“You know when you talk to older couples who, you know, have been in love for 30 or 40 or 50 years, all right, it’s always the guy who says ‘I knew.'” (Booth, The Parts in the Sum of the Whole)
Remember that heartbreaking moment?
Of course you do.
Not for the first time, it occurred to me a couple of days ago that we’re seeing those ’30 or 40 or 50 years.’ Right now. We’re living in them with Booth and Brennan. And that is a wonderful and lovely thing.
But something that’s always interested me is that if you talk to some of those couples who’ve been in love for decades, it’s not only the happy moments they reference as being most rewarding, but also the hard days, the two-people-working-out-what-it-means-to-be-one days.
I thought of that when watching this episode.
Booth’s messed up. He’s been messed up since spending three months in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, followed by watching Sweets die. He’s been trying to reclaim their normal – we’ve seen normal conversations, seen him smile, seen him be who he is, with Brennan, with Christine, with witnesses.
But he’s still messed up. He knows it, Brennan knows it, we know it. And here, we see it, in the form of a lost photo that’s a talisman to him. A picture of Brennan and Christine that helped him get through prison, helped him, I think, keep his focus on the life he was trying to return to.
And he comes a little unhinged because it’s missing. It’s not the image itself, it’s the actual, physical paper that matters to him. And when Brennan realizes that, she simply says, ‘Let me help.’ No judgment, no insistence that he’s being ridiculous to be so attached to the paper when they could just reprint it.
I love that she doesn’t debate, discuss, or try to convince him that the paper has no intrinsic value. She simply finds it.
I suspect the fact that she understands him that well is what the picture represents to him in the first place: here are people who love me.
The story then shifts, to the case…which takes them right back to the consequences of the time Booth spent in prison. Brennan sees the facts about ex-convicts; Booth knows that there are men in prison who desperately want a different life when they get out, despite the statistics that are against them.
I have a complicated relationship with this part of the story, because I know they’re both right. Certainly the statistics about recidivism are depressingly real, but someone close to me, someone I love very much, did something wrong when he was eighteen, compounded it with stupidity, and then spent a year behind bars as a result. That was thirteen years ago, and he’s now happily married, is a good dad to two great kids – and spent the better part of a decade trying to find a decent job.
I see both sides of this. I understand why employers, given a choice between two candidates, one of whom is a felon and one of whom isn’t, will always choose the latter. But I also understand that there’s a connection between those employer choices and the recidivism rates.
So I knew they were both right – that sometimes, ex-cons only want a real chance, while other times, all the opportunities in the world won’t change anything.
But despite my own reaction, I kept feeling like maybe there was something else going on with Booth’s.
I thought of the man we saw in The Conspiracy in the Corpse, the guy who warned Booth he was going to be attacked, adding, ‘you watch my back, I’ll watch yours.’ And I wonder if Booth was thinking of him when he talked about the good guys in prison.
But mostly, I wonder if, despite knowing he’s innocent, despite Brennan’s reassurances (again, repeated here) that he’s a good man…if on some level he questions it. If the response to ex-cons bothers him because he identifies with them, not just in their experiences in prison, but also in their choices that put them there: “You know, I never like taking a shot.”
If we’re honest, there’s potential for some gray area with the men Booth killed in The Recluse in the Recliner. On one hand he was absolutely acting in self-defense – they were there to kill him. But on the other, he set it up, and the men themselves were either following orders, or being blackmailed. Killers, certainly, including of an innocent blogger. But not exactly in the same unambiguous category as, say, Pelant.
It’s entirely possible I’m reading too much into it, but this conversation, or rather, when he changes the topic at its end, struck me:
“But now I’ve been on the inside, right? There are some good men in there. A lot of them are just doing their best not to go back. Have a little faith.”
“I’d like to. But you were innocent, Booth. Connor Freeman was in prison for a reason.”
“Right. Where’s the address of this bakery where we’re going?”
However I feel about it (nail those suckers, Booth!) …this very good man might be feeling differently.
So there’s boggy ground there in terms of what Brennan knows vs. what Booth wants to be true, but did you notice how careful she was? During the investigation, she kept asking the harder questions, the ones he was hesitating to ask, but she wasn’t criticizing him for not asking them. Remember how in his face she was about not backing off the investigation in The Soldier on the Grave? Remember that? That’s not the Brennan we have here.
I think she handled those moments more gently this time because they’re in a different place now, as individuals and as a couple…and because she knows he’s damaged.
Cam and Arastoo aren’t there yet.
When a story doesn’t gel for me, it’s often because the conflict that’s driving it, whatever it is, doesn’t seem completely credible. But here, the struggle Cam and Arastoo face does, and because of that, I think this might be my favorite story involving the two of them.
There’s no right answer. Cam’s not wrong for wanting him to stay; he’s not wrong for needing to go. He could have handled it better by discussing it with her, but he was right that ultimately it was his decision, not hers, if they couldn’t find a way to be united over it.
I like the way the story plays out, too, as we see them gradually moving from her devastated ‘I don’t know what that means right now,’ to the end, where she lets him go. Plus? We see that Cam has been gradually coming around on the idea of marriage, and I think that’s well-done in terms of character development. It didn’t happen overnight; they’re not yet setting a date. But she asks what marriage means to him in the context of the choice he’s made and then, at the end refers to his brother as her future brother-in-law.
That all feels very solid to me in terms of character and story – and I’m really looking forward to the episode that follows up on it. It’s taken me two full seasons, but I think I’m finally on board with the relationship. I no longer need to understand how they moved from boss/employee to lovers, because enough time has passed that they just seem to fit together, somehow.
(Plus? I loved their shared embarrassment/amusement at being caught kissing by Hodgins. In some ways, that tells me more about them as a couple than any of the stories about them have.)
And then there are the conversations between the two of them and other people on the team.
In the past, there have been times when Cam was very resistant to any kind of sympathy or help from the others, but here, she makes only a token protest before opening up to Angela. I very much like that, too, for what it says about her development, and their friendship.
But the scenes I really love are the ones between her and Booth, and Brennan and Arastoo.
The team – and I’m including all the squinterns and Caroline in that – is made up of strong, confident personalities. But never doubt that Booth and Brennan, together, are the true leaders, the parents of this made-from-scratch family. They’re the center, the North Star from which the others take their bearings.
I’ve always loved Cam and Booth’s friendship. I love the complicated history that nevertheless allowed her to be the first one to say, “you’re in love with Dr. Brennan;” and here, it’s that she calls him, knowing he’ll be there, and he’ll give her the honest answer she needs.
Happy are those who have that kind of person in their lives.
Ditto those with a Brennan in their lives, who doesn’t wait for a call, but gives Arastoo her opinion, anyway, because she has something to say she knows he needs to hear:
“If you’re serious about going, you need to be honest about the risks – and honest with Dr. Saroyan, so if you never see her again, at least you know you didn’t lie to her.”
She doesn’t pull any punches with him, doesn’t sugarcoat what she sees as important: if you go, leave in a way where there’s nothing unfinished between you.
“This is going to take a long time.”
“Then I suggest you start immediately.” (Arastoo and Brennan)
“Good thing you brought me instead of Aubrey. He’d eat everything in here.” (Brennan)
“These men are going to think you suspect them.”
“At this point, I suspect everyone. Even you.” (Flender and Brennan)
“Everyone knew, except Roger. That dude invented rose-colored glasses.” (Ex-convict talking to Aubrey about Connor)
“He was casing the place. He was planning to rob it.”
“Kind of stole my thunder there, Hodgins.”
“King of the lab, Aubrey.” (Hodgins and Aubrey)
“Keep your eyes open. You never know what we’re walking into.”
“I always assume bullets.” (Booth and Aubrey)
“He’s having second thoughts. I told him the world would have ended a long time ago if there weren’t more good people than bad.” (Booth, about Flender)