Fan Review: The Carrot in the Kudzu

It sounds like a bizarre logic problem: I do not expect to love every episode of Bones, but the fact that there is always something I like about it is why I love the show as a whole.

(Need more coffee after reading that? No problem. I’ll wait. *evil grin*)

This episode is a perfect example. Being completely candid, it’s never going to be a favorite, but there were a couple of moments I loved, enough that I enjoyed spending the hour with these characters. Also? I’m not sure that the show can do much about the things that I didn’t like, but I’ll get to those in a moment.

First, what worked.

  • It’s a minor thing, but I enjoyed Max’s comments in the first scene about Christine being dressed and ready to go, because it supports the theory I’ve had that he’s the reason Booth and Brennan are as free as they are to do things like be at crime scenes late at night, etc. The truth is, a toddler complicates life, and twenty-four hour day cares are rare.
  • I think my favorite scene was the one between Booth and Sweets where Sweets revealed he’s never had a party, either, and Booth says, ‘you, too?’ I like those moments where we see beneath the surface of their friendship, and that’s what we got here – not just in Booth’s response to a truth about Sweets’ childhood, but also what Booth then revealed about his.
  • I actually liked Brennan and Max’s conversation at the coffee cart, though some of what they said fell into the ‘disappointment’ column I’ll get to in a moment. Still, contrasting the conversations they had in S3 when he was in prison with this one, I think we see character growth for both of them.  When Max says, “after all I’ve done, I don’t want to hurt anyone else” – that’s the most we’ve seen from him, I think, in terms of taking responsibility for the life he’s lead, its effect on others, and in expressing regret for it. And Brennan seems to be at peace with the dichotomy of loving him/needing him in her life/knowing she’ll never completely trust him.
  • Meanwhile, my curiosity button was poked by “I can’t tell you, not yet. Certain people are still alive.” Does that mean that there is another story out there about Max and his past that we’re likely to bump into at some point?
  • I loved Booth and Brennan in the diner, discussing playing tag. The competitiveness and bickering, set within the context of last week’s “we’re bound together” is why I love their relationship so much.
  • I think I enjoyed the fact that the killer was a ‘Twitter freak’ far more than I was supposed to. Having so often been horrified by some of the things so-called fans of the show say on Twitter to the writers and cast, I laughed an inappropriate amount at what I saw as them getting a bit of payback. (Quoting Caroline, “Does that make me a bad person?”) (Also, can I say if the Crazy Twitter Freak only sent 50 tweets in 48 hours, she’s a slacker?)
  • I loved Brennan’s congratulations to Clark about his book. Finishing a novel is a huge deal, even if it’s terrible (most first books are), even if no one else ever sees it, even if the writer puts it away and says, ‘no, that’s not for me.’ Brennan’s acknowledgement of that accomplishment was the best part of the book subplot for me.
  • The last scene, from seeing Angela and Hodgins there with Michael Vincent, to Booth doing the one-man band thing because he knew his daughter would love it, to watching them play tag, was simply lovely. Not every moment with these characters needs to be profound, and this wasn’t, particularly. But it was sweet, an intentionally happy moment, I think, prior to the buildup towards what will no doubt be a darker series of eps heading into the finale.

Now for the bits that didn’t work for me, most of which I attribute to what I call the ‘Bones’ Writers Conundrum.’ That I know not to expect to love all the eps isn’t so much a reflection on the writers, actors, or showrunners as it about the nature of the show. It’s a genre-bending romantic dramedy procedural, and something with that many different things going on isn’t going to work for everyone equally well every week. It’s simply not.  (I thought it interesting that one of the comments someone made to me on Twitter last night was that she laughed from start to finish, so I think it’s safe to say it was a complete win for her.)

If every episode told the heavier, more dramatic stories that I love, the people who watch for the comedy would wander away.  (And yes, I know some of those people in real life, who’ve said things to me like the co-worker who noted after watching Big in the Philippines, “I loved it, but I’m glad they’re not all like that.”)

But if they did this kind of lighter episode (hello, people running around in carrot costumes) every week, they’d eventually lose those of us who want the meatier stories.  Meanwhile, they have another tension to balance, too, between those of us who know the complete story, and those who are just tuning in.

In my opinion, one of the miracles of the show is that new people are still finding it – on Netflix, or because they caught eps on Friday night, or whatever. But the drawback to that is the writers have to be careful not to reference too many past things that they don’t have time to explain within the episode, and character growth has to happen in a way so as not to confuse people who haven’t caught the show in a while.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Booth and Brennan go to tell the victim’s brother he’s dead, and Brennan, appearing frustrated by the whole idea of people dressing up as vegetables, simply blurts it out. Being sensitive to family members being told of a death is something she and Booth covered in season one, so is it character regression? Or prioritizing humor (that someone dressed as a vegetable isn’t likely to generate sympathy from the audience, so it’s okay to look for laughs from Brennan ‘being Brennan’?) or simply the assumption that the audience will understand that Brother Vegetable and his wife are both suspect from the very beginning, and therefore compassion isn’t necessary?
  • Max and Brennan talk about her childhood, Booth and Sweets talk about Booth’s childhood, and in neither case are siblings referenced.  I get this, actually, because if Max had said something like ‘you kids’ when talking about the effects of their lifestyle, the part of the audience who’s been watching for a couple of years but never seen the first few seasons would be going, ‘wait, she’s an only child, isn’t she?’ Ditto Booth not referencing Jared by talking about his father throwing parties for them, rather than him.  The writers can’t risk confusing new audience members by mentioning siblings who aren’t part of the show…and yet, for those of us who do know neither of them are only children, it takes us out of the story when they never reference those siblings when talking about their childhood.
  • Similarly, when Max talks about her childhood, he frames it as being solely about them being criminals on the run from the law, which is a shift (IMO) from the way the story is presented in The Woman in Limbo. There, it was as much, or more, that they were running from the gang they’d been part of (when Russ describes having his name changed, it’s not the cops that Max taught him to fear) than the cops. Is that important? In one sense, no, because they were criminals. And new viewers to the show last night would come away knowing that Brennan had a dysfunctional childhood due to her parents’ being criminals, which would not be untrue. But the point of last night’s story – that they wouldn’t give her a birthday party because it might draw attention to them – doesn’t fit well for me with the couple who were masquerading as a science teacher and an accountant.

(The snarky part of me, which has seen The Woman in Limbo waaaay too many times, wanted to say, ‘wow – if a birthday party was too risky on the attention-drawing front, mom must have been really freaked at having to testify in court as an accountant.’)

See what I mean about the writers’ conundrum? They can’t repeat history from season one here, can’t risk confusing new viewers who may not have that history, but the compromise they come up with (Max IS a criminal, and Brennan definitely had a dysfunctional childhood because of it) doesn’t completely work for those of us who do know and appreciate the whole story.

Similarly, the last time Brennan and Clark worked together, she told him to call her Temperance. Did I really expect him to do so here? No, and his own discomfort at the idea was obvious, even then.  But at the same time, having loved that moment between them, the fact that the show can’t reference that history without confusing viewers who didn’t see The Ghost in the Killer takes me out of the moment we’re currently in.

I don’t see a way around that, really, and thus, as a fan, yes, I cut them slack for doing the best they can to balance the needs of both the long-time fans and new viewers on one front, and the needs of those who want a comedy with those of us who’d be perfectly happy with the heavier episodes every week on the other.

Not every episode can squeeze into the top ten, but they don’t need to for me to still enjoy them, for me to still love the show.

 

Bonus quotes:

“What was that?”

“It’s still growing, feeding off the remaining tissue.”

“I’ve seen this movie. It doesn’t end well for humanity.”  (Cam, Hodgins)

 

***

 

“No, no. That sounds awful.”

“It’s educational and poignant. What’s awful about that?”

“The words educational and poignant.” (Booth and Brennan)

 

***

 

“We’re here to inform you that your brother has been murdered. And that corn is not a vegetable.” (Brennan)

 

***

 

“She photoshopped herself into that?”

“It’s crazy, right?”

“A grown woman obsessed with a giant orange phallic symbol…yeah, I’m comfortable calling her crazy.” (Sweets and Angela)

 

***

 

“But you know what happens online…you’re anonymous, so you say things you wouldn’t face to face.” (Debra Ann Volker)

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Fan Review: The Carrot in the Kudzu

  1. That’s interesting about the balance you mention. I’m not a longtime viewer but I have seen every single episode more than a few times (except a few episodes in season 6 that I don’t care to ever watch again). However, I didn’t miss a mention of Jared or Russ in those discussions about birthday party, I think because I saw it as framed in the context of both Booth and Brennan as individuals, not as a collective “you kids”. The same goes for Clark not calling Brennan by her name. She did call him Clark instead of Doctor Edison and that’s to me a huge plus.

    While I understand that the story Max told in the beginning about not throwing her a birthday party because they were fugitives from the law isn’t exactly congruent with Woman in limbo, I didn’t feel it was contradictory either. I suppose I could always think that before Christine testified they were hiding from the police and after she testified and they changed their names they were hiding from their little criminal friends; so whether it was hiding from the law or the unlawful, they were still hiding and the effect was pretty much the same, so much so that those people really did find them and they had to leave the kids once and for all.

    I enjoyed the episode. It wasn’t an incredibly strong case and not a favorite of this season but considering it has been stellar so far, its a tall order for every episode to be must see TV. There were wonderful character moments and that’s the reason I watch the show. I’m one of those who love all the heavy drama episodes but I’m glad the show isn’t always like that. I need a humorous break once in a while. The one thing that didn’t do much for me was the Clark subplot. They’re running out of excuses to have him work cases with Brennan.

    • Thanks for the comments! I didn’t intend to make it sound like I was assuming others would have the same responses I did to the things they didn’t reference, so much as was just noting things that struck me. It’s always interesting to me how differently we all interpret things.

      I’ve loved this season, and don’t mind lighter eps, particularly knowing the angsty ones that are coming. I enjoyed this as that kind of lighter story that still had some serious/sweeter moments. 🙂

  2. I enjoyed this one. Rewatching I found I enjoyed it even more when not trying to keep an eye on Twitter. LOL

    I’ve been a fan of the show since the pilot first aired and definitely know all the back story we’ve been given, so it’s not necessary for them to remind me of things/people past, but also was not bothered by no mention of either brother during the discussion of their childhoods and birthday parties. I mean during the discussions last night about childhood birthday parties I didn’t really bring up my siblings. I just talked about what mine were like.

    As for Max and his comment being a criminal on the run during her childhood…well everyone in that discussion knew the truth of what happened, knew they weren’t only the on the run from the police but also “the strong arm gang” they’d been robbing banks with. I don’t think he needed to spell that out. They all knew it was running from that gang (or by that point just McVicar) that sent Max and Ruth running off and leaving their kids behind so why should he go into a more elaborate explanation than we were on the run?

    And really yeah it doesn’t hold water when they’d established new identities as Matt and Christine Brennan; a science teach, and an accountant (who testified in federal cases) but couldn’t have birthday parties for their kids?, Then again I’m not a fan of Max, the man; and see him as very self serving. He probably just didn’t like kid birthday parties (just like he didn’t like Disney World) so being a fugitive was a handy excuse not to have to endure those birthday parties.

    Now for Sweets never having had a birthday party; I really wish Booth had asked something about that because I wanted to know WHY? I can understand before he was adopted, but after why wouldn’t his parents have had birthday parties for him…or adoption day parties? It might be an interesting tidbit to find out.

    Clark’s reason for being in this episode was fine with me…a different way to get him in there than has been used in the past. All the interns were in Buffalo for a conference that earns them extra credit. Cool, And I like when Brennan commented on how much work it would be for Clark to put the bones back together he said that’s why he was getting help from his department. LOL So while we were all calling Daisy, Brennan Jr. it looks like maybe Clark is that too, with him taking up writing novels to follow more in her footsteps. I really did love that they didn’t have Brennan be uptight or condescending about him writing. She congratulated him on finishing the novel. Well done of her. And he wasn’t the jerk he can sometimes be toward her about things. I think it’ll be interesting to see if it’s all brought up again in the future. Will his novel be a success (in spite of how awful it is ~ we have seen that sometimes drivel can become an international bestseller), or will it bomb…and how will both he and Brennan react to whichever scenario plays out.

    And sigh I love Booth and Brennan as a couple and love that little family unit of them with Christine. So happy they were able to cast someone so we can get those back…I hope we get to see more of that before the end of the season.

    Anyway I do enjoy reading your posts and I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m arguing with everything you say. It’s just your comments always seem to trigger thoughts in me I forget to mention other places while saying what I did or didn’t like. You apparently kick my brain into gear. 😀

    • I think what bothers me about some of the places where they don’t reference the past (because they can’t, which I understand) is that, every time it happens, it seems less likely to me that we’ll ever revisit those things. Every time they talk about their childhoods and don’t mention the brothers, it makes it less likely that they’ll ever do so, because people who’ve only been watching for a few years only know them as only children.

      And it’s not that that matters that much, really, beyond that the more continuity they manage to have, the easier it is if for me to be absorbed into the story. But I don’t assume that’s true for everyone. We all have different things we respond to. 🙂

      As to Max and the past…the whole party thing still mostly baffles me. Even if you don’t have a bunch of kids over, you make a cake and open presents, right? Ditto Sweets?

      The book plot was the weakest part of this for me. I’m thrilled that Brennan responded the way she did, but the rest of it -that he wrote something Cam, Angela, and Hodgins thought dreadful but which a publisher is publishing made me roll my eyes, and I wasn’t at all impressed with the three of them not telling him what they really thought. But I did love Brennan. 🙂

      • 50 Shades…that’s all I have to say on the publishing.

        And on the parties and baffling…yeah that’s why I say it’s just Max being self-serving. Because that’s really no reason not to have a birthday party for your kid when you’re living under assumed names. The kids went to school, so no reason to not have a birthday party.

  3. I went a step further in my head canon. Young Temperance had no friends in school, was regarded as a weirdo etc. As a parent, I might consider it kinder to not have a party so that she would not be devastated when nobody would come to it. Just a passing ponder.

  4. Always love reading your thoughts on eps, Ryn! I too thought of 50 Shades …

    I guess I thought the ‘no parties’ thing could also be related to the fact neither Brennan nor Sweets seems to have had a lot of childhood friends. It’s hard to throw your kid a party if no one actually wants to come to it and is perhaps better just to skip them. Maybe that fits Sweets’ circumstances more than Brennan’s, though. Just a thought any way.

    Honestly the only party I remember was when I turned 16 and my best friend threw me a slumber party. I’m sure we had cake and opened presents but it wasn’t nearly as common to have annual gigs when I was growing up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s