For the past two years, the biggest buzzword in the world of science has been “Large Hadron Collider.” If anybody wanted to sound smart, they simply spoke the name, and presto: your perceived intelligence doubled. Of course, this illusion could be easily counteracted when asked about the nature, purpose, or any general information regarding about the Large Hadron Collider. Simply put, it’s like a game of Taboo. The purple side of the card reads “Large Hadron Collider,” and any mention of the words “Big Bang Machine,” “Mountains in Switzerland,” “Destroy the Earth,” “Tiny Particles,” or “Giant Metal Racetrack” will result in a loud buzzer blaring in your ear.
It was only a matter of time before The Large Hadron Collider was mentioned on The Big Bang Theory. As particle physicists, Leonard and Sheldon work in the exact field in which the Large Hadron Collider is applicable. Over lunch, Leonard announces the university has selected him to attend a conference in Switzerland, where he will visit the Large Hadron Collider. As a bonus, he gets to bring a guest of his choosing. Upon revelation that the conference will be on February 14th, both Raj and Howard understand Leonard’s intent to invite girlfriend Penny for a romantic vacation. Sheldon, oblivious as always, disregards the possibility and assumes he will be attending instead.
At home, Leonard tries to break the bad news to Sheldon. Sheldon, eagerly packing (and trying to decide which hat best says “AprÃ¨s-Supercollider,”) is offended by the notion Leonard would invite Penny over him. Leonard focuses on the potential of going sightseeing, skiing, and spending a romantic Valentine’s Day evening by the fire under the shadow of the snow-capped Alps. The subatomic particle research is simply a footnote. But for Sheldon, the potential to further a romantic entanglement is not a viable excuse; visiting the Large Hadron Collider has been a dream of Sheldon’s since he was nine. But having a sexy girlfriend has been a dream of Leonard’s since he was six.
Trying to be coy with the prospect of a European vacation, Leonard presents Penny with a tray of Swiss Miss cocoa, Swiss chocolate, and Swiss cheese sliced with a Swiss army knife. Penny, not recognizing the theme, instead mocks Leonard’s poor culinary selections, citing his inability to properly process dairy. This joke marks the third week in a row someone has referenced the way Leonard’s lactose intolerance results in terrible gas. Along with Raj and Howard’s ambiguous relationship, the flatus jokes need to be retired, the sooner the better.
Desperate to visit Switzerland, Sheldon pulls no punches. Breaking out the much maligned roommate-agreement pact, Sheldon cites Leonard’s promise to invite Sheldon if the opportunity to visit the Large Hadron Collider ever presented itself. Leonard claims the roommate-agreement pact is a void document, claiming any contract also featuring a zombie contingency plan has no real-word validity.
Failing along the legal route, Sheldon attempts the silent treatment, shunning Leonard except for occasional derogatory comments regarding Leonard’s backsliding double-cross. For example, Sheldon plays a word game where he ranks Leonard akin to Benedict Arnold, Judas, and Rupert Murdoch, the man who canceled Firefly. Later, Sheldon presents Leonard with 30 pieces of Silverware.
The following morning, Sheldon greets Leonard with breakfast in bed. Offering up delights such as pancakes in the shape of hobbits, scones containing a pound of Crisco and the DVD set of Babylon 5′s final season, Sheldon attempts an apology. Sheldon confesses his actions have been petty, and his friendship with Leonard is more than a list of written agreements. Leonard accepts Sheldon’s apology, but still intends to invite Penny to Switzerland. Realizing his breakfast/apology has had no desired effect, Sheldon retracts his meal/peace offering, claiming “No Frodo for you.”
Unswayed, Sheldon attempts to approach things from a different angle. Putting together a Powerpoint presentation on why a Physicist should visit the Large Hadron Collider, not a waitress from The Cheesecake Factory, Sheldon attempts to convince Penny to refuse Leonard’s invitation. Despite his best efforts, Penny refuses to budge. Realizing all is lost, Sheldon actually displays human emotion and sadly admits defeat. Feeling sorry for the depressed man-child, Penny agrees to talk to Leonard and try to work out a compromise. Ecstatic, Sheldon momentarily breaks his standard protocol of never making contact with other people, and embraces Penny in a bear hug. The terror expressed in Penny’s eyes will not soon be forgotten. Despite promises made, Leonard is furious Sheldon went behind his back, guilting Penny into letting Sheldon attend Switzerland in her place. Authoritatively, Leonard declares, based on Sheldon’s actions the past few days, he would rather visit the Large Hadron Collider alone than invite Sheldon.
Spending the night together before their transatlantic flight, Leonard and Penny fantasize about what Switzerland will be like. The thoughts of shushing down Alps interspersed with hot cocoa and cider are brought to a grinding halt after Penny breaks out in a serious sneezing fit, eventually segueing into a vomiting marathon. Plagued with the flu, Penny knows there is no way she’ll be able to fly to Switzerland by morning. Realizing the opportunity to make good with Sheldon, Leonard offers the now-vacant invitation his way. Although eager to accept, Sheldon is also wracked with illness, and can barely stand.
As Leonard departs for Europe, Sheldon and Penny are left alone to wallow in sickness together. Penny tries her hardest to tolerate her friend under quarantine, but Sheldon cannot fathom how he could possibly have caught the flu. Suddenly, his memory cycles back to the previous day: Sheldon broke his personal rule against touching people when he hugged Penny. It’s no coincidence that he contracted the exact same affliction as her. As Sheldon arrives at this conclusion, Penny smugly glares from behind her bowl of condensed chicken and stars soup.
Finally, Leonard arrives at his spacious Swiss hotel suite. Adorned with roses, chocolates and champagne, Leonard begrudgingly invites his guest inside: Raj. After spending the entirety of the episode in the background, casually mentioning to deaf ears how he has no plans for Valentine’s Day, Raj’s sad sack attitude pays off in abundance. Homosexual undertones aside, Raj is grateful to spend Valentine’s Day with somebody. Anybody. Leonard sighs in defeat as Raj jumps on the queen-sized bed.
A lot of people claim it’s a tragedy to spend Valentine’s Day alone. However, if the alternatives include spending the day with the flu, or an uncomfortably giddy Indian coworker, isolation doesn’t sound so bad.