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"The Bad Fish Paradigm" is the first episode of the second season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Monday, September 22, 2008.



Leonard returns from his date with Penny. She then asks Leonard to take it slow. She confesses to Sheldon that it is because she thinks she isn't smart enough to keep his interest. The stress of keeping this secret gets to Sheldon, causing him to give in and tell Leonard. Unfortunately, Penny is not happy with Leonard’s suggested resolution.


We open to Leonard and Penny returning from their date (from end of Season One). As they kiss in the hallway, we see that they are being watched on video. Penny tells Leonard that they'll take things slowly, and goes into her apartment. Leonard enters his apartment and glares at Howard and Raj who have been watching his interaction with Penny. When he asks Sheldon why he let them spy on him, Sheldon explains that they exploited his complete lack of interest in what he was doing.

Howard notes for Leonard's benefit that the video will be the equivalent of a black box when their relationship blows up. Leonard feels that Penny's comment about taking things slow is indicative of wanting to savor it, while Howard thinks it's more along the lines of "this fish tastes bad, so spit it out". Howard points to the video as evidence that shows that Penny was not as aroused as they others thought she should be.

Later, Sheldon is in the laundry room folding his clothes with his flip-fold. Penny comes in to do laundry. Sheldon tries to warn her that some of the machines have various problems, which Penny ignores and dumps a full load of unsorted clothes into the first clothes washer and haphazardly pours in laundry detergent. Penny tries to ask Sheldon for evaluation of her relationship with Leonard and if they have a chance together. Sheldon asks if she has a working knowledge of physics, speaks Klingon, or knows any card tricks. Penny has no skills in these areas, and worries that Leonard will look down on her for not even completing a community college program. She asks Sheldon to keep this a secret from Leonard. Sheldon is upset because now he knows the secret, but didn't agree in advance to keep it secret, and secrets can't be imposed on an ex post facto basis. He tries to comfort Penny by educating her that it's physiologically impossible to die of embarrassment.  

Later, as Sheldon and Leonard return home, Sheldon ponders how he couldn't become a Green Lantern on his own (since it requires the Guardians of Oa to confer the status), but that he COULD become Batman with enough start-up capital. They run into Penny and Leonard asks her out again. Penny hems and haws and says she'll have to check her work schedule. After she leaves, Leonard panics that he IS the bad fish. Sheldon begins to behave awkwardly, including a facial tick, trying to feign no knowledge of Penny's feelings towards him, and ultimately storms out of the apartment. Sheldon arrives at The Cheesecake Factory and begs Penny to release him from the burden of keeping the secret. Penny tells him to just forget what she told him. Sheldon sulks that he is incapable of forgetting anything, noting that "I haven't forgotten a single thing since the day I stopped breast feeding" (on a drizzly Tuesday).

Sheldon arrives at the apartment and announces that he's moving out. Leonard wants to know why, and Sheldon compares it to Munchausen's Trilema; (a circular argument, a regressive argument, and an axiomatic argument); to wit: "...there doesn't have to be a reason...either the reason is predicated on a series of sub-reasons leading to an infinite regression, or it tracks back to arbitrary axiomatic statements, or it's ultimately circular..i.e. I'm moving out because I'm moving out". Howard and Raj arrive after attending a display of plasticized human cadavers. Howard liked the exhibit; some of the skinless chicks were hot. Sheldon announces he's going to pack. Raj asks what Leonard did to cause this, and they list Sheldon's major pet peeves, to see which one Leonard may have violated. Sheldon returns almost immediately, carrying his pre-packed disaster evacuation bag (recommended by the Department of Homeland Security and Sarah Connor, from The Terminator movies).

He announces that until he can get a place of his own, he'll be staying with friends. Howard immediately evacuates the apartment. Raj tells Sheldon that his apartment is too small, prompting Sheldon to remind him that Manushya Yagna (the feeding, care taking, or offering of what one has to others) of the duties of a Hindu householder. Raj panics and as an attempt to evade bringing Sheldon home, states "I hate trains". Sheldon knows better; "don't be ridiculous, you love trains". Raj relents and they leave. Leonard realizes that "this could work", and plops down in Sheldon's spot on the couch.

At Raj's apartment, Raj tells Sheldon that the building used to be a watch factory. Sheldon questions if Raj is concerned about negative health effects from residual radium from the luminous dials, and Raj replies "not until now". Sheldon laments that he didn't bring his Geiger counter...then laughs, because, of course, he did. They are watching an Indian movie and argue about Indian actresses, Sheldon berating Raj that he appears to be unfamiliar with Bollywood/Indian cinema.

At Howard's house, there's is a "stripper-gram" at the door. Howard opens the door, Raj pushes Sheldon in and yells "tag...you're it" then makes a quick escape. Howard yells at him "shouldn't you have put it in a brown paper bag and set it on fire first?"  Cut to later that night as Sheldon and Howard go to bed. Sheldon is laying on an air mattress on the floor of Howard's bedroom, noting that it has terrible support, but quipping that he's fine sleeping on "a bouncy castle". Howard makes Sheldon take the bed so he'll shut up. Lying in bed, Sheldon is unnerved by the Halle Berry poster on the ceiling. Sheldon proceeds to ponder on the various Catwomen, eventually noting that his favorites, in order, are Julie Newmar, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether, and Halle Berry. Howard begs Sheldon to go to sleep. "I'm trying...I'm counting Catwomen." Sheldon then turns to counting his favorite X-Men (in order: Professor X, Night Crawler, Wolverine]], Cyclops, Ice Man, Storm, Angel, and The Beast.

Later back at the apartment 4A, Leonard answers the door and Howard dumps Sheldon, who is obviously drugged. Howard admits to giving Sheldon a glass of milk...with a handful of his mother's Valium in it. Tag, Leonard is it.  Sheldon tells Leonard that he can't tell him the secret that Penny didn't graduate from community college. Leonard gets it that Penny thinks he's too smart for her.

The next day, Leonard visits Penny and lets her know that Sheldon spilled her secret. He has brought her a pamphlet for the Pasadena Community College. Penny asks if it's fine with Leonard if she's not smart, and Leonard answers "absolutely".  As Penny, offended, slams the door on him, Leonard notes to himself "this time I know where I went wrong" and sees a hidden camera and yells, "Bite me!"






  • Sheldon starts the episode with blue, black, and pink "Triple Threat" tee  by Kirra (discontinued). Then spends the rest of the episode in his most frequently worn t-shirt: yellow ManBot on a green shirt. This episode crosses two days, but Sheldon wears the shirt, then pajamas, and then we don't see what he's wearing the next day. Leonard wears his adrenaline molecule t-shirt and his red Cassette Tapes shirt (originally sold at Target, but now only available from RedBubble.com, use search term "Leonard cassette").

Set Notes

  • In season 1, the boys used a blue XOX Good Grips tea kettle.  You can see it on the stove in just about every episode, including episode 17, the final one for the first season. As season 2 opens, the kettle is now a deep orange color.
  • This episode is also the first episode where we see Sheldon using his Flip-Fold in the laundry room.
  • As Sheldon is counting cat women, we don't see the Halle Berry poster he's referring to on the ceiling over Howard's bed, but these tend to be the most popular:
    • Halle Berry Bikini
    • Halle Berry Pose
    • Halle Berry Pose 2
    • Advanced IMAX

Cultural references

  • Title Reference: Howard dubs Leonard as "bad fish" in his metaphor in which he describes that Leonard the bad fish tastes bad, Penny wants to slow down the eating (relationship).


  • This episode was watched by 9.36 million people with a rating of 3.6 (adults 18-49).


External Links

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Main Characters: Leonard HofstadterSheldon CooperPenny HofstadterHoward WolowitzRajesh KoothrappaliAmy Farrah FowlerBernadette Rostenkowski-WolowitzStuart BloomEmily SweeneyLeslie Winkle

Recurring Characters: Barry KripkeWil WheatonAltheaKurtEric GablehauserMary CooperDebbie WolowitzV.M. KoothrappaliMrs. KoothrappaliMikeStephanie BarnettBeverley HofstadterPresident SiebertZack JohnsonPriya KoothrappaliWyattMike RostenkowskiMrs. RostenkowskiAlex JensenJanine DavisLucyProfessor ProtonDavid GibbsClaireStephen HawkingAlfred HofstadterColonel Richard WilliamsDenise
Minor Characters: ChristyLalita GuptaToby LoobenfeldDennis KimDimitriMissy CooperBlainTomOctaviaMariaLourdesRamona NowitzkiKathy O'BrianDavid UnderhillAliciaMikaylaCaptain SweatpantsLonely LarryDr. CrawleyBethanySarahSkeeterProfessor LaughlinAbbyMarthaOfficer HackettSandyGlenVenkatesh KoothrappaliSebastianLouie/LouiseJoyce KimMrs. GundersonJoyMrs. FowlerAngela PageProfessor GlennMrs. LathamTodd ZarneckiSusanRandallColonel Richard Williams

Season 1: PilotThe Big Bran HypothesisThe Fuzzy Boots CorollaryThe Luminous Fish EffectThe Hamburger PostulateThe Middle-Earth ParadigmThe Dumpling ParadoxThe Grasshopper ExperimentThe Cooper-Hofstadter PolarizationThe Loobenfeld DecayThe Pancake Batter AnomalyThe Jerusalem DualityThe Bat Jar ConjectureThe Nerdvana AnnihilationThe Porkchop IndeterminacyThe Peanut ReactionThe Tangerine Factor

Season 2: The Bad Fish ParadigmThe Codpiece TopologyThe Barbarian SublimationThe Griffin EquivalencyThe Euclid AlternativeThe Cooper-Nowitzki TheoremThe Panty Piñata PolarizationThe Lizard-Spock ExpansionThe White Asparagus TriangulationThe Vartabedian ConundrumThe Bath Item Gift HypothesisThe Killer Robot InstabilityThe Friendship AlgorithmThe Financial PermeabilityThe Maternal CapacitanceThe Cushion SaturationThe Terminator DecouplingThe Work Song NanoclusterThe Dead Hooker JuxtapositionThe Hofstadter IsotopeThe Vegas RenormalizationThe Classified Materials TurbulenceThe Monopolar Expedition
Season 3: The Electric Can Opener FluctuationThe Jiminy ConjectureThe Gothowitz DeviationThe Pirate SolutionThe Creepy Candy Coating CorollaryThe Cornhusker VortexThe Guitarist AmplificationThe Adhesive Duck DeficiencyThe Vengeance FormulationThe Gorilla ExperimentThe Maternal CongruenceThe Psychic VortexThe Bozeman ReactionThe Einstein ApproximationThe Large Hadron CollisionThe Excelsior AcquisitionThe Precious FragmentationThe Pants AlternativeThe Wheaton RecurrenceThe Spaghetti CatalystThe Plimpton StimulationThe Staircase ImplementationThe Lunar Excitation
Season 4: The Robotic ManipulationThe Cruciferous Vegetable AmplificationThe Zazzy SubstitutionThe Hot Troll DeviationThe Desperation EmanationThe Irish Pub FormulationThe Apology InsufficiencyThe 21-Second ExcitationThe Boyfriend ComplexityThe Alien Parasite HypothesisThe Justice League RecombinationThe Bus Pants UtilizationThe Love Car DisplacementThe Thespian CatalystThe Benefactor FactorThe Cohabitation FormulationThe Toast DerivationThe Prestidigitation ApproximationThe Zarnecki IncursionThe Herb Garden GerminationThe Agreement DissectionThe Wildebeest ImplementationThe Engagement ReactionThe Roommate Transmogrification
Season 5: The Skank Reflex AnalysisThe Infestation HypothesisThe Pulled Groin ExtrapolationThe Wiggly Finger CatalystThe Russian Rocket ReactionThe Rhinitis RevelationThe Good Guy FluctuationThe Isolation PermutationThe Ornithophobia DiffusionThe Flaming Spittoon AcquisitionThe Speckerman RecurrenceThe Shiny Trinket ManeuverThe Recombination HypothesisThe Beta Test InitiationThe Friendship ContractionThe Vacation SolutionThe Rothman DisintegrationThe Werewolf TransformationThe Weekend VortexThe Transporter MalfunctionThe Hawking ExcitationThe Stag ConvergenceThe Launch AccelerationThe Countdown Reflection
Season 6: The Date Night VariableThe Decoupling FluctuationThe Higgs Boson ObservationThe Re-Entry MinimizationThe Holographic ExcitationThe Extract ObliterationThe Habitation ConfigurationThe 43 PeculiarityThe Parking Lot EscalationThe Fish Guts DisplacementThe Santa SimulationThe Egg Salad EquivalencyThe Bakersfield ExpeditionThe Cooper/Kripke InversionThe Spoiler Alert SegmentationThe Tangible Affection ProofThe Monster IsolationThe Contractual Obligation ImplementationThe Closet ReconfigurationThe Tenure TurbulenceThe Closure AlternativeThe Proton ResurgenceThe Love Spell PotentialThe Bon Voyage Reaction
Season 7: The Hofstadter InsufficiencyThe Deception VerificationThe Scavenger VortexThe Raiders MinimizationThe Workplace ProximityThe Romance ResonanceThe Proton DisplacementThe Itchy Brain SimulationThe Thanksgiving DecouplingThe Discovery DissipationThe Cooper ExtractionThe Hesitation RamificationThe Occupation RecalibrationThe Convention ConundrumThe Locomotive ManipulationThe Table PolarizationThe Friendship TurbulenceThe Mommy ObservationThe Indecision AmalgamationThe Relationship DiremptionThe Anything Can Happen RecurrenceThe Proton TransmogrificationThe Gorilla DissolutionThe Status Quo Combustion
Season 8: The Locomotion InterruptionThe Junior Professor SolutionThe First Pitch InsufficiencyThe Hook-up ReverberationThe Focus AttenuationThe Expedition ApproximationThe Misinterpretation AgitationThe Prom EquivalencyThe Septum DeviationThe Champagne ReflectionThe Clean Room InfiltrationThe Space Probe DisintegrationThe Anxiety OptimizationThe Troll ManifestationThe Comic Book Store RegenerationThe Intimacy AccelerationThe Colonization ApplicationThe Leftover ThermalizationThe Skywalker IncursionThe Fortification ImplementationThe Communication DeteriorationThe Graduation TransmissionThe Maternal CombustionThe Commitment Determination
Season 9: The Matrimony MomentumThe Separation OscillationThe Bachelor Party CorrosionThe 2003 ApproximationThe Perspiration ImplementationThe Helium InsufficiencyThe Spock ResonanceThe Mystery Date ObservationThe Platonic PermutationThe Earworm ReverberationThe Opening Night ExcitationThe Sales Call SublimationThe Empathy OptimizationThe Meemaw MaterializationThe Valentino SubmergenceThe Positive Negative ReactionThe Celebration ExperimentationThe Application DeteriorationThe Solder Excursion DiversionThe Big Bear PrecipitationThe Viewing Party CombustionThe Fermentation BifurcationThe Line Substitution SolutionThe Convergence-Convergence
Season 10: The Conjugal ConjectureThe Military MiniaturizationThe Dependence TranscendenceThe Cohabitation ExperimentationThe Hot Tub ContaminationThe Fetal Kick CatalystThe Veracity ElasticityThe Brain Bowl IncubationThe Geology ElevationThe Property Division CollisionThe Birthday SynchronicityThe Holiday SummationThe Romance RecalibrationThe Emotion Detection AutomationThe Locomotion ReverberationThe Allowance EvaporationThe Comic-Con ConundrumThe Escape Hatch IdentificationThe Collaboration FluctuationThe Recollection DissipationThe Separation AgitationThe Cognition RegenerationThe Gyroscopic CollapseThe Long Distance Dissonance
Season 11: The Proposal ProposalThe Retraction ReactionThe Relaxation IntegrationThe Explosion ImplosionThe Collaboration ContaminationThe Proton RegenerationThe Geology MethodologyThe Tesla RecoilThe Bitcoin EntanglementThe Confidence ErosionThe Celebration ReverberationThe Matrimonial MetricThe Solo OscillationThe Separation TriangulationThe Novelization CorrelationThe Neonatal NomenclatureThe Athenaeum AllocationThe Gates ExcitationThe Tenant DisassociationThe Reclusive PotentialThe Comet PolarizationThe Monetary InsufficiencyThe Sibling RealignmentThe Bow Tie Asymmetry
Season 12: The Conjugal ConfigurationThe Wedding Gift WormholeThe Procreation CalculationThe Tam TurbulenceThe Planetarium CollisionThe Imitation PerturbationThe Grant Allocation DerivationThe Consummation DeviationThe Citation NegationThe VCR IlluminationThe Paintball ScatteringThe Propagation PropositionThe Confirmation PolarizationThe Meteorite ManifestationThe Donation OscillationThe D & D VortexThe Conference ValuationThe Laureate AccumulationThe Inspiration DeprivationThe Decision ReverberationThe Plagiarism SchismThe Maternal ConclusionThe Change ConstantThe Stockholm Syndrome

The Apartment BuildingApartment 4AApartment 4BThe ElevatorCalifornia Institute of TechnologyWolowitz HouseThe Comic Center of PasadenaPasadenaThe Cheesecake FactoryRaj's ApartmentAmy's ApartmentHoward and Bernadette's ApartmentThe StairsSheldon's Old OfficeRaj's Old OfficeSheldon's New OfficeHoward's LabThe University CafeteriaKripke's Plasma LabInternational Space StationThe Kinetics Lab
See Also
Unaired Pilot