Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: “The Contractual Obligation Implementation”

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Ever since The Big Bang Theory expanded its female cast, I’ve held to the belief that the show is at its best when it spotlights the ladies. “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” is all about women, with Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard forced to develop a program that gets the opposite sex interested in a career in the sciences. It’s the contractual obligation of this episode’s title, which is a fancy word for “sitcom device.” When Sheldon is patronized into providing one idea, he says that they should develop a program that targets girls at the middle school level and establishes a curriculum that will put them on the science path before college. Basically, the writers wanted to put Sheldon, Leonard, and Howard in front of junior high girls, the cruelest beasts known to man, and see what happened.

The three men make their way to Howard’s old junior high and visit the locker he used to get shoved in; when Howard is shoved in the hallway, he immediately turns back into his timid younger self, and his friends are glad that he didn’t start any sort of altercation. Once they’re back behind those school walls, Leonard, Howard, and Sheldon revert to their childhood selves, and when they have to speak in front of a classroom of young girls, they’re completely inept. Nobody is impressed by Howard going into space, and Sheldon’s biography of Madame Curie doesn’t exactly whet their appetites. Leonard makes some progress when he tells the girls that he wanted to be a rapper and they all laugh at him, but then he freestyles and loses their respect all over again. It’s a fun situation that has a fantastic pay-off when Sheldon makes a last-ditch attempt to get the girls’ attention by having them talk to Amy and Bernadette. More on that later.

Raj could have been the seventh wheel in this group of couples, but the writers realized that putting him with the girls garnered strong comedic results. He’s back with Bernadette, Amy, and Penny at the start of this episode, asking the trio for advice on how he should continue to woo Lucy. Amy suggests they do something unsafe like a picnic by a lunatics’ asylum, and Bernadette suggests going to Disneyland and riding Space Mountain. Penny doesn’t have much input except that Space Mountain is shorter than you think, and they take a picture so make sure your clothes are on. Raj says Disneyland reminds him too much of India, but all the talk of going to the amusement park has the girls eager to play hooky from work and take a Princesses’ Day Off. Raj reminds them that he has a real problem here: He’s a guy who can’t talk to women who is going on a date with a girl that has crippling anxiety. It’s a dilemma that stumps the girls, but Raj does just fine on his own.

Raj doesn’t have very good luck when it comes to the ladies, but he’s making all the right moves with Lucy, who is somehow even more socially awkward than him. For his first real date with Lucy, Raj meets her for a texting picnic at the library. It allows him to communicate without having to drink, although hopefully this relationship is building to Raj overcoming that hurdle. Maybe in the season finale? Raj’s silence around women is usually one of those “they’re still doing that?” character quirks that feels like its outlived its usefulness, but the writers make it work in this episode. The trick is to pair Raj with someone who is equally challenged, and it’s unlikely that Lucy would have been able to get comfortable enough to open up if there wasn’t the disconnect of texting.

Raj and Lucy share some puns about gynecology and punishment as first date banter, and they even have a cute misunderstanding when autocorrect tells Raj that Lucy designs porn websites. It’s actually prom, and that’s when the show’s queer fear rears it head. Raj texts about how he loves the romance and dresses of prom, to which Lucy gives him a confused look. He corrects it to “I like sports,” but my “Raj is gay” theories will never die. Lucy breaks the silence at the end of the night to tell him that she really enjoyed the date, and almost kisses him before running off in fear. Kate Miccuci is the mistress of mousy, giving Lucy an anxiety that ends up making Raj look pretty smooth by comparison. It would be nice to have her stick around for a while, and I’m eager to see her interact with the rest of this show’s female cast.

As usual, the ladies steal the show this week on their Disneyland adventure, which has Amy getting a bad girl high from calling in sick and Bernadette letting loose her possessive bitch side when everyone wants to be Cinderella for their princess makeovers. Meanwhile, Penny just wants to get drunk. The big punchline of the episode comes when Sheldon calls Amy and Bernadette to ask what it’s like to have adult careers in science, revealing the two women in Snow White and Cinderella costumes. Amy applies makeup as she begrudges society’s current infatuation with beauty, and when Bernadette says a girl can be anything she wants to be, Penny groans, “Not Cinderella.” These actresses look adorable dressed as Disney princesses, and the connection between the two storylines puts a nice button on both plots. Then things get creepy during the tag when Leonard and Howard immediately try to have sex with their girlfriends dressed as pubescent princesses. But that’s Big Bang Theory for you: One minute, it’s heartwarming; the next minute, Simon Helberg has no shirt on and is riding an invisible pony.


Stray observations:

  • Brian Posehn guest stars this week in the completely against-type role of a curmudgeonly library patron. He’s getting some serious nerd cred right now as the co-writer of Marvel Now!’s Deadpool with Gerry Duggan, which is a pretty fun book that has the Merc with a Mouth fighting zombified ex-presidents. Check it out.
  • The frequency of how often Howard talks about breasts, strippers, and masturbation in casual conversation should be a big indicator that he’s not the best person to talk to women.
  • Thank god that Leonard’s rap is as short as it is or this episode’s grade would have plummeted.
  • It would have been amazing if Penny was holding booze instead of popcorn on the Disneyland bench.
  • “You mean where they were advanced enough to invent an interstellar warp drive, but a black lady still answered the space phone?”
  • Howard: “Not to mention she has mammary glands that could nurse a family of 30 and have enough milk left over to open a Baskin Robbins.” Sheldon: “Mother, warrior princess, franchise owner. I hear glass ceilings shattering all over town.”
  • “How do I get 12-year-old girls excited?” Oh, Sheldon…
  • “Are you kidding? You brought fancy wine and made fondue? I’ve slept with guys for less. (Pause.) It’s a joke! Based on real events.” The writers get a lot of mileage out of that “it’s a joke” joke.
  • “I’ve never played hooky in my life. My mom said that’s how girls get addicted to reefer and jazz music.”
  • “I work at the Cheesecake Factory. I said, ‘Byeee.’”
  • “We can’t all be Cinderella.”
  • “Well it’s simple. This was my idea, I’m driving, I’m Cinderella. You bitches got a problem with that, we can stop the car right now.”
  • “Those desks you’re sitting in? I was once super-glued to them.”
  • “Come at me. See what happens.” I want a Berserker Bernadette action figure.
  • Amy: “Sheldon, all Snow White needs is one little kiss to wake up.” Sheldon: “Heard you the first time.”