Whoo-hoo! My show is back! *happy dance across the web*
Although it’s probably obvious by now that the characters are my focus with this show, that doesn’t mean that I don’t pay any attention to the cases, or that they don’t matter – rather, I see them as the framework that gives me those character moments. I often marvel at how the pieces come together, and I enjoy trying to figure out ‘whodunit’ – particularly when they manage to surprise me.
Still, most of the time, it’s not the details of the case I come away thinking about…but every once in a while, there’s an exception to that, and this is one of them.
I over-think plots (I can hear Natesmama laughing at me from here…) but I thought this case flawless. I never caught myself saying, ‘but wait, what about…?’ and was surprised by Trent’s death. I also liked how the victim’s brother was written, that he wasn’t the killer, despite his lack of love for his sister.
Many of us are guessing that we actually did meet the Ghost Killer, and if so, I like that they’re letting the audience know something the team doesn’t yet know. It’s all a solid setup to the Ghost Killer arc, so kudos to writer Nkechi Okoro on that front.
But as much as I enjoyed the case, it’s what the episode says about love that’s the real takeaway for me. Our culture often has a very shallow, simplistic view of all types of love, where people can only smile and kiss and agree with one another, and that’s sad, because it misses the point that love matters most when things are hard and confusing, and that the greatest gifts in our lives are those who will tell us the truth while they stand beside us.
I don’t believe Brennan was wrong here, but nor do I think the other characters were wrong in their response to her. What I saw in The Sense in the Sacrifice was that Pelant had succeeded in screwing with her. The point of her conversation with Aldo was ‘what if there are murders we’ll never solve without Pelant?’ and the fact that she sacrifices those answers to save lives doesn’t mean it won’t haunt her.
Rationally, given everything they learned about Pelant, Brennan’s not wrong to pursue it. He never lied, at least not that we’re aware of, and while he was capable of making mistakes, he was undeniably brilliant, enough, even, to catch things she wouldn’t.
The difficulty is that Brennan isn’t being rational in her approach to figuring out the puzzle. She’s not being herself, and the others are right to be concerned. It’s not even that she’s following a hunch – this isn’t about her learning to trust her gut, at least not yet. Rather, she’s blindly following Pelant. And that’s very, very bad.
At one point, she says to Clark, “Everyone keeps telling me I’m making connections that aren’t there, but I don’t do that kind of thing. I’m not that kind of person.” But that’s exactly what she’s doing, as seen in this exchange a little later, also with Clark:
“But you do need someone to back you up, especially if you’re accusing Trent MacNamara of being a serial killer.”
“I already said the serial killer is a woman. Trent MacNamara didn’t murder Lana Brewster.”
“Because Trent MacNamara’s not a woman?”
Hunches are generally viewed as being when our subconscious mind has picked up on details our conscious mind has missed or not processed. That’s not what’s happening here. Brennan’s not following a hunch that the killer is a woman…she’s simply accepting that Pelant was right. With no evidence at all, she’s prepared to rule out Trent as Lana’s killer, simply because he’s a man.
One thing that struck me on my re-watch is that Brennan frames her anger at Cam as ‘you’ve been doubting my judgment as a forensic anthropologist’ but I think you can make an argument that it’s not Cam, nor Booth, nor any of the others who are doubting her – it’s Brennan herself. She’s not seeing what she believes Pelant saw, and it’s throwing her.
But by using what Pelant told her, unchallenged and unconfirmed, as her accepted starting point, she’s abandoning her greatest tool: her own mind and skills.
And this is where we come back to love. Booth wants her to investigate the cases. He knows as well as she does that Pelant may well have caught something everyone else had missed. But he wants her to approach the questions the way she usually would, requiring the same evidence – not blindly accepting the hunch of a crazed serial killer. (Even Pelant acknowledged he didn’t know for sure that it was a woman.)
Love is knowing someone well enough to know how to bring out the best in them, how to help them achieve their goals, not just by saying what they want to hear, but by telling them the full truth:
“That’s fine. Tickle the bones, do whatever it is that you do. But do it how you do it. Don’t let Pelant call the shots. Don’t keep him alive. Otherwise, you’re never going to find the answers.”
Booth wants her to find them, but wants her to do it as her, not as Pelant’s puppet. He has more confidence in her than she does.
He’s not alone. Brennan feels betrayed by Cam, but Cam, who earlier had nodded when Booth asked if she wanted to believe Brennan, has to justify the cost of the investigation. So she does the best she can, by bringing in Clark, who Cam trusts to be both objective and as committed as any of them to helping Brennan find those answers, because he, too, is devoted to Brennan:
“Look, I’m trying to help you, Dr. Brennan, and I think you know that there is no one in the world that would work harder to impress you than Dr. Edison.”
“That is not true! Of all the people working at the Jeffersonian, he is the least awed by my abilities.”
“That is absolutely true… if you mean the complete opposite.”
And Hodgins? Hodgins doesn’t have to answer to the board the way Cam does, and he’s not seeing the toll the whole thing is taking on Brennan the way Booth is, so his support of Brennan is simple and unqualified: he does as she asks, saying to Angela, “we owe it to Brennan, don’t we? Even if it comes to nothing?”
It takes Brennan a while to see the support for what it is. So skillfully is the progression written that you can’t pinpoint an exact moment when she relaxes, choosing to trust both Cam and Clark. There are four scenes toward the end that show the change, though:
- Scene in Cam’s office, Brennan’s furious, storms out.
- Brennan and Clark show Cam the injury to Trent’s hand that they believe proves he didn’t kill himself. Cam listens, but counters with the weight of the gun. Brennan accepts the rebuttal, but notes there is still a possibility he didn’t kill himself. Clark agrees in a qualified way, “Leaning hard on the word possibility, yes.”
- Brennan questions Clark about whether he can really give the case the time it needs. He reassures her, unexpectedly offering up the painful reason he has plenty of time.
- Brennan takes her next discovery – of the injury shared by both Trent and Lana – to Cam, so she can pass it to Clark.
Having watched the scenes a number of times now, I think the change begins in the second scene, when Cam is obviously listening to her, and Clark supports her. It’s then made complete in the third scene when she realizes how dedicated Clark is to the work:
“I think Nora has found someone else to move forward with. I can’t prove it, but as you know, you don’t always need proof to know when something’s true…So yes, I promise I have more than enough time. I won’t let you down.”
The comment about not always needing proof is important. Earlier, he’d told her, “It’s not about belief. It’s about the evidence. You taught me that.” He’s looking for the link, but he’s also letting her know that lack of evidence doesn’t mean she’s not right.
The scene between Brennan and Clark is one of my favorites, ever. Not only do I tear up when he talks about Nora, just the idea that the repressed man we first met six years ago is opening up to Brennan puts a lump in my throat. And her response, ending with that he should call her Temperance? I don’t think there’s a greater acknowledgement than that one that she regards him as a friend and peer, and I believe he understands that gift she’s given him.
Whatever is behind the change, it allows her to tell Cam that she’s now on-board with doing things the way Cam feels is best. She’s come to understand that they’re not her enemies, but are, in fact, working with her.
In the end, we have this simple scene between Booth and Brennan, with the callback to his trust in her in the interrogation with the doctor in The Sense in the Sacrifice:
“What do you think?”
“I think we’re going to catch her.”
“You believe me?”
“If you don’t trust the evidence that Trent killed himself, then I don’t trust the evidence.”
“That’s it. Now take a bite of that sandwich and eat up. It’s good.”
“You know me better than I know myself.”
He does know her, as well as she knows him – a shared miracle for both of them.
As wonderful as Brennan’s story here is, though, there’s also a lot going on with Hodgins, and that alone would bump the episode onto my favorites list, as I simply adore Hodgins.
For starters, we finally got a glimpse into his surprisingly functional family – he had parents who came in to tell him good night and that they loved him. Whoo-hoo for that! We now have some information about the parenting experienced by all six main characters! (And, given Booth, Brennan, and Sweets’ families of origin, yay for normal?)
I don’t think it’s a leap to say that the solid foundation his parents gave him is why he is so very okay with the loss of the fortune. He cherishes the important, and it’s not the money: “As long as a person has enough, they don’t need more. I’ve got more than enough.”
It’s the conversations with and about Trent that most tug at me, though. Hodgins doesn’t like him, but even so, has compassion for him, for the love he lacked growing up, enough to make an intuitive leap that he wouldn’t have killed the girl who did love him.
His reaction when Trent kills himself is wrenching. (And can I note how much I love that Booth thought to call Angela, to have her be the one to tell Hodgins?)
Hodgins is also aware that he could have been Trent, saying to Angela, “We could have turned out the same, you know. Same kind of life.”
It’s probably pushing it to call it a theme, but I was struck by how that parallels Brennan and Pelant: similar, she could have turned out like him, but didn’t. Brennan wouldn’t use the quote, but it fits: “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
“It’s an amazing achievement, until you consider that it doesn’t actually achieve anything.” – Brennan
“Well, do that thing where you figure out where stuff comes from.”
“You’re so lucky I know what you mean.” (Cam and Hodgins)
“I was a rich kid, you know? I had to sail and have at least one girl friend named Muffy. It’s in the charter.”
“Yeah, I dumped her for Binkie. Now, Binkie…Binkie was hot.” (Hodgins and Angela)
“You really are a wonderful guy, even if you did sleep with a Binkie.”
“You don’t make that sound as good as it was.” (Angela and Hodgins)