The Big Bang Theory

The Communication Deterioration

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"The Communication Deterioration" is the twenty-first episode of the eighth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The episode aired on Thursday, April 16, 2015.


The guys split up into teams to work on a NASA proposal to communicate with aliens, while Penny considers auditioning for the movie "Clerks 3".

Extended Plot

In the Caltech cafeteriaSheldon tells Leonard and Howard that he has been working on songs and changing the lyrics to get kids interested in the hard sciences. To the the tune of "B-I-N-G-O" he substitutes the name of physicist James Clark Maxwell. Leonard stops him when he removes the first letter of his name by clapping thus start the final seventeen verses. The second song was to "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" explaining in the song that it is not an insect since it has eight legs and a body with two parts. Leonard thinks that that one was cool. Raj joins them and starts talking about a NASA project to try to contact alien lifeforms. When Leonard contacted alien life he found the best things was not to sit in his spot. Sheldon looked annoyed. Raj had been asked to put in a proposal for a message and a delivery system and asked the guys if they wanted to help. Sheldon and Howard start spouting out ideas until Raj gets mad that they aren't asking him for ideas. He just wants to work with Leonard whom he considers a gentleman

Sheldon demonstrating his Itsy Bitsy Spider song variation.

Leonard shows up at Raj's apartment excited to work on Raj's project. Raj is glad to have him since they others would have taken over the project and bossed them around. Just that morning, Sheldon wouldn't let Leonard put almond flavored soy milk on his Grape Nuts because the tastes conflicted. He used club soda. Sheldon and Howard are considered alpha males, making Leonard and Raj the second in charge or beta males. But then they could be omega males who are bossed around by the alphas and betas. Leonard is already to begin though Raj who is in charge doesn't know how to start his project.


Penny doing Sheldon's knock and enjoying it.

Penny approached the door of Apartment 4A, does a triple knock and smiles at her little joke. Sheldon answers the door telling her that he knew it started out as a joke, but by the third knock she probably found it enjoyable. Penny agrees that she wants to do it again. Sheldon tells her that she better not or she'll never stop doing it. Leonard was not there, though Penny came to talk to Sheldon. He thought that that was nice and his favorite topics are quantum mechanics, trains, flags... Penny seeks advice on whether she should try out for the movie. That's not on Sheldon's list. Penny explains that she has to decide whether to take the audition and risk the job she likes if she should happen to get the movie. Sheldon knows what she should do, but can't tell her since earlier the guys told him that he tends to force his ideas on people and he is trying to turn over a new leaf. Instead Sheldon decides to change the topic to trains.

Howard is in his late mother's kitchen making molecule-size cocktails contained in a pill size sphere. He offers on to Bernadette who has to put it in her mouth and pop it like a zit. She decides to have a beer instead. First Howard takes a picture of them and his mini-cocktail to send to Raj whom he had planned to do it with. He just wanted him to feel bad since he wasn't working on the space project with him. Bernadette tells him that he doesn't have to do everything with Raj and that his revenge was childish. Howard explains that he is just a natural born leader which Bernadette questions. She then tells him that he is a leader and then tricks him into cleaning up the kitchen by himself. "That's my big boss man."

Raj explaining how they are going to conduct their team.

Back in apartment 4A, the topic is still trains and Sheldon is explaining about the cow catcher on antique locomotives. He prefers to call it a cow exploder. Penny then asks Sheldon that if she were in a train station and one train took her to her current job and the other one to an acting job, which train should she get on? Sheldon suggest a third train that goes to the audition and then she puts off a career decision until after she gets the part. Penny agrees with him and calls him a wise man. Then Sheldon throws out the statement that who is wiser, the wise man or then one who seeks his wisdom. Penny appreciates the compliment, but Sheldon won't let go that he he is the wise man. Also she didn't ask Leonard because he would jump on it and tell her not to do it.

Discussing their project, they mention the Voyager gold record that was sent for aliens, but they needed to build a record player to listen to it. E.T. built a phone out of an umbrella and a Speak-and-Spell. Then they get all emotional over the pain that E.T. suffered in the movie. Changing the subject, they want something simple that doesn't require outside machinery. Do the aliens even have eyes? Animals use their other senses to deliver messages like scent and touch. They could send out a system that has a video message and also delivers it in a matter that uses the sense of touch. This idea was also the one that Howard and Sheldon had.

Back at the Caltech cafeteria, Sheldon is demonstrating a song to Howard about animal senses to the tune of "The Eye of the Tiger" from "Rocky 3". Leonard and Raj join them and ask Sheldon and Howard to join the project. Both of them get sarcastic. Leonard and Raj want them back because their idea sounded great. After Sheldon and Howard are back on the team, Leonard says that they should all get together tonight. Sheldon insists that it should be Raj's decision since it's his project. Raj wants to start immediately; however, Sheldon isn't available until tonight.

Penny shows up at the audition talking to herself that she can do this. She wonders why she ever gave it up, enters the casting room and finds twenty other blonde actresses also applying for the part. Now she remembers why she gave it up.

Raj is explaining how they are going to work. The next speaker must respect what the last one had just said and build on it. Sheldon says he is going to build on it and now wants to order dinner. Raj and Leonard want them to get back on topic, but all they talk about is dinner. Sheldon turns it into a game where everybody else loses and he goes off to order pizza.

Another actress recognizes Penny and asks where she has been. She tells her about her new job. Now she can act that inflamed heart is only a mild side effect. She does miss acting sometimes, while the other woman is sick of the humiliation and being treated like a piece of meat. She gets called and immediately perks up. "Wish me luck." The actress next to Penny says that she is sure she is pushing forty and everything is fake. Penny admits to starting that rumor


Penny back auditioning.

After having decided on the delivery system they start to discuss the message. The Pioneer probe showed a naked man and woman though Sheldon thought that that showed to predator races how soft and squishy we are. Raj prefers a person waving and holding the severed head of a tiger. Howard thinks thinks that a passive-aggressive message is ridiculous. What about his molecule-size cocktail picture? Or when he asks everybody to help and only chooses Leonard. Their squabble includes going to Comic-Con as Jabba the Hutt and Leonard was the tail, Howard took Sheldon to NASA in Texas, Leonard and Sheldon went to Skywalker Ranch and Sheldon spent the night with James Earl Jones. In each example, Sheldon came out on top and loved it, therefore when he is in charge, good things happen. Leonard insists that Raj is in charge. Sheldon then adds that who is in charge, the guy in charge or the people who put him there? Raj agrees that they are all in charge, but Sheldon tells them that they got that wrong too.

At Penny's place, she explains to the girls how much she had forgotten how much she hated that world. The anxiety, the depression, the negativity. She doesn't want to feel those things. She wants to sell drugs to those who feel those things. She felt she did a lousy reading for the part and then walked out. She thought that she never properly thanked Bernie for getting her her job. Bernadette suggests that Penny take her out to dinner as a more proper thank-you. Amy adds she should be invited too since they were discussing it in front of her. Penny cheerfully agrees. Bernadette asks how about now? Penny reluctantly agrees and has to be reminded to bring her wallet.

Finally, a fleet of alien spaceships cruise by. A couple of extra-terrestrials with tentacles are watching Sheldon in his video. As the image changes, a 3D simulator full of pins also shows the image. Sheldon tells the universe where to find our planet. They think that the soft pink creature looks quite delicious and they want to feast upon him just like Sheldon thought they would.

Sheldon's message to the universe.



  • Title Reference: The title concerns the communication system that Leonard and Raj are developing for NASA to contact aliens and the breakdown of communication between them and the other guys. 
  • Taping date: March 24, 2015
  • This episode was watched by 14.82 million people with a rating of 3.9 (adults 18-49).
  • Total viewers including DVR users 19.59 million.
  • The Big Bang Theory was ranked #1 for the week ending 19 April 2015.
  • This episode aired in Canada on April 16, 2015 with 3.52 million viewers with a weekly ranking of #1.
  • In Australia, it aired on May 4, 2015 with 0.84 million viewers.
  • Episode transcript [1]


  • Jesse Schedeen for IGN - There wasn't much about this week's episode that stood out. The humor was generally lacking. The new found tension among Sheldon and his friends came across as forced and a poor use a potentially intriguing story line. And while Penny's brief return to acting held potential, her story ended with a dull thud. Only the interaction between Penny and Sheldon did anything to spice up an otherwise forgettable installment.
  • IMDb user reviews [2]


  • Penny has a chance to restart her acting career with an offer to be in the movie "Clerks 3".
  • Penny uses Sheldon's knock like she did when she was furious at him for taking her clothes in "The Panty Piñata Polarization" (S2E7).
  • Extraterrestial alien life does exist in The Big Bang Theory universe -- at least if the final scene of this episode can be considered canon. 
  • The alien spaceship in the final scene somewhat resembles the human-built BC-304 class battlecruisers from the science fiction franchise Stargate. Both ships have side hangars opening to the front (assuming the openings are hangars on the alien ship in this episode), the shape of the prow is fairly similar, and both ships make a similar "engine" noise (disregarding the scientific implausibility of sound in a vacuum) -- a deep, pulsing hum. Stargate was previously referenced in "The Cushion Saturation" (S2E16).
    • Raj also makes the first MacGyver reference, both series starred Richard Dean Anderson.
  • Goof: Leonard says that aliens had to figure out how to build a record player to listen the gold record mounted to the Voyager space probe; however, a diagram on how to build one was included on the spacecraft.
  • Second episode where the softness of Leonard's skin was compared to veal. 
  • Amy showed up in one scene. Mayim was probably spending more time with her family over Passover.
  • When the guys are arguing about being left out of things, Leonard mentioned that Sheldon spent a day with James Earl Jones and hadn't told any of them. However, Sheldon had told them that he was going to meet him, but the guys thought that it would end badly, like other celebs that Sheldon had met. Leonard even said "Darth Vader is going to pour soy sauce on your head."
  • Second episode where Penny does an exaggerated impression of Leonard simply based on one characteristic, which Sheldon sees as spot-on. First was "The Extract Obliteration" (S6E6).

    Amy did show up AND got treated to dinner!


Sheldon: The itsy-bitsy spider is not an insect at all. Because it has eight legs and two body parts.
Leonard: That's pretty cool, Sheldon.
Sheldon: Thank you. Do either of you know Beyonce? I’d love her to get behind this.

Bernadette: What’s going on in here?
Howard: I am making molecular cocktails. This sphere is actually a cosmopolitan.
Bernadette: Oh. How do you drink it?
Howard: Oh, just put it in your mouth and pop it like a zit.
Bernadette: I think I’ll have a beer.
Howard: First take a picture with me.
Bernadette: Why?
Howard: Well, Raj and I always talked about learning how to make cocktails like this together, so I taught myself and I’m putting this on Instagram so he can see it and feel like a turd. Say cheese.
Bernadette: Is this about the space probe he’s working on without you?
Howard: You betcha. The very one.
Bernadette: Howard, you’re grown men. You guys don’t have to do everything together.
Howard: I know. That’s why I’m spending tonight with you.
Bernadette: Trying to hurt Raj’s feelings.
Howard: With my honeybunch.
Bernadette: You’re being childish.
Howard: No, he is. So I have a dominant personality. We all know that.
Bernadette: I’m sorry. What do we know?
Howard: In social groupings, I just naturally wind up in charge.
Bernadette: (she is now very cross) Don’t take this the wrong way, but how many of these little booze balls have you had?
Howard: You don’t think I’m a leader?
Bernadette: (smiling crossly) I was kidding. Of course you are.
Howard: Right. I couldn’t change if I wanted to.
Bernadette: (she is still very cross) You better not change, because I love who you are. Now, will you need help cleaning all this up when you’re done or can you do it all by yourself?
Howard: All by myself.
Bernadette: (completely proud) There’s my big boss man.
(walks away happily whilst Howard sips his cocktail and listens to a quick sound of the kitchen door)

Raj: What makes them think their always in charge of everything?
Leonard: Mmm, They’re alpha males.
Raj: What does that make us?
Leonard: We could be betas. They’re second in charge.
Raj: Okay, that sounds good.
Leonard: Or we could be omegas. They get pushed around by the alphas and betas.
Raj: Okay, that sounds like us.

Penny: {At Sheldon’s door} {Knock-knock-knock} Sheldon. {Knock-knock-knock} Sheldon. {Knock-knock-knock} Sheldon.
Sheldon: I bet that started off as a joke, but by the third one you realized there was something strangely enjoyable about it.
Penny: Yeah, I kind of want to do it again.
Sheldon: I don’t recommend it. You’ll be doing it the rest of your life.

Sheldon: So on the front of the locomotive I a large iron wedge for clearing objects off the tracks. Now commonly known as a cow catcher I prefer the more accurate cow “exploder”.
Penny: Okay. Sheldon, let me ask you a question.
Sheldon: Mmm.
Penny: If I was at a train station and one train could take me to my current job and the other train could take me to an audition for a movie, which train should I get on?
Sheldon: Are you using trains to trick me into giving you advice?
Penny: No.
Sheldon: All right, then. You should take a third train where you audition for the movie but hold off on making a career decision until you have more information.
Penny: Oh. You’re right. I’m worried about something that hasn’t even happened yet. You are a wise man.
Sheldon: Well, Penny, who’s smarter, the wise man or the person who comes to him for advice?
Penny: Oh, I guess you’re right. Maybe it’s the person who asks.
Sheldon: No, it’s the wise man. That’s why he’s called the wise man. You know how I know that? I’m the wise man.
Penny: I’m sorry. What was I thinking?
Sheldon: Uh, just out of curiosity, why didn’t you ask Leonard for advice about this?
Penny: ‘Cause I already know what he’ll say. Wah, wah, wah, you shouldn’t do it.
Sheldon: Ah, it’s just like he’s here

(Scene of Penny in a hallway)
Penny: (voice in her head) Okay, it’s just an audition. Why am I nervous? Maybe that’s a good thing. Just means I want it. And I can have it. This feels right. Why did I ever give this up?
(She enters the casting room to see a lot of blonde actresses reading scripts and turning very surprised to see her).
Penny: (speaks loudly) I’m starting to remember.

Chelsea: Penny?
Penny: Oh hey. Hey.
Chelsea: I haven’t seen you auditioning for a while.
Penny: Yeah, I got a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep.
Chelsea: You quit acting?
Penny: Well, kind of. But now I get to act like inflamed heart is a “mild side effect”. {Laughs}
Gwen: I heard you can make good money doing that.
Penny: Yeah, it’s going okay, but I do miss this sometimes.
Chelsea: Really?
Penny: Mmm.
Chelsea: ‘Cause I got to tell you, I am so sick of the humiliation and being treated like a piece of meat.
Casting assistant: Chelsea?
Chelsea: {Perks up.} Wish me luck. {laughs}
Gwen: They’re gonna love you. I heard she’s pushing forty and everything’s fake.
Penny: Yeah. I started that rumor.

Raj: Well, maybe there’s a way to appear non-aggressive, but also be able to protect ourselves if necessary. Like smiling and waving with one hand, but the other hand holding the severed head of a tiger.
Howard: You want to send a passive-aggressive message out into the universe? That’s ridiculous.
Raj: Oh, you mean passive-aggressive like posting pictures of you and your wife eating cosmopolitan balls that you know belong in my mouth?
Sheldon: Perhaps Howard meant passive-aggressive like asking our group to help on your project, and then only choosing Leonard.
Raj: Look, I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but you do have strong personalities and always end up taking over.
Howard: It’s not always.
Leonard: What about when we went to Comic-Con and dressed like Jabba the Hutt? (to Sheldon) You got to be Jabba’s head, and I got to be his fat slug butt.
Sheldon: We looked great.
Leonard: You let a guy sit on me.
Howard: He was dressed as Princess Leia. It made a nice picture.
Leonard: I’m just saying, sometimes Raj and I feel pushed aside.
Raj: Yeah. Like when you took Sheldon to Texas and showed him all around NASA, you didn’t even think to ask me or Leonard.
Howard: You know what? You’re right. I should have asked you.
Sheldon: Yeah, and if he does ask you, go. It’s amazing.
Howard: Okay, and if we’re talking about being left out of things, you guys went to Skywalker Ranch without us.
Sheldon: Oh, I recommend that, too. That was a magical experience.
Leonard: Wait a minute. Sheldon spent a whole day with James Earl Jones and never told any of us.
Sheldon: I sure did. Oh, my goodness. Well, from Jabba’s head to ice cream with Darth Vader, I’m having a heck of a ride. Yeah, look, clearly, good things happen when I’m in charge. Now, why don’t you boys step aside, let me knock this project out?
Leonard: Sheldon, you’re not in charge. Raj is in charge.
Sheldon: Leonard, who’s really in charge? The person in charge, or those who put him in charge?
Raj: He’s right. If you think about it, we’re all in charge.
Sheldon: No, the guy in charge is in ch… why is everyone so bad at these?

(The scene of Penny chatting to Bernadette and Amy in her apartment)
Penny: I mean, the whole experience reminded me about how much I hated about that world. know the anxiety, the depression, the negativity. I don’t want to feel those things. I want to sell drugs to people who feel those things.
Amy: I can’t believe you got up and walked out of an audition for a big movie.
Penny: I did. I..I mean, I walked in, read for the part, and then stunk up the place, but then I walked right out.
Bernadette: I’m glad you have a new appreciation for your job.
Penny: I do, and you know, I don’t think I’ve every thanked you properly for helping me get it.
Bernadette: Properly, et all? It’s just words I’ve never heard.
Penny: Well, thank you. You’re a good friend and you changed my life.
Bernadette: You’re welcome. Hey, now that you’re making some real money, maybe you can take your friend out for a nice thank-you dinner.
Penny: Sure.
Amy: and you probably have to invite your other friend ‘cause she overheard you talking about it and it would be awkward to exclude her.
Penny: Okay.
Bernadette: How about now?
Penny: All right. {Reluctantly}
Bernadette: Don’t forget your wallet.
Penny: I…{Groans.}

Sheldon’s video: {Viewed in an armada of alien spaceships} Greetings from planet Earth. Just turn left at Alpha Centauri. You can’t miss it.
Alien #1: That soft pink alien looks delicious.
Alien #2: I could eat.

Leonard: When I encountered alien life, I discovered that the key thing was not to sit in its spot.



[3] Taping Report by Phantagrae

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