Big Bang Theory: The Contractual Obligation


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

It’s time to be productive, helpful, and/or romantic in the newest episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Contractual Obligation.” Of course, being romantic, or helpful, doesn’t come easy to this lot. To start off, Leonard, Howard, and Sheldon are contractually obligated by the university to do things for the betterment of society. In this case, encourage more women to pursue the sciences. Leonard seems to be the only one taking it seriously, while Howard and Sheldon just want to play XBox. But it’s Sheldon. Sheldon? Yes, Sheldon Cooper that actually comes up with the idea of programs targeting girls at the middle school level. While this is a fantastic idea, and one that would genuinely work, leaving that task up to these three? It’s bound to get really uncomfortable.

Have you ever tried talking to middle-schoolers? Even being related to them doesn’t give you an advantage, trust me. I mean, they’re like cats, aren’t they? You can tell them all the coolest stuff in the world, and you get this “Are you even human?” expression staring right back at you. It’s soul shriveling. And the three most inappropriate people to bring the sciences to the aloof middle schoolers are Leonard Hofstadter, Howard Wolowitz, and Sheldon Cooper. They never stood a chance.

So, the guys get the opportunity to go to Howard’s old school and do a little presentation to a room full of middle-school girls. Leonard takes this and every opportunity to tell the world about his mommy issues as if he’s in therapy, and he adds a new move to the routine with a little demonstration of his Snoop Dog-like rap skills, freestyle. It did not go well. While, Howard, bless him, just can’t be taken seriously as an astronaut because he didn’t go to the moon, nor did he actually pilot the rocket that got him to the International Space Station. So, in the soul shriveling judgment of a middle-schooler, Howard’s like a flight attendant.

After Leonard’s therapy session and, well, Howard, it’s all up to Sheldon. Initially, he does what he always does: dismisses the entire project. But after witnessing the damage inflicted upon the children (middle-schoolers are still children, right?), by his colleagues, he, again, comes up with the solution that saves the endeavor. He calls actual women scientists, Amy and Bernadette, and has them speak to the girls about science on speaker phone. So, Sheldon. Sheldon comes up with the idea, and implements the idea. Sheldon Cooper. He may be the one character on the whole show that isn’t completely broken.

Speaking of completely broken, Penny. Penny, Penny, Penny. Wow. I used to think Penny was supposed to be the “normal” one amongst all the scientists, but based on all the jokes inspired by real life events, I may have to rethink that. She makes several pathetic jokes about her past experiences as she, Amy, and Bernadette, attempt to help Raj plan the perfect first date with Lucy. Unsurprisingly, Sheldon Coopers’ Council of Ladies is less than helpful. What starts out as a wine and fondue infused planning session turns into a planning session for skipping work and going to Disneyland. But, as this is a most noble endeavor, they are to be forgiven, and even commended for their decision.

It turns out, Raj, doesn’t need their help, as he plans a non-social date with Lucy at the library, where they can spend their time on a texting date. It’s really quite touching, and a nice way for them to enter into this dating thing. I did expect Raj to pull out the flask at the library, but the texting was a pleasant alternative, and (if I can use the word in a manly fashion) sweet.

As Raj sets up his date, and the three amigos are doing their thing in middle school, the girls head over to Disneyland, where we discover Bernadette’s burning obsession with Cinderella. It’s a real eye opener when the seemingly sweet girl with the soft, high-pitched, voice who went to Catholic school, and has trouble lying, wants to fight over who gets to dress up like Cinderella. Amy seems content to be Snow White and Penny seems like she couldn’t care less about the whole situation. Which brings me to a problem that I’m having with some of the episodes this season.

Everyone, with the exception of the Penny, is fairly successful in their chosen fields. Sure, everyone is broken. Everyone has enormous issues, the types of issues that only divine intervention can cure. But Penny is on a different level of sadness that’s sliding into the pathetic. This episode highlights, again, the fact that Penny is out of place in this group of friends. The rest of the gang all have similar backgrounds, similar interests, and so on. Then there’s Penny. Drunk, um, “friendly” Penny. Even though a previous episode demonstrated that Penny actually can act, that one episode isn’t enough to counterbalance the sheer magnitude of the disappointment that is her life. The others have compensated for disappointment. She needs to grow. She needs to be allowed to flourish and experience a little more success in her own career. And maybe put down the wine for a couple minutes.

All in all, a decent episode. Not the best for laugh out loud moments. The situations were amusing, though Penny’s characterization is growing a bit tiresome. Maybe I’m in a minority, but I’d like to see Penny do something more than the formulaic drunken blonde who gets to play the “stupid” card in every episode. I’d like to see an episode where she shines, and is maybe a little smarter than the others. Give her something that the others can respect her for.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

    One Comment

  1. ShariMarch 11th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I agree with your analysis…though as a person who goes into middle schools and speaks about relationships and *gasp* sex…I have their undivided attention and they are very attentive when I present. I feel like she is even “settling” with Leonard rather than seeing this relationship as something amazing and precious. I too, would like to see her grow and succeed in something (they almost did that in the last episode when even Sheldon commented that she was really good in the play). Kind of like Howard rising in the ranks of the group by going to space, so could Penny do something of that nature in her field.

    I feel you missed commenting on the error that occurred in the episode. Due to Disney’s extremely high standards they have for their employees, no adult is allowed to be dressed like a Disney character in the park (with the exception of at Halloween). Yes, adults can go to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, but the most they can get is some sparkle hairspray and a tiara. I can’t let you know if the science is correct on that show, but I can let you know when the Disney is wrong 🙂
    I look forward to seeing how the characters will progress as the show continues because even if every episode isnt laugh out loud funny, it is still a joy to watch!

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