*Spoiler warning for The Big Bang Theory season 12, episode 18.

Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory

Bernadette shows off some of Howard’s changes to her picture book on The Big Bang Theory. Photo courtesy of CBS, screenshot by Linda Maleh

After a month off the air, The Big Bang Theory is finally back! It follows up with the storyline on Amy and Sheldon applying for the Nobel prize for their paper on Super-Asymmetry, which the show hasn’t covered since episode 13. Where we left off with this plot-line was Amy and Sheldon being challenged for the prize by two other scientists, whose experiment accidentally proved Super-Asymmetry to be correct.

At the beginning of the episode, Ellen Degeneres, with a nice cameo, has the two rival scientists, Pemberton (Sean Astin) and Campbell (Kal Penn), on her show, the final event of a rather successful publicity tour. The result is that the world thinks they’re charming, and that they came up with Super-Asymmetry. Sheldon and Amy are pissed, and to try to combat this, President Siebert decides to host a reception in their honor, and invites many Nobel laureates to try to get them on their side.

The problem: Sheldon has pissed off every scientist invited. To try and do some damage control, Sheldon and Amy bake and send all the scientists cookies, which doesn’t work. In a rare moment of selflessness, Sheldon tells Leonard that he feels bad for Amy, since she’s reaping the punishment for his bad behavior. After hearing this, Leonard decides to help Sheldon and Amy. He and Penny personally go to each of the scientists to charm them into coming to the reception. Amazingly, it works.

Things are going mediocre at the reception when the Pemberton and Campbell show up, and everything blows up. First, Sheldon tries to trick them into admitting that they don’t actually even fully understand the theory, but the scientists find a way to evade answering his questions. As Pemberton and Campbell continue to poke at Sheldon and Amy, trying to provoke them, Sheldon looks about ready to blow. The only reason he keeps his cool is because Leonard keeps telling him to shut up – a “code word” they came up with from before the event so that Sheldon wouldn’t put his foot in his mouth.

While Sheldon just manages to keep a lid on it, Amy explodes and yells at the rivals for being frauds, which definitely doesn’t endear her to the room full of people that they need on their side. We’ll just have to see how this plays out.

Meanwhile, when putting his kids to bed, Howard discovers that his daughter Halley is afraid of the dark, and decides to tell her a story about how he overcame his fears when he was an astronaut. Howard usually tries to pretend like being an astronaut was this great experience, but when talking to his daughter, he reveals just how scary the experience really was.

Bernadette overhears the story on the baby monitor, and thinks it’s really sweet, and decides to turn it into a picture book for him. She recruits Stewart to help her with the art work (he went to art school, after all) and they create it together. Bernadette shows it to Howard as a surprise, but it’s named the “The Frightened Little Astronaut” and Howard gets offended. It gets worse when Bernadette reveals that Stuart showed it to a publisher, and they’re interested in publishing it. Howard doesn’t want people to know how vulnerable and afraid he felt, so he tries to get Stuart to make major changes to the book. To get Howard to agree to keep the book as is, Bernadette guilts Howard by telling him that he shouldn’t deny children his book to help them get over their fears. The guilt trip is effective, and the book stays as is.

The Bernadette, Howard, and Stuart storyline is small potatoes, but the big plot line on Sheldon and Amy pursuing their Nobel prize made up for it. Since it’s the last season, I’m wondering if the show is going to give Amy and Sheldon the award they so deserve.