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Has a PhD in physics. Still thinks manually pushing a 4000 pound car in Park mode is possible.
Sheldon: (to Penny) We've already established that I'm found in the periodic table.
Penny: Well, it's a table right? I mean, why can't there be food on it?
— Sheldon and Penny playing (or arguing over) the "Guess what element am I" game
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Despite being affiliated with CalTech and sophisticated fields of science, the main cast of The Big Bang Theory can be quite stupid because having knowledge of physics, astronomy, calculus and medicine doesn't always necessarily mean having common sense. Usually Penny and Sheldon have the most "What an Idiot!" moments because aside from being self-centered jerks who constantly torment/exploit Leonard, they both are unable to properly function on their own which is why Sheldon can't even get his own car and license and Penny can't afford her own rent.

There are spoilers below. You've been warned.

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Recurring

  • Penny only makes meager pay as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory, a favorite hangout for the four guys Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj.
    You'd Expect: For Penny to use her money very carefully and only on food, rent and gas.
    Instead: She wastes it all on mostly lavish berets and shoes.
    Results: Her poor spending habits have sunk her into trouble so badly that she's become desperate enough to borrow money from Sheldon of all people in one episode and mooch off of Leonard for restaurant carry-out meals and even rent.
  • Sheldon often frequents the Cheesecake Factory because he loves their barbecue bacon cheeseburgers but many times he gets Penny as his waitress. Now, Penny's not really a kind, good-hearted person in any capacity, but the way Sheldon treats and talks to her isn't benevolent either.
    You'd Expect: Sheldon to still treat Penny like any other waitress so that she serves him properly.
    Instead: He doesn't, making Penny ruin his meals on purpose as retribution.
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Season 1

  • As explained in the pilot episode, Penny left her TV behind in Kurt's apartment room and because of his sheer strength, she's too afraid to challenge him to get it back from him.
    You'd Expect: Penny to get the police to retrieve it.
    Instead: She sends Leonard and Sheldon, who are all brains and no muscle, to go fetch it. They return home not just empty-handed, but pants-less.
  • "The Grasshopper Experiment": Raj is frantic because his parents want him to meet up a childhood acquaintance in the hopes that he will marry her. There are many problems with this: Raj can't talk to women, he remembers Lalita Gupta as little and fat, and he doesn't even know her. Howard helps Raj arrange a date with her and everyone finds out that if Raj is a little tipsy he can talk to women. Penny decides a good plan of action is for her to bartend at the Cheesecake Factory so that everyone can make sure Raj's date goes well.
    You'd Expect: Raj on the date would only drink just enough to get buzzed, and to prepare ahead of time by preparing neutral conversation topics, googling Lalita or asking his parents about her, finding out her interests, and not being a drunk ass.
    Instead: He drinks so much that he is an awkward boor to Lalita, calling her "little Lalita" and loudly commenting on how she lost all her childhood baby fat. Then when Sheldon, who isn't interested in women at this point, compliments her and calls her a princess, Raj accuses Sheldon of trying to steal "his future wife".
    The Result: Lalita gives him a What the Hell, Hero? for being so boorish, and asks Sheldon out to dinner because Sheldon is unaware he's being a complete gentleman and because Lalita wants to salvage her bad night. Raj's parents call angrily demanding an explanation. When Raj tries to blame Sheldon for stealing his date, Sheldon apologizes on learning how rude he was, but points out that Raj made a fool of himself by being "drunk and boring" in Lalita's words. So yes, Sheldon actually had nothing to do with Raj messing up.

Season 2

  • In "The Panty Piñata Polarization", after Penny touched one of Sheldon's onion rings at first having wanted to eat it (she has a bad habit of eating other people's foods because of financial woes), Sheldon and Penny start engaging in a war against each other. In an act of revenge for cutting off her Wi-fi, Penny uses up all the available washers in the laundry room to spite Sheldon.
    You'd Expect: For Penny to watch her laundry carefully and make sure Sheldon doesn't take them away.
    Instead: Being a Dumb Blonde, she doesn't. Sheldon hangs her clothes on a telephone wire and only now after ignoring/dismissing all of Leonard's warnings does she realize that it's too late to convince Sheldon to forgive her.
  • Sheldon comes up with an extension of Rock-Paper-Scissors called "Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock," played the same way except with five choices instead of three. However, every game ends with a hung decision because everyone always picks "Spock".
    You'd Expect: One of them to catch on and choose "paper" or "lizard", the two things that beat "Spock".
    Instead: It's a sitcom, so they don't. Also, everyone wants to be Spock more than they want to win.
  • In "The Cushion Saturation", the men play paintball and Sheldon brings a paintball gun back to the apartment leaving it not in his room but on a table next to his preferred couch spot. Penny finds it and picks it up.
    You'd Expect: Leonard to alert her to put it down, as she clearly has no experience handling one.
    Instead: He just encourages her to join them on their next game, and Penny foolishly opens fire at the cushion, ruining Sheldon's spot.
    You'd Then Expect: Penny to swap cushions because since all 3 have been sat on routinely. That way, Sheldon wouldn't be able to tell the difference and Leonard can have it cleaned and washed at a shop.
    Or: Unzip the ruined cushion case and unzip another clean cushion case then swap them so that Sheldon's spot remains the same cushion only with a different case.
    Instead: Penny suggests to Leonard they lie to Sheldon that somebody broke in. (Leonard: "Just to shoot the couch with a paintball gun?") And so, she simply just flips over Sheldon's cushion upside-down rather than swap it with another cushion, which causes Sheldon to notice his spot is ruined.

Season 3

  • In "The Vengeance Formulation", Sheldon gets payback at Kripke for unleashing helium onto the former's NPR interview by setting up tons of soapy foam (with help from Leonard and Raj) to drop onto his ceiling. However, Sheldon only expected Kripke to be there in his own laboratory.
    You'd Expect: For Leonard and Raj to advise Sheldon about an abort button in case Kripke has guests over.
    Instead: They neglect to do so and only tell him about the importance of such a button when they see that Kripke has the entire university board (including their boss Eric Gablehauser) in his lab showing them a presentation about something involving micro-controlled plasma.
    Results: Leonard and Sheldon's foamy concoction rains down on the entire university board.
    Bonus Idiot Points: Sheldon then reveals he did something even more stupid than forgetting the abort button: he deliberately sends a video onto Kripke's computer to play in front of the university board revealing he's the culprit and even implicates Leonard and Raj for their support of him.
  • In "The Excelsior Acquisition, Sheldon receives a court summons for running a red light on the night he had to drive Penny to the hospital back in "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency" (the ticket was sent to Penny since it was her car and license plate, but she redirected it to Sheldon due to not wanting any more points on her driver's license). However, his court date happens to fall on the same day he and the boys are scheduled to hang out with Stan Lee. When the boys refuse to accompany him to the summons, he drags Penny along to be his witness.
    You'd Expect: Sheldon to just pay the fine be and done with it.
    Or:, If he really insists on contesting the ticket, he could explain that he was driving Penny to the hospital, and in a fit of agony she urged him to go when the light turned yellow, using the traffic cam's picture as evidence. It probably wouldn't have dropped the fine, but at least he'd have a valid reason for running the red light.
    Instead: He not only refuses to pay the fine, claiming that would mean "he's guilty", he also insults the traffic court judge, landing him in jail and earning him points on a license he doesn't yet have, giving him a criminal record, and causing him to miss out on gelato with Stan Lee.

Season 4

  • In "The Love Car Displacement", Leonard is angry that a tall, big black man who Bernadette used to date is chauffeuring Penny a ride home back to L.A. after a disastrous Science Conference when the main cast (pars Sheldon) are unable to control their emotions and start fighting amongst themselves. Leonard is speeding because of road rage. Sheldon catches eye of this.
    You'd Expect: Sheldon and Amy to warn Leonard to slow down, because (obviously) their safety is at risk here.
    Instead: They just try to play the game of "I Spy" by trying to make Leonard guess the police car pursuing Leonard for going 120 miles per hour. Amy doesn't even bother telling Leonard until after the policeman already made signals to Leonard to pull over!
  • In "The Hot Troll Deviation", Sheldon and Raj are involved in an Escalating Prank War due to Raj sharing Sheldon's office (or more accurately, Jerkass Raj just putting up a giant Brobdingnagian desk inside Sheldon's office just to anger the latter out of spite).
    You'd Expect: Sheldon to file a complaint about Raj to Human Resources and not fill his office with flammable (and toxic, though that's another issue) malodourants.
    Or At Least: Not use 9149 times the amount he needed to.
    Instead: He declares chemical warfare on Raj because of course, Sheldon believes Raj is too intellectually inferior to challenge him.
    You'd Then Expect: Raj to notify someone that Sheldon was messing around with dangerous gases in his office so they could be dealt with safely. And also to stay the hell away from the room until it's detoxified.
    Instead: He doesn't, and then lights a candle in the office, causing an explosion. A burnt and injured Raj is forced to leave Sheldon's office in defeat.

Season 5

  • In "The Speckerman Recurrance": Leonard is contacted by Jimmy Speckerman, one of his former high school bullies who wants to work with him on a project. Jimmy is unaware that his actions hurt Leonard (thinking they were a "comedy duo") and after being told where to shove it by Leonard, Jimmy shows up to Sheldon and Leonard's apartment drunk and apologizes, with Leonard accepting and allowing him to stay the night and sleep it off. Once Jimmy sobers up, he's back to bullying Leonard and refuses to leave when Leonard tells him to get out.
    You'd Expect: Leonard or Sheldon threaten to call the police and make good on that threat.
    Instead: Leonard tries to physically force him out.
    As a Result: Jimmy doesn't budge and the next shot shows Leonard and Sheldon running downstairs away from him.

Season 6

  • In "The Parking Spot Escalation", as while Sheldon and Howard fight over a parking spot in CalTech, their girlfriends Amy and Bernadette join the fight as well siding with their respective boyfriends. When Amy parks her car in the spot, Bernadette decides to have it towed. Then, Amy after having to shell out $300 to reclaim her vehicle starts demanding Bernadette either compensate her or get money from Howard to do so.
    You'd Expect: Bernadette to outright refuse paying her a penny, claim that a towing company did it of its own accord and deny any involvement in it.
    Instead: Bernadette gloats, "I'm the one who had it towed!" thus making Amy try to attack Bern with a bag full of coins which strikes Penny instead, breaking her nose and forcing her into the ER.
  • In "The Santa Simulation", the guys are playing a Christmas themed quest of Dungeons and Dragons where it involves the rescue of Santa Claus. When they start their quest, their characters find a secret door, Howard plans to set up an invasion strategy.
    You'd Expect: Raj to listen to Howard in order to pass safely.
    Instead: Raj is too obsessed with rescuing Santa and rushes in anyway without listening to Howard's advice.
    Result: He hits a tripwire that triggers a cannon that kills off his character and sending him out of the game, forcing him to spend the night with the girls instead so as to avoid being lonely.
  • In "The Bakersfield Expedition", the men are in Star Trek Next Generation uniforms and are taking pictures at a rock in the desert next to a freeway.
    You'd Expect: Leonard to take the keys out of his car and lock the doors.
    Instead: He leaves his keys in the ignition lock, doesn't bother locking the doors and a car thief steals it forcing the men to cross the desert with NO food or water in heavy cosmetic make-up and costumes.

Season 9

  • In "The Convergence Convergence", closing in on Penny and Leonard's upcoming wedding, they are supposed to go to a restaurant and in one car is Leonard, Penny and Leonard's mother Beverly and are following the car that Howard, Bernadette and Raj are in thinking that Howard can drive them to a shortcut and so follows them. However, Howard, Bern and Raj all suspect that a police car is following them for allegedly speeding.
    You'd Expect: For either Howard, Bern and/or Raj to see more clearly if it is a police car by making a quick checklist of if A) it's flashing lights, B) it's making a police siren noise and C) in Raj's case, he should have looked more carefully at the car behind them for black and white paint.
    Instead: Being alerted by Leonard flashing his lights, Bern orders Howard to speed away..... and they get pulled over by a real cop. Sobriety test, $500 traffic fine, maybe even some driver's license points.

Season 11

  • In "The Retraction Reaction", Leonard is being interviewed by Ira Flatow (though we the viewers aren't informed if he accepted this interview of his own accord or was asked to by the university) even though Leonard can't name any achievements or breakthroughs in physics.
    You'd Expect: That Leonard prepare for the interview by either consulting Sheldon or his boss Janine Davis on what to say about physics because he can't think of a way to laud the current direction of research and progress done. Or at least keep a tone of optimism during the interview.
    Instead: He blatantly tells Ira that he worries physics is a dead-end and even says out loud that he wonders if donors should've reconsidered giving so much money to physics in the first place.
    Result: He is threatened with termination by his boss if he does not retract his statements.
    Worse: Sheldon believes Leonard and starts to lose hope in his career as well thinking that progress might never be made.

Season 12

  • In "The Laureate Accumulation", The university holds an event for Sheldon's and Amy's super-asymmetry discovery which is threatened by Drs. Campbell and Pemberton. Sheldon's and Amy's attempt to charm the Nobel Prize committee to keep up with the competition created by Pemberton's and Campbell's press tour and they have arrived at Sheldon's invitation so they can be exposed as frauds when questioned over their discovery .
    You'd Expect: For Amy to follow Sheldon's plan and remain civil and curt with Campbell and Pemberton, they have flunked their way into proving super-asymmetry and if questioned can be exposed as frauds.
    Instead: Amy ends up having a meltdown and gives an absolutely blistering suck speech to Drs. Campbell and Pemberton for taking the credit for super-asymmetry.
    Result: Amy and Sheldon are forced to do damage control by the university in order to not lose their chances at winning a Nobel. They also have to apologize to Pembleton and Campbell.\\
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