S4E15: Well look at that. It turns out, The Big Bang Theory remembered that one of its key cast members is Leonard. For most of this season, I was under the impression that the writers forgot that his character existed as more than just the guy who sets up jokes for Sheldon; and hey, the episode turned out to be quite all right. Sure, it wasn’t the most ground-breaking plot ever, but it was clean, fun, and clever. After last week’s episode delivered a strong performance, Big Bang served up a successful episode again — and it even featured Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter. Hooray!
“Tell him Dr. Cooper feels that the best use of his time is to employ his rare and precious mental faculties to tear the mask off nature and stare at the face of God.” -Sheldon
“Sheldon, it’s Saturday night. You’ll be doing laundry.” -Penny
“Well, don’t tell him that. Tell him the mask thing.” -Sheldon
The gang is invited to a donor’s banquet at the university by President Siebert (and hey, there’s another fun guest star: The West Wing’s Joshua Malian) who, apparently, has a passive aggressive rift with Sheldon. It’s not surprising, considering everybody seems to have some type of passive aggressive rift with Sheldon. Regardless, he needs the scientists to come and charm the hell out of all the donors at the banquet. Sheldon scoffs at this idea, but the rest of the gang obliges.
Come Saturday, they all head to the event without Sheldon because of some dumb, typical Sheldon reason. Once the rest of the gang gets to the event, they start interacting with the donors, and in particular, Jessica Walter’s character Mrs. Latham. They’re nervous, obviously, and come off that way. But she understands. We learn later that she, like her Arrested Development counterpart, loves to screw with people, but she takes a specific interest in Leonard.
“I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.” -Sheldon
Sheldon ends up showing up at the party, and of course, is a dick to all the donors. The next morning, we see him on the phone with President Siebert, and like always, his actions the previous night “weren’t his fault.” During the call, he puts the President on hold for another call, which is from Mrs. Latham. She wants to speak with Leonard, and the two end up going out. By this point, it was fairly obvious that Mrs. Latham had some type of interest in Leonard, but I was honestly a little bit surprised that it ended up being what it was.
“Come on, Leonard. This may be your only chance to make a real contribution to science.” -Sheldon
Leonard and Mrs. Latham go out and at the end of the night, she ends up kissing him, or as he puts it, “sticking her tongue down his throat.” Leonard gets home, and as anyone would feel after getting kissed by someone much older than you, he’s slightly creeped out and “needs a drink.” She wants to go out again the next night, and the rest of the gang quickly jumps on this opportunity for some friendly ribbing, including some great exchanges between Penny and Sheldon about “sex for money.” Despite feeling funny about the whole situation, Leonard decides to go on the date, but he argues that he’s just going to ask for the money, and nothing else is going to happen. Which, of course, we know isn’t true.
“Get your rest. There’s a lot more rich old ladies out there and daddy needs a new linear accelerator.” -Sheldon
So, let’s just be up front about this. Leonard bangs Mrs. Latham after she tells him that she’ll donate the money no matter what. She convinces him that it will be a “night he’ll never forget,” and, well, when you’re Leonard and sex is a very, very rare opportunity, you take it any time you can. Turns out, Mrs. Latham wasn’t lying. We cut to the next morning and see Leonard stumbling up the stairs, absolutely destroyed from the previous night. Penny happens to catch him coming home and gives him all sorts of crap. He goes inside, and then receives even more crap from Sheldon (although, Sheldon isn’t joking around. He really wants Leonard to sleep with more rich old ladies so their department gets more donations). It was all a very fun and funny scene to end the episode.
Did “The Benefactor Factor” have problems? Well, yes. It did. Nothing is perfect. This was a story arc that’s seen in numerous sitcoms, but it was executed very well, and hey, it was fun! Everything the show’s characters did were within their worlds. Nothing seemed too far-fetched. There were some really great one-liners (“Oh, the humanities!”), plus Leonard got to be the center of a plot for once! With its second straight solid outing, Big Bang is hopefully finding its groove again.