[SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains details about the Season 5 finale of The Big Bang Theory. Read at your own risk.]
They do! And he left!
On The Big Bang Theory season finale, Howard (Simon Helberg) solved his scheduling predicament by marrying Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) in a last-minute rooftop wedding officiated by their pals hours before blasting off into space for his NASA mission. His new bride and his friends then watched wistfully on TV as Howard, who had been expressing his reservations to fellow — and real-life — astronaut Mike Massimino, launched off into the beyond. His take-off words? A curdling scream.
Big Bang's Melissa Rauch: The finale is "super emotional"
Meanwhile, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) were on the outs following her rejection of his impromptu proposal in bed.
So when will Howard come back from space? Can Penny and Leonard recover from yet another bump in their already topsy-turvy relationship? Showrunner Bill Prady, Rauch and Helberg answer our burning questions for Season 6.
When will Howard return?
Prady says the writers have not yet decided when Season 6 will pick up, but they have discussed the possibility of keeping Howard in space for a bit. "One of the things, and this came from our very first conversations with Mike, is the possibility exists that something could interfere with the schedule of his return," he says. "Certainly with the Soyuz program because of the difficulties they've had, that there have been delays on launches and things like that. So, he winds up, up there longer than he's comfortable with. At this point, it's a conversation, and we haven't really gotten to settle into an idea."
Rauch is on board with that possible scenario: "I think especially for The Big Bang Theory, nothing could be more fitting than to have a few episodes in space and I guess, boldly go where Big Bang has not gone before. I think that could be really, really cool."
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What does that mean for Bernadette?
"I don't see her moping around, waiting for Howard," Rauch says, adding that she foresees more girls nights with Penny and Amy (Mayim Bialik). "I think she'll still be hanging out with everyone. The cool thing for me is each week is like a lottery of who you're gonna work with." Some bonding time with Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is definitely not out of the question either. The poor guy remains the only singleton in the group and has now lost his BFF to marriage and space. In the closing minutes, Bernadette took Raj's hand while watching Howard's rocket launch. "I can't imagine that wouldn't be hard for Raj because they're locked in that really tight kind of best friendship that doesn't exist a lot," Prady says.
When Howard does come back, how will marriage affect the couple?
Positively, it looks like! Prady believes Howard will come back a new man. "I think that this is a very fearful person. I think that even living with his mom — that's a fearful person. I think if you went up to space ... there's some emboldening that happens," Prady says. "I think that Howard is going to love marriage. I think he's going to love it in the same way that he loved dating and stuff like that. But I think he's one of those guys who loves getting the word 'wife' into sentences. This is my wife. I think he's going to love that."
But don't get your hopes way high for a full-blown reception upon Howard's return, like Bernadette mentioned in the finale, or even a belated honeymoon. "If there's a good story then it happens," Prady says. "If there's no good story, if it all just simply went well then we'd hear about it. Wasn't that lovely?"
Where will Howard and Bernadette live?
Would Howard dare move out of his overbearing mom's house? "We've had every discussion from they do live at the Wolowitz house, that they live at the Wolowitz house but they take over the master bedroom, that they get their own place, that they get their own place but Mrs. Wolowitz moves there temporarily because the house is being tented, but then it never ends," Prady says.
Adds Rauch: "I can't put words in Bernadette's mouth, but I would not want to get sloppy seconds on Mrs. Wolowitz's bed. Even if they do move out, you could take Howard out of the household, but you can't take the love of Mrs. Wolowitz out of Howard."
Speaking of Mrs. Wolowitz (voiced by Carol Ann Susi), there was a blink-and-you missed it overhead shot of her at the wedding. Will we ever see a full-body shot of her?
Don't count on it. And that split-second shot of Mrs. Wolowitz, it was all special effects. "I think when we talked to the fellow who does our special effects we used the phrase a stout woman in an ugly dress and hat," Prady says. "I think it's kind of fun because it's just for a second." Helberg quips: "I mean, you don't want to see too much."
As for Bernadette's mom, we may finally meet Mrs. Rostenkowski next season. "I think that's next," Rauch says. "Bernadette's stories about her mom are legendary. Her pre-natal cigarettes made Bernadette so short. Something must've gone awry in the pregnancy. ... Casey [Sander, who plays her dad] was everything I imagined Mr. Rostenkowski to be, so I can't even picture who they'd cast to play her mom."
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What about those two other couples?
The more things change, the more they will remain the same for Amy and Sheldon (Jim Parsons). "What amazes me about that relationship is that Sheldon has no interest in the relationship at any point being any different than it currently is," Prady says. "Amy has managed to drag him forward when we get into situations. ... I think that she is a little more savvy about things. So she's managed to exert her will. It's always surprising in the writers' room where we'll figure out a move for Amy to make and Sheldon doesn't ... there's not counter move for that."
That won't be true for Penny and Leonard though, but Prady believes the two can recover from Leonard's awkward proposal if they can get on the same page about what they want.
"I think it's just a messy, rocky relationship," he says. "I think that there's any possibility that they could say this is crazy, let's just stop this. They could say let's push forward. They have very strong feelings for each other. Their issues have to do with what they currently want in their lives right now. I don't think Penny wants to be married. Leonard is five years older than her. If you've ever been in a relationship where the issue of whether or not you love each other isn't the question. It's what do you want your lives to be and what do you want to be doing with your life right now? I think that winds up being the downfall of a lot of relationships. You know, as an adult, love is not sufficient."
Additional reporting by Natalie Abrams