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The Big Bang Theory: “The Vacation Solution”

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Last week’s episode benefited from putting Sheldon in a submissive role, and by continuing the trend, The Big Bang Theory has one of its best episodes ever with “The Vacation Solution.” Sheldon moves in to Amy’s lab when his supervisor forces him to take a vacation, and Amy’s authority in her workspace forces Sheldon to confront his imperfections. It’s the closest the two will likely ever get to cohabitation, and it's a turning point in their relationship. Sheldon even makes an apology at the end of this episode, one without an accompanying contract or underhanded comment, which is a total breakthrough for the character.

I’ve been saying it all season, and this episode proves that the women are the reason to watch Big Bang Theory nowadays. Both stories focus on Amy and Bernadette, giving Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch time to show off their substantial comedic skills. When Bernadette’s father pressures her into getting a pre-nup, she struggles with how to tell Howard, and while she ultimately doesn’t have to, Rauch gets to have a lot of fun with the story. She’s great at playing anxious but hiding it under a layer of cute indifference, and when Bernadette lists all the things Howard shouldn’t talk to her dad about at the end of the episode, her anxiety becomes greater as the list grows longer. She’s able to throw out rapid-fire jokes, and the underlying tension heightens the humor.

An episode that gives this much focus to Amy is going to be good, and Bialik’s dry line delivery is perfect for the character who so casually switches from apathy to admiration. While talking about the history of profit through weddings, she tells Bernadette, “For example, you’re intelligent, adorable, and a good earner, I could conservatively see you going to for at least two oxen and a goose.” She then turns to Penny: “You would fetch a unicorn.”

Amy shows Sheldon that, contrary to what he believes, he can’t do everything. When he goes to work for Amy, Sheldon is relegated to menial tasks like washing beakers and counting bacteria, jobs that he complains about yet cannot do adequately. When he demands a more difficult task, Amy asks him to cut a piece of brain less than a hair’s width thick, leading to fun banter aimed at emasculating Sheldon. No matter how many physicist “yo momma” jokes he tries to fit in, there’s no denying the tremble in his hands and the worry in his voice. His shaky grip ends up cutting his thumb, and he pathetically faints at the sight of blood, giving Jim Parson his requisite moment of physical comedy (twice).

Sheldon’s vacation forces him to act like an adult, and he even hits up the local watering hole to drown his sorrows over a heavily-modified virgin piña colada. He’s only sort of a grown-up, but at least he’s beginning to understand the routine of the everyman. He runs into Howard at the Cheesecake Factory bar, leading to a combination of characters we don’t see often on this show, but one that works very well: Penny, Sheldon, and Howard.

While Amy gets a majority of the episode’s best lines, it’s Penny who gets the evening’s biggest laugh. When she finds Sheldon and Howard at the bar, she berates them both, and her criticism of Howard is hilariously harsh: “If you let her go, there is no way you can find anyone else. Speaking on behalf of all women, it is not gonna happen. We had a meeting.” The delivery is sharp, her facial expression is perfect, and it creates the fantastic image of a congress of women all taking a vote against Howard Wolowitz and his infernal member.


Everyone gets a little bit of play this episode, including some further developments with the “Raj is gay” subplot. When Raj mentions his masseuse’s magic hands, Howard says that he can’t imagine being massaged by a man, to which Raj responds, “Really? What was I doing to your neck last night while playing Xbox?” When Howard is confused about what to do about the pre-nup, Raj stares at him adoringly and tells him to follow his heart. This is starting to seem like more than just suspicion, and I’m hoping to get a major Koothrappali bombshell in the future.

Stray observations:

  • In high school, Penny told her boyfriend that she cheated on him with his brother while they were having sex. That’s also how she told his brother. Penny was kind of a slut.
  • If there was one part of this episode I could have done without, it’s the “Leonard sings Black Eyed Peas” scene.
  • When Amy makes Sheldon do the dishes, he compares it to asking the Hulk to open a pickle jar. Anyone remember the issue of X-Factor where the entire team tries to open a jar of mayonnaise? Comic books are awesome.