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August 28, 2015

'The Big Bang Theory' Season 4, Episode 15 Recap

by Oliver Miller, posted Feb 11th 2011 7:20AM
'The Big Bang Theory'['The Big Bang Theory' - 'The Benefactor Factor']

What a difference a week makes. The previous episode of 'The Big Bang Theory' was probably the weakest of the season, and it certainly had the skimpiest plot. Tonight's episode was much better, and it hit all the right comedic beats. Once again, the plot was pretty thin. But then again, 'The Big Bang Theory' has never been known for the complexity of its plots. And hey, when the show's funny, then that doesn't matter.

The show was divided into two sections. In the first, the boys met President Siebert, the head of their university. In the grand tradition of, well, every college movie and TV show ever, Sheldon has a rivalry going on with the president. But Siebert isn't a stuffy old dean in the style of, say, 'Animal House.' In fact, in a nice twist on the usual dean-vs.-students battle, the feud seems to be mostly Sheldon's fault.

Siebert convinced Leonard, Raj and Howard to go to a Saturday night fund-raiser, in order to have them suck up to some wealthy donors. But Sheldon hates the president so refused to go; he compared parading in front of donors to being "a prize hog at the Texas State Fair." Worse, Siebert made the mistake of actually touching Sheldon on the shoulder, which prompted Captain Germ Hater to decide he'd rather spend Saturday night at home doing laundry.

As usual, it fell to Amy to be the voice of reason, via Skype video chat (also, as usual). She told Sheldon that if he didn't go to the party, then all of that sweet, sweet donor money would go to the Geology Department. "Or worse, it could go to the Liberal Arts ... millions of dollars being showered on poets."

The thought of poets actually receiving money was enough to rouse Sheldon from his laundry-induced stupor, and he headed off to the fund-raiser. Meanwhile, Raj, Howard and Leonard were already there -- and were experiencing problems of their own. They met Ms. Latham, a quasi-terrifying "Cougar." Ms. Latham was played by Jessica Walters, of 'Arrested Development' and 'Archer' fame, and Walters gave all of her lines an awesome sarcastic zing -- frightening the boys with the sheer archness of her words.

Then, Sheldon entered the party, confident in his ability to win tons of donor funding for the Physics Department. "I'm just here for your money, I don't want to shake anyone's germy hands!" he announced. But once the party was over, we learned that Ms. Latham is really, really rich -- and she's really into Leonard. As in, wanting to have sex with Leonard level of "into" him.

In the second and funniest section of the show, Sheldon promoted the whole Leonard-having-sex-with-an-older-woman-bit, lured on by the prospect of her donating massive amounts of funds to their department. In a nice twist, there was no rivalry between Sheldon and Leonard here, and even Penny seemed cautiously into Leo getting down with a cougar.

The best part about 'The Big Bang Theory' is how the show casually defies standard sitcom expectations. You'd think that Leonard would back out of the sex thing, or that Ms. Latham would turn out to be mean, or crazy, or there'd be some twist where he wouldn't get the money after all.

But, in the end, everything works out pleasantly, which is ... surprisingly pleasant. Ms. Latham made a pass at Leonard, he gave in and slept with her, and it turned out that she actually just likes him; no strings attached. She was always going to give the department money, no matter what. The set-up for this episode couldn't have been more traditional -- an "evil" college president, a "conniving" older woman. But the president isn't evil, and the cougar turned out to be a pussycat. And the show pulled it all off with a sweet, gentle humor, reminding us of why we like 'The Big Bang Theory' in the first place.

Random jokes:

"Here's what I wonder about zombies ... they can't starve to death, they're already dead."

"I think we were misled about the cute girls."

"Prepare to be minimized."

"If there's simply no talking to me, then why did you call?"

"We have potatoes, I can make you vodka." "That'd take two weeks."

"Penny, you're an expert on trading sexual favors for material gain."
Sheldon, to Leonard: "I'm so proud of you, you sold yourself out like a common streetwalker!" Penny to Leonard: "Good morning, slut!"

'The Big Bang Theory' airs Thursdays, 8PM ET on CBS.

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Brett Alan

I don't know whether having Amy Farrah Fowler appear only on Sheldon's laptop results from some pregnancy or injury, or another job, or just a producer's decision, but it's working. AFAIC, they've found just the right use for her character.

February 16 2011 at 11:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was appalled by this episode. Everyone kept assuming that Leonard should have sex with Mrs. Latham even though he obviously didn't want to, because that would get the physics department the donation. That would be coerced sex, which is a flavor of nonconsensual sex, which is never funny. And as Sheldon et al couldn't resist pointing out over and over again, it would be sex work, and as no one seemed to realize, it would be nonconsensual sex work, which is even less funny than nonconsensual sex. Just because it worked out to be consensual sex in the end doesn't mean the middle bits were okay.

February 11 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to EllieMurasaki's comment

Prostitution is in no way the same thing as rape or nonconsensual sex. Furthermore, if you were "appalled" by this type of humor, I don't see how you would be able to watch most shows on TV. IMO there is no topic in which humor cannot be derived from. I realize everyone does not feel this way but I think most people would say you are being a bit extreme.

February 12 2011 at 2:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Hank Shiffman

You missed my favorite line. Sheldon's reply after Amy suggested the money could go to *gasp* Liberal Arts: "Oh, the humanities!"

February 11 2011 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Ms. Latham made a pass at Sheldon, he gave in and slept with her, and it turned out that she actually just likes him; no strings attached." - I think you got Sheldon confused with Leonard. Leonard was the one she made the pass at, etc..

February 11 2011 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brian's comment

Ugh. I totally did get their names flip-flopped. Fixed now, and thanks for the catch!

February 11 2011 at 1:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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