The Big Bang Theory opened its seventh season with Lenoard, braving a fierce storm in the middle of the North Sea, getting swallowed up by a kraken.

Welcome to Sheldon’s worst nightmare.The Big Bang Theory Season 7

In reality, the sequence was but a figment of Sheldon’s anguished imagination. You see, he misses his good buddy something terrible. Only he’s not willing to admit it to himself. Or anyone — not even Penny, who is essentially in the same boat.

Much of the sensational first half-hour focused on the two frenemies awkwardly spending time together/counting the minutes until Leonard returns. (Bernadette and Amy are out of town at a science conference, while Howard is helping Raj move on from Lucy).

When Penny floats the idea of calling Leonard, Sheldon can barely contain his excitement. But much to their surprise/disappointment, Leonard — who is seen partying on the high seas with his colleagues — seems to be doing just fine without them. Later, Sheldon seizes on Penny’s newfound insecurity by suggesting her boyfriend may be “engaged in drunken coitus with another woman.”

Penny takes the high road and suggests they do some serious bonding by sharing one personal detail about themselves. She takes the leap first and confesses that during her early days as an actress she reluctantly did a topless scene in a low-budget horror movie about a killer gorilla. The film never saw the light of day, she claims.

Only it did.

Sheldon informs her that both he and Leonard watched a bootleg copy of it years ago. (Leonard is later seen showing his shipmates the sequence, insisting the hot naked blonde in the shower is his girlfriend.)

Sheldon’s secret, meanwhile, involves a lie. He admits he’s been publicly saying he’s cool with the fact that YouTube changed its user interface from a star-based system to a thumbs-up one. “I tell people I’m OK with it,” he shares. “But I’m really not.”

She laughs it off as just another eccentric Sheldonism, which triggers the real Sheldon revelation: he has feelings. And Penny just stomped all over them when she carelessly dismissed his heartfelt catharsis.

Penny apologizes. They hug.  The audience swoons.

In the second episode, Leonard surprises Penny by returning from his aquatic adventure early. The catch — Sheldon must not know he’s back. Not yet anyway. He needs a few Sheldon-free days to transition back to reality. That, in turn, puts Penny in the middle. She must honor Leonard’s need for relative solitude while also giving her newfound BFF Sheldon the love and attention he has grown accustomed to.

Naturally, Sheldon suspects something’s off. “That’s curious,” he muses to Penny, who professes to be home alone. “If there’s no one here, why are there two glasses of wine on the table?” A fast-thinking Penny responds, “Well, I have two hands and… I have a drinking problem.”

Sheldon isn’t buying it. He deduces that Penny must be cheating on Leonard. However, he eventually learns the real truth: Leonard’s already home.

Sheldon is furious. Heartbroken. Even the sailor cap Leonard brought him back doesn’t appease him (although it comes close).

In the end, Howard — hopped up on estrogen supplements (long story) — tells Leonard what Sheldon is not able: “Leonard do you know why he is so mad at you? It’s because he missed you,” he shouts. Howard then turns the tables on Sheldon: “And as his friend, you should be happy he has love in his life [with Penny]. So can we please put aside these petty differences and just be glad that we’re here together?”

And with that, peace is restored.

Meanwhile, highlights from the B-story front…

* Howard drags Raj to a party to get his mind off Lucy. What it actually does is give him an audience to try out his newfound oratory prowess. After sticking his foot in his mouth during a conversation with Regina King’s Mrs. Davis, the two actually connect — proving that Raj’s heart-to-heart with Penny was no fluke.

* Bernadette and Amy, basking in their Penny-less one-on-one time, end up sharing a dark truth: They both think they can do better in the romance department. “I just mean that you’re not married and your boyfriend is, kinda, Sheldon,” a treading-lightly Bernadette tells Amy. That leads to the night’s best zinger. “Your husband is extremely Howard,” Amy shoots back. “What is your point?” Later, Amy finds herself attracted to a stranger at the hotel that bears a striking resemblance to Howard. Ditto Bernadette and a bizarro Sheldon.

What grade do you give the premiere of ‘The Big Bang Theory’
A (excellent)B (above average)C (it was OK)D (subpar)F (fail)
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