The Big Bang Theory season 12 episode 21 review: Nobel lies?

The Big Bang Theory has wasted long enough on the same dull, drawn-out story. Let's hope there's something big in store for the finale...

This review contains spoilers.

12. 21 The Plagiarism Schism

If I never have to hear about super-asymmetry again as long as I live, it’ll be too soon. Yes, while matters such as Leonard maybe donating his sperm to Penny’s ex-boyfriend and his new wife, or Raj grappling with whether to follow tradition and marry Anu before getting to know her have been given an episode or so to play out this season, Sheldon and Amy’s race to a Nobel is still happening.

While we can assume this is just what The Big Bang Theory has come up with for its final episodes, at least The Plagiarism Schism does away with perhaps the most annoying element of the storyline. Campbell and Pemberton have been a thorn in the side of Sheldon and Amy, and the viewers at large, since they started competing against them for the Nobel, and this week’s drama involved a lot of characters standing around debating whether to do something or, well, nothing.

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When Kripke insinuates that Pemberton has made a habit of stealing other people’s ideas and that he even plagiarised his thesis, Amy can’t reconcile her potential guilt at turning him in with the positive impact doing so would have on her and Sheldon’s chances at the prize. The pair decide not to do anything, but the newly decisive Leonard posits that if someone else were to act on their behalf, it couldn’t be seen as playing dirty.

But Penny lets their plan slip to Amy who, now knowing about the scheme and thus invalidating it, decides to present the proof of Pemberton’s plagiarism to the competing team. They want to play fair, but a stroke of luck has Campbell and Pemberton taking each other down instead. Turns out Campbell isn’t thrilled about his partner cheating, and Pemberton is equally perturbed by his partner sleeping with his ex-wife.

In the end, neither Sheldon and Amy nor Leonard and Penny have to do anything, and the big competition for the Nobel Prize is eliminated. Unless Leslie Winkle or another long-lost guest star turns up in the finale to cause trouble, we now know exactly what’s going to happen.

Which begs the question – why have we been forced to sit through endless weeks of dithering over a storyline that was boring to start with? There are hints at a moral dilemma in The Plagiarism Schism, but not enough to sustain a whole episode and definitely not enough to cap off an entire season of story that ultimately led nowhere.

Now more than ever before I think that The Big Bang Theory writers had little more than a Post-It note’s worth of ideas going into this season, and that, instead of fleshing out the more interesting ones like Raj’s arranged marriage, they decided to centre Sheldon and Amy at all costs. The cost has been going out on a high, rather than this a comfortable, familiar low.

We got some nice stuff with Leonard last week and I thought the episode exploring Penny’s decision not to have children was well-handled, but Howard and Bernadette have been cast adrift this season with no foreseeable resolution for their characters. This wouldn’t be such a problem if we were having fun, spending time with these characters we’ve known for more than a decade.

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For now, it’s just a futile countdown to the finale for which, thankfully, I’m sure the writers have something planned. The big episodes – the beginnings and the endings – have never been the problem, it’s just a shame about all this pointless middle.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Decision Reverberation, here.