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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: “The Tenure Turbulence”

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A tenured professor has just been found dead after decomposing in his office for two weeks. Who killed him? Did Raj hit him with the BMW his father had given to him? Maybe Leonard smothered the man with Penny’s breasts? Sheldon’s always seemed like the murderous type, perhaps he’s finally snapped? Or none of that happens and the three men just become ravenous for the open position, getting into wacky hijinks as they try to brown nose the tenure committee. After a series of strong episodes, The Big Bang Theory stumbles with “The Tenure Turbulence,” a story that goes for cheap laughs rather than building character-based comedy.

The main person the three men try to impress is Janine Davis, the black human resources worker that Sheldon called a slave back in “The Egg Salad Equivalency.” Regina King is always a welcome face, and she’s great at playing frustrated and offended, two things that are bound to happen when this gang of nerds is involved. Raj sends her a 90-minute biographical YouTube video, and Leonard meets her at the gym for some physical comedy on the elliptical machine. Leonard struggling on an exercise machine isn’t all that funny for a single gag, but when it takes up an entire scene it begins to feel like the writers are desperate to kill time.

For being so smart, Sheldon sure is dumb, and his oblivious racism is one of those social quirks that becomes harder to believe the more the writers push it. Sheldon calling Mrs. Davis a slave is already pushing it, but getting her the 25th Anniversary boxed set of Roots makes Sheldon look far too stupid. And then he gets the Best of Jackie Chan for the Asian professor who is next on his shmooze list. Sheldon is uncharacteristically idiotic in his interactions with authority figures, but he’s his usual self with Amy, acting like a huge jerk whenever she tries to make him feel better.

When Amy says that he’s an obvious choice for the tenure position, Sheldon responds, “I go back and forth on this boyfriend/girlfriend thing, but those moments when you worship me really keep you in the running.” She doesn’t look amused, and hopefully Amy’s building irritation over her boyfriend’s behavior is leading to a break-up down the line. Amy is way too good for Sheldon, and she’s become such an essential part of the show that she could easily stick around without her connection to Sheldon. He needs Amy more than she needs him, as seen by the exchange where she guides him through proper emotional reactions: he should feel sad about Professor Tupperman’s death, glad that he’s with a big group of colleagues in this time of need, and bad that he got Mrs. Davis the boxed set of Roots.

When Kripke tells the guys that the tenure committee will be at Tupperman’s funeral, they decide that they won’t go and then all start planning what they’ll do at the funeral. Amy suggests that Sheldon bring her along because she’s an accomplished scientist, and he agrees because he needs a ride. Penny wants to come along too, and when she bends over to tie her shoelaces, Leonard realizes what assets could make his girlfriend valuable in a room full of nerds. When they arrive at the funeral, Penny pulls off her jacket to reveal a little black dress and her sizable breasts, setting the rest of the group into a frenzy as they try to figure out how they can match up.

Raj and Sheldon get into a bitch fight yelling about each others’ mothers, but ultimately Amy swoops in to save the day, again proving how valuable she is to Sheldon. “Well, you’ll always be an academic success, but I seriously question that you’ll make anymore friends,” she says to convince him to stand down, and he wisely listens to her advice because he knows that she’s probably right. The three guys all get recommended for the tenure short list by Mrs. Davis despite their quirks, so Sheldon made the right choice in stopping before he made an even bigger fool of himself. He’s already been dumb enough for one episode.


Stray observations:

  • Kaley Cuoco’s boobs are all over this episode, but her face is all over TV and print ads promoting Toyota cars and Priceline.com right now. You just can’t escape that adorable blonde.
  • Raj’s storyline this episode revolves around him being spoiled by his father with a BMW but not getting heated seats. That’s it. Can we get Kate Micucci back in here?
  • “I believe people do their best work when they feel safe and secure.” BOOM!
  • “I’m as qualified as you are.” BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
  • “Awww, yeah. That’s what I was hoping for. Meerkats.”
  • “Honestly, if I must endure a long and tedious evening, I’d rather be with you on date night.”
  • Leonard: “You realize you might kill some of them.” Penny: “Then you all can get tenure.”
  • “I believe ‘screwed, I’m going in’ is what I said to your mother last night.”