Can I just start by saying that forensic science conventions are a lot more interesting than the ones in my profession?
Er, right. Anyway…it’s freaking awesome that, ten seasons in, the show continues to entertain me the way it does, continues to find new ways to tell me things about these characters, new ways to make me feel.
First up, I love that Brennan’s nervous about the speech. We know that she’s confident in her skills, but we also know from A Night at the Bones Museum that she doesn’t like giving speeches. That, combined with the need for respect from her peers, means she’s both honored and anxious about giving the keynote speech at the convention.
And that means we get to see the various ways Booth supports her, in three separate scenes throughout the episode. At the beginning, he acknowledges her nerves, and then says, “You are the smartest person in that room, and they’re going to love you.” This isn’t hyperbole. Whether or not she’s objectively the smartest person in the room (and she might be), he believes that she is, and says so.
Then, midway through the episode, there’s the diner scene, where he recognizes that her nerves have shifted somewhat: it’s not just a speech now, but she has to solve a case with the whole forensic world watching.
“I’ll bet you a hundred bucks they’ll be even more jealous when it’s done.”
“You’re in Gambler’s Anonymous. You shouldn’t be betting.”
“Right, and you’re a genius, so don’t say stupid things. Have some pie.”
He acknowledges her concerns and then reaffirms his confidence in her by basically saying she’s being stupid. Of course they’ll solve the case. They’ve defeated Pelant and brought down a decades old conspiracy. A murder at a forensics convention pales in comparison.
And they do, and in the last scene, we see three things: that however much she respects him, she still follows her own instincts (by telling the cat joke, and being right to do so with that audience); that valuing his input as she does, she includes his joke as well; and that however alike they are in some ways, they’re still very different people. She doesn’t get his jokes, he doesn’t get hers, and he’s there, rooting for her anyway, the person in the room whose opinion matters the most – never mind that he won’t understand a word she says in her speech.
You’d think that by now the show would have told us everything there is to know about their relationship, right? But you’d be wrong, and that’s why we’re rocking through a tenth season. This, seeing how they relate and support one another despite their differences, is why the show still feels fresh to me, three years after they became a couple.
But their relationship isn’t the only one highlighted here. I’m seeing some nitpicking going on in various places about Hodgins having been allowed to continue working when he was a suspect, and I get that. I do. But here’s how I approach fiction: although stories vary in how close to the real world they may be, all story universes have their own rules, and you either accept that world for what it is, or you’re unlikely to be happy with it for long.
While similar to our world in some ways, the Bones universe is quite different in others. Time moves at a different speed (aka Bones Standard Time), and science, in particular, often happens on a different schedule. (In our world, DNA results aren’t instantaneous.) We draw our own lines about what we can accept, but Hodgins being allowed to work falls into the same category as instant DNA for me: allowable in the Bones universe in a way that it wouldn’t be in ours. (And no, the rules of that universe aren’t completely consistent, but neither are ours.)
So he’s a suspect, and when his DNA turns up, they bring him in to formally interview him. And the first thing we see is that he needs to know if Booth thinks he’s guilty. While Hodgins likes Aubrey well enough, Booth’s family, and he needs to hear that Booth believes in him. Booth reassures him, and with that out of the way, the focus of the scene then shifts to Aubrey.
In a bit that reminds me of his conversation with Booth about marital fights in The Geek in the Guck, we see that Aubrey really doesn’t understand these people yet. He trusts Booth enough to drop it when Booth says the interrogation is finished, but he doesn’t know Hodgins well enough to get why Booth is certain he didn’t kill Leona. So he pushes, and Booth lets him…to a point.
But not for long because Booth does know Hodgins didn’t kill her: the man who didn’t kill Pelant when he could have and who chose to lose billions rather than sacrifice innocents wouldn’t take a life over money. It’s that simple.
And because Booth knows that, he only lets Aubrey run with the questioning for a while before saying, ‘that’s enough.’ He understands what it’s like to be unjustly accused of murder, and he’s not going to let even the well-meaning Aubrey badger Hodgins for too long, not even to satisfy the DOJ.
I love all of that, both for what it says about the friendship that exists between Hodgins and Booth, and for what it says about the man Booth is.
That’s not the only thing this episode gives us in that respect, but before getting to that wonderful conversation between him and Wendell, I want to confess something about the Wendell story line: I should have trusted the writers more.
I said here that while I wanted Wendell to beat his cancer, I didn’t want it to be easy, because that would be a disservice to everyone watching the show who’s been touched by this hateful disease. And although I wasn’t surprised Sweets’ death meant Wendell was safe, I still hoped they’d let the story play out, that they wouldn’t just say, oops, he’s not dying, end of story. And at the beginning of this episode, I feared that was exactly what they’d done.
I should have trusted them more.
It begins with Wendell telling Hodgins, “I’m back in the gym, I can even have a beer…I’m a big fan of remission.”
With that as the tone, he later leaves for a doctor’s appointment, no big deal, should be back in an hour…and then isn’t. And one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the episode is this exchange, between Cam and Brennan:
“I can barely work.”
“But we have to, don’t we?”
The woman who copes with emotional blows by working, who is feeling especially driven to solve this particular case …is struggling in the face of that enormous fear experienced by those who love cancer patients, that any given day could be the one when the doctors admit that the battle is lost.
Even for those who survive cancer, there’s a cost, and once you’ve faced it, it’s seldom completely over. So to see Wendell grappling with that, to watch him go from the marvels of modern medicine to ‘I could still be dead in a month’…that’s authentic, and I so appreciate that they didn’t walk away from that.
One of my all time favorite Booth scenes is the one between him and Wendell in Big in the Philippines, and this is solid sequel to it. Wendell calls him in the middle of the day because he needs him, and knows he’ll be there. And Booth listens, and understands more than Wendell thinks he does about what the younger man is feeling.
Booth’s enough of an older brother to Wendell that when he said, ‘you will fight this, and here’s why,’ after the diagnosis, Wendell did just that, and when Booth here says, ‘lay off the self-pity’ – it’s exactly what he needs to hear.
Booth knows all about losing people, as well as the temptation to give up. And his message is still the same as it was when Wendell was diagnosed: you will fight, damn it, because I’m not losing you: “Enough with the apologies, okay, Wendell? Stop feeling sorry for yourself. And keep fighting. I don’t need to see another brother die.”
Post-Sweets, that last phrase is even more poignant.
Life sucks sometimes, and it’s the people we love and who love us that make it worthwhile in spite of that.
“I’m researching a new book.”
“What a novel approach. You’ve never researched any of your other books.” (Tess Brown and Brennan)
“Okay, that’s it, break it up…go find a Kardashian. The party’s over, all right? Thank you, good-bye.” (Booth to the news crew interviewing Tess)
“This is unbelievable. This is the third time I’ve been a murder suspect. It makes me want to kill someone so you don’t waste your time. …It was a joke. I was joking.” (Hodgins)
“Your clinical trial?”
“I can reschedule.”
“You’re no use to me if your cancer returns and you die, Mr. Bray.” (Brennan and Wendell)