Fan Review: The High in the Low (Bones)

First things first: there’s a lot I love here, and if you’ve read any of my earlier reviews, none of it will be a surprise.

The idea that family is more than a shared gene pool, that we can find people who’ll be there for us, no matter what – including occasionally knocking us on our butts when we need it – is important to me. I’m fortunate enough to have friends like that , and they’re among the greatest treasures of my life.

Wendell’s facing one of the worst things life can smack us with (and as if the specter of early death isn’t bad enough by itself, that the only chance of defeating death comes via poisoning ourselves adds insult to injury) but he’s got people in his corner, and I love watching it.

The only way I can describe Brennan here is that she’s wearing her heart on her lab coat in a way I’ve not seen since her farewell to Zach in The Pain in the Heart. The way she watches Wendell, how she affirms his work, the manner in which she generally interacts with him all shout love to me in a way that reminds me of what he said to her in Big in the Philippines: She has become a good mom.  A friend I was watching this ep with commented that he could totally get away with anything right now, and I think she’s right.  Brennan is a raw nerve of mother-love here.

Meanwhile, Booth, the down-to-the-bone cop, changes his mind about medical marijuana. He’d still do the same thing Cam did, but his own personal line shifts, enough for him to go to Caroline, to press her (by his own admission) into finding a way for Wendell to keep his job, because he’d do anything for him – and I love that he spelled that out, so Wendell knows how much he matters.

(By the way, I fully understand why we didn’t get to see the conversation with Caroline (since there was nothing else for her to do in the episode) but I’d still love to have been a fly on the wall for that chat, because Caroline, in turn, would do anything for Booth – all the while snarking mightily about it.)

And Booth and Brennan aren’t the only ones who love Wendell, as Hodgins makes clear with this threat to quit. What strikes me there is that he gets that it’s not just about the loss of money: “He needs this job, Cam. With what he’s going through? He needs to be a part of something. He needs a family.”

That love goes both ways.  Wendell spends the episode rather desperately checking to make sure that these people he respects so much, and whom he needs so much, don’t think less of him for the marijuana use.

They don’t. Perhaps mindful that fighting the cancer was not his first choice, they all find ways to let him know that they admire him for doing so:

“Mr. Bray, we’re scientists. Hopefully we’re not ruled by hysteria fueled by ignorance. You’re fighting for your life.”

“Yeah, but while I’m here, I want you to think I’m living it well.”
“I do. As a matter of fact, I think you’re an example to us all.”

 

Booth says essentially the same thing, though it’s more complicated because he was the one who encouraged Wendell to fight the cancer in the first place and yet is the one for whom the marijuana is the biggest stumbling block:

“I was just wondering…you’d have done the same thing, wouldn’t you?”

“Cam really didn’t have a choice. Neither would I.”

“I get that. But it makes no sense that I’m being punished. I’m just fighting the cancer any way I can, just like you told me to.”

“No look…I understand that. But Wendell, I work in the law. I’m a law-abiding citizen. I always have been. I’ve never even touched the stuff.”

“Hey, I respect that. I didn’t come here to make you feel guilty….I just wanted you to know I’m not a loser.”

“I’d never think you’re a loser…what you’re dealing with? Forget that I’m an agent right now. I’m your friend. You shouldn’t have been punished for it.”

“Thanks, man. That means a lot, coming from you.”

It does mean a lot, because Booth has given up something for Wendell, namely his comfortable, familiar position on the legality of marijuana for medical purposes. Despite the joking between Booth and Brennan, he’s not set in his ways, or at least no more so than anyone else on the show, but changing his perspective on something related to the law isn’t easy for him – and that makes his willingness to do so all the more a gift.

The episode provides a break from the tension surrounding Wendell with the story of Booth’s re-certification, where we see him and Brennan at the firing range together (altogether now: “aww…”) and her attempts to help him prepare without sending the message that she doubts his ability. She also lets him know that she understands the difficulty he’s having with the medical marijuana question (“You took an oath.”) Brennan may occasionally be oblivious to other people, but she’s the world’s greatest expert on the needs of Seeley Booth.

But there is something here that doesn’t quite work for me, and it has to do with the tension between Cam and the rest of the team. When a plot, or part of a plot, leaves me unsatisfied, it’s nearly always because the conflict driving the story feels false, confusing, or contrived, for whatever reason:  Maybe it’s because the writer was intending for me to take away a different meaning from it, or maybe they knowingly sacrificed a certain amount of credibility to achieve a larger goal (i.e., the dramatic moments that follow from the tension), or maybe they assume I won’t think about it too deeply in the first place.

(And honestly, I don’t always. There are plenty of times when I’ll just go with something even knowing that if I really thought about the whys and wherefores I’d get a brain cramp.)

Since I know plenty of people weren’t bothered by this at all, and since I not only don’t think the writers can accommodate ten million or so different viewpoints, I don’t want them to try (that way lies madness)… I considered not mentioning it at all. But this is a fan review, a report of one person’s experience with the story, and it seems like cheating to only talk about what I love.

So here’s what bothers me: the story sets up the idea that there are rules for the lab to the effect that someone working there who knowingly breaks the law could compromise the entire case. (This, my lawyer pals tell me, is true.)

That’s not the issue for me. The point at which my brain short-circuits is that only Cam and Booth seem to be aware of the rules.  Brennan, Angela, and Hodgins all effectively dismiss them as being arbitrary, somewhat pointless rules that Cam is only enforcing because she’s a meanie.

But Brennan and Hodgins aren’t just scientists, they’re forensic scientists, and all of them, Angela included, have been working forensic cases for the prosecution for ten years now.  We’ve seen them taking the stand, and I assume that they’re pretty regularly testifying on previous cases, and we just don’t see it.

The show has even addressed the topic of their testifying in the past, and explored the question of what makes an effective, credible, expert witness…and yet none of them know anything about the rules which are presumably in place to protect their status in that respect?

How can they not know, or not care, that having Wendell working there could lead to a murderer going free? They’re familiar with how trials work, know that the defense would be grabbing at anything to compromise the prosecution’s case, so…?

All I can come up with is either they don’t know, and thus are bad at their jobs and shouldn’t be in forensic work in the first place; they do know, and just don’t care because it’s Wendell (but what does it do to him if a murderer goes free because of him?), or they’re right, the rules are unnecessary and Cam is mean.

Huh.

Does it matter to me, really? No, not so much, which probably seems ridiculous given my mentioning it. But if I can’t reconcile something, I ask myself if I can overlook or ignore it, and if I can, I go on my merry way, particularly when there’s a lot more I love than not in an episode. I know Brennan, Hodgins, and Angela are good at what they do, and thus have to be aware that the rules exist and matter, and I know Cam cares deeply about her people and was heartbroken at firing Wendell. So I’m just going to go with that, and ignore the head-scratcher.

It just means the ep wasn’t quite as strong as it could have been for me. But that’s okay – it’s still another solid entry in a phenomenal season. Also? I was out of town visiting friends, one of whom had only caught a few eps of the show. After hearing me obsess talk about it for five days (you didn’t think I only talked about Thor, did you?), she was more than game to give it a try, so we watched Big in the Philippines followed by this one…and she enjoyed it, and wasn’t fazed at all by my conflict conundrum. And then she said she was going to start watching the show. Go, Team!Bones!

Final, random, thought: THEO vs. the Angelator? Discuss.

Bonus quotes:

“I love the smell of science in the morning.” (Wendell)

***

“Ewing’s Sarcoma has a 80% mortality rate. That’s not sexy.”
“Thanks for the reminder, Dr. B.”
“You’re welcome.” (Brennan and Wendell)

***

“And to think – a couple of months ago this room was a janitor’s closet.”
“I’m so glad it’s gone. I can’t imagine how many relationships began and ended in here.”  (Angela and Cam)

***
“You’re a stronger man than I am.”
“Making you look bad is one of the things that keeps me going.” (Hodgins and Wendell)

***

“Cannabis has been used for thousands of years in a medicinal capacity. Even the ancient Egyptians used marijuana to treat hemmorhoids.”
“Which you know, they probably got from sitting around being stoned all day.” (Brennan and Booth)

***

“I checked out the victim. She wrote a lot of articles. She was pretty passionate about making sure people had access to cannabis.”
“Yeah? I had that same passion in college.” (Wendell and Hodgins)

***

“I have no idea what that means, but I hope it’s good.” (Booth)

***

“I don’t want anyone tiptoeing around my illness. I have cancer; it’s part of my life.”
“For now.”
“For now.” (Wendell and Brennan)

 

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