Based on the promos for this episode, I thought this review might end up being about Brennan’s growth. And that wouldn’t have been a wrong direction to go, but the episode really went somewhere else, to an exploration of what it means to be supportive.
That idea is everywhere here: Booth and Brennan, Angela and Brennan, Sweets and Brennan, Cam/Wendell and Brennan, Angela and Hodgins, Brennan and Hodgins, Wendell and Hodgins. The victim’s live-in girlfriend even weighs in on it: “When you love someone, you support them.” (The fact that the victim is somewhat of a douche (a cheater, viewing kids as trophies), doesn’t mean she’s wrong.)
(This is now the second time in a few weeks that a suspect has said something which turned out to be a theme of the episode (the first was The Lady on the List) – is that a thing with the show and I’ve just missed it until now?)
The trick, of course, is that what it means to support someone is as different as the people involved and the situations.
Here, we learn that A) Brennan wants to be tactful, and B) she’s not as clear as she believes she is about what tact is, or at least, not how to balance it with being honest, which is equally important to her.
And this is why these people have the relationships with her that they do, particularly Booth, Angela, and Sweets: they will tell her the truth. That’s one of the key things she requires to feel supported, I’d say: the belief that she can count on them to be straight with her.
So in a very real way, Booth is supporting her when he says, “You slammed her. That’s a slam.” Even though she disagrees with him, he’s still giving her another point of view to consider.
Brennan believes that it’s possible to be both blunt and tactful at the same time, and his take gives her pause. Booth starts the ball rolling, and she then pursues it with Cam, with Angela, and later, with Sweets.
But it’s not an easy construct for her. (Actually, that line between telling the truth and in not being unnecessarily harsh isn’t easy for any of us, is it?)
And the situation is further complicated, I think, by the question of whether Tess Brown deserves tact. (No, she doesn’t.) But the fact that she was being manipulative doesn’t change the reality that Brennan was not as tactful as she believed herself to be, or as she apparently wants to be.
The conversation between Sweets and Brennan is really the most interesting of the three to me. Brennan is re-watching the video, and I think she’s unhappy and frustrated at this point. She wants to be tactful, and when it was pointed out to her that she hadn’t been, she tried to apologize. A sincere apology should have at least been acknowledged; instead, Tess insults her. Much of this is open to interpretation, but when she tells Sweets that Tess provoked her, I think it’s because she’s not entirely happy with her response (the “I’m pretty sure that was tactless” line), emphasizing that while she wants to be tactful, she’s really not sure how to balance tact and truth.
But Sweets isn’t there to lecture her, but to tell her what he saw: Tess has an agenda. She’s trying to get to Brennan to insult her.
“She knows you don’t think she’s a good novelist; she also knows you’re incapable of sugar-coating the truth.”
“Is that just another way of saying I’m tactless?”
“We can get into all that later…logic dictates that she wanted you to insult her and also that she really didn’t want to apologize. This was deliberate and calculated behavior. She has an endgame and she’s using you to get there.”
I love this exchange because we see that Sweets is more concerned about protecting her by ensuring that she’s aware that the other woman has an agenda than he is helping her to be tactful, though he doesn’t deny that tact and Brennan’s bluntness don’t co-exist easily. He, too, understands the value she places on honesty.
Sometimes, love means telling someone the truth about themselves (“that was tactful…and insulting”) and sometimes it’s telling them the truth about someone else.
Meanwhile, Cam and Wendell offer a different kind of support, with Cam dissing Tess’s book, and Wendell flat-out calling the other woman a bitch. (He’s not wrong.)
It’s interesting to me that Brennan mostly blows off what they say, even though she initiated the conversation. Why is that? Is it because she’s not as sure of their commitment to tell her the truth as she is the others? Cam will be honest with Brennan when it’s important (as in The Secrets in the Proposal) but at other times, she opts for the easy answer, even if it’s not necessarily an honest one (as here, when she tells her, “I wasn’t really listening” in response to Brennan asking if her response to Wendell was tactless.)
I’m not sure that’s Brennan-specific behavior on Cam’s part. I think we often see her give the easy answer, particularly when she wants to keep the team on-target in terms of forensic tasks. But it does result in her being the team member we know the least, and the one with the weakest relationships with the others.
The second story here has to do with the support Hodgins gets, from Angela, Wendell, and Brennan, about the botfly. Again, the responses vary. Angela’s revolted, but comes through in the end; Wendell thinks he’s lost his mind, but still agrees to help. And Brennan? She gets the science of it: “Dr. Hodgins…it appears you’re almost to term. Congratulations!”
Most of the best lines go to Wendell, but I really love Angela here. Maybe it’s because Hodgins is a self-professed romantic (even where slugs are concerned) but their relationship has often felt uneven to me. I know he loves her, but it’s been a while, a long while, since I’ve seen something that said to me, ‘Yeah, Angela loves him, too.’ But this exchange does:
“I didn’t want to upset you with the botfly.”
“You don’t have to say anything, honey. I understand.”
“No. No, I do not. But I accept it. We’re all a little crazy, and your crazy just happens to come out in a bizarre and revolting way. I actually think it’s kind of sweet, that you want to give life to that …thing.”
“I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
Love is telling the truth; it’s also agreeing to be a midwife to an insect crawling out of someone’s neck. As Angela says, “My love for you is stronger than my gag reflex.”
There are other things going on here, though, than just these stories.
First, I’m just so freaking proud of Brennan for her response in the diner to Tess’s plot: “It’s deceitful, distasteful, and dishonest … I want no part of this.” Go, Brennan! Nail that high road, and then enjoy Tess’s YouTube meltdown.
Second…the shallow part of me loved Booth’s interrogation room take-down of the trainer/drug dealer. Dude, your drug-built muscles are no match for ticked-off Booth. (Mmm…is it warm in here?)
Speaking of Booth, I thought the reference to Agent Andy at the end was interesting, given last week’s episode. Although this was filmed months before Nazi, the comment (“Agent Andy is very important to my plots”) was a nice follow up to the honeymoon.
The case was of interest to me primarily because of the beaver and the slugs. I’m a contrary creature in that while my favorite cases tend to have a sympathetic victim (or killer) I don’t expect (nor want) every episode to have either one, mostly because that’s nowhere near realistic. The world’s full of jerks, some of whom get murdered, and the best thing you can say about them is that they probably didn’t deserve to be taken out by a three sided hoe.
I did enjoy the humor here, very much, when I don’t always. Even the scene at the beginning with Wendell getting stuck to Hodgins made me laugh, when physical humor seldom does. (I ignored the voice in my head wondering why he didn’t just pull his hand out of the gloves.)
But it’s humorous dialog I’m always most amused by, and this episode had that in spades:
“Are you saying you could battle space aliens?” (Brennan)
Under the right circumstances. But I’d need a laser.” (Booth)
“Are you really going to give birth to a bug? I saw The Fly, and it did not end well.” (Wendell)
“Oh my God! It’s peeking out! is it time? Should I boil some water?” (Wendell)
“Whoa, slow down. Let’s solve the case before you start having kids for strangers.” (Booth)
You have to know by now…I don’t understand what that means. (Booth)
“Dude, you have totally lost the plot.” (Wendell to Hodgins.)
“You want me to be your midwife?” (Wendell)
“I was thinking more like birthing partner.” (Hodgins)
“I’m going insane.” (Wendell)
“I really wish I could just hang out in the waiting room, smoking cigars with the other dads.” (Angela)