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"The Vacation Solution" is the sixteenth episode of the fifth season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Thursday, February 9, 2012.[1]


When Sheldon has to take a vacation, he ends up testing his relationship with Amy when he goes to work in her lab. Howard is being forced to sign a pre-nuptial agreement by Bernadette's father.

Extended Plot[]

Sheldon goes back to Amy's lab

Sheldon returns to apologize to Amy.

Sheldon and Amy move on to other work

Working with Amy.

To get kids excited about science, Sheldon invents Physics Mad-Libs which are very funny to him since they sound ridiculous to a scientist, but as usual misses the point on how the rest of the world sees it. During lunch at the canteen, President Siebert comes by in a bad mood looking for Sheldon. Sheldon has to take his required vacation, even though Sheldon doesn't see the need for them. Siebert tells him to take a foreign holiday and suggests Afghanistan as a destination.

The next day, Leonard enjoys the Sheldon-free ride to work where he can listen to music, until he finds Sheldon hiding in the back seat, almost causing a car crash in the process. Sheldon wants to be snuck into the university to do work, but Leonard drives him right back home.

Penny and Amy gave Bernadette a hand with her wedding invitations. Penny is glad that they aren't in Klingon, though Howard has managed to get it printed on the back. Bernadette hopes her relatives think it's Hebrew. Her father is pressuring her to have Howard sign a prenuptial agreement, since she makes more money than him. Amy had the same problem with her mother forcing her to shave her legs, which she let her (mother) do last year. Penny tells her to break the news to him in bed. Bernadette doesn't want to manipulate him, but Penny chuckles that that is what sex is for. Talking about the wife's dowry in earlier times, Amy believes that cute Bernadette would easily go for two oxen and a goose, while Penny would fetch a unicorn.

Elsewhere, the boys try to come up with a vacation idea for the finicky Sheldon. Hawaii is a first choice, but Sheldon describes it as a former leper colony built on a volcano where the disappointing ending to Lost was filmed. Florida is offered, but it is revealed that Sheldon once went there and got his hot dog taken by a seagull. Richard Feynman, a brilliant physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, once took his vacation in a biology lab. As Amy works in a biology lab, he decides to work with her for vacation.

In the hallway, Penny tells Leonard about Bernadette needing a pre-nup. Then Penny asks Leonard if he would sign one if she became a famous actress. He refuses. If he's at home with the children while she's on location cheating on him with Ryan Gosling, Leonard gets paid.

Sheldon is excited to be working in Amy's lab, and Amy herself is glad to have her boyfriend with her since it's romantic. Amy thinks of it like Madame Curie and her husband working together under the glow of the radium that eventually killed her. Sheldon's first assignment is to clean some beakers for her, which Sheldon thinks is beneath him. Amy explains that he has no experience in biology.

Leonard talks to Raj about breaking the news about the pre-nup to Howard. Howard is sort of cool with it. He has his Vespa, some vintage comics, and the double-plot burial at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery. The plot is next to the actor who played Mr. Roper on Three's Company. Raj gasps, “Mr. Roper's dead?”

Sheldon cleans the beakers, only for Amy to say that they have soap spots and that he has to do them over again. His next task of counting spores seemed much more up his alley, though Amy makes him lose count. Finally, he asks for a challenge and has to cut the hair-thin locus coeruleus from a brain sample, which he has no idea how to do. As his scalpel hand is trembling, he cuts his thumb instead and faints at seeing his blood. Amy remarks, “Sure, you're a biologist.”

Howard and Sheldon go to drown their sorrows at the Cheesecake Factory bar, which Penny is manning. Penny asks them what they're doing there in the middle of the day, which they claim they have no particular reason for. She informs them that Bernardette and Amy text her about pretty much everything that happens to them and, therefore, is completely aware of both their situations, and they quickly confess. She decides to set both of them straight. “All right, Howard Wolowitz. Listen up. You will sign anything she puts in front of you because you are the luckiest man alive. If you let her go, there is no way you'll find anyone else. Speaking on behalf of all women, it's not going to happen. We had a meeting.” Turning to Sheldon, “And you fainted at the sight of a little blood, ha ha!” Sheldon shows her his "substantial wound" and faints again.

Sheldon apologizes to Amy and still has to finish cleaning the beakers.

Howard decides he will talk to Bernadette's dad about the prenup. She warns him that her father is a retired police officer who still wears a gun, and that Howard should avoid topics like Jimmy Carter, gardeners, homosexuals, foreigners, Sean Penn, Vatican II, the designated hitter rule, organic food, or that he's Jewish. Then Howard changes his mind and that he'll call him from the International Space Station.



  • The TV Critic: "In terms of story I didn't think much was done to flesh out Sheldon's arrogance. We know that he thinks he is a genius but he should have enough logic to know some basic facts. Of course he wouldn't be able to dissect a brain without first studying what each tiny part of it was called or practicing with easier tasks first...This was a flat episode which continued themes we've seen many times before." [2]
  • The A.V. Club gave this episode an A[3]
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: The title is derived from the solution to Sheldon's dilemma of where to have his forced vacation, and his solution is working with Amy at her laboratory.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card.
  • This episode was watched by 16.21 million people with a rating of 5.6 (adults 18–49).[4]
  • This episode aired in Canada on February 20, 2012, with 3.216 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #2.[5]
  • In the United Kingdom, this episode aired on February 20, 2012, with 2.28 million total viewers and a weekly ranking of #2.[6]
  • In Australia, it aired on February 20, 2012, with 1.344 million viewers.[7]
  • Episode transcript [1]

Costume Notes[]

  • Sheldon wears his Reddit Alien t-shirt and his TV Test Pattern t-shirt.


  • Joshua Malina, who plays President Siebert, last appeared during Season 4's "The Benefactor Factor" (S4E15). This is his second appearance on the show.
  • Amy does not come to the bar of the Cheesecake Factory with Sheldon.
  • Bernadette is not sitting next to Howard at the bar of the Cheesecake Factory before Sheldon arrives.
  • Leonard and Raj do not appear at the bar of the Cheesecake Factory with Howard before Sheldon turns up.
  • In "The Peanut Reaction" (S1E16), Howard gets Leonard an autographed copy of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, as Sheldon partly complains about gift-giving on hearing this fact, so Sheldon's assertion of Howard's complete ignorance regarding Richard Feynman is inconsistent. Yet, the matter can be attributed to "Sheldon’s patented blend of condescension" (as Howard mused in "The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition"-S5E10), for Sheldon ignores Howard's claim that every scientist in the world knows of Feynman.
  • In "The Luminous Fish Effect" (S1E4), based on the work of Japanese scientists, Sheldon inserts DNA from luminous jellyfish into a goldfish, successfully creating a Green fluorescent protein#Transgenic pets|fish nightlight. He also reveals his idea of what DNA would look like in a Hypothetical types of silicon-based life form (see silicon-based lifeforms in Star Trek). In "The Bad Fish Paradigm" (S2E1), Sheldon refers to the protein folding|folding of an energy landscape|energy-based de novo protein structure prediction|de novo protein in configuration space|conformational space. In "The Griffin Equivalency" (S2E4), Sheldon references his childhood studies of recombinant DNA technology|recombinant DNA technology. In "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis" (S4E10), he participates in a differential diagnosis. Hence, it isn't the field of biology in general that he lacks skill in, but it is the physical practice of biology in a lab that seems to give him difficulty.
  • Sheldon visited Amy's lab previously in "The Alien Parasite Hypothesis" (S4E10). Also, in final episode "The Stockholm Syndrome", Sheldon and Leonard reassemble the DNA model in Apartment 4A and Sheldon claims that it is his idea of a higher order of more intelligent human beings.
  • Sheldon says, "Maybe, that's because I'm not being challenged. It's the same reason Albert Einstein failed math." Einstein actually obtained exceptional grades in mathematics.
  • Bernadette's father still has his gun, as a fashion statement, even though he is retired as a police officer. She also says that he is racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and hates Jimmy Carter, gardeners, Sean Penn, the Second Vatican Council, gun control, organic food, the designated hitter rule, and recycling.
  • The Wolowitz family has adjoining plots in the Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, next to the grave of Norman Fell (who is actually buried above ground in a vault).
  • Sheldon won't go to Hawaii, as it was the place of the finale of Lost (TV series)|Lost, has active volcanoes, and is a former leper colony. He also won't go to Florida because he went there on a family vacation and a seagull took his hot dog (see "The Ornithophobia Diffusion"-S5E9 for other bird incidents), though at the end of the episode he must have changed his mind because he says that he may go to Epcot next year.
  • Penny sees sex as a valuable tool for manipulation.
  • This is the first time we hear Sheldon laugh properly, which is over a game of Physics Mad Libs. The only other time he has laughed normally is when Leonard made a multiplication error. Leonard says that isn't funny as it was published.
  • Amy is one of the few characters in the show who has shown little toleration for Sheldon's narcissism and condescension, seeing how she makes him apologize for his rude behavior. And Sheldon accepts her criticism and takes her suggestions from her unlike how he deals with others. There is love and respect there.
  • The locus coeruleus, which Amy is working on removing from a brain in her lab, is found in the pons, which is located in the brainstem, and is involved physiological responses to stress stress and panic. Amy compares the width of the locus coeruleus to that of a single human hair, the diameter of which ranges from 17 to 181 µm (millionths of a meter).
  • Howard explains that he has an Aunt Ida who lives in Florida.
  • After all of Sheldon's troubles in Amy's lab, he tells himself next year he will go to EPCOT in Disney World, Florida, which has exhibits honoring various branches of the sciences.
  • Second episode which revolves around one main character working for another main character. The first was "The Pirate Solution" (S3E4), which also has a scene where Sheldon has trouble at doing something practical where another main character can do easily. The second episode where Sheldon decides to work for another main character after someone meddles with his work. The first was "The Jerusalem Duality" (S1E12).
  • This is the second episode where a character cuts themselves in an accident and are disturbed by their own blood. First was "The White Asparagus Triangulation" (S2E9). Both these characters disgust for blood were revisited in "The Re-Entry Minimization" (S6E4).
  • Bernadette shares no scenes with the other three guys (Sheldon, Raj and Leonard) in this episode.
  • Bernadette only has one scene with Penny and Amy in the wedding invitation preparations clip in the Penny's apartment scene in this episode and Bernadette only has one scene with Howard in her car during the ending clip of this episode.
  • Raj seemed surprised to learn that Norman Fell was dead, despite the fact that the actor had been dead for nearly fourteen years prior to this episode.
  • In one scene of the episode, Leonard sings the song "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas in his car, only to be scared by Sheldon who gets up in the back seat after laying down to sneak inside work. It is no doubt that Leonard may have learned The Black Eyed Peas from Penny, as hinted in "The Guitarist Amplification" (S2E7) where they are mentioned.
  • Amy compares them to Madame Curie and her husband working together. Their work with radium won them the Nobel Prize as did Sheldon and Amy when they were working together during Season 12.
  • Sheldon implicitly refers to the Scooby Doo, Where Are You? episode "A Clue for Scooby Doo", mentioning an old lighthouse and wanting to be referred to as "lobster traps".


Sheldon: They tried to make Richard Feynman take a vacation, but he chose instead to expand his mind and learn something new. He went to work in his friend's biology lab. (aside to Howard) Richard Feynman was a famous American physicist — part of the Manhattan Project.
Howard: Everyone in the world of science knows who Richard Feynman was.
Sheldon: Now you do, too.

Howard: Isn't that just Feynman's idea?
Sheldon: Ten seconds ago you never heard of him - now you're an expert.

Raj: Mr. Roper is dead? You can't just spring that on a guy!

Sheldon: (Carrying a tray of beakers) Here you go! This is now the only lab with glassware washed by a man with two doctorates and a restraining order signed by Carl Sagan.
Amy: (Inspects a beaker) Soap spots! Wash 'em again.
Sheldon: You're being ridiculous! Those are perfectly clean.
Amy: (Picks up a large beaker) Sheldon, this beaker used to contain cerebral spinal fluid from an elephant that died of syphilis. If it's in fact perfectly clean, (holds it out to him) drink from it.
Sheldon: (Long pause, then takes back beaker and picks up tray again) Biologists are mean.

Sheldon: What do we start with? Slicing some genes? Clone a sheep? Perhaps grow a human ear on a mouse's back? Haha, I'm a freak! (laughs)

Amy: I'm excited to work with my boyfriend, it's gonna be romantic.
Sheldon: Way to kill the mood.

Amy: Are we nervous, Dr. Cooper?
Sheldon: No. What you see is a man trembling with confidence... Does the locus coeruleus usually bleed that much?
Amy: No, but your thumb does.
Sheldon: (looks at it) Oh dear! (faints)
Amy: Yeah, YOU'RE a biologist. (goes for first-aid kit on the wall)

Penny: Ha ha, you cut your thumb and fainted!

Sheldon: I have plenty of experience in biology. I bought a Tamagotchi in 1998... And...(takes it out of his pocket) it's still alive.

Sheldon: Excuse me, but you have Doctor Cooper in your lab! Are you gonna make him do the dishes? That's like asking The Incredible Hulk to open a pickle jar.

Raj: No 'Hi, Raj!', no 'How are you, Raj?', just straight to 'Where's the other white guy?'

Penny: I’m so glad you talked Howard out of having your wedding invitations in Klingon.
Bernadette: Turn it over. I’m hoping my relatives think it’s Hebrew.
Amy: This is really happening. I’m gonna be a maid of honour. I’m gonna wear a beautiful dress and walk down that aisle and, finally, I will have my special day.
Bernadette: You mean my special day?
Amy: They’re gonna need an extra-large veil for somebody’s head.
Bernadette: If I ever actually ever get married.
Penny: Why wouldn’t you?
Bernadette: My dad. Because I make a lot more money than Howie, he’s putting a lot of pressure on me to get a pre-nup.
Penny: Ouch.
Bernadette: Yeah. Howie’s gonna freak out.
Amy: Parental pressure can be daunting. I remember the battle with my mother about shaving my legs. Last year, I finally gave in and let her do it.
Bernadette: I just don’t know how I’m gonna break it to him.
Penny: You know, I’m a big believer in breaking bad news to a guy when you’re in bed with him. That’s how I told my high school boyfriend I slept with his brother. That’s how I told his brother the same thing.
Bernadette: I don’t know, I don’t want to manipulate him with sex.
Penny: Oh, sweetie, that’s what sex is for.
Amy: You know, the connection between marriage and money is nothing new. In fact, the term wed referred to the money and livestock that the groom paid the bride’s father. For example, you’re adorable, intelligent and a good earner. I could conservatively see you going for at least two oxen and a goose. (To Penny) You would fetch a unicorn.

Leonard: What the hell are you doing?
Sheldon: Bleeding from my ears.
Leonard: What are you doing hiding back there?
Sheldon: I’m sneaking into work. Now, if the guard at the university asks what’s under the blanket, you tell him it’s some lobster traps.
Leonard: Lobster traps?
Sheldon: Yes. That’s how Velma and Scooby smuggled Shaggy into the old lighthouse.
Leonard: What are you going to do when you get to the university? People are going to recognize you.
Sheldon: Will they, Leonard? (Puts on a cap and a long-hair wig)
Leonard: Fine. Just get back under your blanket, and I’ll drive you there.
Sheldon: And no more singing.
Leonard: Fine. (does a U-turn)
Sheldon: I have GPS on my phone. I know you turned around.

Bernadette: Are you mad at me?
'Howard': No. I’m not mad at you. I just wish you would have come to me, so I didn’t have to hear it through the nerd-vine.
Bernadette: So, what are we gonna do?
Howard: You really want me to sign a pre-nup?
Bernadette: I don’t know. My dad’s pretty insistent on it, though.
Howard: Why don’t I talk to your dad, man-to-man?
Bernadette: Really? Oh, that’d be so great.
Howard: Done.
Bernadette: I should probably give you a heads-up about a couple of things. Even though he’s retired from the police force, he still carries his gun. But don’t worry, he won’t shoot it. It’s more of a fashion statement.
Howard: Okay.
Bernadette: And just to be safe, when you talk to him, don’t bring up Jimmy Carter, gardeners, foreign people, homosexuals, Sean Penn, Vatican II, gun control, organic food, the designated hitter rule, recycling or the fact that you’re Jewish.
Howard: Got it, got it. Will you e-mail me that list?
Bernadette: So the thing to watch for, if he’s shouting at you, you’re okay, but if he starts to get real quiet, leave as quickly as you can without making eye contact. Not in a straight line, throw some zigs and zigs in there.
Howard: You know, this isn’t that pressing. Why don’t I talk to him about it in May?
Bernadette: In May, you’re gonna be on the International Space Station.
Howard: They’ve got a phone.