When Penny asks Leonard about his day, noting that he is working on a particle detector, it gives Leonard a chance to explain what he is doing, and he is surprised when Penny doesn’t demonstrate the boredom she usually does. Given the chance to expound on his research, Leonard comes to a scientific epiphany. Usually when we see Sheldon or Leonard “doing” science, they are staring at a white board or scribbling arcane formula, such as Sheldon’s night long staring contest with a white board in last week’s “The Anxiety Optimization,” or season 3’s “The Pirate Solution,” in which Raj and Sheldon both stare down a white board. Howard has the opportunity to play with interesting gadgetry. Leonard realizes that he may have had a breakthrough and hurries off to share the news with Sheldon, as well as get Sheldon’s input on the feasibility.
Sheldon listens to Leonard’s idea, giving him the idea that Leonard is off base, but eventually comes to the conclusion that, despite using a blueberry scented marker, Leonard may have something. While Sheldon is always convinced he’s the smartest in the room, it is a little off putting to see Leonard demonstrating such a complete lack of self-esteem. Sheldon compliments and rewards Leonard with a sticker and a heartfelt “good job,” and, although a little offended, Leonard accepts both like a puppy looking for approval.
The next morning, Leonard awakens to find that overnight, Sheldon has written a paper on Leonard’s discovery and taken credit for it by placing his name first on the paper’s byline. Leonard very quickly accepts Sheldon’s co-ownership. Sheldon points out that having his name on the paper is akin to having Joss Whedon’s name on a movie. Noting that the only way to be sure they have achieved a breakthrough is to post it on-line to a pre-print server. One would think that working to confirm Leonard’s insight by running some experiments, and perhaps submitting the paper to a peer reviewed journal might also be a good way to determine the paper’s worth, but those activities would certainly get in the way of the plot of the episode. Sheldon explains that he has the paper ready to go, but was waiting for Leonard to wake up, and warning Leonard that if they didn’t put the paper out there, someone might beat them to the punch. Although that may seemed farfetched, there are plenty of cases of scientists losing out on fame because they delayed, such as Elisha Gray or Alfred Russel Wallace. In any event, the two click the mouse simultaneously to post the paper.
Across the hall, Amy, Bernadette, and Penny are bonding for movie night and Amy suggests they watch Serial Apist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill. Penny disappoints them by saying it was never released and the director is now twirling a sign outside a Verizon store, but she is wrong and Amy manages to find the movie. Bernadette notes that not only will it be fun to watch, but also humiliating for Penny. Penny admits she hasn’t seen it and a cheerful Bernadette suggests it may have turned out better than she thinks, only to revise her opinion after the first line of the movie.
In the lab, Leonard is actually trying an experiment related to his theory, although one wonders why, if he’s working with superfluid helium that is so cold, he has gloves and a t-shirt, leaving his arms bare and potentially susceptible to any spillage. Howard and Raj enter with the news that their paper was mentioned on the Quantum Diaries Physics blog. (https://www.quantumdiaries.org/2015/02/05/theory-and-experiment-come-together-bazinga/)* Following a recap of the paper on the blog, there are a lot of positive comments and the two use the compliments to congratulate each other. Unfortunately, as they keep reading, they come across someone who accuses them of crackpottery and notes that the blog should be devoted to real science, noting the Cooper and Hofstadter were just in a rush to publish. The negative comments came from an anonymous user hiding behind the name “General Relativity.” Sheldon decides to respond, but Leonard convinces him not to, until General Relativity attacks them again.
The women are watching Penny’s movie and we hear a sound clip from the earlier show when Penny was filming. Penny shuts it off and reveals that while they were watching the movie, she was surfing the web and came across Bernadette in a beauty pageant, Bernadette announces that she’s learned her lesson and making fun of people is wrong, but Penny and Amy insist on watching her sing the Spice Girls “Wannabe” during the 1999 Miss California Quizno’s contest. And with that, an humiliated Bernadette did learn her lesson, but not Amy, who insists on having it played again.
Their anonymous troll hasn’t responded to their eventual post, which explained that they weren’t crackpots or “wannabes,” but rather respected in their field and that they stood behind their paper, adding in a last minute attack on the troll’s mother.
Trying to move the embarrassment off herself, Bernadette blurts out that Amy writes Little House on the Prairie fan fiction. Now learning the lesson Bernadette has learned, Amy begs them not to, but Penny wants to find it and read it, especially since she is sure it is about Amy and Sheldon, although Amy swears it isn’t, instead being about nineteenth century girl Amelia and the time traveling physicist Cooper. Penny finds the story and begins reading it out loud, giving a rendition of some horrible fan fiction, complete with MarySue, leading to Amy feeling nostalgic for the time when she had no friends.
Sheldon, meanwhile is annoyed because his troll hasn’t responded, and Sheldon is planning on cutting him to the quick by posting a cat meme in response. Raj on the other hand is creating sock puppet accounts in order to support Leonard and Sheldon’s paper, when suddenly, the troll responded to Sheldon, calling their paper ridiculous and saying that physicists at CalTech are essentially merely engineers. Raj tries to get Sheldon to focus on the positive comments and Sheldon tries to explain how the anonymity of the web is practically designed to allow trolls to attack people rather than do anything useful on their own. Sheldon, meanwhile, has offered to meet his troll face to face in the real world, apparently forgetting how well that turned out in the fourth season episode “The Zarnecki Incursion” when they drove down to face someone who stole virtual treasure from Sheldon in World of Warcraft. When the troll tries to contact Sheldon via Skype, Sheldon panics and shuts down the computer, realizing his mistake.
Penny continues to read Amy’s story and they discover that Amy is very much aware of the dynamic with Sheldon. As Bernadette points out, “Cooper” is just as exhausting as Sheldon. Amy explains it is so he could change, although she admits that might just be wishful thinking. On the other hand, Amy does have a strange view of what flirting was like in the nineteenth century.
Raj gives Sheldon and Leonard a pep talk and Sheldon decides to call the troll back. With Leonard’s hand on the mouse, the two click to start the call together and discover their troll is none other than Stephen Hawking. Hawking explained that he thought their paper was good with an intriguing premise, but that after being confined to a chair for forty years, he got bored. Hawking signed off to help the neighbor kid with his math. The brief call left Sheldon and Leonard even more elated than the initial good comments about their paper.
Amy, meanwhile grabs the tablet from Penny, but Penny and Bernadette both tell Amy how much they were enjoying the story and want to know how it ends. Amy sits down to read the ending of the story to them, interrupted by Leonard coming in to share the news about Hawking. He was met by Penny and Bernadette shrieking for him to get out, which he did, presumably to let Amy finish her story.
The kicker is a recreation of a scene from Amy’s story, with Amy playing Amelia (of course) and Sheldon playing Cooper, in which Amy gives Cooper a bath. As the bath ends, we learn that Penny is reading it to Leonard in bed. He tells her to continue despite its strangeness, but as Amelia asks Cooper if there are any changes in the ways of love in the future, Leonard realizes he’s heard more than enough and the episodes fades to Chuck Lorre’s vanity card.
(*Editor’s Note: Check out the link to the Quantum Diaries website.)