The Big Bang Theory
The good news: Sheldon Cooper proves himself to not only be amenable to compromise, but even more generous with his money than we previously thought.
The bad news: This evolution comes in a story line that begins with a major flaw.
“The Application Deterioration” picks up with Sheldon, Leonard, and new partner Howard preparing to file a patent for their superfluid helium project. They meet with a university attorney, who tells them everything looks good, pending a further investigation by his colleagues, and the trio begins thinking about how they’re going to spend all the cold hard cash they’ll reap from their work. Leonard, for instance, is going to splurge on the best sinus irrigator money can buy. Dream big, L. Hofstadter!
Unfortunately, further input from the attorney is like a needle scratch on those plans: Because Sheldon and Howard are university employees, and their research was done at the university, the university owns the majority of the rights — and profits. They’ll get 25 percent to share, while Caltech is in line for 75 percent.
“This university has been paying your salaries for over ten years,” the lawyer says. “Do you think we do that out of the goodness of our hearts?”
Leonard: “Well, until you just said that mean thing, kind of.”
The scenario is even worse for Howard. He’s not a Caltech employee — he’s on loan from NASA — so he isn’t entitled to any share of the profits. Insert your favorite fail noise here. I’m partial to the Price Is Right horn.
Things work out for Howard in the end — more on that in a minute — but there’s a major hole in this plot. Does anyone believe that Sheldon Cooper, the most rule-lovin’, detail-oriented, attention-payin’ man who’s ever signed an employment contract, would not be aware that he does not own all of his work product at the university, and that he doesn’t stand to keep a majority of the profits should one of his projects make a profit?
Yeah, me neither.
Later in the episode, Sheldon’s love of contracts — and not just his love of reading and signing them, but actually writing them himself — becomes the solution to the Howard aspect of the patent problem. When it becomes obvious Sheldon and Leonard can either settle for 25 percent or not patent their idea at all, they go with option A. They also believe Howard’s input deserves a share of the rewards, so they agree to cut him in for a third of their 25 percent. Sheldon is even more excited about the need for him to write up a contract cementing this partnership than he is about the potential to add to his bank account. And that’s because Sheldon Cooper loves him some contracts. There’s the Roommate Agreement with Leonard, his Relationship Agreement with Amy — both featuring many specific sections and codicils — and in season six’s “The Contractual Obligation Implement,” one of the major plotlines involves Leonard and Sheldon being obligated to serve on a university committee because it was stipulated in their contracts. So, again: They were aware of that relatively minor aspect of their employment, but not one that would rob them of full ownership and profits from their work?
Not buying it.
As mentioned, the story does have a happy ending: Sheldon and Leonard do the right thing and include Howard in the mix, something he did not assume they would do. And there’s an even happier ending, one that leaves Sheldon looking like the least petty, most generous member of the group. When Bernadette finds out Howard is about to sign on for a partnership that includes Sheldon, she wants him to rethink it. Sheldon is always driving him crazy, she says. Why would this project be any different? Howard goes along with her concerns, despite the fact that he hadn’t even assumed that he should get a cut of the project, and the Wolowitzes present these concerns to Sheldon. Penny suggests they add a clause to the partnership contract that stipulates Sheldon can’t poke fun at Howard, his profession, his height, his hair, his duds, or the fact that he inexplicably doesn’t hate Ghost Rider.
Sheldon agrees, partially because it makes him so happy that he gets to make edits to the contract. (“Oh, baby, it’s addendum time!” is the exact phrase he uses, I believe.) He also includes a very special surprise addition to the agreement: 25 percent of his share of any profits will go into a separate scholarship fund for Howard and Bernadette’s first child, because Sheldon thinks education is more important than money. Adds Sheldon, “The very fact that you needed a written guarantee of respect made me realize how dismissive I’ve been of your contributions.”
And then: “Now, I just hope this scholarship can rescue your child from the subpar education and menial life of an engineer.”
Hey, he hadn’t signed the contract yet.
Are Howie and Bernie grateful? Yes. Should they feel like asses after being so haughty and entitled because Sheldon likes to poke at Howard (as he does nearly everyone)? Yes.
In the episode’s other story line, Raj panics and asks Penny, Bernie, and Amy for advice when ex-girlfriend Emily leaves a belated Valentine’s Day gift on his doorstep. Raj worries what it means, but when he opens it and sees that it’s a $500 antique sextant, his friends clear it up for him — Emily wants him back. He claims he doesn’t want that, and when he’s driving over to Emily’s to return the gift, he gets a call from Claire, the writer he really likes who had recently reunited with her ex.
Remember when Raj had selective mutism and couldn’t even talk to women? That might have served him well in this instance, because he talks too much, telling Claire (who’s boyfriend-free again) all about his dilemma with Emily. Claire warns that Emily is manipulating him into getting back together, and that sets off a series of ridiculous phone calls between Raj and Emily and then Raj and Claire, in which he ping pongs between the two women — one of whom is, as Claire points out, textbook manipulating him.
Raj jokingly asks if he could get a PDF of that textbook; he desperately needs it. Instead, against the better judgment of every other woman in his life, he goes to Emily’s apartment. And the last thing we see before the cut to Chuck Lorre’s vanity card: Raj in bed, post-coitus, as Sheldon would say, with Emily.
- Sheldon wears a bow tie to the meeting with the patent attorney because, as he tells Howard and Leonard, he wants to make a good impression. “Is the impression that your first name is Pee-wee?” Howard asks.
- Sheldon’s other big money-making idea: a T-shirt that says, “Dumb as a bag of geologists.”
- Bernie’s jealous of Raj’s pricey Valentine’s Day gift: “Damn! All I got … was a postcard saying my Vermont Teddy Bear was backordered.”
- Sheldon has created his own font, used specifically for his contract-making activities. It’s called — wait for it — Shelvetica. Says Leonard, “I wanna say something obnoxious, but it is easy on the eyes.”
- Penny, to Amy, after they find out Sheldon drafted the contract: “You’re gonna make out so hard tonight.” See, even Penny knows how much Sheldon loves contracts.
- And he’s been writing them since he was in kindergarten: “Didn’t need a lawyer to get me out of finger painting, don’t need one now.”
- When Howard tells Sheldon he has reservations about signing on for a partnership with him, Sheldon sees an alternative. “Are you suggesting a limited liability corporation?” Sheldon says. “Because I did not LLC that coming.” Contract humor … the man simply loves contracts.