When the president of the university—Dr. Siebert (Joshua Malina)—compels our four favorite ‘so-smart-they’re-dumb’ geeks to attend a university fundraiser, he introduces them to one Mrs. Latham (Jessica Walter), an ultra wealthy widow who’s also one of the university’s leading donors.
Latham, who delights in “making smart people feel ill at ease,” takes an especial shine to Leonard. Upon introducing Leonard to Latham, Siebert describes him as an experimental physicist whose work Latham will find “fascinating.”
The wealthy socialite looks at Leonard like a cat toying with a mouse. “Fascinate me,” she challenges and as Leonard stammers, Latham quips, “They’re cute when they’re about to wet themselves, aren’t they?”
Later, at the horderve table, Leonard describes the evening as a complete failure. “Face it,” he tells Raj, “we crashed and burned tonight.”
Latham, though, overhears and doesn’t agree; she even calls Leonard the next morning, inviting him to dinner to discuss his research. “An entire dinner to talk about your research…” an incredulous Sheldon says over his morning cereal. “Where are you going, the drive-thru at Jack-in-the-Box?”
But Latham has more in mind than a shake and fries to go and, following dinner, Leonard’s night takes an unexpected turn for the carnal. As the pair ride in the back of Latham’s limousine, Leonard thanks her for dinner, explaining that he only eats so well when his mom’s in town. “You kind of remind me of her,” he observes. “She enjoys making people uncomfortable too.”
Then he steers the conversation toward money and whether he has successfully convinced her to fund his physics department.
“Well, I must say, you make a very persuasive case for it,” the much older Latham replies. “And I’m seriously considering taking it to the next level.”
“Great,” Leonard replies enthusiastically and then hesitates, realizing she isn’t talking about research funding anymore. “What level is that?” In answer, Latham pulls him into a passionate lip-lock.
“Okay, now you don’t remind me of my mom.”
When Leonard comes home and explains what happened to his roommate and friends, Sheldon and Howard are enthusiastic about his trading sexual favors for funding. Leonard’s abhorred by the idea and heads to bed, emphatically declaring that, despite the fact he’s having dinner with Latham once more the following evening in a last-ditch effort to secure funding, he won’t trade sex for research dollars.
Sheldon, though, won’t take “no” for an answer and, upon Latham’s arrival the following evening, has prepared a care packet for Leonard. That packet includes baby oil, condoms, a Viagra-like aphrodisiac and racy pictures from the internet.
Leonard won’t budge, though, and informs Latham straightway he won’t prostitute himself for funding. Surprisingly, Latham apologizes for making him uncomfortable and clarifies that she’s donating to Leonard’s physics department regardless of whether he sleeps with her. “There’s no quid pro quo here,” she explains. “You and your colleagues are doing remarkable research and you deserve the money.”
Leonard’s visibly relieved. Then Latham explains that it’s his loss; he’d remember a night with her the rest of his life. “How do you think I landed such a rich husband?
“I’m that good.”
That’s enough for Leonard. He pulls Latham into a passionate kiss, initiating an amorous night that culminates the next morning with his “walk of shame” back to his apartment, disheveled and satisfied.
Of course, when Sheldon and Penny catch him on the way in, neither believes he didn’t trade sex for funding. In fact, Sheldon is proud of Leonard and encourages him to pursue a career as a research-funding gigolo because, “There are a lot more rich old ladies out there and daddy needs a new linear accelerator.”
President Siebert doesn’t believe Leonard’s explanation, either—and neither do any of Leonard’s university colleagues. They greet him with applause the next morning, lauding him for “taking one for the team.”
The Benefactor Factor is amusing but hardly among season 4’s funniest outings; in fact, compared other season 4 outings, it might even be described as “flat.” And is it just me, or does Leonard get an awful lot of sex with a variety of women for a man who’s supposed to be a romantically stunted uber geek?
Speaking of which, next week Raj’s beautiful, accomplished sister Priya returns in The Cohabitation Formulation. Considering the fact that Priya made clear in week 6’s The Irish Pub Formulation that her interest in Leonard is mostly for one-off sexual liaisons, sparks are bound to fly again in week 16.
It’s almost enough to inspire one to study theoretical physics.