The Big Bang Theory

The Tangerine Factor

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The Tangerine Factor
The Big Bang Theory episode
Season 1, Episode 17
May 19, 2008
Guest star(s)
James Hong as Chen
William Ngo as Chinese Grad Student
Episode guide

"The Peanut Reaction"

"The Bad Fish Paradigm"
Season guide


Season 2

"The Tangerine Factor" is the seventeenth and final episode of the first season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Monday, May 19, 2008.


After a bad breakup, Penny finally agrees to go out on a date with Leonard, but the two of them both develop doubts and turn to Sheldon, of all people, for advice.

Extended PlotEdit

We open to Howard helping Sheldon to learn Mandarin Chinese. Sheldon wants to confront Schezwan Palace about using oranges instead of tangerines in their tangerine chicken (oranges being much cheaper than tangarines). Leonard comments that he'd be more concerned about what they're using as chicken. Penny storms in; she needs to use their window - she opens it and throws his 80GB white iPod out, yelling "drop dead you self-centered bastard", subsequently explaining that Mike had written about their sex life on his blog. She storms out as Howard drops Sheldon's Chineese lesson because he has "a blog to find".

Leonard tries to talk to Penny who yells at him through the closed door; "go away". Sheldon notes that her ire is understandible because emotional responses such as Penny is experiencing initiate in the older amygdala portion of the brain, while speech is centered in the much more recently developed neocortex. The former can easily overpower the latter, giving creedence to the concept of being rendered speechless. Sheldon may be familiar with Brain: The Complete Mind: How It Developes, How It Works, and How to Keep It Sharp by Michael Sweeney. After a glare from Leonard, Sheldon offers that "maybe she just doesn't wanna talk."

Raj comes in, happy that he found an iPod. Howard notes that it's smashed beyond repair, and Raj notes that he can still sell it on eBay as "slightly used". Howard is frustrated that he can't find the blog about Penny's sex life. Leonard wants to help Penny. Howard suggests that he hold her, comfort her, and if he thinks it's a good time, to try to cop a feel, noting "be sure to sit on your hands a bit so they're warm". Sheldon doesn't believe that there is any social convention that requires Leonard to be involved in the matter at all. Leonard points to chivalry. Sheldon doesn't think that the 12th century Code of Chivalry applies in these circumstances (and Leonard would have to be knighted for it to apply). The complete code can be found within Maxims of Christian Chivalry by Kenelm Digby.

Leonard tries again with Penny. She is porking out on ice cream and chocolate sauce and wondering if she either picks giant loosers, or, picks great guys and turns them into giant loosers. She names a long list of people who have already read the blog, from friends to family to prisoners at the local penetentary. She tells Leonard that he might as well read it too. He scans the blog and tells Penny that she doesn't need to be embarassed; it just paints a picture of Penny as an affectionate woman who prefers non-traditional locations. Penny thinks that she may be over-reacting, while Leonard thinks she should be done with Mike due to his betrayal. Penny wants to give him a chance to exlain, wondering if this is just Mike's poorly chosen way to express how he feels about her. She thanks Leonard for helping her to see it, and heads over to see Mike.


Game night and dinner.

Back at the apartment, the boys are eating Chinese food and playing Talisman, 4th edition; and Sheldon notes that he must need more Mandarin lessons, as he's still not getting tangerine chicken. Leonard is lamenting that his intervention made things worse for himself by fixing Penny's issue over Mike. Howard remarks that the story gets better every time Leonard tells it. Sheldon disagrees, because while the first tellings were compelling, causing him to feel sympathy, but he now finds the "Leonard character" to be whiney and annoying.

Penny sticks her head in to yell at Leonard "thanks for your stupid advice". Leonard goes to her apartment and Penny tells Leonard that Mike had already moved on - he had some other woman there with her legs wrapped around his neck. She cries that she wants to go out with someone nice and honest and who cares about her. Leonard asks "what about me"? And Penny says "yes", noting "what do I have to loose?". Leonard attempts not to be insulted, groaning "that's the spriit".


Why don't you go out with me?

The next day, Sheldon is still trying to learn key Chineese phrases with which to interrogate the local restaurant. Penny tries to talk to Sheldon about going out with Leonard. Sheldon tries to convince Penny that he really isn't an expert on Leonard, being frequently surprised by Leonard's actions and behaviors; from Leonard hiding his loofa, to Leonard being able to tolerate small amounts of non-fat ice cream without emitting noxious gas that could be weaponized. Nonetheless, Penny invites Sheldon into her apartment to continue the conversation. Sheldon accepts, noting that "we're already through the looking glass."

Penny assumes that Sheldon is aware that Leonard asked her out. Sheldon was wise to this when Leonard returned to the apartment behaving in a way that reminded Sheldon of the dancing hippos from Fantasia. She invites Sheldon to sit down, but he hasn't been in Penny's apartment often enough to evaluate cushion density, airflow patterns, and dispersion of sunlight to make an informed choice about WHERE to sit. He tells Penny to go ahead and talk while he makes these evaluations. Penny notes that she's aware that Leonard has a "little crush" on her. Sheldon finds that amusing..."in the same way that Menelaus had a crush on Helen of Troy" (sparking the Trojan war).


You look nice.

Leonard isn't the kind of guy Penny usually goes out with, and she's concerned that if things don't go well, she's risking their friendship. Sheldon points out that Leonard isn't the type of guy that anyone usually goes out with. Penny notes that her choices haven't been working out, and that maybe Leonard is different in a good way. Sheldon tries to use the conundrum of Schrodinger's Cat (used to illustrate the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics) to reflect the state of the relationship between Penny and Leonard. The cat was placed in a box with a vial of poison that would open at a random time. From the outside, no one could know whether the cat was dead or alive until they actually opened the box, and until that happened, the cat could be thought of as BOTH dead AND alive. Sheldon points that to Penny that until she and Leonard actually DO date, their relationship and the outcome of dating can be interpreted as both good and bad.

Back at the university cafeteria, Leonard and Sheldon discuss the upcoming date. What if he blows his one chance to date her? Sheldon notes that it would likely result in Leonard becoming a lonely, bitter, old man with no progeny; "a number of evil lighthouse keepers from Scooby Doo cartoons comes to mind".

Later at the cafeteria, Leonard also seeks Sheldon's advice on dating Penny. He merely says "Schrödinger's Cat" and Leonard understands. Penny and Leonard meet the next night for their date, but Penny wants to talk first. Leonard then asks her if she ever heard of Schrödinger's Cat, to which she says that she's heard far too much about it. Satisfied, he kisses her. Finally understanding what Sheldon tried to tell her, Penny proclaims that "the cat's alive" (she feels a connection with Leonard) and they rush off to dinner.

Sheldon is at Szechuan Palace, arguing with the manager about the Tangerine Chicken, however his incredibly flawed Mandarin leads the manager to think Sheldon is crazy, and he threatens to call the police. Sheldon doesn't realize that he's speaking the language incorrectly and thinks that their annoyed behavior and their refusal to answer his questions prove that he's right about the Tangerine Chicken. Leonard and Penny avoid entering the place and running into Sheldon in the last moment.



  • Title Reference: Sheldon is afraid that the Szechuan Palace's Tangerine Chicken is using another fruit besides tangerine.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card [1]
  • This episode was watched by 7.34 million people with a rating of 3.2 (adults 18-49).
  • Episode transcript [2].

Costume NotesEdit


Bat Question


Triple Threat

S01e17 recordplayer

Record Player


Red Shards


Superman belt buckle

Sheldon wears his Riddler: Bat Question shirt, as well as "Triple Threat", a blue large plaid patterned t-shirt by Kirra (discontinued). Leonard wears his light blue shirt featuring a record player, and his red "shards" t-shirt. Howard wears his Superman logo belt buckle.

Set NotesEdit


New on the set: 20x20 Ikea throw pillow, Gurli Solid Orange.


  • Penny dumps Mike, who was previously shown in "The Nerdvana Annihilation" (S1E14).
  • "Through the Looking Glass" was Lewis Carroll's sequel to "Alice in Wonderland". Like Alice, it too has a strong chess-centered theme. Alice goes through the looking glass, ie mirror, to another world where things are recognizeable, yet turned sideways. The phrase "through the looking glass" is a metaphor for any time the world turns strange, insane, or otherwise abnormal, as if one were on the other side of the mirror. A free e-book (including Kindle) version of Through the Looking Glass is available as a free download at Through the Looking Glass is also a national research and support organization for families of children with disabilities, and the title of an album by British punk band, Siouxsie and the Banshees.
  • The 'little crush' that Menelaus had on Helen of Troy was enough to launch the Trojan War when Paris stole her away.
  • The Schrödinger's cat analogy recurrent through the episode is mentioned again in "The Codpiece Topology", wherein Penny mentions it to a guy she goes out with, as well as in "The Russian Rocket Reaction", wherein Sheldon refers to "Schrödinger's Friendship". Learn more with In Search of Scheodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality
  • Sheldon is correct in stating that light years are a measure of distance, not time.
  • The Chinese food restaurant is not seen again until the third season's episode "The Bozeman Reaction".
  • The board game that Howard, Sheldon, Leonard and Rajesh are playing in the scene where they are eating Chinese food is: Talisman: The Magical Quest Game, 4th Edition. It also appears in the previous episode, "The Peanut Reaction". They make numerous mistakes while playing: having too many pieces, using the wrong counters, having face down cards strewn about the board and rolling two dice to move their piece.
  • Sheldon says, "You also made a common grammatical mistake, you said nauseous when you meant nauseated". According to Merriam Webster Usage Discussion of NAUSEOUS, such an insistence is a mistake.
  • First episode where Leonard and Penny were shown to be in an relationship.
  • In the cafeteria scene with Leonard and Sheldon, Sheldon picks up a salt grinder and "shakes" salt onto his food then does the same with a pepper grinder.
  • Penny agrees to the date Leonard partly because she has nothing else to lose.


Sheldon: (Quoting incorrect Mandarin) "Show me your mucus, your mucus."

Chen: (In Mandarin) "Blow your own nose and go away."

Sheldon: "This is not tangerine bicycle."

Chen: (In English) "Crazy man. Call the police!"

Sheldon: "No, don't call the library, show me your mucus. Oxen are in my bed. Many, many, oxen."

Chen: (Shoos him away) Ha!

Sheldon: "Oy vey!"

Howard: You know, I’m really glad you decided to learn Mandarin.

Sheldon: Why?

Howard: Once you’re fluent, you’ll have a billion more people to annoy instead of me.

Leonard: Okay, well, you know, this isn't that bad. It just paints the picture of a very affectionate woman who’s open to expressing her affection in nontraditional locales.

Penny: Oh, God!

Leonard: Elevators, parks, movie theaters, out of curiosity, is this subway the transportation system or Subway the sandwich shop?

Penny: Sandwich shop.


  • Why don't you go out with me?
  • Penny upset over her boyfriend.
  • Penny talking to Sheldon about Leonard.
  • Should I go out with him?
  • Finding his spot at Penny's.
  • A meaningful kiss. The cat's alive.
  • Penny and Leonard's first date.
  • Leonard kisses Penny.
  • I heard far too much about Schrodinger's Cat.
  • At the Caltech cafeteria.
  • Talking before their date.
  • Challenging the quality of their Tangerine Chicken.
  • Sheldon talking in Mandarin.
  • Leonard about to start his first date with Penny.
  • First kiss of their date.
  • Penny discussing her fears about dating Leonard.
  • Leonard shows up for his date.
  • Talking about Schrodinger's Cat.
  • Sheldon finding his seat.
  • Chuck Lorre Productions, #212.
  • Penny.
  • Penny discussing her fear with Sheldon.
  • Sheldon learning Mandarin from Howard.
  • Leonard looking over Penny's love life.
  • Sheldon giving Leonard dating advice?
  • Talking about dating Leonard.
  • Talking about dating Leonard.
  • Penny happy that her date is here.
  • First date kiss.
  • Sheldon doesn't speak good Mandarin.
  • Sheldon doesn't speak good Mandarin.
  • I've heard far too much about Schrodinger's Cat.
  • Sheldon trying to find a spot in Penny's apartment.
  • Sheldon trying to speak Mandarin.
  • After Leonard kisses her.
  • Talking about dating Leonard.
  • Sheldon trying Penny's patience.
  • Penny and Sheldon in the hallway.
  • Sheldon learning Mandarin from Howard.
  • Sheldon giving Leonard dating advice?
  • Sheldon and Penny.
  • At the Caltech cafeteria.
  • Sheldon giving Penny dating advice.
  • Leonard asking Sheldon whether he should go on his date with Penny.
  • Sheldon giving Leonard dating advice?
  • Leonard asking Sheldon whether he should go on his date with Penny.
  • Sheldon doesn't speak good Mandarin.
  • Penny and Leonard on their date.

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