I like to believe I’m fairly articulate (if way too wordy most of the time) but one thing I often have trouble expressing is exactly what it is that I love about Bones so much. Granted, there are a number of things that are a part of that, including the team-as-family theme and the often-funny dialog. But in the end, I believe it’s the way they’ve told the story of Booth and Brennan, which seems more authentic to me than any other show I can think of that’s tried to do something similar.
Over nine seasons, we’ve not only watched them grow and change as individuals, we’ve seen their relationship develop and deepen in a way I believe unmatched on TV, because we see so many ordinary moments that make up their lives. I once said:
Television quite often uses a type of shorthand to depict romantic relationships: we see two people flirt with one another while dealing with whatever the main plot of the episode is, and occasionally, when a crisis hits, we see How Much They Love Each Other. What we don’t generally see are the two simply having fun together, or discussing life philosophies, or the moments of genuine emotional intimacy so essential to real relationships. It’s as if the shows give us moments that represent a relationship, rather than showing us the real thing.
Bones gives us those moments. We see Booth and Brennan talk about religion and movies, Smurfs and purple elephants; we see them ice skating, dancing, playing video games and fixing a sink together; we see them at hockey games, funerals, and even a wedding. (Well, okay, the wedding didn’t happen right then, but still…)
I love all those moments, whether it’s Booth pretending to be a dinosaur while Brennan laughs helplessly, or here, where we see how well she knows him. As I said last week, occasionally she may be oblivious to others, but Brennan is the world’s leading expert on Seeley Booth. And that’s not something the show asks us to take on faith: we’ve seen that knowledge grow over time.
As I watched this episode, their history kept coming to mind, as I assume it did for Brennan. When Sweets tells them that he thinks Booth is being considered for the new office in Germany, she notes that it’s not just a promotion, but a big honor, and later resorts to needling him a bit (with the ‘it seems selfish’) to get him to consider taking it. Why? Partially, I think, because she wants him to know that she will follow him, that he shouldn’t turn down the job for her sake. And partially, maybe, because I think she’s remembering that being recognized for his work once mattered a great deal to him, even as he sacrificed that recognition for his brother.
But the truth? Part of Booth’s growth since season four is that he no longer needs that kind of recognition from his bosses. He has the life he wants, right now, just the way it is: Solving cases with her, and then going home to their daughter.
I said a few weeks ago that I was annoyed with the disrespect he showed at the funeral and the museum in The Turn in the Urn, but a discussion over at Bonesology gave me a different way of looking at it (as is often the case): goofy Booth is happy Booth. This man who’s had so many dark moments in his life is finally, gloriously, ridiculously happy, just the way things are. I think we see that even here, with the half-smile he gives her when she says, ‘I feel the same way’ in response to his comment about the assistant director not being able to get along without him. He’s stupid happy.
He doesn’t need or want a promotion, doesn’t want anything to change. But the threat is worse than just a change of where they live: he puts the pieces together, and doesn’t like where they’re pointing, towards the FBI wanting him to become a sniper again. And that’s the second callback to the past I see here. He doesn’t have to explain to Brennan what that would cost him. She knows.
At the beginning of their partnership, he said he wanted to catch as many murderers as lives he’d taken, and with her help, he long ago passed that number. She remembers that, remembers why it’s important, and thus supports him in an unqualified way: “you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.” It’s not the support that matters, I don’t think. It’s the bone-deep understanding that underlies it.
I love watching that, love watching that intimacy and knowledge of one another play out.
The irony is that while the episode has what I love most about Booth and Brennan, the other story here doesn’t work for me, for the same reason.
I love Cam, and I love Arastoo, but the two of them as a couple still leaves me feeling like I missed something, somewhere – because I did. I’m not one of those people who needs to see every moment of a relationship, and I wasn’t bothered at all by not seeing early moments in Booth’s and Brennan’s romantic relationship. I had plenty of other moments, years of moments, to help me understand why they belonged together. It was a progression of what was there, what everyone knew was there. I’m not missing anything important of their story.
But Cam and Arastoo went from boss/employee to lovers without any story at all. They’re both attractive, good-hearted people I’d like to see in love and happy; I just have no idea why or how Cam one day looked at him and saw more than an intern, nor how he one day realized he wanted more from her than her signature on his paychecks.
I do get why the writers went that direction, by the way. They needed a story for both characters, and it’s easier when it’s the same story. If she’d continued dating Dr. What’s-his-name, they’d still have needed a separate story for Arastoo during his eps; combining them makes sense.
But, unlike Booth and Brennan (and Angela and Hodgins, for that matter) where we saw why these couples fit together, Cam’s love interest could just as easily have been Fisher or Clark. It’s not that I wanted it to be, or have anything against the idea of Cam and Arastoo; I just want to see why they clicked. I think the closest they’ve come to that for me was during The Pathos in the Pathogens, when she was talking about their trip to New England, because I sat back and went, ‘ah! Something they’ve got in common.’ But I need more.
All that aside, I can still root for them, even if I have no idea why they’re together. So I didn’t hate this subplot, though I kept sort of wishing that instead of Arastoo having a tantrum, the episode had turned into a ‘this is why we need one another’ explanation for his parents.
But here’s what I really did like about Cam’s story in this episode: I’ve often felt that she’s the odd-man out in terms of the team: Sweets has Booth, Angela and Brennan are a unit; Hodgins has Angela, but Cam doesn’t interact as much about personal things as the others, with anyone. So the fact that here, there are scenes where both Angela and Hodgins are concerned about the Arastoo situation made me happy. I’m assuming that Angela helping Cam with her identity theft situation was a turning point in their friendship, and I like that progression.
I also liked what Arastoo’s mother said to him at the apartment (plus, I loved seeing where Cam lives): “You don’t know how I feel, Arastoo, because you never stopped judging us to notice.” That’s another of those life-zingers the show gives us occasionally. We’re all guilty at times of judging others while shouting loudly that they’re judging us. Thanks for the reminder, Mrs. Vaziri.
(Also? The cases are seldom my focus, but I loved the weird science of this one, not to mention that the killer still doesn’t think he actually killed her.)
“They want to meet you.”
“Okay, the way you said that sounds horrifying.” (Arastoo and Cam)
“Is something happening that I don’t understand?”
“Yes.” (Brennan and Angela)
“I moved on, so I wouldn’t feel stupid.” (Hodgins)
“It’s not that big a deal. Really.”
“That’s what I said, until Angela’s father knocked me out and tattooed me.”
“Is that supposed to be helping me?” (Hodgins and Cam)
“If Sweets is going over cases, too, perhaps it’s not about promotion.”
“I’m going to pretend that wasn’t insulting.” (Brennan and Sweets)
“Animating? You mean like the walking dead?”
“Yeah. It’s actually-”
“If you say cool, you won’t have sex for like a year.”
“Revolting. It’s totally revolting.” (Angela and Hodgins)
“Wow. Focusing on your work to avoid personal issues has its rewards.” (Hodgins to Arastoo)
“Yes, I often use work to avoid my personal life.” (Brennan)
“You’re missing a good, old-fashioned murder, aren’t you?”
“Oh, come on, aren’t you? We’re all sitting around here hoping someone recorded a confession in some frozen lady’s head.” (Sweets and Booth)
“Let us be proud of you. Let us be happy for you.” (Mrs. Vaziri)