Fan Review: The Mystery in the Meat

I’ve said before that one of the reasons I love Bones is because of the variety they give us in the types of stories they tell, ranging from humorous to deeply emotional in tone. The Mystery in the Meat is the former, but even so, it doesn’t lose its emphasis on character and relationships. In fact, there are a lot of really wonderful moments here.

My initial response to the Brennan/Angela/Booth story was apprehension. An important part of the show for me is the team, the idea that all these people care about one another.  I don’t want it to be Booth on one side, Brennan on the other, and no real connection between him and the other squints except through her, so the idea that Angela could not only say some of the things she did about Booth, but also believe them, distressed me.

Soothed somewhat by Cam and Hodgins’ faith in Booth, I finally decided I might just have to live with there not being a genuine friendship between Booth and Angela, that maybe there were limits to the ‘more than one type of family’ where best friend loyalties were concerned.

Meanwhile, I was hearing from a number of people that Angela, however wrong she was about Booth, was justified in her actions, that she was thinking first of Brennan.  That sort of made sense to me. Do I think it’s a best friend’s job to protect/stand with her friend against a guy who’s hurting her in some way? Yes. But I’d qualify it that the best friend’s full job is to help, whatever that means. If I’m so biased that I can’t see the truth of what a guy is doing, then, yeah, it’s my best friend’s job to step in.

That’s not what happened here, though. Angela didn’t know the truth, she only knew Brennan was being hurt. She was right to be angry at Booth for that, and maybe even right to say some of what she said to him.

But did she really help? We’ve had a lot of conversations about this arc, most of them focused on Angela, with people taking sides, either for her against her. But what I kept coming back to was Brennan. Was she feeling helped by Angela, or not?

I think Brennan should have at least been able to take comfort in the knowledge that Angela empathized with her pain, but beyond that, since Angela couldn’t bring herself to argue for Brennan leaving Booth, there wasn’t much else she could do.

So did Brennan feel supported? Or did Angela’s attempts backfire in some ways, creating another burden for Brennan?

I think this episode suggests that yes, Angela’s actions, while very well-intentioned, actually hurt Brennan, in that they created a situation where she felt like she had to choose between her husband and her best friend.

And Angela wound up paying for it, as well, as she wonders if she’s even still in Brennan’s top ten.

But all of this allows us to see, in yet a different way, how much Booth and Brennan love one another.

Brennan loves him enough that her awareness of Booth’s feelings about Angela have resulted in her pulling away from Angela. It bothers her, but he comes first. It’s just that simple.

Meanwhile, Booth wants Brennan to have all that he thinks she deserves;  her best friend, a party, whatever it is, he wants it for her. This isn’t about him grudgingly encouraging the friendship because he doesn’t want her to come to resent him at some point. Booth wants Brennan to be happy. Really, truly happy. Furthermore, he’s secure enough in her love for him not to be seriously threatened, either by the idea of a best friend who appears to hate him, or of there being flirting at the party. 

But there’s one more thing in that conversation which I think is worth noting. When Booth tells her to let Angela throw her the party, he doesn’t word it as being for Brennan, but rather for Angela: “Look, let her throw you a bachelorette party. That’s what a best friend does. I mean, you can’t deny her that.”

However upset he is with her, Booth is thinking of Angela here, too. The part of me that wants ‘more than one kind of family’ to be about the whole team relishes that.

And as a result of the party we get what I think is one of my favorite B&B moments of all time:  Booth taking care of drunk Brennan. She’s funny, he’s sweet, and it’s altogether a lovely scene. He asks if she had fun, and there’s some great body language there, with her hand on his chest. But then, despite her inebriation, the conversation turns serious for a moment, as she lets him know that she’d told Angela it was his idea for her to go to the party:

“I told Angela that it was your idea that I should go, and she feels bad that she hated you. I told her that you were the best person ever, even though that can’t be confirmed empirically, but I don’t give a crap.”

First, this bit of dialog gives us Temperance Brennan saying, ‘but I don’t give a crap’ and how much fun is that? (Answer: a lot.)

But its real point, I think, is mostly to let us know that Angela knows it was Booth who gave her best friend back to her, and that she feels bad about having hated him. She’d said in The Lady on the List that she should have trusted him more, but she’d not yet apologized to him (I can’t give her too much of a hard time about that, because none of these people seem to find it easy to apologize, including Booth.)  In other words, this sets up the scene at the end where Angela shows up in his office.

She thanks him for fixing her relationship with Brennan, but then asks if the two of them can be friends again.

Booth hesitates. We know he cares about her, but he hesitates, and tries to make his actions over the party totally about Brennan, and I think that’s proof of how much Angela hurt him with some of the things she said.

But once she apologizes, he caves. “Look, Angela…you put Bones first. I forgot about that for a while.”

A lot of fans seem to be seeing that line as evidence that Booth was aware that he played a part in what happened between them, too. But all I see there was him forgiving her, acknowledging that he understands that what she did, she did out of love for Brennan.

We see Booth’s love for Brennan in other places in this episode, too, including a rather unexpected one: when he’s talking to the uber-rational suspect, Agatha Blume.

In the first encounter, he and Brennan are together, and he appears amused that Brennan doesn’t see the similarities between them, at least based on his affectionate half-smile when she says she finds the other woman delightful.

The next time he talks to her, they’re alone, in the interrogation room:

“Did you use this to kill Howard?”
“No.”
“You disliked him.”
“I dislike almost everyone. I dislike you, and I don’t even know you.”
“Howard was going to dump the company – a company you had to work for for ten years before you saw a profit.”
“It wouldn’t be rational for me to kill Howard. It would remove the last hope I had of keeping the company alive.”
“This wasn’t a rational murder. You know what my guess is? My guess is that you begged him to keep the company alive. He refused and you killed him in a rage. Impulsive, spontaneous.”
“I am neither of those things. I don’t suppose you’ve ever met someone like that?”
“I know someone a lot like that.”
“Would she ever murder someone without a very good reason?”
“No.”
“Then I guess what you’d better do is find a very good reason.”

I can’t even explain how much I love this conversation. Booth goes by his gut in evaluating suspects, but what informs his gut? Here, it’s Brennan, and I wonder if ten years earlier, he’d have had a different response to Agatha.  But because of Brennan, he gets what she’s saying; because he loves Brennan, his knee-jerk reaction isn’t that Agatha’s non-emotional response is suspect, but just the opposite. .

There are stories here about the other characters, too.

I’ve been paying more attention to Cam this season, and have been struck by how on the outside she seems: part of the team, and yet distant in some ways. We see obvious connections between Booth and Brennan, and Hodgins and Angela; we see the friendships between Brennan and Angela, and Booth and Sweets.  But Cam is sort of odd man out. Yeah, she’s been friends with Booth for twenty years at this point, but we don’t often see that connection, simply because she’s in the lab, and he’s not.

We know they care about her, because they all came home to help her in Mastodon. And she cares for them, too – the image I have in my head at this point is of her weeping over the evidence damning Brennan in The Past in the Present – and we’re seeing more of the relationship between her and Angela this season, as Angela helps with her identity theft case.

But whatever the full picture of the relationships are, what we see in this episode is that Cam’s surprised to be included in the bachelorette party.  Brennan sees Cam as essential to the celebration, and I think Angela does, as well, but Cam’s startled.  I’m becoming fascinated by the dynamics there, so I hope they keep exploring them.

Daisy is similar, in that she’s surprised and delighted to be included. I’ve said all along that part of what I like about Oliver is what he brings out in the rest of the team, and I’m realizing that Daisy is the same way. Being honest, I thought her story was the weakest of the original squinterns, enough that I couldn’t figure out what story they could possibly tell about her once she and Sweets broke up.

But I very much like the Daisy they’re showing me. She’s more vulnerable than I realized, and watching the team respond to that, from Brennan’s conversation with her last week to what Hodgins says to Oliver is proving one of the highlights of the season for me:

“The annoying girl leaves and we immediately find cause of death.”
“Okay, about Daisy…”
“There is nothing that you could say that would make me like her.”
“Oliver, she is one of us. You are not, yet. The fastest way for you to become one of us is to be kind to her.”
“What if I don’t care about being one of you?”
“I think you do.”

I love Hodgins’ defense of her, as well as his insight into Oliver, and Oliver’s desire to be a part of them.  Remember Booth’s ‘land of misfit toys’ comment in Mayhem on a Cross? That’s what this is. I suspect that Oliver and Daisy, at least, and possibly some of the other interns have spent their lives largely outside looking in, wanting to belong somewhere, but excluded by their intelligence and/or social awkwardness.

But here, with this group of people, they do belong, or can. I think Oliver wants it, more, perhaps than even he knows. But Hodgins gets it, and by the end of the episode, we see Oliver trying to cover for Daisy, behavior he acknowledges as not being in his nature.

Plus? Hodgins isn’t the only one protective of Daisy.  I love Cam stepping in at the bar to save her from herself.

The tag touches on both love and friendship, and the strengths and differences of each. Brennan thanks Booth for giving her her best friend back – but who is his best friend? She asks, and he answers with a question, “Do you want me to say you?”

The vehemence of her ‘no!’ is interesting, and I believe it’s because she once did think that’s what she wanted, for him to be her best friend, and then, having gotten that in season six, realized it wasn’t what she wanted at all.

He never does tell her who he considers his best friend, and I’m not sure whether that’s because he does actually think it’s her, but now doesn’t want to say so, or if it’s because he doesn’t know himself whether it’s Sweets or Aldo. I hope they revisit that at some point.

Finally, about the case: I’m seeing negative comments about this being a ‘message ep’ or episode about a cause.

I don’t care, honestly. Writers have always used fiction as a way to express ideas important to them, and this wasn’t as heavy-handed as some have been. Plus? In the real world, people die for other people’s causes, so why shouldn’t fiction reflect that?

Am I going to be swayed by what a fiction writer says about some topic or cause? No, though I might read up on it. And for those who won’t research beyond what a fictional TV show says about an issue…that makes me sad for all of us, but to me, it’s evidence of a larger problem than whether or not a TV show steps on a soap box.

Bonus quotes:

“What kind of sick mind serves a person to kids?” (Booth)
“Maybe one of them wasn’t ready for a pop quiz. Are all the teachers accounted for?” (Caroline)

**

“Did you have this one tested for mental illness?” (Oliver, to Cam)
“Yes. And I passed.” (Daisy)

**

“I hate Oliver.” (Daisy)
“Who doesn’t? But after a while you start to like hating him.” (Hodgins)
“I’m not there yet.” (Daisy)

**

“Oliver Wells should not antagonize me. Working here has given me a pretty good knowledge of how to kill and how to get away with it.” (Daisy)

**

“You did a good thing, Booth. I know you and Angela haven’t exactly been friends lately.”
“Oh, this wasn’t about Angela. I just wanted Bones to have a bachelorette party.”
“Okay.”
“Okay – don’t say ‘okay’ to me.”
“Okay…that wasn’t an ‘okay’ okay. It was just an okay.”
“You don’t even know how to say just okay.”
“Okay.”

**

“Sweets, Caroline and Cam are with Bones – a Federal prosecutor and a Federal coroner. How wild can it get?”

**

“Do you know what it’s called when you drink a shot off a stranger’s body?”
“Body shots.”
“How did you know that?”
“Lucky guess.”

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