Couples Leonard and Penny and Sheldon and Amy both have dates that are interrupted by a lonely Raj. Meanwhile in space, Howard is forced to deal with the conflict of his mom and Bernadette wanting him to live with them once he returns
On comic book night, the gang is talking about Howard on the International Space Station. Howard gets to see the majesty of the universe unfolding before his eyes and Sheldon thinks it's a waste since he probably won't understand it. Penny helps Amy get ready for her second anniversary dinner date with Sheldon that was established in their relationship agreement. Afterward, Amy asks about Penny and Leonard, she tells her that it is still seems weird ever since Leonard proposed to her during sex. Amy replied that if Sheldon did that her ovaries would grab onto him and never let go. At the Caltech cafeteria, Raj complains how lonely he is, so Sheldon invites him out on his date with Amy. Sheldon says that he is responsible for conversation and romantic actions and that the Relationship Agreement says nothing about outsourcing it out to an Indian. Leonard tells him that that is not a good idea. Amy is upset when she sees Raj waiting for them. He tries to get Amy to talk about herself so they can get to know each other better, and she tells him to go away. Raj orders champagne when he finds out that it's their second anniversary. After drinking, Amy mentions that Sheldon looks like a sexy praying mantis because they devour their mates and, after she unbuttons the top of her blouse, she says that dessert is served. After Sheldon says that he has already had cobbler, she says that she is done with him ignoring her and gets up to leave. He replies that she can't leave because he needs her. "You do?" she asks hopefully, but it was only because she was his ride. Amy tells him that if he doesn't say something meaningful and from the heart, that she is leaving him. Then he speaks romantically to her about when he sees her he gets stronger and weaker, excited and terrified, and that he doesn't know how he feels. She is touched until he explains that it came from the first Spider-Man movie. Reluctantly, she says that she'll "take it".
Leonard puts together an evening to hang out with Penny which includes her favorite refreshments and watching her choice of football or baseball on television. She appreciates it because she has had a hard day. Unfortunately, Leonard tries to get her to talk about their relationship, which doesn't please her. Raj shows up having left Amy and Sheldon’s date, though Leonard says that he and Penny have issues to discuss. Raj talks about how great their relationship is and that it has gotten past all their issues, but when he learns that Penny has not told Leonard that she loves him, he pushes her to do it and gets thrown out of the apartment. Raj then wanders over to the comic book store as Stuart is closing up. They start to bond with each other and decide to go see a movie together the next night.
Up in space, Howard talks to an upset Bernadette about his mother since she thinks that he is not moving out of the house. Bernadette needs Howard to talk to her. To appease his mother, Howard ends up telling her that he’ll talk to Bernadette. In the end, he tells both women what they want to hear and is still in the middle of it. When cosmonaut crew mate Dimitri Rezinov, who has overheard everything, asks how he's going to deal with it once he gets home, Howard says that he's not going back.
- Guest starring:
- Teleplay: Steven Molaro, Jim Reynolds & Maria Ferrari
- Story: Chuck Lorre, Eric Kaplan & Steve Holland
- The TV Critic: "Outside of Raj there was little to enjoy here. The show’s dynamics are so well established that it was boring to hear the same old dialogue again. However it’s only the first episode of the season so let’s see if it goes somewhere."
- The A.V. Club gave this episode a B.
- IMDb user reviews
- Title Reference: The title refers to Raj as the variable or odd man that shows up on both dates (Lenny & Shamy).
- Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
- The title sequence was updated with this episode to include Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch in the last image.
- This episode was watched by 15.66 million people with a rating of 5.0 (adults 18-49)
- Total viewers including DVR users 19.57 million.
- This episode aired in Canada on September 27, 2012 with 4.242 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #1.
- In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on with 3.295 million total viewers.
- Episode transcript 
- Sheldon wears his vintage Batman logo t-shirt (at the comic book store), his Kryptonian Translator t-shirt (at the university).
- Leonard wears a white on green "Recycle" t-shirt.
- Penny wears a blue "Cherry Blossom" dress by Free People (no longer available).
- Kevin Sussman is billed among the main cast as Stuart as of this episode.
- Bernadette only features in a flashback of the previous episode (S5E24) at the opening scene of this episode and she is seen in two scenes with chatting to Howard through zero gravity on Skype in this episode. She has no physical appearances in scenes with the other members of the gang (Raj, The 'Shamy' duo, Stuart, Penny and Leonard) in this episode until the next episode (S6E2)
- Fifth episode to have a "Previously on The Big Bang Theory" review of past events. It summarizes "The Countdown Reflection" (S5E24) and is narrated by Simon Helberg. The first four were "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation" (S3E1), "The Cohabitation Formulation" (S4E16), "The Skank Reflex Analysis" (S5E1) and "The Countdown Reflection" (S5E24).
- Behind the scenes, the job of delivering Wolowitz to the orbiting space station didn't fall to a Russian rocket, but rather to The Big Bang Theory's production designer John Shaffner, set decorator Ann Shea and their teams. For the Soyuz, Shaffner and Shea received photos from NASA, turned to a Kansas museum to find dimensions, and scavenged parts from an aerospace junkyard in Los Angeles to piece together a realistic capsule. But in the course of his seeking out the spacecraft, Shaffner found a space station. From the outside, Wonder Works' space station set for rent looks more like an elongated shipping container, but inside are the replica science and equipment racks, panels and hand holds that form the general layout and appearance of the real space station's laboratory module. Shea's challenge was making it look lived in, like the orbiting complex.
- With only 20 feet or so (6 meters) of space station set to work with, Shaffner got together with the directors, visual effects supervisors, and cinematographers to use unique camera angles and creative framing to create more 'space' than there really was. They also added a section to the rented module to allow other actors — the other station crew members — to enter and exit, giving viewers a sense that a sprawling outpost continued beyond the lab. They examined ways they could re-imagine the spaces they added. Part of that was made possible by the way they achieved the appearance of weightlessness. Rather than raise the roof and suspend the actors by wires, the solution came from below. It was done by supporting the people from underneath. There was a very long, somewhat skinny platform that a person could lie on and it would almost look like they were swimming through in weightlessness. The actors mastered the motions of micro-gravity. (See How 'The Big Bang Theory' Sent Howard Wolowitz to Space.)
- Two allusions to Greek mythology are made. Raj states, "Right now, Howard’s staring down at our planet like a tiny Jewish-Greek god. Zeusowitz." Also, Sheldon gets chills when he says, "Release the Kraken!" The latter quote was originally a command by either Calibos or Zeus, depending on which incarnation of The Clash of the Titans one cares to apply.
- Howard has facial hair for the second time in the series; the first was "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation". Interestingly enough, both were season premiere episodes. Both involve a scientific voyage to somewhere remote (the Arctic, then space).
- Sheldon looks at Amy and says, "When I look in your eyes, and you’re looking back in mine, everything feels not quite normal. Because I feel stronger and weaker at the same time, I feel excited and at the same time, terrified. The truth is, I don’t know what I feel, except I know what kind of man I want to be." Amy responds, "Sheldon, that was beautiful," to which Sheldon replies, "I should hope so. That’s from the first Spider-Man movie." Peter Parker's full quote to Mary Jane as what he told Spider-Man about her is, "I said, um, Spider-Man, I said, uh, the great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she’s looking back in yours, everything feels not quite normal, because you feel stronger, and weaker at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time, terrified. The truth is you don’t know what you feel, except you know what kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you've reached the unreachable, and you weren't ready for it."
- Stuart sells Galerie Star Wars Ceramic Goblets of Chewbacca and Yoda at the comic book store.
- Raj mentions that he pours a little Chardonnay into his dog's water bowl, which in turn, makes her "kind of a mean drunk." This comment is a reference to the female Yorkie puppy he received from Bernadette and Howard in "The Transporter Malfunction".
- Amy states Sheldon looks like a praying mantis, as both Penny and Leonard have noted (see "The Stag Convergence" Trivia).
- Leonard sat on Sheldon's spot when Sheldon & Amy are on their Date.
- This season premiere episode takes place fairly shortly after the last episode (S5E24) of the previous season.
- Stuart: So Howard is really in space?
- Leonard: International space station... 250 miles away that way (points up).
- Raj: Right now Howard's staring down on our planet like a tiny Jewish-Greek god... Zeus-o-Witz.
- Sheldon: I must admit, I can't help but feel a twinge of envy... he can look out the window and watch the majesty of the universe unfolding before his eyes... His dim, uncomprehending eyes. It's like a cat in a airport carrying case.
- Bernadette (on webcam): (out of vision) Howie? Howie?
- Howard: Hey, there’s my beautiful bride. Can you see me?
- Bernadette: I can. How are you?
- Howard: I’m amazing. I mean, this is even better than I dreamed. I look out the window, and it’s all so unbelievable.
- Bernadette: (out of vision) Good for you. (Scene of Bernadette on Skype) I just had a seemingly endless dinner with your mom.
- Howard: Oh, yeah? That’s nice.
- Bernadette: It was. Until I found out you never told her we’re not gonna live with her. Let’s talk about that for a minute.
- Howard: Hey, look, this pen is floating. How crazy is that?
- Bernadette: You said you told her, but you never did!
- Howard: Okay, okay, I know you’re upset, but let me share something I’ve learned since I got here. You realize how small your problems are when you’re looking down on them from space. Now, come on, that’s got to make you feel better.
- Bernadette: (asking him crossly) How clear is the image of me on that screen?
- Howard: Pretty clear.
- Bernadette: (very cross) Do I look like I feel better?
- Howard: I mean, it’s not, like, HD quality.
- Bernadette: (smiling crossly) Listen, mister, you’re gonna talk to your mother and you’re gonna fix this, or that thing I said I was gonna do to you the minute you got home, you can do to yourself.
- Dimitri: Like he’s been doing since he got here.
- (Howard looks at Dimitri floating to the walls)
- Amy: Oh yes, according to our Relationship Agreement, on the anniversary of our first date, he must take me to a nice dinner, ask about my day, and engage in casual physical contact that a disinterested onlooker might mistake as intimacy.
- Penny: That's hot. You kids better use protection.
- Raj: You guys are like family to me, you know that, right?
- Leonard: That's great! Get out.
- Amy: You and I are done! (stands up and walk away)
- Sheldon: You can't leave! I need you.
- Amy: You do?
- Sheldon: Yes....you're my ride.
- Amy: Have I ever told you you're like a sexy praying mantis?
- Sheldon: Every time you drink alcohol.
- Mrs. Wolowitz: HOWARD! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!
- Howard: I can hear you WITHOUT THE PHONE!
- Mrs. Wolowitz: Don’t be snippy. I’m just excited to talk to my baby.
- Howard: I’m excited to talk to you, too.
- Mrs. Wolowitz: So, what’s this mishegas about you moving out to go live with the little Polish girl?
- Howard: How about calling her my wife?
- Mrs. Wolowitz: Wives don’t take boys from their mothers.
- Howard: They do. That’s why we marry them.
- Mrs. Wolowitz: I just hope I’m not dead from a broken heart before you get back.
- Howard: Ma, please. Everyone from NASA is listening to this phone call.
- Mrs. Wolowitz: Good. They should know what a horrible son you are.
- Howard: Okay, Ma, great talking to you. Gotta go. (hangs up space phone.) Well, space is ruined.
- Amy: Sheldon, you either say something meaningful and from the heart, or you and I are done.
- Sheldon: All right. Please. Amy, when I look into your eyes and you're looking back in mine, everything feels not quite normal, because I feel stronger and weaker at the same time. I feel excited and, at the same time, terrified. The truth is, I don't know what I feel, except I know what kind of man I want to be.
- Amy: Sheldon, that was beautiful.
- Sheldon: I should hope so. That's from the first Spider-Man movie.
- Amy: I'll take it.
- Bernadette: (out of vision) Aw, that’s such good news, Howie. Thank you for telling her.
- Howard: Hey, I’m a grown man. I’m gonna live with my wife. My mother’s just gonna have to learn to make do on her own.
- Bernadette: Was she upset?
- Howard: Who can tell? She yells everything. She might have been upset. She might have been hungry.
- Bernadette: Thanks for fixing it. I love you.
- Howard: I love you, too. Sweet dreams. I’ll talk to you tomorrow?
- Bernadette: Good night, Rocket Man.
- Howard: To infinity and beyond, baby.
- Dimitri: Loops. You realize you just lied your ass off to your wife and your mother.
- Howard: I know.
- Dimitri: What are you gonna do when you get back to Earth?
- Howard: Oh, I’m never going back.
- Taping report from Fanforum.com
- Picture of program sheet given during taping to audience is courtesy of Moyrani.
- ↑ The Big Bang Theory - The Date Night Variable (TV Episode 2012) - IMDb
- ↑ The TV Critic's Review
- ↑ The Big Bang Theory: “The Date Night Variable” - TV Club - The A.V. Club
- ↑ The Big Bang Theory Season 6, Wikipedia
- ↑ Live+7 DVR Ratings: 'Revolution' Leads Adults 18–49 Ratings and Viewership Gains; 'Grimm' Leads Percentage Gains in Premiere Week (Week 1) - Zap2it
- ↑ Top Programs – Total Canada (English) September 24 – September 30, 2012 - BBM Canada
- ↑ BARB via Wikipedia