If you’ve been worrying about Samwise Gamgee and Kumar upsetting the Nobel Prize apple cart on The Big Bang Theory, “The Plagiarism Schism” will give you some relief.
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In an effort to salvage Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) chance at the Nobel Prize in the wake of Amy’s outburst at Drs. Pemberton (Sean Astin) and Campbell (Kal Penn), President Siebert (Joshua Malina) brings them all together for a peacemaking lunch. Amy apologizes sincerely, but both she and Sheldon are challenged to hold their tongues when Pemberton says many idiotic things. Siebert points out that if they can’t all get along, it may result in some other party winning the Prize, so they agree to keep working on it.
As Siebert is walking Pemberton and Campbell out, Kripke (John Ross Bowie) walks in and greets Pemberton warmly. Then he joins Amy and Sheldon and tells them how much he hates Pemberton, his former college classmate. They’re intrigued, and he explains that Pemberton is someone who always cut corners– and that it was well known that he plagiarized his thesis.
Kripke’s offer to get proof of the plagiarism sticks Amy and Sheldon with an ethical quandary: do they want to win badly enough to knock out the competition in a manner that will likely ruin Pemberton’s life?
They bring the question to their friends, and although Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) is joyfully in favor of blowing up the cheater’s life, the rest of the gang isn’t quite as eager. Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Howard (Simon Helberg) both lean towards forgiveness for something that happened a long time ago, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) thinks that if Pemberton didn’t really earn his degree that he doesn’t deserve his career and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) thinks that it wouldn’t be a question if Amy and Sheldon didn’t feel that exposing their rival was dishonorable.
That night, Leonard decides that it isn’t right for Pemberton and Campbell to potentially win the Nobel Prize for proving Amy and Sheldon’s theory, and that if they won’t expose the fraud, he will. He tells Penny that he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty for this, and she laughs when she realizes she’s never actually seen his hands dirty.
Leonard seeks out Kripke and gets a manila envelope full of evidence of Pemberton’s plagiarism. He runs into Amy in the hallway as he’s leaving and acts so shifty that she later asks Penny what’s up. Penny gets so squirmy that Amy demands to know what’s going on, so Penny tells her, inadvertently returning the ethical burden to Amy’s shoulders. From there, it’s just a matter of time before Amy cracks and tells Sheldon.
Sheldon and Amy confront Leonard and tell him that although they appreciate his desire to help, they do not want him circumventing their decision. He gives them the evidence, and they decide that the only way to ensure that nobody leaks it is to turn it over to Pemberton, so they invite him and Campbell to lunch again.
When they explain to their guests what they want to do, it opens an unexpected can of worms. Campbell didn’t know about his partner’s plagiarism, and he’s horrified by the possibility that the news will get out and taint his reputation by association. His reaction leads circuitously to him confessing that he’s in love with Pemberton’s not-quite-ex-wife, Linda, and suddenly the two are full-on wrestling on the dining room floor.
Some time later, a drunk Campbell finds Amy and Sheldon eating together in Sheldon’s office to tell them that he’s leaked the proof about Pemberton’s thesis cheat. He then suggests that he join their team for the Nobel, asking that they overlook the things Pemberton is accusing him of having done… which he did. They shut the door on him, and hopefully on their rivalry as well.
An offshoot of the ethics issue is Howard wanting to know the shadiest thing Bernadette has ever done to get what she wanted, and her softballing him with a tale of having lied to a rival Cheescake Factory waitress about Howard having all the hepatitises. He gets fixated on there having been a second woman attracted to him and creeps out everyone at the Cheesecake Factory with a visit to try to determine which waitress it was. Also, Bernadette outs him as paying for “tall girl” porn, so this episode was not not Howard’s best look.
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