Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD for the most recent episode of The Big Bang Theory. Be sure to come back once you've caught up!
If you've watched more than a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory, you'll know that while Leonard is a smart, nice guy, a lot of his niceness has been taken for granted by his friends and loved ones over the years. And, that's usually because Leonard's not just nice, he's a people-pleaser of the first order. Always concerned about not rocking the boat and making sure everyone else is happy, he pretty much forgoes his needs and desires for those of the people around him.
Well, this week, Leonard got called out by his friends and wife for that trait, and was challenged to start thinking about himself sometimes. While this is, in general, a very good thing, I think it could spell trouble for him and Penny down the road. Here's what happened, and why it might not be so great for Leonard and Penny's marriage.
Leonard's desire to keep everyone (but himself) happy came up right at the episode's opening. The gang was all together and trying to decide whether or not to go to dinner first or hit the theater for Avengers: Endgame to start the night. Leonard keeps asking everyone what they want to do, but when Bernadette points out that they haven't heard how he wants the night to play out, he simply says he's trying to find a plan that works for everyone. When Amy pipes up and says, "Yeah, except for you," Sheldon adds that Leonard has always been a "satisfizer."
After the movie, Leonard has a massive headache, and we find out that he had to throw up because they sat so close to the screen (per Sheldon's request), and ended up missing the end of the movie. Leonard knew sitting that close would be bad for him, but refused to say anything at the time, and when Penny hears this she tells him that he needs to stop being such a pushover and stand up for himself.
After she asks Leonard when the last time was when he did what he wanted without paying attention to anyone else's needs, he notes that his mom has told him he took his sweet time being born. Leonard...terrible. It's then that Penny challenges him to stop putting everyone else first all the time and consider his needs as he makes decisions.
Her first challenge for him is to make the final decision about what they do after work the next night, but he's so thrown by the idea that Amy finds him sitting on the steps after work, afraid to go home and face Penny with a plan that will have to include something he knows she 100% won't be into, because otherwise Penny will know that he considered what she'd like to do.
When Amy points out that he wanted Penny and went after her for years regardless of what anyone said or did (sometimes including Penny), and ended up getting the woman of his dreams, he's confident enough to go home and demand that they have sex and then watch Star Trek: Discovery. Penny likes his attitude and agrees, though she admits she might play on her phone. Leonard almost asks if she means just for Star Trek or for the sex, too, but then decides that it doesn't matter because he's getting what he wants.
As you can probably imagine, having a bit of success leads to Leonard taking one of the biggest steps ever for a character on The Big Bang Theory. Later, when he, Penny, Sheldon and Amy are about to have dinner in the apartment, Leonard does the unthinkable...he sits in Sheldon's spot on the couch. When Sheldon protests, Leonard keeps sitting and eating, declaring "It's my house and I'm tired of not sitting where I want." Sheldon leaves in a huff with his dinner and Amy, but Leonard couldn't care less, noting to Penny that that moment was actually better than their post-work sex.
Yes! Leonard is on a roll now, and for his next challenge to himself, he's decided to tackle the fact that he's not happy at work anymore. Apparently, he'd really like to be the principal investigator on a plasma physics study at Caltech, so he tells Sheldon that he's going to write up a proposal, give it to President Siebert and not take no for an answer. Even though Sheldon eventually tells him that he doesn't think he'll be given the job, and that trying to force Siebert's hand by saying that he'll quit if he doesn't get it is a bad idea, he does it anyway.
Obviously, it wasn't as easy as putting his demand out there and then getting what he wanted. Siebert did, in fact, say no to Leonard, but quickly offered him a position as co-lead on a quantum entanglement team. Leonard is happy to have come so close to getting what he wanted at work, and Penny is happy for him, but I see a problem ahead.
I know what you're thinking: Leonard is finally taking charge in his life, going after what he wants and standing up for himself. What could be the issue with that? Don't you want Leonard to be happy?!?! Of course I do, but all this taking charge is probably going to bring Leonard back around to a major decision that was made for him not long ago which he's not at all happy about: Penny not wanting to have kids.
Even though Penny was the main impetus for Leonard beginning this new attitude journey, she probably just wants him to be able to make a decision about dinner without begging her to do it. I bet she hasn't considered the fact that this will make Leonard want to revisit the parental conversation, but why wouldn't it?
Now, Penny and Leonard both did a huge, stupid thing by getting married without ever coming close to talking about whether or not they want kids, but when it finally came up toward the beginning of this season, his fear of losing Penny if he pushed the issue too much made him acquiesce to her desire to remain child-free. And, to be fair, it's not cool to try to make someone become a parent when they aren't into it.
But, as we saw when Leonard almost donated his sperm so that Penny's ex Zack and his new wife Marissa could have a kid, that desire to have his DNA live on is still strong within the (not so) young Hofstadter. And, now that Leonard has a taste of standing up for himself and demanding what he wants, especially considering that Penny is the one who really set this whole thing off, I can easily see him trying to convince her to have a baby in any way possible.
Penny relented when Leonard was going to donate his sperm, but he didn't do it because what he really wants is to raise a child. Will he be able to talk Penny into it? If he can, will it be a spectacularly bad idea? If he can't, will they break up?
There's no guarantee that the baby dilemma will come back around for Leonard and Penny before the final season wraps up, but we can all see how it shakes out for these two when The Big Bang Theory continues Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.