'The Big Bang Theory' recap: Penny and Leonard hit a major crossroads

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kaley-cuoco-johnny-galecki-big-bang-theory-recap-cbs.jpgRaise your hand if you saw that one coming.

On Thursday's (Jan. 2) episode of "The Big Bang Theory," the first new episode of 2014, Penny ( Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard ( Johnny Galecki) hit a major snag in their relationship after she asks a major question and doesn't get the result she was hoping for.

After starting the episode on a high, landing what she hoped would be her big break in an episode of "NCIS" (hello, network synergy!), Penny's was faced with a cold reality when her scene with Mark Harmon was left on the cutting room floor. This led to some more dramatic moments than we're used to on the hit CBS series, with Penny questioning whether her dream of being an actor would ever be any more than just that - a dream.

In her devastation, she turns to Leonard for some support, but he flounders when asked whether he seriously thinks she'll ever make it big. Rather than telling her what he wants to hear, he tries to keep it real, reminding her how difficult it is to become an actor. Naturally, she doesn't take this well.

Between this storyline and Sheldon's ( Jim Parsons) subplot about trying to study humor, the episode felt a little too meta for its own good. Successful actors on a terrifically funny show talking about how hard it is to become successful actors and how difficult it is to create comedy? A bit much all at once. However, it did lead to a potentially game-changing closer for Penny and Leonard.

Drunk and full of self-loathing, Penny goes to Leonard and says she has nothing to show for her life in L.A. Noticeably stung, he reminds her she has him, which leads her to propose to him, getting down on one knee and all. Naturally, being the sober one, he hesitates, she takes it back and we're all left wondering what will become of the couple.

This isn't the first time they've faced a spur of the moment marriage proposal, but with roles reversed this time, and with Penny really questioning what she's doing with her life, it's likely this go round will hold quite a bit more weight.

Spare Parts:

- The less said about Raj ( Kunal Nayyar) and Stuart's ( Kevin Sussman) subplot about trying to talk to someone, anyone in the mall, the better. That was the very definition of "slight."

- Though she and Simon Helberg had very little to do tonight, Melissa Rauch's fake laugh bit in the restaurant was solid gold. She's such a gem.

- The beginning to Sheldon's perfectly crafted joke: ""A sandwich, a rabbi and yo' mama walk into a bar..."

- That tender final scene between Leonard and Sheldon was actually quite lovely, a small reminder of the growth of Parsons' character this season, emotionally, and proof that, throughout their constant frustrations with one another, these two guys are really best friends. It's a pity it was undercut with that "Kick Me" sign gag, but this is "The Big Bang Theory," after all.
Photo/Video credit: CBS