The funny thing about introducing a new theory into a show AFTER the fact is that it’s likely to fit since the workings of the mind that came up with it are going to make sure that it fits the mental model that’s attempting to make sense of it before showing the theory to others. In this case, making the argument for Penny from The Big Bang Theory being a spy that was put in place to watch the guys after Leonard’s break-up with Joyce Kim and the unfortunate bombing of the building’s elevator. It’s a theory that many people are likely willing to pounce on since it’s fun, it’s possible to be even funnier since there are so many different aspects that could be worked into the show, and the theorist has made the case that Penny is perfect for this job in a few ways. For one, we don’t really learn her last name, at least until she takes on Leonard’s when they get married. She’s a struggling actress and a waitress that can afford an apartment in the same building that houses a couple of scientists that are pretty well off and can easily afford their own rent. She’s almost always found mooching off the guys, which could easily be a cover for keeping an eye on them, and while she does act like a ditz she’s not entirely stupid and is more than a little witty at times. These reasons, and more, are why some people happen to think that Penny could be a spy. But there are a few reasons that one might want to think twice about this idea simply because being a spy does mean going all-in sometimes, but there are elements of Penny’s character that just don’t fit with this theory that well.
For one thing, the duration of this ‘assignment’ could have been shortened quite easily since Penny was in the guys’ apartment more than enough times to plant numerous bugs here and there that not even the overly paranoid Sheldon could find or detect. Thinking that she would still be stationed in this role after finding a way to monitor the guys is overkill in a big way, but it gets better. For one, the marriage isn’t such a big deal really and wouldn’t fully negate the idea of Penny being a spy, but it would still be something that would test her in various ways since she would have to fall so deeply into the role that she would actually become the person that she was playing, which might not sound like a big deal in the world of espionage, but is still hard to believe if she really was a spy. Then comes the pregnancy, which again, doesn’t appear to be off-limits since other shows have done this. The theory does stick pretty well if people are willing to believe it, but there are plenty of ways to shoot holes in it simply because those that have lived alone and have had nice to decent apartments should know that there are ways of paying the rent, not lewd ways in this case, that could work for someone like Penny. Her acting might be in a slump but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not paying anything while waitressing can be a decent job if one works at the right spot and knows how to make a good number of tips. Plus, did anyone ever get what the rent was in these apartments? It was estimated that Penny’s rent was probably a little over $1,800 per month, which is pretty steep on a waitresses wages no matter where one works.
But as it was seen, she did a lot of mooching and often ate with the guys, used their wifi, and was pretty good at finding a way to live from paycheck to paycheck. Don’t laugh too hard, plenty of people still do this today and with rents far higher than Penny’s. Just because two educated professors could afford one apartment together doesn’t necessarily mean that Penny couldn’t pay for hers alone, but it’s likely that she was living from one dollar to the next and doing her best to simply stay fed. Some might want to argue with that since Penny also liked to drink, but like it or not, drinking isn’t hard on a budget since there are plenty of options out there that get one nice and drunk without breaking the bank. So to be fair, this theory does hold up well enough to be entertained, but it does have a few holes that are flapping in the wind and can be widened if one really tries. Penny isn’t a stupid individual by any means, but thinking she’s a spy and can outwit six very different personalities at once is a stretch.