Nothing says it is time for the Big Bang Theory more than eating, and as Howard joins Leonard, Sheldon, and Raj at their table in the cafeteria, Leonard notes that they ran into Mrs. Wolowitz at Benihana the night before, allowing Raj to note that she enjoys snatching the flying shrimp from the cooks, thereby demonstrating a dexterity which would seem out of place with her typical obese depiction. Howard has the same issue with taking her to SeaWorld. Leonard mentions that she was there with Stuart, and despite Raj’s prodding, Howard denies that his mother and Stuart were on a date, insisting they are merely friends who went to dinner. As Raj continues to needle Howard, Howard lashes out at him pointing out that his mother and Stuart’s relationship is no more dating than Raj and his dog, which Leonard notes may mean they are, in fact, dating. When Howard admits the situation bothers him Sheldon interjects a random fact that gibbons, among all the ape family, isn’t considered a great ape. Although Sheldon thinks Howard’s issues are minor compared to the gibbon, when it is pointed out to Sheldon that gibbons are not aware of taxonomy, Sheldon reconsiders his opinion and decides that Howard is sadder than a gibbon.
As Amy and Bernadette enter Penny’s apartment armed for movie night, with everything from snacks down to toilet paper, Amy notices that Penny has her clothes, neatly folded on the couch. Penny explains that she’s been buying new clothes for her new job and had to clean out the closet, including one red dress which was her prom dress. Bernadette commented that she figured Penny’s prom dress would be balled up in the corner of a barn, playing on Penny’s promiscuous reputation, which isn’t helped by the revelation that Penny went to seven proms and made out with the quarterback while his date was throwing up. Bernadette and Amy didn’t have the same prom experience as Penny, with Amy having cleaned up after the dance and got to slow dance with a mop, noting that her date would have gotten to clean up after Penny’s quarterback’s date. Bernadette complained that her date spent the whole night talking about her friend, who he had the hots for. Amy took this as Bernadette bragging that she had friends who weren’t mops. Bernadette decides that they should throw their own prom on the roof and enjoy the prom experience, although Penny is less than thrilled with the prospect.
Dinner time in the boys’ apartment shows the original cast. Howard explains that Bernadette and Amy are shopping for their prom dresses. Although it is relatively rare that Raj’s Indian upbringing gives him a truly foreign view of American culture, he notes that ever since he saw Pretty in Pink he wanted to go to prom, a desire strongly tempered by a viewing of Carrie, although seeing Never Been Kissed made him decide a prom would be fun. Sheldon, of course, didn’t go to his prom. Although he didn’t point out that he was only 10 when his prom was held, he focused more on the academic regimen he was following which left him with little time for frivolities, at least mainstream frivolities since he obviously imprinted on just about every aspect of geek culture at the time. Penny is surprised that Leonard is looking forward to going to a prom, until he mentions he wants to go with a woman who looks like Penny, while she was hoping that she could just blow off the whole prom thing.
Bernardette is thrilled that everyone has RSVPed positively, her voice raising in register until the beagle next door begins to howl. Howard’s happy for her, but it is tempered by the fact that Stuart is bringing Mrs. Wolowitz as his date. Bernadette points out that Howard took his mother to his prom, which he denies, even though Bernadette has seen pictures of them dancing. Howard reinforces his creepy relationship with his mother by saying that although she was a chaperone he had to dance with her because they were playing “their song.” Howard’s annoyance with Stuart surfaces and Bernadette reminds him that Stuart and Howard and friends and convinces Howard to call Stuart, who reveals that his date is not in fact Mrs. Wolowitz, leading Howard to question whether Stuart is cheating on his mother. Stuart notes there is nothing weird going on between him and Mrs. Wolowitz, at which point she calls him for his bath.
Sheldon knocks on Penny’s door, not just the traditional three times, but five times, in case he needs to bank knocks against a future emergency. Like Penny, he is less than thrilled with the entire prom idea and suggests that the two of them pretend they are attending the prom as aliens to make it a more interesting experience for them (or at least for him), based on Ford Prefect in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He reveals that he did this when he went to Penny’s first play (and gave her seven thumbs up). Penny turns this around asking alien anthropologist Sheldon if this means that he’ll engage in post-prom mating rituals with Amy, which accidentally will set off a panic attack for Sheldon who notes that he would be obligated to, although how he plans to catch Amy’s reproductive eggs in his upper flermin is open to question.
Sheldon and Leonard are getting dressed with Leonard tying Sheldon’s bow tie and suggesting a clip-on, which Sheldon refuses since Bruce Wayne doesn’t wear clip-ons. When Leonard points out that Bruce Wayne doesn’t make his roommate tie his tie, Sheldon responds with the observation that Wayne does, and his roommate’s name is Alfred. Sheldon admits that he isn’t going to pretend to be alien because everyone shot down his suggestion and it would have been weird to hire a stranger, although Sheldon did once hire an actor to portray his drug-addled cousin Leopold (in the first season episode “The Loobenfeld Decay”). Leonard also catches Sheldon tucking a flask into his jacket, planning to spike the punch with pomegranate juice. Sheldon is planning on doing all the traditional prom events in his normal pedantic manner. Leonard, as with Penny, makes a joke about Sheldon giving into his raging hormones, reinforcing the idea that Penny implanted in the previous scene.
When Penny and Amy come out of Penny’s apartment, Penny and Leonard compliment each other’s appearance. When Amy compliments Sheldon, rather than responding in kind, he flees to the safety of his apartment.
Bernadette, Howard, Emily (Laura Spencer), and Raj are taking a limo to their prom and stop to pick up Stuart and his date. Bernadette comments on Emily’s tattoo, Sally from The Nightmare before Christmas. Rather than liking the character because she shares red hair with Emily, Emily likes her because she’s covered in scars and can disassemble and reassemble her body. Bernadette isn’t prepared for the darkness that lies beneath Emily’s exterior. Stuart shows up with his date, who turns out to be worse than Mrs. Wolowitz. It is Howard’s second cousin Jeannie (Kara Luiz), with whom he lost his virginity when he was fifteen. Howard is embarrassed for Emily to learn his history with Jeannie, but it turns out that Raj uses the story to fill awkward silences.
Penny and Leonard get to the roof before everyone else, and they discuss whether or not Leonard went to prom, which he did, alone. Penny claims she would have asked him to dance, which he scoffs at, especially since it was before his growth spurt. When Penny points out he wouldn’t have asked her to dance either (which would have been for very different reasons), he says he would have, in his head. Downstairs in the apartment, Amy is talking to Sheldon’s bedroom door. Sheldon is lying on his bed having a panic attack and self-diagnosing with an on-line forum. He admits that he isn’t ready to have a physical relationship.
Stuart and Jeannie are in the car and all of a sudden Stuart, who has clearly been portrayed as Jewish throughout the series, has swallowed a Yiddish dictionary in a way that he never has before, clearly aiming for cheap, but out-of-character, laughs in his story of meeting Jeannie at Howard’s Aunt Gladys’s house. Hearing the strange jargon coming from Stuart, Raj asks Emily if he sounds that way when he talks about India, which she confirms. Howard asks if his mother is okay with Stuart dating Jeannie since his mother and Stuart have a weird, inappropriate relationship. Jeannie asks if it is weirder than what the two of them did. Emily and Raj are enjoying the situation. Jeannie, meanwhile has put the incident behind her. When Stuart reveals he knows the story, Bernadette questions why he would bring Jeannie and Stuart wants to know if Bernadette thinks that he’s not good enough for Jeannie. Bernadette warns Stuart to have weird relationships with his own mother and cousin instead of horning in on Howard’s weirdness, perhaps not the strongest show of support.
On the roof, Leonard and Penny begin to dance. In the limousine, Howard has lunged at Stuart. In the apartment, Sheldon comes out and tells Amy that she looks pretty. As Amy is about to admit that she loves Sheldon, he beats her to the punch with his own expression of love.
And on the roof, Raj and Emily take couples pictures of everyone, getting a dig in at Howard and as he’s about to take a picture of Jeannie and Stuart, Debbie Wolowitz calls, clearly upset with him and Stuart rushes off as the show fades to vanity card.
The episode focuses on the broken nature of many of the characters. Howard’s strange relationship with his mother (and cousin) takes the center stage, but Sheldon’s inability to commit, Penny’s promiscuous past, Raj and Emily taking joy in Raj’s best friend’s discomfort, all have their moments. Compared to them, Amy, Bernadette, and Leonard all come across as well adjusted. It is also done in a way where the inability to function is a matter of upbringing rather than growing out of the character’s interests.
Although we still don’t see Mrs. Wolowitz in this episode, it is somewhat fitting that discussion of her started the episode and her call to Stuart ended it as on November 11, Carol Ann Susi, the actress who has been providing Mrs. Wolowitz’s voice since the first season’s “The Dumpling Paradox,” in which Howard hooked up with Penny’s even more promiscuous friend, Christy, died. Ms. Susi had recently been diagnosed with cancer. According to a statement from The Big Bang Theory’s producers, “The Big Bang Theory family has lost a beloved member today with the passing of Carol Ann Susi, who hilariously and memorably voiced the role of Mrs. Wolowitz. Unseen by viewers, the Mrs. Wolowitz character became a bit of a mystery throughout the show’s eight seasons. What was not a mystery, however, was Carol Ann’s immense talent and comedic timing, which were on display during each unforgettable appearance. In addition to her talent, Carol Ann was a constant source of joy and kindness to all. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with her family during this time, and we will miss her greatly.”