The Big Bang Theory "The Contractual Obligation Implementation" Review: Mean Girls and Cinderfellas

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Mar 08, 2013

The Big Bang Theory S06E18: “The Contractual Obligation Implementation”

Who knew that a roomful of teenage girls could bring such hilarity to The Big Bang Theory? The girls themselves didn’t even have to actually DO anything, such is the terrifying truth about their cruel nature. I wasn’t even a COOL middle-schooler and I was STILL an asshole and once Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard entered the locker-lined arena of Howard’s old middle school, their awareness of just how awful middle school was and is stole their lunch money and gave their contractually obligated women-in-science program a swirlie. 

Meanwhile, Bernadette, Amy, and Penny played hooky to go to Disneyland and Raj’s library date with Lucy actually wasn’t a disaster. In fact, Raj wins this episode of TBBT, if only because he was the only one who wasn’t completely miserable by the end of the episode. He came up with an unorthodox but ultimately successful date-night idea to accommodate both his inability to talk to women without being drunk and Lucy’s crippling social anxiety, and it was great and everyone was happy and he ALMOST got a kiss out of it. YAY RAJ!

The contractual obligation in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” forced Leonard, Howard, and Sheldon to create a program that would help draw women into science careers, but The Big Bang Theory took the opportunity to point out (and poke fun at) female inequalities all across geekdom—from grotesquely proportioned video game warriors in barely there armor to the fact that, for as advanced and civilized as the society in the original Star Trek series was meant to be, the show still featured a black lady (in a mini skirt) answering the space telephone. Even Sheldon—who was initially apprehensive to the point of being antagonistic in his reluctance to devote time to a female-oriented program—conceded to the often-overlooked practice of women using their initials rather than their full names to take credit for work in order to avoid being dismissed before a superior even bothered to look at the content. 

And so The Big Bang Theory tackled a fairly serious issue in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation,” and while its commentary was far from being the definitive statement on the matter, it WAS a very good, and more importantly for TBBT, very FUNNY. It’s honestly not hard to make me laugh, but sometimes it’s hard for The Big Bang Theory to make me laugh because so much of its humor relies on overcooked stereotypes (apologies). Yet the one-liners in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” just kept coming—and they were excellent. 

Plus we got ragey Bernadette marking her Cinderella territory with threats of open violence and ragey Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory is like Mark Pellegrino in everything-except-that-one-episode-of-Being-Human-where-his-presence-served-absolutely-no-point-whatsoever. It just makes everything better. The fact that the three women fought over who got to be Cinderella on their Disney princess makeover adventure was an entirely appropriate parallel to the guys’ story. Cinderella is often touted as the ideal princess in that she did her time, worked hard, suffered the indignities of serving her stepmother and stepsisters, and eventually, magically, lived happily ever after with Prince Charming—if we’re sticking to the Disney version. There's even a book about the “Cinderella complex” that talks all about women who fear independence and whose only apparent goal in life is to be taken care of. 

But for all the recent negativity surrounding what she can sometimes symbolize, Cinderella is maintained as the ideal. True story: When I went shopping for a wedding dress a few months ago, the woman at the shop asked what kind of dress I was interested in and I actually said “like a Cinderella dress,” and then I immediately wanted to kick my own ass. CINDY GETS INTO YOUR HEAD, MAN. 

So. Highly-educated, employed-in-the-sciences women fighting over who gets to be Cinderella at Disneyland? Totally appropriate, and a situation that kind of made Sheldon’s point that, like so many other things that end up being assigned different notions of gender appropriateness and desirability, perhaps with some encouragement, girls of today will find themselves fighting to play with toxic chemicals with the same fervor they might invest in fighting over who gets to wear the Cinderella costume for a day.

What did you think of this episode?

The Stray Observation Addendum

– One-liner of the night: “How do I get 12-year-old girls excited?” —Something Sheldon should probably never ask the Google machine.

– “It’s a joke. Based on real events.” As the best jokes are. 

– “Hello, female children.” I like that Sheldon addressed the middle school girls like aliens because let's face it, middle school girls ARE aliens. 

– Do you think Lucy will lead to Raj overcoming his inability to talk to women while sober, once and for all? I hope so, because 1) I like Lucy, and 2) I’m sick of Raj’s woman issues.

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  • Gio7 Mar 19, 2013

    Too bad Priya wasn't still around for this episode. She'd have made a good princess Jasmine.

  • Glennen Mar 11, 2013

    What a fun episode. Bernadettes threats, all wanted to be Cinderella. I liked the end, when the guys reacted to the girls in their respective costumes :)

  • JustinJohnson9 Mar 10, 2013

    Hilarious from beginning to end. Loved Bernie's temper tantrums when it came to dressing like Cinderella lol!!! The guys were having me rolling at the middle school!!! Plus, Raj had a great idea for that first date given his and Lucy's quirks. Well done all around!!!

  • cuculhain Mar 10, 2013

    I don't think they were trying to "sell Disney" , ABC is owned by Disney, not CBS, but that doesn't mean a show set in California has to ignore Disneyland any more than it would ignore Hollywood with an actress as a character. Adults like Disneyland, no reason a couple of the characters in a show obsessed with cartoons and comic books wouldn't have an episode with Disney or Looney tunes in it.

    I didn't like the porn/prawn autocomplete joke, it seemed forced. Seriously a web designer who can't text clearly is one thing, but I tried to mistype prawn and no way that my auto complete jumps to porn with the 5 letters in any order i tried. They telegraphed it for such a small payoff.

    I like that Raj's story is moving away from all the gay jokes and stereotypical behaviorisms. If they wanted him to be gay, they could have made him gay, but he and Stuart were becoming a one-joke pairing.

    And finally, now that Micucci is on the show, I want her better half from Garfunkle and Oates to return for a tiny cameo together. I love their videos.

  • Taliysin Mar 11, 2013

    She's a prom, not a prawn, web designer. Take another look through that episode

  • mcg1018 Mar 09, 2013

    I think people are missing the point of why this episode seemed off kilter, if still somewhat funny, in that it was a giant commercial for Disney. Not sure why this episode isn't getting any criticism for that as much as the "New Girl" did for it's "Ford" episode, which was at least funnier.
    The writers seem to shoehorn in a story about trying to promote science to girls as a way to justify convincing a growing adult population to flock to Disneyland(world) in order to live out escapism from the everyday work life.
    I agree with some of the other criticism that it would have made more sense to incorporate the other scientists of the group (who are women) into the campaign. I'm sure the justification was that it was part of a university project to which the men only belong, but that shouldn't have stopped them from getting their respective partners to participate.
    The dichotomy of the 2 (out of 3) women being accomplished in a science career and still succumbing to the old gender stereotypes was funny and handled well. But these are both extremely successful women. And are we supposed to believe that their biggest social goals in life are to emulate Penny?
    I'd really like to see Amy and Bernadette bring Penny up rather than continuously succumbing to these fits of retro adolescence.
    Leonard's speech and rapping were just cringe worthy. The only nice and amusing thing to see was that Sheldon, being the least willing to participate, was the sole member with the common sense to realize to include women scientists in the presentation. It's funny because it's rare when he's the mature and realistic one of the group. But then that made it seem like the production crew got half way through filming the episode and then thought, "Oh, right. Have women scientist talk to girls about science".
    I think if they hadn't been trying to sell Disney then it would have generated a much better story line. Either that or they should have made the episode all about the women on a day trip as a contrast to the "Landing Party" episode with the guys facing their nerd ennui.

  • Taliysin Mar 11, 2013

    They didn't really show anything besides Disney costumes and mention going there, if they had spent more screen time on it, then yea I get your point but it feels like an over reaction to a sitcom based comedy, however high they set their own bar early on...

  • ltcomstella Mar 09, 2013

    average , nothing really stood out, filler episode..

    sheldon's scripts are getting very close to offensive/sexist/racist...

    leonard well he did pretty well with what he had to work with..

    penny wasn't scared of bernie more like 'chill the fuck out'

  • AnoukvdZee Mar 09, 2013

    I thought the "I'm going to be Cinderella"-conversation was hilarious, reminded me very much of when the boys all wanted to be The Flash for Halloween, it was structured very much in the same manner.

  • PaulCarroll2 Mar 09, 2013

    Frankly, this episode came off as being filler. I just didn't find it interesting or funny. Maybe there were just too many humans and not enough science. I guess that is where they lost me.

  • safibwana Mar 09, 2013

    To not be filler, wouldn't it have to have character development and hence focus on humans rather than science? Could it be that the episodes you like are the filler episodes?

  • emmairis Mar 09, 2013

    I think all gender issues might be solved if everyone just embraced who they are. Let women be women and men be men. everyone should be who they want to be and do what they want to do. People still have to understand that being equal doesn't mean being identical, difference is a good thing and we should just enjoy what makes us women. And men should enjoy what makes them men without feeling the need to refer as manhood as some kind of superior quality. They love us and they should celebrate our qualities, not use them as an insult. It's plain creepy that in 2013 the worst insult for a girl is "whore" and for a guy is "faggot", i.e. in both cases, the worst insult is to call someone a woman!

  • mcepin3 Mar 09, 2013

    Best episode of season so far for me.

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