Essential Bones: The Man in the Fallout Shelter

Today’s the third post in our ongoing Essential Bones series – a big thanks to Natesmama for joining me as we look at the episodes a hypothetical new viewer would most need to see in order to understand where things are in season ten. – Ryn

S01E09: The Man in the Fallout Shelter

This excellent first Bones Christmas episode is important not necessarily for the relationship between Booth and Brennan, but more for the familial relationships revealed about each main character, save for Jack Hodgins.

On December 23, Booth brings in the skeletal remains of a man found dead in a bomb shelter discovered recently. Everyone, with the notable exception of Brennan, is in Christmas-Eve mode with a company party going on upstairs. Brennan and the rest of the team start investigating the dead man’s story when Zack triggers the bio-hazard alarm while cutting through the skeleton. Hodgins is standing next to Zack drinking eggnog, inhaling the released spores and ignoring biohazard protocols, so when it’s discovered the alarm trigger was Valley Fever, everyone is quarantined and subjected to a round of immunizing drugs.

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Thank you, decontamination shower protocols. 

A lovely side effect of the cocktail is the discovery that Booth is sensitive to certain drugs, an effect that is played to the adorable hilt by David Boreanaz. (Booth’s sensitivity comes up several times in the series.)

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During a montage where the characters are divided into their separate sleeping arrangements (Zack and Hodgins, Angela and Brennan, Doctor Goodman and Booth), most of the team talks about their Christmas plans that are now in danger of being ruined. Hodgins talks of a snow-covered cabin and a beautiful woman, Zack shares that his large family in Michigan always cut down their own tree and trim it together, Goodman explains how he is the spirit of Christmas in his home and shows Booth a picture of his beautiful family, including his twin girls and Booth reveals that he is also a father, to four year-old Parker, who lives with his mother, Booth’s ex-girlfriend Rebecca.

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This is not only the first time we learn that Booth is a father, but it’s also the first time the team finds out about Booth’s son, revealed to them by an unsuspecting Goodman:

GOODMAN: We are colleagues, friends, coworkers, yes, but for a father like myself, like Agent Booth…a few glowing test tubes don’t make up with missing Christmas morning with the children.

ANGELA: Excuse me? 

ZACK: Be kind, rewind. 

HODGINS: Booth has a kid? 

GOODMAN: Ah. Well… Not common knowledge, I gather.

Angela and Brennan don’t speak directly of their families, but instead talk about the poor victim still waiting on the forensic platform. Angela finds the whole situation sad and laments the idea that the man’s family has no idea what happened to him. Brennan tells Angela that she knows exactly what that is like and then decides to skip sleeping to solve the mystery.

In one of the cuter scenes in the series, Booth interrupts Brennan’s examination clad in Angela’s elf hat, and still enjoying the effects of his anti-fungal cocktail. They discuss what Brennan calls the myth of Christmas while Booth calls her out for her lack of faith in God, and blind faith in unproven science.

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To make up for the fact that everyone will most likely be spending Christmas away from their families, Angela suggests decorating the lab and a gift exchange while explaining that Brennan won’t be participating because her parents disappeared at Christmas, making the holiday hard on her.

Everyone separates to do their own work on the case, and during the course of the episode we discover that Brennan’s parents disappeared without a trace at Christmas when she was fifteen years old, that Booth’s ex gives him a hard time about seeing his son, that Zack’s family is quite large and loving, and that Angela’s father is a famous legendary musician. The montage in which each family is allowed to visit their loved one through a pane of glass is both beautiful and desperately sad, as Brennan stands back and watches quietly as each of her friends connect with their family.

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The fascinating thing about Temperance Brennan is that although her story is sad and near heartbreaking, you never really feel sorry for her. Sad, yes, but it’s hard to pity someone who has accomplished everything that she has. There is a scene near the end where Brennan talks to Angela (and an eavesdropping Booth) about the first Christmas after her parents left, explaining that her brother Russ tried to make the holiday nice for his little sister but only managed to upset her, something Brennan regrets. This episode gives the viewer an entirely new appreciation for Brennan, in all the best ways. She’s a tough cookie, but not hard. We find out in later seasons that she thinks she is impervious, but we all (and especially Booth) are already aware that she’s stronger than she knows.

Eventually the victim’s identity is discovered as Lionel Little, and Brennan is encouraged by Angela to find the mysterious woman that according to letters found in his suitcase, Lionel had planned to marry before he was murdered for his extensive coin collection. The most valuable coin in the collection survived the theft, and Brennan takes Angela’s advice and searches for the woman named Ivy, eventually finding her conveniently in a retirement home not far from DC.

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On Christmas Day, the team is cleared of Valley Fever and released from the lab. As they rush out, Booth stops and invites Brennan to join him and Parker at Wong Foos later, an offer she seems to disregard immediately. Booth nods and leaves, passing two women who turn out to be Ivy and her granddaughter. In the end, Brennan is able to give Ivy the closure she herself never got, and Ivy’s granddaughter a college education with the proceeds from the lone coin from Lionel’s collection.

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Brennan does eventually go to Wong Foos where she meets up with Booth and tells him about meeting Ivy, which delights Booth.

BRENNAN: Don’t you want to know what happened? 

BOOTH: I know what happened. You told her about Careful Lionel. You showed her the letters, the tickets. She cried. But you made her happy. 

BRENNAN: Not to mention I gave her a penny worth over a hundred thousand dollars. 

BOOTH: She won’t care about that today. You just gave somebody the best Christmas gift they could every get. Who’s the Secret Santa now?

It’s clear that he enjoys when Brennan opens up and does something that shows how caring she really is. When Parker is brought in, Booth introduces Brennan and they leave with a wave and a Merry Christmas to Brennan.

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For her part, Brennan decides to return to the lab, where she sits in her office and finally opens the gifts her parents had bought her that fateful Christmas right before they disappeared. We don’t see what the gifts are, but that’s not what is important. Brennan choosing to open the gifts then is indicative of her own kind of closure, of letting go a little and choosing to move on in whatever way she can. She has her team, along with Booth, in the lab now, and although they are all still finding their way with each other, this episode makes it clear that they care for each other and are actively getting closer to becoming something Brennan hasn’t had for almost 20 years…a family.

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2 thoughts on “Essential Bones: The Man in the Fallout Shelter

  1. I love this episode. It’s one of my favorites, and definitely my favorite Christmas episode. Santa may give us the mistletoe kiss, and Goop Brennan undressing Booth, but this reveals things about the whole team and I feel is the beginning of them really becoming a family.

    Thank you for including this episode in the essentials. I love what you had to say about it. Everything was spot in for me.😊

  2. This really is an ‘essential’ episode in getting to know our family of characters. Great recap and understanding on this one. I am very much enjoying this project you two took on! 🙂 Thank you!!

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