Warning: Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of Young Sheldon! Come back once you've caught up!
Young Sheldon fans have always known that there could be connections to The Big Bang Theory as the family comedy continued, even with its mothership series now off the air. Well, tonight, Young Sheldon came on strong with a surprising shout out to Big Bang that no one saw coming. We found out that college wasn't the first time Sheldon, his high intellect and even higher ego darkened the doorstep of Caltech. Oh, no. He went several years before to attend a lecture by his hero Stephen Hawking, and we got to see the first time Sheldon laid his eye on...the cafeteria.
To a casual observer of Young Sheldon, especially if you weren't a regular viewer of The Big Bang Theory, this might not sound like a big deal. But, the cafeteria at Caltech was featured in pretty much every episode of the series, and was where a lot of fights, revelations, confessions and bonding moments occurred between Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard (and sometimes Amy, Penny and Bernadette) at their preferred cafeteria table.
So, you might imagine what a shock it was for fans tonight, when not only did Sheldon take a visit to the cafeteria with his dad during his time at Caltech, but he also lingered over the room and mused about imagining "all the stimulating conversations that must go on at these tables. I can see myself going here one day," as the camera pulls back to show off the full room, just as we remember it from The Big Bang Theory.
As you might expect, it was an emotional moment for Young Sheldon co-creator and The Big Bang Theory's former showrunner Steve Molaro. When asked, during an interview with TVLine, what it was like to step back onto the set, he said:
It was more than a bit [surreal]. I can tell you that it was extremely emotional. I knew it was coming, and I walked to the stage that morning and immediately started welling up with tears as soon as I saw it. For me, I said a very heartfelt and tearful goodbye to those sets 10 months ago, and never imagined that I’d be seeing and sitting on one again… Before we even started rolling, as soon as I saw it, I was a mess.
Awwww! It's sad, but also inspiring, right? I mean, wouldn't it suck if, after working on The Big Bang Theory for the entire run, Steve Molaro didn't care a bit about filming on one of the old sets? And, in case you were wondering, what we saw in tonight's episode was the actual Caltech cafeteria set from The Big Bang Theory. According to Molaro:
It’s the actual set. Our set department actually went in and took large pieces of it from the Warner Bros. museum. If you went to the museum that day, there was an empty hole with a spot that said, 'On loan to Young Sheldon.' [Laughs]
Awwww! What? What do you mean I said that already? It still counts, people!
So, how did the idea for this particular connection to Sheldon's future come about? It turns out that knowing how deeply a character's love for something goes actually helped a lot.
The story was borne out of the thought, 'What if Stephen Hawking was appearing in person, and Sheldon was deeply driven to see him?' The idea of Sheldon getting a chance to see Stephen Hawking for the first time sounded so compelling. That was our starting point, then we started poking at the idea [of visiting Caltech].
Simple starting point, but it was so effective, wasn't it?
Young Sheldon will continue on CBS, Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST, but for more on what else you can watch right now, check out our 2020 midseason premiere guide!