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"The Tenure Turbulence" is the twentieth episode of the sixth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Thursday, April 4, 2013.[1]


Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Barry Kripke are all candidates for a tenured position that opens up at Caltech. They fall over each other trying to snuggle up to the tenure committee members that include Janine Davis, the Human Resources administrator that Sheldon dealt with after his assistant Alex filed her sexual harassment complaint.

Extended Plot[]

Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj are in the Caltech cafeteria discussing jellyfish and the possibility of immortality. Barry Kripke approaches them to announce that the smell from Professor Tupperman's office was the deceased professor who passed away two weeks previously. The department chairman asked that in lieu of flowers, air fresheners should be donated. His death opens a tenured position in the Physics Department. Sheldon is not happy with the tenure system since it leads to the faculty becoming complacent. He prefers placing chips in their heads that causes the brain to explode if they say something stupid. Raj feels that people do their best work when they feel safe and secure to which Sheldon symbolically blows up Raj's head. Barry leaves saying that if they need him, they can find his nose firmly lodged up the rectum of the tenure committee. Raj says that he's not going to play politics and that he hopes that if he doesn't get it, Sheldon or Leonard get it. Sheldon quips that Raj shouldn't dangle false hopes in front of Leonard. Leonard quickly objects that he is as qualified for the position as Sheldon who immediately blows up his head.


Morning in the cafeteria.

While having dinner together, Penny learns that a professor in a tenured position can't be fired no matter how bad he or she is. She quips that it's like being a pretty waitress at The Cheesecake Factory. Leonard tells Penny that getting tenure would make his mother proud, that is if she took his phone call. Penny asks who he has to impress while Leonard states that he'll let his work speak for itself. Penny compliments him on his integrity. Leonard reacts saying that he is a naïve idiot to do that and she replies that he did hear what she was really saying.


Amy wants to help Sheldon get the tenured position.

While Amy and Sheldon are having dinner, he tells her that even if he were tenured, it would not decrease his academic output since like himself, one can't turn off the sun. Amy wonders how Leonard and Raj can compete since Sheldon is so great at what he does. He replies that even though he falls on both sides of the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship issue, that when Amy worships him it really keeps her in the running. Sheldon is worried if he got tenure Leonard would become insanely jealous and he would have to have a gun or a chainsaw under his pillow at night. Amy counters that with his extra income he could move out, buy a house, get married start a family. While Amy looks on hopefully, Sheldon then goes back to the idea of the chainsaw. Amy tells him that maybe he should cozy up to the tenure committee. He barks back that Sheldon Cooper does not do cozy. Amy agrees since he does not do cozy with her. Checking up on the tenure committee, Sheldon finds that Janine Davis, whom Sheldon had a run-in over Alex's sexual harassment complaint is on it.

Raj is having dinner with Howard and Bernadette, complaining his parents bought him a new BMW for his birthday, but won't pay for seat warmers. Raj gets more and more drunk ranting about his seat warmer making Howard and Bernadette uncomfortable. She goes to make some coffee for Raj.


Smoozing in the gym with Mrs. Davies.

Leonard goes to the gymnasium exercise room to get close to Mrs. Davis. He tells her that he needs to get ready for bathing suit weather and that she must also look good in one. Asking how to operate the model of exercise equipment, Mrs. Davis tells him to push the "start" button. Nothing happens since Leonard doesn't know to start walking. Leonard starts pumping real hard saying that he could do this exercise for the rest of his life. He then asks Mrs. Davis about being on the tenure committee who then comments that she has to get a home gym. While Leonard continues quickly using his inhaler, Barry comes in noting that it's the first time he's ever seen Leonard in the gym. Leonard notices that he has now burned off a whole calorie. Barry takes his place on the other side of Mrs. Davis and mentions the banana bread he sent to her. Leonard says that he now has had enough cardio and decides to stretch out before he does his weights and ends up exhausted lying on the gym floor.

Having returned to her office, Mrs. Davis receives a ninety-minute YouTube video from Raj detailing his life and qualifications. She turns it off hearing Sheldon's usual knock. (God, they're everywhere!) Sheldon tells her that she might have had a bad impression from their first meeting so he gives Mrs. Davis a gift, a DVD set of the miniseries Roots, so that she will like him. She then asks him why he thought that he had an appropriate gift. Sheldon looks a bit uncomfortable and asks to verify that she is black. She tells him that this meeting is over and Sheldon figures that is because she wants to watch the video. The next committee member he is visiting is Dr. Wu whom he got the inappropriate gift of the complete DVD collected works of Jackie Chan.

Leonard returns from the nurse's office after an asthma or heart attack. The guys discuss Professor Tupperman's memorial service and decide to not go since they barely knew him. Howard, who is not in line for the tenured position, kids them that they don't want to look like they're brown nosing the committee who will all be there.

Sheldon and Amy are in the apartment having tea as he tells her that he can't make their date night since he has to attend the memorial service. She agrees that it sounds like a long and tedious evening. Sheldon tells her that if he is going to have a long and tedious evening, he'd rather spend it with her. Amy suggests that she come to which Sheldon agrees. Amy says that she is well versed in academic politics and is a respected scientist while Sheldon just wants her to drive him. Sheldon then adds that if it makes her happy she can also do all that other stuff to which Amy smiles.


Penny hints how she can help Leonard.


Sheldon thanking Mrs. Davies in his own strange way.

While Leonard and Penny are preparing dinner, Penny mentions that she was helping Amy to choose a dress for the memorial service which surprises Leonard. He didn't want them to find out that he was going by himself. Penny asks if she should go to support him. Leonard replies that the room will be filled with a bunch of old boring professors. Penny leans over to tie her shoelace showing off her butt to which Leonard says that maybe she should go. Penny smiles, knowing that she had again given him an idea non-verbally. Leonard mentions that she'll probably {kill some of them. She quips that maybe Sheldon and Raj can also get tenure.

Raj is on the phone still arguing with his father about his seat warmer and telling his Yorkie that he has to get tenure.


Raj staring at Penny's breasts.

Amy and Sheldon arrive with her coaching him what not to say. Raj walks in with a drink in hand telling them that it is unbelievable that they came to smooze the committee. Sheldon points out that Raj is there and he replies that he is going to pay his respects to Professor Tupperware, getting the name wrong. Then Sheldon says that his passing makes him feel bad, using Amy's prompting. Leonard and Penny show up with Leonard snapping at Sheldon that the train store wasn't having a cotillion after all and that Raj also said he wouldn't be going. Raj comments that Leonard couldn't know what he said since he has a thick accent. Amy asks what Penny is doing there to which she says she is there to support her man, just like Amy. Sheldon assumes that Penny is there to take their drink orders and get them wrong. Leonard tells her to "do it". Penny whips off her coat and is wearing a tight black dress and a push-up bra. Amy shakes her head. Raj is staring at Penny's prominent cleavage. Sheldon asks Amy if she has done "it" yet. Amy tells him that she plans to flirt with the committee members to further Leonard's cause. Sheldon tells Amy, "Don't just stand there, take your breasts out!" Howard and Bernadette show up to watch the fun. Amy tells the others that Sheldon is the most qualified and no gravity defying bosom is going to change that. She also wants to know if they were taped together to look like that. Howard makes a suggestion to Sheldon who then tells Raj that last night when he needed sexual relief, he had his mother for a dollar. Leonard concedes that he doesn't want to lose his friends over a job because friends are forever. Howard jumps in that so is tenure (forever). Leonard says that he's going home. Raj admits that this behavior is beneath him, like Sheldon's mother was under him last night. Leonard asks if Sheldon's coming. Sheldon defers to Amy who tells him that he will always be an academic success, but that she questions whether he'll ever make more friends. Kripke enters telling Mrs. Davis that he'd love to babysit her kids. Leonard says that they are not going to lose to that jerk. The others also go into the hall. Sheldon tells Amy that he didn't mean it about Raj's mother and that he finds the concept of coitus ridiculous and off-putting. Amy says to herself that she should have pulled out her breasts when she had the chance.

Finally, Sheldon goes to Mrs. Davis' office and thanks her after he finds out that he, Leonard, and Raj are all on the final short list. She replies that they are all qualified in their fields, including Sheldon despite his quirks. Sheldon doesn't know what she means by quirks. First Sheldon acknowledges that his gift to her was inappropriate and then tries to give her a hip African American hand shake. She leaves saying that she is going to pretend that that didn't happen




  • The TV Critic: There are certainly benefits to any plot that gets every character involved. The banter back and forth between the gang and between individual couples was solid throughout. The pathetic attempts to curry favor, the double dealing, Howard stirring things up for his own amusement and the girls trying to help out their men was all solid stuff...Solid being as far as I'm willing to go...(This) was just a collection of sketches about sucking up. That's fine for a smile here or there but it never grew much beyond that.[2]
  • The A.V. Club gave this episode C+.[3]
  • IGN gave this episode 6.0/10.[4]
  • The DR Club gave this episode a C-.[5]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: The title refers to the competition between the guys for a tenured teaching position that opens up at CalTech.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
  • This episode was watched by 17.24 million people with a rating of 5.2 (adults 18–49).[6]
  • Total viewers including DVR users 21.51 million.
  • This episode aired in Canada on April 4, 2013, with 3.644 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #1.[7]
  • In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on June 13, 2013, with 2.341 million total viewers.[8]
  • Episode transcript [1]

Costume Notes[]

  • Sheldon wears his DNA shirt (on light beige) and his Flash distressed logo on black t-shirt.


  • Bernadette only has a few lines in this episode:
    • "I think that’s enough wine for now," at dinner with Howard and Raj.
    • "I’m gonna make some coffee," when she sees a drunk Raj at the dinner table.
    • "WALK!" when she pushes Howard for a second before they both walk straight into the memorial.
  • Sheldon once again displays a combination of obliviousness to race and racial issues and wild racism from his upbringing.
  • The script gets nearly every aspect of the tenure process wrong for the sake of comedy and plot. As senior research fellows in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology, Sheldon, Leonard and Raj hold non-tenure track positions, and as such they cannot seek tenure. [For information on the duties of their current positions, refer to the Trivia of "The Benefactor Factor"-S4E15.] A non-tenure track person can only pursue tenure by first applying to the department as an assistant professor (a different career path), then waiting for five years. Additionally, there is no such thing as a tenured "slot", nor is one made available when a tenured professor leaves the department. Rather, tenure-track faculty must apply for tenure, typically in their fifth year working for the institution, based on the strength of their research and teaching. Whether they are granted tenure has nothing to do with the existing number of tenured faculty. Furthermore, if their application is rejected, they typically must leave the university within a year. [For perspective on attaining tenure, see the article "How To Get Tenure at a Major Research University" by Sean M. Carroll, a senior research associate in the Caltech Department of Physics.] Finally, tenure applications are reviewed by committees of tenured faculty at multiple levels (departmental, school-wide, and sometimes university-wide). As Janine Davis is the Human Resources Administrator (HRA) at Caltech, and not an Academic ranks (United States) Most tenured associate or full professor in the Department of Physics, she is not qualified to evaluate excellence in teaching, scholarship and service of faculty members being recommended for tenure. Hence, she would not be appointed to the tenure committee.
  • Raj states he is from the astrophysics department, but since he is vying for Professor Tupperman's position, he is actually from the physics department. Further, he works in the same academic department as Leonard, Sheldon, and Kripke (esp. "The Pirate Solution"-S3E4, "The Rothman Disintegration"-S5E17); his boss physics department chair Eric Gablehauser ("The Griffin Equivalency"-S2E4); and he was on the physics department paintball team, an opponent of the astronomy (astrophysics) department team ("The Cushion Saturation"-S2E16). [Though, Howard, who is from the applied physics department (S1E1: "Pilot") and associated with the engineering department ("The Cushion Saturation"-S2E16, "The Apology Insufficiency"-S4E7), was on the same team.] Rajesh may have simply been referencing the astrophysics research group, denoting it a "department".
  • In the beginning, Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, and Howard discuss the biological immortality of Turritopsis nutricula, a small species of jellyfish that uses transdifferentiation to replenish cells after sexual reproduction. Theoretically, this process can go on indefinitely, effectively rendering the jellyfish biologically immortal; although, in nature, most Turritopsis, like other medusae, are likely to succumb to predation or disease in the plankton stage. Further, immortality may not be desirable for multicellular organisms, as the main controls over cancer are the Apoptosis|apoptotic mechanisms.
  • Sheldon previously had interest in jellyfish in "The Luminous Fish Effect" (S1E4).
  • As a gift to Janine Davis, Sheldon presents her with a copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition 3 Disc Box Set of the Roots (1977) TV miniseries. LeVar Burton, who played Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and had guest appearances in "The Toast Derivation" (S4E17) and "The Habitation Configuration" (S6E7), is well-remembered for his breakthrough role portraying the kidnapped African native Kunta Kinte in the miniseries.
  • Sheldon mentioned Jackie Chan in "The Toast Derivation" (S4E17), and decides to give Professor Wu the complete works of Jackie Chan in the episode of this article.
  • Leonard referred to the exercise room in "The Jerusalem Duality" (S1E12): "Come on, Dennis, I’ll show you the rec center, they’ve got Nautilus® equipment."
  • Barry Kripke is not as inept at physical activity as seen in "The Rothman Disintegration" (S5E17), which is consistent with his list of hobbies in "The Friendship Algorithm" (S2E13). Leonard does not get a bloody nose while "jogging" as described in "The Speckerman Recurrence" (S5E11), but he falls ill as expected.
  • The university/writing staff never resolved the issue of who got tenure by the end of the series.
  • Mostly Mrs. Davis is usually annoyed by Sheldon's antics and being very arrogant and offensive to her. She doesn't have a problem with Howard, Leonard and Raj. They have been in the human resource department a couple of times, but they would come out off the hook. But Sheldon is a different story.


Amy: Well. You'll always be an academic success, but I seriously question if you'll ever make any more friends.

Sheldon: My primary concern with being granted tenure is living with an insanely jealous roommate after the fact. Remind me to put a gun under my pillow. Or a chain saw.
Amy: Or you take advantage of your new found economic stability and move out, get a house, get married, start a family.
Sheldon: Or the chain saw.

Penny: So who do you have to smooze to get this deal?
Leonard: I'm not going to smooze anyone. I'm going to let my work speak for itself.
Penny: That's great. That takes a lot of integrity.
Leonard: I'm a naïve idiot, right?
Penny: Oh good, you heard me.

Raj: Unbelievable! You have some nerve showing up here just to smooze with the tenure committee.
Sheldon: You're here.
Raj: Excuse me. I'm here to pay my respects to Professor Tupperware or whatever his name is.
Sheldon: So am I. His passing makes me feel bad.
Leonard: Well, well, well. Sheldon, fancy meeting you here. I guess the train store in Glendale wasn't having a cotillion after all. (To Raj) And you. You said you weren't coming either.
Raj: I have a thick accent. You don't know what I said.
Amy: Well, I'd like to know why Penny's here.
Penny: I'm here to support my man, just like you.
Sheldon: What are you going to do? Take people's drink orders and get them wrong?
Leonard: (To Penny) Do it! (Penny slips off her coat and is wearing a short black dress with prominently displayed breasts, to Amy's annoyance. Raj stares at her for a moment.)
Sheldon: What? Did she do it yet?
Amy: She plans to flirt with members of the tenure committee to further Leonard's cause.
Sheldon: Well, that's a fine how do you do. Don't just stand there, take your breasts out.
Howard: Ooooohh, meerkat fight.
Amy: You are all wasting your time, Sheldon is the most qualified for the job and no amount of gravity defying bosoms is going to change that. And seriously, is that tape? How are they staying up like that?
Leonard: Way to hit them with both barrels.
Raj: You should be ashamed of yourselves. Using women to advance your cause with sexuality and whatever Amy plans on doing.

Amy: I should have taken my breasts out while I had my chance.

Amy: Let’s go over our emotional responses one last time.
Sheldon: Okay.
Amy: Professor Tupperman is dead and that makes us...?
Sheldon: Sad.
Amy: The fact that there are so many people here tonight doesn’t make us cranky and claustrophobic. It makes us...?
Sheldon: Glad.
Amy: Giving Mrs. Davis the box set of Roots was...?
Sheldon: Bad. However…
Amy: No.
Sheldon: Fine. Bad.

See also[]