[Warning: This story contains spoilers from "The Valentino Submergence" episode of The Big Bang Theory.]
CBS' The Big Bang Theory had one epic special delivery for fans during Thursday's Valentine's Day-themed episode: Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) is pregnant.
The news, revealed in her final scene of the episode, comes as quite a bombshell to diehard viewers of the geek-tastic comedy series from Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady and Steve Molaro as Bernadette, initially, never wanted children.
During the episode, Howard and Bernadette opt to spend Valentine's Day together at home in their new hot tub — but find a rabbit fighting for its life in the water. The couple works together to revive the bunny — which they fittingly name Valentino. For now, Bernadette has yet to tell Howard as only Valentino is aware of her big baby news.
Elsewhere, Raj breaks up with Emily and shifts his affection to Claire — who, as luck would have it, recently got back together with her boyfriend. It sends Raj into a spiral and prompts a live online discussion about his (and Barry's) love life during Sheldon and Amy's broadcast of Fun With Flags.
As for Penny and Leonard, they realize they're getting older and try to bring some spontaneity back to their marriage by surprising Sheldon and Amy with a costumed confetti parade.
To get the scoop on Bernadette's pregnancy and what to expect from the remainder of season nine, The Hollywood Reporter turned to showrunner Molaro.
When did you come up with Bernadette's pregnancy?
We've touched on the idea of Bernadette and Howard and children here and there but we didn't really have plans to pull the trigger at any point. It wasn't even part of the outline for the episode. We were writing it and getting toward the end of the story and I guess maternity was in the air because Bernadette was holding this wrapped-up bunny and they named it, and we were writing the final page of that storyline. Half-kidding, I said, "What if Bernadette tells the rabbit, 'We'll find another time to tell him I'm pregnant.' " The room had such a strong, positive reaction to it. We thought it seemed like an organic moment and we decided to put it in. Because there was no plan for it, it felt very exciting to us when we did it; like it was a thing that should happen and maybe this was the time to do it. I handed [co-creator] Chuck Lorre the draft of the script and didn't tell him it was in there. He got to the end and thought, "Wow, OK sure, that totally makes sense. Let's do it."
Why is now the right time for it?
Part of what makes the time right is that it maybe doesn't feel completely right — and that's what we 're attracted to. There were a lot of questions not that long ago when Sheldon and Amy were consummating their relationship and we'd get asked, "Why now?" Part of me feels that the fact that you're surprised enough to ask me, "Why now," is a good reason that now is a good time. Having a baby in real life and on a show, it seems like there's never going to be a really clear and appropriate time. If it seemed like the obvious time, it wouldn't be exciting for us to do it. Babies take a long time to come. This baby wouldn't be due until halfway through season 10 of the show. We're in the middle of our ninth year, why not now?!
How did Melissa and Simon respond to the reveal?
Fair levels of excitement and some concern — like what does this mean, how does this affect the show — and understandably knowing it would lead to really cool storylines for them. Like Howard and Bernadette in the show, they felt a lot of emotions. But I know they're nothing but excited about it.
Bernadette initially didn't want children and that was explored in previous seasons. What changed for her?
In the episode, they weren't really working hard at having a baby. I don't think either Bernadette or Howard has wrapped their heads around the idea of it. They're nervous, they're excited and they're not 100 percent ready to go with confidence. So it's fun to see two people who just got on a rollercoaster that they weren't entirely sure they wanted to get on but they're ready to make the best of it.
Will Bernadette come up with a fun and creative way to tell Howard? How might he respond? (Check out an exclusive look at next week's episode, below.)
I hesitate to get into the details of that but in the following week's episode, you get to see her tell him right at the beginning of the episode and it turned out beautifully. He'll experience many emotions! We really dig into the entire group and everybody's reactions to it. They're mostly positive but obviously with some surprise and concern about what this means for the future.
Whose reaction might surprise us the most?
It's safe to say Sheldon's response isn't typical.
How might the rest of the gang respond to Bernadette's news? How will the group dynamic change?
Other than her not being able to drink when she's hanging with the girls, I don't think it will change that much. The guys still work together; babies come and don't move a whole lot that first year. I don't think it's going to be a huge upheaval.
Howard doesn't have much of a relationship with his father. Will his own impending fatherhood propel him to explore that relationship?
We haven't been talking about it in the immediate future. Obviously it's been floating around for years. Howard and Bernadette being pregnant is certainly a valid reason why his dad could float back in at any given point. It's not something we're talking about right now. But you never know, given how even having her be pregnant was a surprise.
Allow us to suggest Rick Moranis for the role of Howard's dad.
That name has come up. Everybody loves him and thinks he's great. We haven't talked about anything. When the time comes, it'll be interesting to think about who could play him.
How will Bernadette's pregnancy change Howard? Will it mature him a bit faster? One of his great attributes is that he's eternally a kid at heart.
I don't think he's going to mature overnight but he'll be feeling some extra pressure to step up and be the dad that his own father wasn't able to be. It's a nice conflict between someone with a strong inner child being faced with a situation that very soon is going to require some extra maturity.
You've got four months of the season left, is this a pregnancy that will last the rest of the season or could it dip into season 10?
I think it will last well into season 10.
Have the writers already started talking about names? If it's a girl, has to be named after Carol Ann Susi or Howard's mom, right?
We've talked about it a little but it's so off in the distance that we haven't dug in too deep.
Is it fair to expect a certain number of baby-themed stories: baby showers, godparents debate, etc.?
We haven’t really figured out how much we want to let the pregnancy bubble into the ongoing stories. The show is still full of the current relationships, science and nerdery and now there's this extra wrinkle going on. It will bubble up here and there but I don't see it taking over the bulk of the storylines as we keep moving forward.
Raj finally broke up with Emily — though he regretted it immediately when Claire was unavailable. Have we seen the last of Claire? They had real chemistry.
I don't think we've seen the last of Claire or Emily. Raj has never broken up with anybody or been single before — or dealt with an ex-girlfriend that he's broken up with before. It's all new territory for him and he's got a group of savvy ladies and friends to try and help guide him through it.
Where does Raj go from here? He's seen that you can have chemistry with someone — will he have a newfound confidence or is it more instant regret?
It's going to be a mix. When you break up with somebody, it's easy to wonder very soon after, "What have I done?" But things settle down and maybe he will get a little confidence. I'd like to see him at some point ... rather than be just a serial monogamist that he's been, it could be fun to see him try and date multiple women at the same time and play the field, which is something I think he'd be interested in and also not well-equipped for.
Leonard and Penny are grappling with getting older. Where do they go after their reality check here? Could they move out on their own and maybe out of the apartment building at some point?
There are no plans for them to leave that apartment anytime soon. That would be the kind of change where it could quickly start to not feel like the show. But Leonard has some exciting things brewing professionally and now that they're married, they both have people who are now their in-laws. We're going to find plenty of new, fun stuff to dig into for the two of them. We haven't gotten a chance to let Penny and her new mother-in-law (played by Christine Baranski) spend a lot of time together yet and that's something we're interested in down the line.
You're checking off major milestones for everyone here. What else is on your Bucket List for season nine?
I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the amount of big swings we've taken this season. I'm ready to let things settle down now and tuck in to some very fun, very Big Bang-y episodes.
What can you say about the 200th episode?
We've found a really fun way — that's very true to the show — to bring together a lot of old friends who have been on it in the past. It feels like a celebration within the episode and of the show itself. We weren't quite sure what we were going to do to make it feel like an event and celebration but we did do a good job of that.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.