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

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. 

Comments (82)
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Apr 11, 2013
I don't agree with the review I watched it three times, showed two people and laughed hard every time. Regina Kings return was excellent; every scene except the opening got a laugh and this is a sitcom; it's giving me what I want a laugh; not sure what anyone else expected but the only bad thing about tbbt right now is that I have to wait again for its return.
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Apr 09, 2013
I vote Leonard as he's had the least notoriety of all of the scientist characters on the show. Plus it would p*ss of Sheldon since he looks down on practical-physics and feels that Leonard is beneath him.

Raj - got a lot of acclaim when he was picked by some big science journal and plastered on the cover. Like top guy under 25 or something.

Sheldon - is apparently recognized as being quite intelligent and published often. At one point was considered the university's wunderkind even if incredibly eccentric.

Howard - though not in the running, went to flippin' outer space. That's a big feather in his cap from a professional point of view.

Leonard... he published an article with Sheldon (not that big of a deal) and got to go on what amounted to a business trip to see the LHC because their original choice got sick or something.

Kipke - hard to say since we know so little about him Other than giving an interview once (I think) and being shown to be smarter than we all thought... we don't know much about him other than he likes pranks and makes a wicked battle bot.


So I don't want to say Leonard deserves it more... but considering the kudos the other characters have gotten I think he's due.
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Apr 09, 2013
I think Leslie Winkle should get the position, if only to p*** Sheldon off beyond belief.
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Apr 08, 2013
A decent episode, even though I have no idea how it can end without causing problems, if one of them actually gets tenure. Better to have some dark horse get it unexpectedly.

As for the Meerkats, I have no idea why that was in the episode. Maybe cats, but meerkats? I guess I don't watch enough Animal Planet.
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Sep 24, 2013
Obviously not, or you would have noted the scene in the University canteen when the three Doctors "perked" up at a comment.

Very Meerkat in behavioral terms.
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Apr 08, 2013
I honestly thought that Howard was going to get it in a surprise twist. I mean he went into space for crying out loud! If anyone deserves tenure, it's that guy!
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Apr 08, 2013
I agree, though perhaps there is some rule out there that only Phd's can get tenure at Caltech. Still, it makes sense to me!
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May 07, 2013
Ha, I forgot about the whole "Dr. Cooper, Dr. Hofstadter ,Dr. Koothrappali, Mr. Wolowitz" thing. Probably because they haven't mentioned it in a while. Which I appreciate. The whole "Howard is the only one without a PhD" thing gets real old. Well, maybe Howard will get it anyway.
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Sep 30, 2014
Haha, methinks I may be a fortune teller after last monday's episode. I totally predicted that Howard might go for his PhD in the future and the events of The Junior Professor Solution depict Howard doing just that.
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Sep 30, 2014
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Apr 07, 2013
I liked the episode. Made me laugh a lot.
Somehow I thought that the Sheldon and Amy scenes were pretty romantic... considering it's sheldon we're speaking off here.
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Apr 07, 2013
worst episode of the season...
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Apr 07, 2013
I like this episode with Sheldon giving out gifts is funny (Roots and Jackie Chan movies).
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Apr 06, 2013
I totally disagree with the reviewer. This episode was hilarious from beginning to end. Seeing the guys competing for the tenure position had me rolling, especially with Leonard's attempt to work the exercise machine lol!!! There was no step backward, more like a hysterical leap forward.

Also, Penny in that dress: DAAAMMMNNN!!!! She was looking HOT!!!
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Apr 06, 2013
I actually thought this episode was better than the recent ones ...and they really pushed the cleavage thing ... also funny.
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Apr 06, 2013
I'm sorry but I thought this episode was hilarious! It's been a while since I've caught myself laughing out loud! I thought they were all at their best!
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Apr 06, 2013
Leonard is always pathetic, that's kind of his thing as the pathetic nerd wanting to be normal.

I thought it was a rather solid episode but yeah, it was filled with tropes.
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Apr 06, 2013
"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"

I have to disagree, this was by far one of the episodes this season. Penny has always been the eye-candy in the show and her showing cleavage was smart and she looked fine as hell.....XD

Raj drinking so much, and losing it was hilarious....he has never been this mean drunk <

Sheldon and Amy pairing was fantastic. Sheldon asking her to take her boobs out, and telling her that their date nights are tedious and boring was hilarious too....

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Apr 06, 2013
I disagree with most of this review. The last few episodes were good ones, but this one didn't take a step backwards or anything. This show is a Comedy, so there will not be character growth in every single episode. It's about producing laughs and I didn't feel like they backtracked on any character development. Sheldon may have grown some during the Closet episode, but that's a small growth compared to everything else he is oblivious about, especially women. Raj has always had the "spoiled brat" (man-child is the wrong description of him) but they don't bring it up too often because it's not always funny, but it worked this time tonight.

I think the reviewer forgot that this a Comedy. If you laughed at the episode, then they succeeded. It doesn't need a story or character development every episode. If you want that that's what dramas are for.

I also think you completely missed the point of the exercising and Leonerd part. The inability to know how to use it was about 10 sec. The rest of the scene was him being unable to actually exercise and how he got winded from burning 1 calorie.
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Apr 06, 2013
Darn breaks. It's just not good planning to have single episodes staggered by multi-week breaks.
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Apr 06, 2013
I've got to say I disagree with almost everything this review says. "Sheldon was oblivious and petty. Raj was a man-child" that's just a description of who the characters are. I thought this episode was great. Although I love seeing Sheldon and Amy move forward in their relationship, seeing him burn her is a close second. Raj's rants were hilarious. Seeing Leonard fail always makes my day. The underlying humor here is that the HR lady does seems like a very easy person to get along with, but none of them can seem to get it right.

The one thing that didn't make much sense is why the four of them were only brown-nosing her, when Leonard mentioned that the bulk of the tenure committee were old men.
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Apr 06, 2013
They didn't completely neglect the old men on the committee. I don't think the pair of arguments Penny brought were intended to influence Janine...
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Apr 06, 2013
Touché !
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Apr 06, 2013
Yup, Raj was great. He had me laughing so hard my sides hurt!
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Apr 05, 2013
Howard egging them on was great, he didn't need to kiss ass, he's playing at a safe distance (it'd be a wild shot but well played card if he ended up running things, though highly doubtful). Penny (well heeellllllllllooooooo there!) finishes behind Janine for winning the episode, Regina King can almost be Sheldon's unofficial new arch-nemesis.

And for goshsakes, Raj, man up, please writers, give him back his girlfriend (where'd she suddenly go?), at least then he can grow back his manhood.
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Apr 05, 2013
Janine Davis the HR lady is an absolutely great character. I hope she comes by more, because she delivers her lines so hilariously dry, I double over with laughter just as soon as that woman raises an eyebrow.
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Apr 05, 2013
They keep taking the characters, we started to know and love, reduce them to stereotypes and make them act akward. I am very close to dropping this show.... keep moving the plot already... This was like an exact copy of the "who gets the office" episode
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Apr 05, 2013
I really hate to admit this, but i fell asleep in the middle of the episode.. Kinda boring.
But at least i woke up to see penny in her little black dress... So it wasn't that bad really...
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Apr 05, 2013
Amazing writing, funny episode. Loved every part of it.
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Apr 05, 2013
that was TBBT worst episode EVER, what an horrendous beginning with 15 sec scenes put one after the other, writers, words of wisdom: if you don't have a story to tell, don't shoot the episode!!!
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Apr 05, 2013
To be honest, as much as the writing wasn't top shelf material, we laughed our asses off at the material that was presented. Sheldon's racism, "yo mama" snaps, trying to counter breasts with breasts, and that was just one scene. I can give you Raj's behavior being out of sorts though, that really didn't work except perhaps the video bit. I can't though give you Penny's cleavage, that was a push-up bra doing WAY too much work, they looked rock hard and kinda sad. And I can't give you ineptitude on workout equipment not being funny, it's hilarious seeing the uninitiated flop about trying to show off - and that's coming from a dyed-in-the-wool TV nerd.

My one big question was, how are any of these guys up for tenure? They're not professors, they are research scientists. Hence, none of them should have permanent teaching jobs.
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Apr 05, 2013
BLAM! Blew up in my face, 10 seconds on google says that tenure also applies to academic researchers.
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Apr 05, 2013
I don't really understand the tenure process but I always thought that you'd have to be a teaching professor to get it. Neither of the guys teach, we have seen Sheldon do it twice, one of those times with Leonard.

But Penny in that dress, damn girl.
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Apr 05, 2013
Thumbs up for the tenure comment.
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Apr 05, 2013
BLAM! Blew up in my face, 10 seconds on google says that tenure also applies to academic researchers.
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Apr 05, 2013
Ah ok, my mistake then
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Apr 05, 2013
You and me both!
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Apr 05, 2013
I've learned over the years that when a reviewer trashes a show or movie, said show or movie is really great. And when they praise a movie or show, it means it's crap and I steer clear of it. This ep was hilarious! And I was happy to see Kripke again. That must be one heck of an interesting school the guys work at. A prof dies at his desk and turns into a puddle of goo. Another prof walks around naked except for his hat. Still another prof urinates in his lab.
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Apr 05, 2013
Then you're gonna love the "Resident Evil" movies, they have HORRIBLE reviews.
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Apr 05, 2013
And they are AWESOME!!!
Though I really hope this didn't ruin them for you^^
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Apr 06, 2013
RUINED FOREVER! Oh no, the trap of only liking things that people dislike, and disliking things that people like! Ayeeeeeiiiiie! I'm melting, I'm melting, what a world, what a wor......
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Apr 05, 2013
It may not have been much of an episode.
But seeing Penny dressed up like that still makes me want to watch it again.
And again, and again...
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Apr 05, 2013
And again...
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Apr 05, 2013
Personal growth is always delightful to see, but I have to disagree with you. For the first time in WEEKS, I really enjoyed the big bang theory, because of the humor I was used to seeing in the show. It's the character flaws of the people on the show that makes it funny and relatable, not them turnung into ordinary boring people. So my favorite episode in a while, especially due to the last seen where Sheldon performs the hand shake.
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Apr 05, 2013
I wonder if Howard can be considered tenure. Sure he has a pretty 'questionable' relationship among the faculty, but they've shown that he is the most successful in his job among the group. And doesn't Amy work in the same university? The tenure could be only for the physics department though. Anyway, the Sheldon and Raj showdown before the memorial was the funniest part. But I find it disturbing that Sheldon is incredibly ignorantly racist. I don't think any amount of Asperger's can make it an excuse.
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Apr 05, 2013
Howard only has Master's Degree(s) - tenured professors are required to have a PhD. I still don't see Sheldon as racist, only as incredibly ignorant and prone to see the world through the eyes of his Texas family's societal prejudices.
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Apr 05, 2013
You don't need a PhD to be tenured depending on the position and the department. A Master's of Fine Arts is considered a terminal degree in a number of fields in the humanities, and is as such considered the equivalent of a PhD for job purposes. So you could get an MFA in Theater, but there's no such thing as a PhD in theater (though you could feasibly get a PhD in something like theater history).

I can't speak to engineering, though. An MA may not be enough to qualify for a tenure-track job in that field, but it could be, depending on the department and their needs.
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Apr 08, 2013
PhD is required in every Science Department I know of; also published peer-reviewed articles are required. There may be exceptions made in some Engineering fields, since a breakthrough invention can trump everything.
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Apr 06, 2013
I was under the impression that tenure was only for professors (assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor) hence the need for a PhD. We have tenure and not tenure tracks but only if you have a doctorate. I learned something new--didn't know there was tenure for theater arts and that it didn't require a doctorate. Interesting!

I associated Caltech with the "hard sciences" which to my understanding require a PhD for tenure but I may be wrong
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Apr 05, 2013
I think you ought to differentiate between "casual racism" and inept attempts at racial sensitivity. Honestly, the writers display more casual racism in the way they depict Howard and Raj than in Sheldon's interactions with Janine. As catastrophically incompetent as Sheldon is when he attempts ANY social interaction, his visits with Janine are perfectly in line. Her reactions bring the funny, and Regina King was wonderful.
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Apr 05, 2013
I actually liked this episode if only for Kripke, he saves every episode he's in. I don't disagree with any of your points about stepping backwards in character for the guys, and I didn't enjoy very much of Raj's whining, and Shedon's offending; however that didn't stop me from laughing as Howard instigated the Yo' Mama fighting at the funeral, or Lenard collapsing after his "work out" or really anything that came out of Kripke's mouth.
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Apr 05, 2013
I gotta say, hot damn this screenshot shows just how short everyone is compared to Jim! Especially since Kaley is in heels.
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Apr 05, 2013
I think it was a funny episode, it's good to take a break from the drama to tell a silly story that might develop into something bigger. Sheldon's "innocent" racism was once again hilarious and I absolutely love Davis' reactions to it. The quick quiz Sheldon had to suffer from Amy was also really good. I laughed a lot today, thanks to the gang.
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Apr 05, 2013
While I know that the tenure position is obviously going to carry into future episodes, this episode screamed "Filler! Filler!"

There were some good jokes but the episode did not have the punch the last few have had for me.

The meerkat analogy was my favorite part too.

All in all, an ok episode. But it feels so much more out of place knowing the scheduling of it.
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Apr 05, 2013
What would you consider non-filler in TBBT or pretty much any other sitcom?

I ask only because I've never been able to differentiate filler and non-filler episodes in sitcoms, especially multi-cam sitcoms like TBBT. Aren't they all filler? Isn't the whole basis of sitcoms to have different and random plots and situations all the time while throwing in jokes?
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Apr 05, 2013
I agree with you to a degree. I guess I look at it this way: I can go back and watch an old episode of a show like Friends or the Nanny (yes, I still love that show and I'm not afraid to admit it) or insert random sitcom name here and place it in a season because there's enough there to relate it to other episodes of that season (the "overarching" story lines).

This episode of TBBT really didn't have that for me, especially given all the leaps and strides that it has done in recent weeks in terms of character development. Like MaryAnn said, it seemed like the writers resorted to the old standard stereotypes for the characters, ignoring the progress they've made lately. I guess with where it stands right now, I could randomly watch this episode years from now, and I wouldn't be able to tell you what season it was. It just didn't have anything to relate it to anything else going on.

Now granted, once we see the future episodes, this episode may become less of a filler episode in the grand scheme of things. But as of right now, without the future episodes, and given the ridiculous scheduling that CBS decided was a cool idea, I am stuck firmly in the filler category.
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Apr 05, 2013
I think it is funny, for awhile now, the boys start out at work, you know it is going to be a kind of ho-hum episode. I know they love the scenes of the different dynamics of each relationship reacting to the same thing (and they are funny) but it was a really random episode to have as a stand alone (you know with the total hiatus on either side of it).
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Apr 05, 2013
I think this was one of the funniest episodes for a while, actually.
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Apr 05, 2013
It was a great episode. Mother jokes between Sheldon and Raj,again whole race jokes..woow,Roots,lol. Howard was the only one,who couldn't get that job? Is it because of his work? If someone from engineering died,he could have a shot? Either way,it was cool to see him have fun.
Maybe Raj was been there,done that,but it was still kinda funny. Likey they do so many times,that Penny is "oh,so hot" and drops 3/4 of clothes:D

God,I hate these stupid breaks. Back then,there was only midseason break,now there are f-ing 5 breaks at least. Californication,Breaking Bad,Sons of Anarchy...those shows do BACK TO BACK or week to week and season+show is so much better for it. Of course those 3 aren't the only ones,who do it that way,but there are others as well() you know people will write GoT)
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Apr 05, 2013
Howard doesn't have a PhD for the position of tenured Professor.
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Apr 05, 2013
I'm glad the show remembered that a great part of its strength comes from Kaley Cuoco's boobs. Other than those, not really much to look back to.
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Apr 05, 2013
I don't know about you Maryann but I thought the entire episode was hysterical. Yes the characters are evolving but they haven't been totally revamped. And Raj has had little to know character developmeny anyway. The first 5 mins were a bit weak but everything from Roots onwards was just hilarious.

That said, Sheldon's poor treatment of Amy really is getting old. He needs to step or she needs to kick him to the kerb and become a character in her own right, instead of just revolving around Sheldon like a puppy.
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Apr 05, 2013
*no character development
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Apr 05, 2013
I agree with you about this episode. It felt like SO MUCH character development was thrown out the window. It definitely had it's funny moments (the "yo momma" jokes between Sheldon and Raj was a particular highlight for me), but overall....meh.
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Staff
Apr 05, 2013
I will admit that I spent much of the episode saying, "This isn't really how getting tenure works." (Seriously: These guys likely should've been tenure track, and have applied for it already at this stage in their careers unless they've all been adjuncts, post-docs, or visiting lecturers/researchers all this time.) I mostly just enjoyed Howard egging everyone else on.
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Apr 05, 2013
Nerd!
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Apr 05, 2013
Aww come on thumbs-up guy, I was kidding.
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Staff
Apr 05, 2013
Way to give yourself a thumbs-up and then throw the suspicion off by calling it out. Crafty.
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Staff
Apr 06, 2013
Of course it's a TV reference. You're referring to the short-lived CBS drama with Tim Daly, right? ;)
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Apr 06, 2013
I see how it is, TV.com reports "1 user voted up your comment..." in the notifications without a username and now I'm catching the blame just because I have no evidence. It was the one-armed man, I tell you!

(For the young people, that was a TV reference, not a movie referen... oh god, you don't even know the MOVIE reference, do you?)
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Apr 05, 2013
It is lovely cleavage.
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Apr 06, 2013
I think in that quantity it's more appropriate to say "It are lovely cleavage".
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Apr 05, 2013
Funny ep. But if your offended at the casual racism jokes, you should be offended at the cleavage joke too. It's a comedy show.
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Apr 05, 2013
I still think major character growth is pointless if its at the cost of genuine hilarity. I found this episode pretty funny on the whole. The episodes where Penny and Sheldon are the central focus were / are the funniest moments for me. Too few these days...
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Apr 05, 2013
do they actually teach?any of them?
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Apr 05, 2013
No, they don't. But it turns out that tenure also can apply to researchers in academia, which kinda would have been nice for them to say instead of making me look it up just now. "The more you know!"
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Apr 05, 2013
There was a previous episode that showed Leonard and Sheldon teaching, but that just could have been a one-time seminar or lecture.
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Apr 05, 2013
Caltech has about as many faculty as students. They do research mostly.
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Staff
Apr 05, 2013
Hardly matters in some institutions in real life, especially depending on the position.
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Apr 05, 2013
I thought it was a funny episode, but not the best. The ending was very funny.
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