The Big Bang Theory "The Tenure Turbulence" Review: Meerkats, Assemble!

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The Big Bang Theory S06E20: "The Tenure Turbulence"

The death of a tenured professor who keeled over at his desk and spent the following two weeks disintegrating into a puddle of goo kicked off a fierce competition between Raj, Leonard, and Sheldon as they vied for the vacated position. After several weeks of very good episodes from The Big Bang Theory, "The Tenure Turbulence" felt like a step backward, as so much of its humor—if we want to call it that—relied on the tired tropes that I thought we had finally put behind us after the excellence of "The Tangible Affection Proof," "The Monster Isolation," and "The Closet Reconfiguration." Sheldon was oblivious and petty. Raj was a man-child, whining over how daddy didn't love him enough to splurge on heated seats for his BMW. Leonard was pathetic. Penny was just there to flash some cleavage (and what lovely cleavage, but still). 

One highlight, however, was the return of Regina King as Janine Davis, the HR lady we last saw in "The Egg Salad Equivalency" when she had to handle the sexual harassment allegations against Sheldon, and eventually everyone else. This time around, she found herself the target of an intense sucking-up competition due to her place on the tenure committee charged with filling dearly departed Tupperman's spot. 

Raj sent her a 90-minute video entitled "Getting to Know Me." Sheldon's social ineptitude was played up because casual racism is hilarious if the offender doesn't realize he's offending. Leonard stalked her at the gym or something, though I'm pretty sure that whole scene was orchestrated solely to get some laughs out of Leonard's inability to use an elliptical machine. It's too bad people failing to understand how to use workout equipment isn't actually all that funny. 


Okay, it's a little funny. 

Despite their respective party fouls, Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj all made the shortlist to be considered for the tenured spot, but not before letting their competitiveness get the best of them, resulting in antagonistic feelings not just among each other, but between their respective ladies as well. Only Howard seemed to escape, watching the "meerkat fight" from a safe distance. I don't know why Howard's meerkat comparison and accompanying impression made me laugh so hard, but it was honestly my favorite part of the episode. 

The meerkat analogy, in addition to simply being funny, was also weirdly accurate. Meerkats live in colonies and are generally loyal to that "family" as a whole. In-fighting is common and can get pretty intense, but for the most part, these mongeese are dedicated to their specific unit and apprehensive toward outsiders. 

Leonard, Raj, and Sheldon had dedicated so much time and energy to outdoing one another that John Ross Bowie's Barry Kripke quickly endeared himself to Janine Davis and appeared to be the frontrunner in the race to court her favor. One quick friendship-is-magic moment later, and the gang, which had previously agreed to abandon their attempts to woo Davis before their internal rivalries ruined their friendships, opted instead to continue their campaign as a united front against Kripke. Davis, to her credit, claimed that her decision to include Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj on her shortlist for promotion was due to their high quality of work and not their misguided effots to kiss her ass, proving yet again that the woman is a saint. Not sure what this means for Kripke, since he was so sure that his sucking-up efforts were going so well, but then again, as merely part of a committee, Janine's doesn't have the final say on the tenure matter. This battle is far from over. 

What did you think of this week's episode?



THE STRAY OBSERVATION ADDENDUM

– One-liner of the night: "Don't just stand there! Take your breasts out!" —Sheldon

– After being on hiatus since the second week of March, TBBT now takes yet another break until later this month (the 25th, to be precise). Really, CBS? 

– "If I must endure a long and tedious evening, I'd rather it be with you on date night." That's sweet. You know, for Sheldon. 

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