Big Bang Theory – The Tenure Turbulence


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

What would you do for a job that you can’t be fired from? A little brown nosing? A little schmoozing? In the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Tenure Turbulence,” we find out what the guys are capable of when a coveted tenure position comes open at Cal Tech. Well, the three doctors anyway. Howard is left out of the running, but don’t feel bad for him. He seems to be having quite a bit of fun watching the competition. Let me see if I can sum up what ensues in a word: sad, and funny. Yeah, that’s two words. They’re both needed.

One of the professors of the department has died, and the guys discover the names of the tenure committee, which includes Janine Davis from Human Resources. You remember her, right? She had to get involved when Sheldon’s assistant, Alex, filed a complaint against him. As she goes about trying to live her life in peace, she becomes the target of the aforementioned schmoozing. Leonard tries to get on her good side, and put a good word in for himself by joining her in the gym. Now, I went to the gym once and tried a couple machines, and had the same reaction as Leonard. It kinda does feel like a cross between a heart attack and an asthma attack. Leonard does the right thing, though: lay down so you’re already on the floor. That way you won’t fall down and hurt yourself.

While Leonard is recouping from exercise, Sheldon decides a bribe would be the best way into Ms. Davis’ good graces. His choice of gifts? A DVD copy of the movie, Roots. Roots? Yep. He also gets Professor Wu, another member of the tenure committee, the complete works of Jackie Chan. I absolutely love Sheldon Cooper. Oh, he’s arrogant, inconsiderate (except when there’s a social convention to be followed), self-centered, and the whole bit. But he’s also innocent. Where most people see insult, he does not. He doesn’t get sarcasm. He doesn’t get racism, or sexism. No doubt he’s attempting to schmooze, but he’s so inept at it that you just have to love him.

Raj’s plan is to send Ms. Davis a ninety-minute video about his life. Do you ever get those? A colleague, or someone you may have heard of, sends you a video. Out of the goodness of your heart you might take a minute or two to watch it. But ninety minutes? I know monks that don’t have that much patience. But that’s only the first half of Raj’s plan. The second involves getting hammered and complaining about not getting seat warmers in his new BMW. Apparently his parents bought him a new car, but they draw the line at seat warmers. So, to get those buns warmed he needs the increased pay of the tenured position.

But they’re not done, yet. Howard goads them all into going to the memorial service by telling them the tenure committee will all be there. Howard has a lot of fun with these guys during this whole competition and it’s at this point that he achieves level meerkat. Technically, they all agree not to go, but we all know that’s not going to last. Amy is going with Sheldon in order to raise his stock as a candidate because she’s knowledgeable about academic politics and is a respected scientist in her own right. That, and she can drive, because as we all know, Sheldon doesn’t need any help in the important things, just the mediocore tasks like driving.

Across the hall, it only takes Leonard a few minutes, and just the right imagery, to come to the conclusion that the best thing for him in a room full of old guys would be to have his attractive, blond, limber girlfriend with gravity-defying bosoms to accompany him. Meanwhile Raj is still drinking and going on about those blasted seat warmers.

In the end, all three are short-listed for the position, so the competition will go on. Turns out it was indeed about their work, and not their “quirks” or gimmicks.

It was fun to see Howard so easily manipulate the rest of the crew, and it posed some interesting ideas. We may say that we’re principled. We may want to take the high road and let our work speak for itself. We may even have an aversion to schmoozing. But when there is a job-for-life position in our chosen field, how would we handle it? Would we compete against our friends for a job? Would we insinuate ourselves into the lives of those who make decisions? Bribe them? Worse?

A great episode all the way around.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    One Comment

  1. NerditaApril 8th, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    The public school system would improve ten fold if we abolished tenure. And I can say that, as I have been a high school teacher for 7 years.

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