The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation Season 3, Episode 1 -  Aired September 21, 2009

The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation

After the gang return from their Arctic expedition, Sheldon is stunned to learn that the guys manipulated his data and invalidated his research. Fearing his scientific reputation has been ruined, Sheldon retreats to his mother's house in Texas. Meanwhile, Leonard catches up with Penny after his summer away, but just as it seems like a relationship is about to start, Leonard must fly to Texas to bring Sheldon home.

Rate this episode

Guest Stars: Laurie Metcalf as Mary Cooper, John Ross Bowie as Barry Kripke

Writers: Steven Molaro

Director: Mark Cendrowski

Viewers: 12.9 million Households Rating: 7.9/11 Adults 18-49 Rating: 4.7/11

Available on iTunes

Episode Lists

  • Leonard & Penny: Key Episodes Leonard & Penny: Key Episodes

    The key moments in Leonard and Penny's relationship including the first time they saw each other across the hall, their first kiss, their first date, breaking up and getting back together, the first time Penny says "I love you", a couple of proposals, their engagement, two wedding ceremonies, and finally Penny getting pregnant.

Episode Notes

  • The title references the electric can opener the guys used to manipulate Sheldon's research.

> Sheldon's Knock

Sheldon uses his knock twice when he angrily goes over to Penny's apartment to confront Leonard about the sabotage of his results on their North Pole expedition. The first time, Sheldon knocks for Leonard, then when he hears Leonard telling Penny to be quiet, he knocks for her.

Episode Quotes

Howard: Sheldon, you remember the first few weeks we were looking for magnetic monopoles and not finding anything, and you were acting like an obnoxious, giant dictator?
Raj: I thought we were going to be gentle with him.
Howard: That's why I added the '-tator'.

Sheldon: What are they doing here?
Leonard: We came to apologize again and bring you home. So why don't you pack up your stuff, and we'll head back?
Sheldon: No, this is my home now. Thanks to you, my career is over, and I will spend the rest of my life here in Texas trying to teach evolution to creationists.
Mrs. Cooper: You watch your mouth, Shelly. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.
Sheldon: But evolution is not opinion, it's a fact.
Sheldon's mom: And that is your opinion.

Sheldon: Hello Penny. I realize you are currently in the mercy of your primitive biological urges. But, as you have an entire lifetime of poor decisions ahead of you, may I interrupt this one?

Sheldon: But evolution is not opinion, it's a fact. Mary Cooper: And that is your opinion. Sheldon: [to Leonard, Howard and Raj] I forgive you, let's go home.

Penny: When I was a senior in high school, one of my friends heard I was gonna be named head cheerleader, I was so excited. My mom even made me a celebration pie. Then they named stupid Valerie Mossbacher head cheerleader, big old slutbag.
Sheldon: Are you saying that you think a celebration pie is even remotely comparable to a Nobel Prize?
Penny: Well, they're pretty tasty.
Sheldon: And on a different, but not unrelated topic, based on your current efforts to buoy my spirits, do you ever truly believe that you were fit to be a cheer leader?


The guys return from their three-month expedition at the North Pole. Sheldon is excited by success of his research, while Leonard, Howard and Raj are just happy to be home after spending three months in cramped quarters with Sheldon. Penny is the most excited by their return and warmly embraces Leonard when he lets her know he's back.

When they return to the apartment, Howard and Raj confess to Sheldon that they used an electric can opener to manipulate his results in a bid to keep him happy during the expedition. Sheldon is distraught to learn that Leonard was behind the deception and, to make matters worse, Sheldon has already emailed his colleagues to inform them of his scientific breakthrough. Sheldon confronts Leonard about their interference, but his explanation wins no support from Sheldon - or Penny, who isn't impressed with how Leonard's treating his friend. Penny tries to comfort Sheldon to no avail.

The next day, Sheldon refuses to sit with the guys in the cafeteria. It's the last straw when Sheldon is the subject of Kripke's ridicule. When Leonard gives Penny a special present from the North Pole, he's interrupted by Howard and Raj who inform him that Sheldon has quit his job and run back to Texas. Leonard then receives a call from Sheldon's mother who requests they come to Texas to talk to Sheldon.

Back in Texas, Sheldon is having lunch with his mother and is growing increasingly uncomfortable with his mother's Christian beliefs. When the guys arrive at Mrs. Cooper's house, they struggle to convince Sheldon to come home. After an argument with his mother about evolution, Sheldon decides to return to Pasadena. Later, Penny and Leonard final get together, but they soon feel awkward about their new relationship.