be forever? This is a question the show has addressed several times and yet it’s always subsequently dropped and forgotten.

In the second episode of the double-stuffed season premiere, Leonard surprises Penny by returning early from his expedition. He wants to hide out with just her before returning back to Sheldon — and all that comes with living with Sheldon. This then leads to more hurt Sheldon feelings! I guess the writers wanted to re-cement why these people are friends with Sheldon when he’s so…Sheldon. But haven’t we already established — America loves Sheldon! The Academy loves Sheldon! That’s why these people are friends with him!

The highlight of this episode was the show’s other power couple — Raj and Howard. Yes, Howard’s emotional attitude is problematically due to an increase of estrogen. (Ladies cry! Ladies are insecure about their bodies!) Despite myself, I still laughed out loud as Howard and Raj shimmied their moobs (man boobs) and felt each other up. The cherry on top was Bernadette’s silent, stunned reaction and subsequent walk away as if she hadn’t witnessed something super bizarre.

This season’s premiere was a solid albeit clunky start up for another round of adventures with the lovable Southern Californian geeks. Hopefully, this season will finally showcase the women characters not falling into typical sitcom troupes (Let’s talk about guys! Let’s joke about how much we talk about guys!) and balance just how much emotional range Sheldon is truly capable of.

Geekiest lines of the night:

“Aquaman? This isn’t a gag gift, Stuart.”

“I know it’s a bad connection, but it sounds like someone released a Kraken.”

“You think you’re so cool because your wife is a person?”

“There’s kissing in Star Trek, smarty-pants.”

“Penny, did you ever wonder how Starfleet captains—” “No.”

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