Penny went back to school and didn’t want to tell Leonard because he’d make a big fuss over it. I suppose that’s fair, though it once again returns to the overarching Penny/Leonard problem of Leonard being eager to the point of obsessive and Penny insisting on keeping him at an arm’s length.
I won’t, however, complain about Penny rejecting Leonard’s “help” only to turn around and go to Bernadette and Amy for assistance with her slavery paper. She had every right to feel betrayed by Leonard’s actions—going behind her back and reading her draft when she explicitly told him not to, then having the nerve to rewrite it “better” and encourage her to turn in his paper under her name.
1. That’s insulting. It really is like calling Penny a moron to her face.
2. That’s risky. Plagiarism is kind of a big deal, kids.
3. There are just certain things that one should do on one’s own in life. Like college.
While Penny’s inferiority complex when it comes to her highly educated friends tends to come and go week by week depending on TBBT's need for conflict, it was in full swing in "The Extract Obliteration," which added weight and credibility to Penny’s decision to take classes at the local community college. She was proud of her decision and she was fully aware that, compared to her friends, it wasn’t all that impressive of a thing, but in the context of her own life, it was a huge step.
Leonard certainly meant well and his concern that a bad grade could discourage Penny from moving forward in her education was valid, but how was essentially telling her that her effort wasn’t good enough any better? At least the professor is, theoretically, impartial, and the grade impersonal. Leonard’s complete rewrite of Penny’s paper was akin to giving her an ‘F’—and considering his personal relationship with her, I think that flunking grade probably hurt the more than something from her prof ever could.
Amy and Bernadette were a different situation because Penny sought them out on her own; however, the idea that they too simply wrote a paper for Penny to slap her name on doesn’t sit entirely right with me. I would have expected them to value academic integrity as well, and the eagerness to ghostwrite in an educational setting just irks me. It’s not like the only option would have been to (theoretically) let Penny fail. While she is a delicate flower still trying to take root in academia, if Penny is serious about finishing college, she’s going to have to accept that criticism is a fact of life—and it’s not a bad thing! Being told “this paper could have been better” does not mean “you are hopeless and should drop out immediately.” There is nothing wrong with Penny seeking assistance from her more seasoned friends—APA citations are a bitch. MLA is only marginally kinder. Do not get me started on Turabian.
But if Penny is to truly grow and take something of value away from her classes, she needs to do the bulk of the work herself.
Integrity became an issue in Sheldon’s storyline as well, though with far fewer implications for his career as a game of Words With Friends with Stephen Hawking became heated, then stalled, and Howard let slip that the brilliant scientist is actually quite the sore loser. Sheldon had hoped that completely dominating his idol during their match would shine favorably upon his intellect and lead to professional collaboration and personal friendship. In actuality, when Sheldon’s lead became impressively obscene, Hawking simply stopped playing. Howard encouraged Sheldon to throw the game if he really wanted to work with Hawking and after a moment of deliberation that involved invoking Mama Cooper, Noah’s Ark, and Sheldon’s skepticism of the whole two-by-two thing, Sheldon ultimately decided to throw the game. I was actually surprised. For as much as Sheldon hero-worships Stephen Hawking, I thought he loved being right more. Right?
The Stray Observation Addendum
– One-liner of the night: “He’s a genius and he talks like a robot, two things I always wanted in a friend.” —Sheldon on Stephen Hawking
– Amy being awkward (and proud): “I once looked in Sheldon’s underwear drawer. He yelled at me, but I saw it and he can never take that away.” Uh, high five?
– Stephen Hawking trash-talking Sheldon was a thing of beauty.