Fan Review: The Repo Man in the Septic Tank

It’s probably no secret by now that the lighter episodes don’t work as well for me as do the more serious ones.  While I enjoy the humor embedded in even the darker ones, and respect that the show has fans who watch for the ‘medy’ in the ‘dramedy’ as much as I do the drama, the more intentionally funny ones don’t usually hit my hot button.

But I had an Alexander day on Monday (of the “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day” children’s book) and maybe that predisposed me to wanting to laugh. Whatever the reason, I liked this very much, though it wasn’t without an eye roll or, uh, a brief moment of rage.

First, what worked:

The scene in the car, particularly Brennan’s speech, was simply beautiful. (This, despite my amusement at once more being wrong about how the show would do something. The fact that I’m wrong far more often than I’m right continues to delight me.)

Specifically, this past weekend a few of us were chatting about the new intern and Booth being jealous  and I said I didn’t think they’d go in that direction because jealousy is about feeling threatened, and if their relationship is what we know it to be (confidence, deep knowledge of one another) why would another man expressing interest in Brennan threaten him?

But watching the scene play out, it felt right to me because we’ve not seen them have this conversation, and it’s important. After all, it’s not been that long ago, really, that fans were debating whether or not it was plausible for Brennan to change enough that she could go from being anti-monogamy to getting married, so it’s reasonable that Booth might need to have it spelled out for him.

And boy, howdy, did she do so:

“You’re upset. You know I’d never sleep with him.”

“Well, you did tell me once that you thought that monogamy was unnatural.”

“Yes. That’s true. Before I realized that we’re symbiotic. Like a clown fish and a sea anemone.”

“What are you talking about? Nemo? That doesn’t sound very romantic.”

“I disagree. You and I, we’re bound to one another. So much so that I don’t feel I could survive without you. You nurture me, you protect me. You’re my home. If I were to damage that by a meaningless dalliance, it would be like killing myself. Something I would never do.”

“That sounds a little better.”

“I would never let anything compromise the life we share, Booth. I love you.”

“Okay, that’s romantic.”

I have to say that I disagree with Booth in his initial assessment.  What she says there about him being her home is unequivocally romantic, and is still bringing a lump to my throat.

I think part of the power of it for me is that I can’t help but compare it to another night scene in the SUV, when she wept for having missed her chance. Thank you, show, for giving both us and them that contrast, for allowing us to see them find their homes in one another, that ‘life shared.’

Another thing I keep thinking about here is that they’re both being open with their vulnerabilities.  Booth adores her, married her, and would die for her…but he’s still not completely sure of her on the monogamy front.  Brennan sees that, and responds with her own vulnerability: I can’t survive without you.

Bound together, indeed.

The scene in the kitchen flows out of the one in the SUV, and what surprised me there was how much I enjoyed it. Broad, physical humor doesn’t usually make me laugh, and this did, probably because I bought it as plausible. Even on my re-watch, I could see that in a crowded room, with a lot of tables and bystanders, the potential exists for both the amount of time it took for Booth to take Horatio down and the dirty fighting (i.e., whatever’s handy) he had to use to do so. (Though, really, Booth, what’s with losing your grip on your weapon that easily?)

And still on the ‘thank you, show, for giving me a laugh, or four’ front was the last scene, from Booth’s dino impression to Brennan’s giggles when he attacked her. Watching the two of them married, happy, and in love never, ever gets old.

Another favorite thing about this episode was how they reached the compromise about Christine and church.  Let’s face it: Booth’s attempts to convince her were ridiculous – she knows him well enough to know he wouldn’t just casually stumble on an article about the benefits of religion in an academic journal, so you can certainly make the argument that he abandoned whatever high ground he had (or thought he had) by lying to her.

But one of the things that makes me nuts about the world we live in is that belief systems can’t be coerced. Belief, whether it’s in God, or in the certainty that God doesn’t exist, needs to be something each person is free to decide on their own.  And giving lip service to freedom and then trying to repress the other side is an epic fail.

For Brennan to be true to who she is, knowledge should be cherished and sought for its own sake – the conclusion she reaches, I think.

That said, while I enjoyed her last conversation with Fuentes where the topic came up, and very much liked that he could be an atheist while still respecting the tragedy of his parents’ religion being taken from them, I did go ‘huh?’ in his leap from “I believe in the right to believe” to “we can’t make good decisions unless we’re exposed to everything, can we?”

That felt forced to me, an unnatural because-the-audience-won’t-get-it-otherwise bridge between his history and Brennan’s conundrum over Christine. I’d have liked it better if he’d ended with “I believe in the right to believe” and then, later, in the conversation with Booth, Brennan simply made the connection between freedom and being exposed to different views.

The show works better when sledgehammers are used on the victims, not the audience.

Overall, though, I thought Fuentes’ character worked fairly well. We’re not supposed to like him in the beginning, and by the end, some of us, at least, were warming to him, (including Hodgins.)

Although my knee-jerk response at the start was, ‘of the arrogant asshole variety of squintern, I like Oliver much better’ I realized during my second watch that when Fuentes looks at Brennan and says, ‘Our positions could be easily reversed’? He’s not wrong.

The show’s established that Brennan is the best forensic anthropologist in the world, and they’ve never really challenged that. But we know that if Brennan were in a foreign country, needing to work as an intern for accreditation purposes, and bones were in front of her, she would be acting just like he is – picking them up, explaining what they were, and her ‘boss’ could either agree with her, or be wrong.

I liked the dynamic between them, from Brennan in teacher mode (agreeing with him that his error was inexcusable, but then finding something to praise him for), to her way of dealing with his inappropriate advances.  Some fans wanted Booth to confront Fuentes, and I’m not sure why.  There’s no question that he’ll protect her when she needs it (as she notes in the car — and when she remembers to stay behind the gun!) but she doesn’t need his help in shutting down unwanted sexual attention, and that’s part of her strength and power.

Now for the eye rolls.

Actually, that’s a bit of a mild term, because I was edging into full-on pissed off mode over this exchange between Fuentes and Cam:

“She’s fiery.”

“Yes. Be careful. We’ve all been burned.”

What does that even mean? She’s warning him, and it’s not misplaced given that Brennan’s quite capable of chewing up and spitting out interns – or anyone else – who either acts out of line or doesn’t measure up. Particularly since he’s clearly treading on thin ground right from the start.

But the ‘we’ part bothers me. Cam’s aligning herself with him, against Brennan, and I’m trying to recall what Brennan has ever done to her to earn that kind of disloyalty. (I really can’t imagine any of the others responding that way. Not even Sweets, who, IMO, has actually been ‘burned’ the most by Brennan.)

I had a full-blown rant written here, but, well, I don’t want anything to kill my “you’re my home” buzz, so I’m going to let it go. I’m 98% sure that the writers didn’t intend for that to be my reaction, (and it might not be if the relationship between Brennan and Cam was more fleshed out) so…moving on.

The show has always been about reversing male/female stereotypes. (Booth the emotional one, Brennan the rational one, etc.) And I think what see here, with Angela and Cam’s tongues hanging out over Fuentes, is part of that.  Yes, it’s possible for brilliant, talented women to experience hormonal urges where a hot man is concerned, and either act on it, or not, depending on circumstances, and it doesn’t result in anyone thinking less of them in a professional sense. 

Have you noticed that it’s the women on the show who are most open about sexuality, and what they want? Brennan…check; Angela…check; Cam…check; Daisy…whoa, yes. The men, on the other hand, aren’t as out-there with it, as a rule. Yeah, there was the FBI bomb tech that fried Hodgins’ brain in The Soccer Mom in the Minivan, and the Fischer-in-the-tent subplot in The Gamer in the Grease, but the show emphasizes the women’s reactions here, over the men’s.

And that’s okay, in the sense of the message they’re sending about women being able to own that part of their lives and still be respected.

But seriously, it can get to be a bit much, whether it’s women or men. And while I also understand that the idea behind Angela and Hodgins’ relationship is that he accepts her appreciation of another man while trusting her completely (as she did him in Soccer Mom)…isn’t there a point where respect comes into play? That having your husband tell you to take a cold shower isn’t actually a good thing?

(Obviously, my answer to that question is different from the writers’ answer, since they’re clearly not saying anything is off between Angela/Hodgins. But …eye roll.)

On the whole, though, I enjoyed this one. And I’ll add another random thought that flitted through my brain last night: the props department on the show (or whoever the heck it is who’s charged with finding or making a used-looking septic tank) doesn’t get nearly enough credit.

Bonus quotes:

“You want to dig up the entire septic system and bring it back?”

“It’s not a desire, it’s a need.” (Booth and Brennan)

***

“Here, you are only exceptional if I say you are.” (Brennan, to Dr. Fuentes)

***

“A thousand pardons.”

“One is sufficient.” (Dr. Fuentes and Brennan)

***

“Research shows that going to church actually boosts your immune system, decreases your blood pressure, and reduces stress. It’s kind of like an antioxidant from God.”

“I also read a study that 86% of all holy water contains fecal matter. If health is your argument, I’d pick filtered over holy. I’ll mail you that article.” (Booth and Brennan)

(Ryn comment: This round goes to Brennan, Booth.)

***

“This is the car Benny was driving when he crashed.”

“Holy crap! It’s a miracle he lived.”

“He drowned in sewage.”

“Right. I guess that’s not a miracle.” (Booth and Sweets)

***

“The new intern thought that he and I would be having sex.”

“Whoa…whoa. What?”

“Sex. He thought we would have sex.”

“Wait…the Cuban guy? He flat-out told you he wants to have sex with you?”

“Yes. He was quite brazen. Although I imagine all my male interns want to have sex with me.”

“You do realize that you’re talking out loud?” (Brennan and Booth)

***

“I think she should go to church.”

“Really? Why?”

“Because she can.” (Brennan and Booth)

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6 thoughts on “Fan Review: The Repo Man in the Septic Tank

  1. Quite a timely post. I just finished rewatching the episode. I think I enjoyed it even more the 2nd time around. I think you hit my favorite parts pretty spot on.

    On Cam’s line about being burned…well I’d say Boy in the Shroud gave her a pretty good scorching and an idea of what it can be if you start off on the wrong foot with Brennan. So maybe a friendly warning, that fire you can see in her can do more than just warm you, it’ll burn you if not careful? That’s just to say I didn’t have near the same reaction to it that you did.

    I’m very happy that Brennan dealt with Fuentes on her own. She doesn’t need Booth to defend her, not from a pesky intern who overestimates his charm. I love that she very definitely seems to have gotten her point across to Dr. Cuba that it is not going to happen…and that she in a very different manner let Booth know the same. 🙂 Now if in the next episode the Cuban intern appears he does cross paths with Booth and Booth gives him the cold stare, that’ll be okay with me. 😉

    I just enjoyed all the B&B scenes. Even when they were arguing. I was thinking as Brennan was agreeing to Christine attending Church, and saying Christine is her daughter in response to what if she does believe…I wouldn’t want to be Christine’s catechism teacher.

    • I was thinking the same thing about Christine’s catechism teacher. LOL. And yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing Booth and Dr. Cuba meet; I just didn’t need him to save her.

      As to Cam…yeah, they’ve had their conflicts, but it still just strikes me as …mean, coming from a friend? But as I said, I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to take it that way, so…

  2. I agree with pretty much everything, the love and the rage. And that the ‘resolution’ came out of nowhere from Fuentes. It’s the same formula they used for Finn, and Arastoo, where Brennan learns some lesson and then accepts them. It’s just a tired formula for me.

    I agree with Frankie too that it’s good that Brennan defended herself. Not saying I wouldn’t enjoy seeing Booth get all “woman in the garden” mad at anyone who hits on his wife (different kind of hit, LOL), but it was good that Brennan could put the smack down, literally and figuratively . I will just read SleeplessInAtlanta’s fic about Booth threatening him in the lab 🙂

    The problem with the Cam thing is that the writers do the character a tremendous dis-service and almost always have by making her pick and choose the things she gets so righteously angry about…and it’s almost always random…not to mention her questionable judgement calls at other times that also lessen her credibility. They would do better to always have Cam and Brennan butt heads and basically be antagonistic toward one another than to have one episode where she acts the way she did here and another where she’s giving up awards because it’s a team effort (and there are dozens of other examples). It’s not just re: Brennan that Cam’s actions are so up and down–it’s true about any sort of fraternization in the lab and other things too. It is frustrating, because I think the actress deserves better.

    And I agree about the sexuality topic as well. I remember in college, learning about the angel/demon binary for women, and the scale…from say June Cleaver to Jessica Rabbit, that all women are judged on their sexuality on that scale, but most are assigned one or the other extremes. There’s a lot of room between prude and completely wanton/open with sexuality, and it would be nice if the writers portrayed the women on this show a little more in the middle of that space–at least when they are at work!

    Great review as always. Hope you’re having a better day!

    • Of the main six, Cam is the one least well-drawn, I think. Too often, her responses to things feel as if they’re either simply to service the plot, or for quick humor. It’s unfortunate, because I think there’s potential there.

      And yes on the sexuality. I appreciate the women the show has given us, but wish they wouldn’t write to the extremes quite so often as they do.

  3. I realize I am commenting on an old article. I agree with a lot of this – particularly the writing about sexuality and Brennan being able to hold her own without Booth confronting her intern – but I disagree about religion.

    What I don’t get, and which strikes me as odd that Brennan wouldn’t think of because she’s so rational, is that kids don’t make rational choices the way adults do. Kids are “programmed” to believe what adults tell them as a defense mechanism. “Don’t go close to the edge of the cliff”. Christine is too young to make any informed choice in terms of religion. Therefore, she’s also too young to go to church. If she was far into her school years, maybe, then it would be different. But she’s still a small child. Brennan was right in the first part of the episode: Taking her to church at that age would be indoctrination.

    Frankly, I’m fed up with how the show has been weakening Brennan’s anti-religiosity. It’s like they feel they have to to adhere to the American audience, but it’s very annoying how she’s supposed to get this spiritual awakening at Christine’s birth and stop arguing with Booth about it. This episode was pretty good in that aspect because we saw that side of her again, but I don’t like the conclusion she came to. Taking your very small child to church has nothing to do with freedom to believe. Allowing all people to (personally) believe what they want when they’re adults without persecution, though, THAT’s freedom of belief. Those are two different things and I don’t like how the show presented them as the same issue.

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