It is true that in the annals of season finale cliff-hangers, last night's The Big Bang Theory ranks nowhere near, say, the season 3 finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Picard goes borg!), or the season 1 finale of Lost ("Waaaaaaaaaalt!"). But still, in Big Bang terms, the final scene of the final episode of Big Bang's fourth season was one humdinger: Leonard and Priya on the precipice of breaking up after he learned she's planning on going back to India; Howard reeling from his fiancée Bernadette's wild professional and financial success; Raj possibly supplanting Leonard as Sheldon's roommate; and, oh right, Penny and Raj drunkenly falling into (Leonard's) bed together, and everyone else discovering them the morning after. "It's not what it looks like," Penny lied, before scooting herself out of the apartment. "What does it look like?" asked Sheldon. Cut to Chuck Lorre's title card, and see ya in September!
It was a great way to end a great season, even if it means Lorre & Co. are going to continue to force Leonard and Penny to dance the will-they-or-won't-they, off-and-on-and-off-again tango for the foreseeable future. Although now that Penny's realized what a catch Leonard truly is (the man is the king of foreplay, after all), maybe things will work out after all—oh who am I kidding she slept with one of Leonard's closest friends. Things will never quite be the same, or at least they shouldn't be.
So how did we get here? It started, as things often have recently on Big Bang, at the Cheesecake Factory, where Penny and the rest of the gang (including Priya) made good sport of Leonard's lactose intolerance. Even Sheldon joined in on the fun, albeit unintentionally, when he noted that Penny's "gas-filled Macy's day" balloon joke was inaccurate: "Macy's balloons are filled with helium, whereas Leonard produces copious amounts of methane." Everyone laughed, and only then did Sheldon realize he'd made a funny. (I'm not the only one instantly reminded of Lt. Commander Data, right?) (Yes, that's my second TNG reference; this is a Big Bang Theory recap, I'm entitled.) Then Bernadette showed up with great news: She'd landed her Ph.D, and a pharmaceutical company snatched her up for a "buttload" of money. Which allowed Leonard to shift the spotlight of ridicule from his noxious buttload onto Howard's lack of a doctorate and lowly status as his relationship's secondary breadwinner. Emasculation is always hilarious!
This particular story line remained in the background for most the episode — much like Howard himself this season — but I did quite enjoy the bedroom scene in which Bernadette told Howard she had volunteered for the premature ejaculation project. ("I mean, it's not like either one of us has heart disease.") Then she gave him a gold Rolex, and when he asked how much it cost, Bernadette just shook her head. "Oh, you let me worry about the money. I just want my baby to have pretty things." Try as he might to be the secure, supportive fiancé, this proved to be too much for Howard, and he eventually ended up at Sheldon's to lick his wounded pride.
This rift between Howard and Bernadette was a mere scratch, though, in comparison to the seemingly irreparable fissure growing between Leonard and Priya. Once again shooed away from the prospect of meeting Priya's parents via video chat, Leonard nonetheless overheard Mama Koothrappali mention that her daughter was returning to India the following month. This was news to Leonard, so he crashed the web chat, introducing himself as Priya's boyfriend. "What difference does it make?" he protested. "If you're moving back to India, we're obviously breaking up!" Rather than deal, Priya just bailed. The writers left just enough room here for the couple to miraculously patch things up, but I doubt it — and, more to the point, I sincerely hope they don't. Aarti Mann has done a fine job as Priya, but as a character she's simply too normal (read: boring) for Big Bang's kooky universe, and I have zero investment in her and Leonard as a couple. These two kids should just move on.
NEXT: Raj moves in with Sheldon, and in on Penny