Fan Review: The Mutilation of the Master Manipulator (Bones)

What a fun episode.

The more attention I pay to other fans’ responses to the show, the more grateful I am that however much I love Booth and Brennan – and I do – that it’s never been solely about their ship for me. Not only do I enjoy all the episodes, far more often than not, but it also feels like I’m more likely to see stories about the two of them that others miss.

I was delighted by this, despite it being a ‘Booth-lite’ ep – an acceptable trade-off to me for next week’s Boreanaz-directed episode.

First, I liked the opening.  There are only so many ways to begin an episode, and starting mid-scene in the lab provided some variety to the standard hapless civilian body find or the team getting a call – while still giving us the humor of the civilians. (I think these two middle schoolers should get together with the two from the beginning of The Geek in the Guck and swap stories. The bowlers win over the porn-hunters, I think.)

Second, I liked the case. I’ve often griped about the show’s blunders with psychology (I adored Sweets but while he was a great profiler, he was a terrible, unethical, shrink) but this was very well done. The experiment Fairbanks was doing is real, first performed in the 60’s (and repeated a number of times since then, in different environments.) I studied it in several psych classes, not only for the results, but as a way of learning about ethics in research.

While I can’t imagine a university signing off on repeating the study now, it’s not hard for me to imagine the victim doing so on his own, given what we were told about him, so the whole case worked.  Plus? I thought the hydrangeas-turning-colors experiment rocked.

flowers

“Ooh…I didn’t know blood was so pretty.”

Third, I continue to enjoy Wendell’s story. I made a prediction over at Bonesology earlier in the week about how that would go, and was cackling with delight while watching the episode to be completely wrong. I love that the show so often surprises me – that lack of predictability is one of my favorite things.

WendellCancer is always a life-changing event, even if you survive it, and I like seeing those consequences play out. Having watched his father die of the disease, and then been so painfully reminded of how easy it would be to die himself, it makes sense that Wendell might hesitate to fully embrace life, and yet…as Andie says, “Death is just part of the deal. We all come with an expiration date.” If he turns his back on love, what’s the point in having survived?

While I liked what she said, though, Andie was the weak point of the episode for me. Sending him three (four?) text messages within a minute while he’s at work was moving well past the ‘crazy stalker chick’ line for me, and showing up at his work only added to it. The show’s never been afraid to show confident women going after what they want, but back off a bit, girl. Let him catch his breath.

Fourth, I loved Booth and Brennan.

When I’ve said I prefer quality to quantity? This illustrates perfectly what I mean. Each of their scenes gives us something different about their relationship, and I’d rather have that than multiple ones between them throughout an episode that don’t:

Booth’s trust in Brennan:

We know he trusts her absolutely where science is concerned; we also know he’s aware that she’s not really the world’s foremost authority on everything else. And yet here, when the clock is ticking down, he listens to her over his own instincts. That fascinates me. Why? Even if he was only almost certain of the answer, why not go with it, when he does know she’s not always right outside the lab? I don’t have an answer for that, and puzzling over it is going to amuse me for a quite a while.

Also, I love their faces here:

collage

“You’re supposed to be a genius!”
“I’m never wrong!”

There’s more going on in the scene than that, though. While I like Aubrey’s snark, the best thing about him for me is that he allows us to see Booth and Brennan’s relationship in a new way.  His is a different dynamic from anyone else we’ve watched get to know them: he’s not in authority over either them (as both Cam and Sweets were), doesn’t have a history with either of them as Cam does, and never knew them at all prior to their becoming a couple. And while Booth is his boss, it’s not the same as with Brennan and the squinterns because he’s a fully credentialed FBI agent.

This is now the second time Aubrey’s wondered if a fight was imminent, and I think that’s important – not because one is, but because it’s a fair question if you don’t know them. We who do, know that no, they’d never have a real fight over something so superficial. But because we’re getting to watch Aubrey discover it, it’s allowing us to see them in a different way.

But more? Look at Booth’s response to Aubrey’s ‘is this going to turn into a fight?’ question, which is wholly directed at Brennan:

“No, it’s not going to turn into a fight, because I’m going to argue with Officer Stop and Go, and you’re going to go catch a murderer.” 

There’s been a lot of discussion about their partnership this season, but I can’t see that comment as anything other being exactly that. They’re a team, and when he can’t be there, he fully trusts her to get the job done for both of them.

Does he send Aubrey with her? Sure. FBI and all, but there’s no question that Brennan’s in charge, and they all know it: “What are you sitting here waiting for? She’s all yours now. Good luck. Just nod. Remember, nod. It helps.”

Booth’s response to Brennan and Aubrey’s shorthand:

I think he wants them to be able to work together…but maybe not this well. I wouldn’t call it jealousy, even of a professional nature. But he’s clearly uncomfortable with them hitting it off. I swear I’m not making this up just to beat a horse I’ve already knocked down – it’s what I really see: She’s his partner. They understand and trust one another in a way few others do, and he doesn’t want anyone else in that role with her, even temporarily. No one else is allowed to ‘get her’ that way.

shorthand2

His comments may be a little jokey, but they’re no less genuine for all that, and I love it.

Part of why it works, though, is that we get to see Brennan and Aubrey hit it off, and that’s fun. She and Sweets became family in spite of her lack of respect for his profession; here, we see that Aubrey not only respects her, but gets her science (in a way no one else outside the lab has done) while Brennan…she may have reached out to him about their common experience of abandonment, and she may respect him enough to want Booth to trust him at a time when he’s not trusting anyone else in the bureau. But actually working with him? She’s still making up her mind.

And when she does? Yeah, that’s pretty special, not only for what it gives us in Booth’s reaction, but also what it tells us about Brennan as an individual.

Handcuffs:

Seriously…what shipper hasn’t wondered about the two of them and those handcuffs? The scene fades to black while she’s still protesting (hello, broadcast network, 8PM) but it left me smiling, and my imagination filling in the blanks. (Tell me you can’t imagine her standing up to let him cuff her, prior to her ‘punishment,’ all the while still explaining why she’s innocent?)

cuffs

Plus, this face:

FastFurious

“Instead of the fast and the furious, we’ll have the slow and the serious.”

Bonus thing I loved:

Cam’s response to seeing Wendell kissing Andie. Public displays of affection aren’t new in the lab, and she curtails it, but her threat about his job carries no heat, and later, she makes it clear that she’s happy for him. This is my favorite Cam, knowing how to balance the needs of the lab against the needs of her people.

Bonus Quotes:

“Enough of the squint-talk. If I wanted to talk squint, I’d go to squint-land.” (Booth)

***

“It’s like looking for a prize at the bottom of a cereal box.”
“Apparently you and I eat different kinds of cereal.” (Hodgins and Brennan)

***

“Has anyone told you you say some pretty bizarre things?”
“No, but I”m guessing that’s about to change.” (Brennan and Aubrey)

***

“Is it too much to ask for a complete skull? Sometimes these murderers are so inconsiderate.” (Angela)

***

“I hope I don’t regret leaving you alone.”
“That’s exactly what my mother used to say.” (Brennan and Aubrey)

***

“I’m pretty sure that two people liking each other like this is what everyone in the world is looking for, everywhere in the world, all the time. We were lucky enough to find it.” (Andie, to Wendell)

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8 thoughts on “Fan Review: The Mutilation of the Master Manipulator (Bones)

  1. I did like a lot of things about this episode, although I though Wendell’s new girlfriend to be very needy emotionally. At first I thought that was why he seemed reluctant to respond when she texted him so often. The experiments on the flowers were interesting, and I liked the cat.

    I think it is ironic that this case was about psychology but I don’t think we heard Brennan make her “I hate psychology” statement. I guess we have heard it enough in other episodes so we already know that…..

    • Oh, good point! I didn’t consider that, even when thinking about the way her relationship with Sweets developed. It does seem interesting that she didn’t comment on it, given her position on the subject.

      And yeah, Wendell’s girlfriend was definitely coming across as having issues, at least until that last scene.

  2. Yep, yep, yep. All you said about the episode…spot on.

    I really did enjoy this episode…all the team interactions. They were fun. And all the scenes in Booth’s office? Not only enjoyable but I found them absolutely delightful. Seriously I’ve watched it 3 times now…well 2 and had it on another time, but actually got busy with work and that last time watching I liked all those interactions even more. Booth’s office, the Brennan and Aubrey scenes, the various lab scenes, they really were gems.

    Kind of hard to believe this was a new writer to Bones. She definitely seems to have studied up to capture all those relationships so awesomely. 🙂

    I also loved when Aubrey figured out the stuff with the murder weapon and said “Dr. Brennan is going to be so impressed.” then later when the suspect asked if he was a doctor and he said not but he works with one. LOL He seems so proud to be working with Brennan and I just love that.

    • I was going to comment on Aubrey’s pride at Brennan being impressed with him, and Booth’s reaction to it. LOL.

      Another thing I was struck by, but couldn’t figure out how to work in, were two scenes that struck me as deliberately similar – the first with Cam and Angela, the second with Cam and Hodgins, where in both cases, they were like, ‘yeah, thanks for the encouragement – not!’

      I also really did like the whole case story, particularly Alex, the one who suffered so much as a result of it.

  3. Aubrey is such a unique character and is really blending in well with the team. He can talk the squint talk AND the FBI speak. He can hold his own in the field and in the interrogation room. Seeing him interact with B&B when they’re together is so enjoyable. It makes the B&B bickering much more fresh and fun. I also liked “Between you and your wife I’m starting to feel rejected.” Funny stuff. Of course, any time the dialogue uses the words “wife” or “husband” when referring to B&B, it just makes me feel all gooey inside. But I digress.
    And I agree with Frankie about this being the first Bones script for the writer, Hilary Graham. She nailed these characters.
    And, ryn, all the actors who played the suspects did a fabulous job, but you’re right, the one that played Alex…….wow, I could really feel his pain. He was one messed up dude.
    Great review, as always.

    • I really am fascinated by seeing them through his eyes (the ‘wife’ thing!) as well as liking that he’s got enough science to follow what Brennan says. I love that they did that when creating a new character.

      Also? I think this episode would have been different in a number of ways if Sweets was still with them, and that’s the hallmark of good characterization to me – when they impact the plot like that.

  4. Aubrey didn’t rub me the wrong way this week. In the last couple of episodes he was way over the top, and I like the scaled back version better.

    I kept hoping there was going to be some resolution for the Alex character, although I don’t know what it should have been. That actor really sold his character.

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