Confession: I was pretty freaked about this one. I believe in waiting until I’ve seen an episode to judge it, and my faith in these writers is near-absolute, which I think they’ve earned. And yet…I spent my adolescence with a drunk, and I wasn’t sure I could bear to watch what the promos made clear would happen.
My faith was rewarded, though, because this was brilliant. Not always easy to watch, but so well done.
First, do you see how much time they took to show us that Booth is still the man who both we and Brennan love? This isn’t an accident. Addicts are not one-dimensional. Often, even in the darkest situation, they’ll display compassion, or humor, or heroism, or love. (Think of Booth’s ‘one perfect day’ with his father.)
This episode reminded us of that, reminded us that he is more than the addiction, by showing us Booth being Booth: protective of Brennan (‘hell, no, you’re not going to Iran!’); protective and caring of Cam (not only that she not go by herself, but also when he intervenes with the guards, saying, ‘don’t touch her!’); and then in his commitment to justice and his compassion toward the victim.
The Booth we see through much of this is my favorite Booth. I love the relationship he and Cam have, and that even though we don’t see them together that often, when she needs him? He’s all over that, because she’s one of his oldest friends and she’s part of his family.
As for Cam herself…when Aubrey showed up, she immediately wanted to know where Booth was. Aubrey’s great and all, but when your life has just gone down the toilet the way hers has, you want Booth.
But he’s also ‘not-Booth’ in some key ways. Not only in his lies to Brennan, but when, having asked for her input about the baseball pitcher’s elbow, he ignores what she says? This is not the man who may snark about her science, but who trusts her genius absolutely.
Fortunately for Booth, the story isn’t just about him. It’s also about Brennan, and it’s in her where hope lies. Why? Because she both loves him and she’s made it her business to understand addiction.
For starters, I don’t think she’s surprised when Jimmy shows up. She gives Booth the benefit of the doubt by not immediately assuming it’s a gambling debt, but she’s not surprised. Angry and frightened, but not surprised.
The anger is winning by the time she gets to the lab, late from dropping Christine off with Max. It amuses me a little when she references getting Cam and Arastoo back, but not Booth – not because I think she wants that, but because it’s such a human, normal response to anger with a spouse.
(Can I pause to say that while Max will never win any ‘Father of the Year’ awards, I love that she knows for certain that he’ll protect Christine, and that even the slimiest of bookies won’t have a chance against him?)
What I find interesting, though, is that she doesn’t tell Angela, despite admitting to Aubrey that that’s unusual. Angela has proven she’ll always be in Brennan’s corner, and I think Brennan’s going to need that. But sometimes, having someone furious for you doesn’t help in navigating your own emotions, and that’s what Brennan is charged with here: figuring out the best, safest way to respond both to Jimmy and to Booth. And for that, she turns to Aubrey.
If anyone is entitled to an ‘I told you so’ it will be Aubrey to Booth, but his initial response is simple resignation and a commitment to keeping Brennan and Christine safe. We see that in what’s one of my favorite exchanges from the episode:
“It’s not your problem, Aubrey.”
“It is if I can help.”
Later, when it becomes clear that he’s also trying to minimize the threat to Booth’s career, it occurred to me that sometimes, someone ‘having your back’ happens in spite of you. I hope we see a conversation where Booth acknowledges that.
Meanwhile, with the immediate threat of Jimmy alleviated by Aubrey, Brennan refocuses on the case. There’s never a hint of anything being off in her video exchanges with Booth because she doesn’t want anything to distract him – her first priority is getting him safely home, and her love and fear for him, never mind the gambling, are seen most clearly in that moment when the guards rush in with weapons and then the video feed goes dark. She’s terrified.
But he does come home, and she has to figure out what to do next. And this is what I love: it’s never about the money. It’s not even about the gambling for her. It’s about whether or not he’ll put their relationship first, ahead of the addiction, by simply telling her the truth.
Because she’s both made it her business to understand addiction, and because she knows how much being a good man matters to him, she begins by telling him how proud she is of him. That reassurance is important. If he’d been capable of seeing through his own lies, he would have heard what she was saying: “you’re still the good man I love, even though you’re gambling.” She’s not giving up on him.
None of the fan-anger I’m seeing at Brennan makes sense to me. He lies when she asks him why he questioned her about the baseball surgery; he lies again when she asks if he’s gambling, and then, most damning of all, he lies after she tells him about Jimmy: “What happened, it was just a mistake, all right? Look, I made one bet. That was it.”
But he’s made at least three other bets that we know of, so the idea that if she’d just given him another chance, he wouldn’t have lied again? He’s already disproven that.
Regardless of where he’s living, their relationship is now broken. She could pretend that the lies didn’t matter (could, in effect, match his lies with her own)…but they would still be there: she’d see him talking on the phone and would assume he was placing a bet; he’d say he was running an errand, and she’d wonder if he was meeting with a bookie. He’s done that. He’s damaged what’s between them, and now that has to be repaired.
Brennan’s always understood that he’s a gambler. But the lies…the lies rocked the foundation of everything they have, and before they can begin to repair it, he has to acknowledge that.
I would have expected a repentant Booth to demand to know what Jimmy did; the protective Booth we know would have been addressing it with Jimmy in short order, probably with this weapon out. Instead, he’s focused on minimizing the consequences of his choices to himself, and until he can show at least some concern for the cost to her…the addiction is still winning.
The only way to change that is for him to be confronted with the choice that’s now in front of him: He can choose the high he gets from gambling, or he can choose the life with her that he loves. He can’t have both, and in asking him to leave, Brennan shows him that.
In doing so, she’s my hero. She could have taken the easy way out, let him continue to lie to both himself and her. But he means too much to her for that, and so does their life together. But when he leaves? She has no idea whether he’s going out to find a game, or whether he might, just maybe, love her enough to call his sponsor. She doesn’t know, and it breaks her heart.
She’s willing to fight for what they have, first by showing that she believes in him, and then by making him face that he has to choose what he wants. But she can’t do it all. The next steps have to come from him.
Meanwhile, there were other stories going on which I enjoyed very much, both in their execution, and the character moments they gave us:
- I’m quite ignorant about life in Iran, but I thought they did a great job, within the limits of the show, of showing a credible Tehran and Iranian culture. Whatever the reality, it felt authentic to me, and that’s important in terms of making the suspense work.
- I love the reference to Danny at the CIA, and Booth ‘cashing in those favors you owe me.’
- That scene where Arastoo, freshly kidnapped off the street, demonstrates everything he’s learned from Brennan, identifying the remains as Namazi’s son in a matter of moments? That was awesome. Go, Arastoo! (And go, Brennan-as-teacher.)
- I like that we see that Cam’s now on board with a wedding. It’s taken me a long time to get solidly behind her and Arastoo, but I like the slow, and therefore believable, character growth for her on that front.
- I may be dumb in terms of Iranian culture, but even I know public displays of affection are forbidden, so why the hell doesn’t Cam know that, when she’s been in a relationship with an Iranian for two years? That was stupid, and no, I’m not buying the ‘we’re in love, so I had to rush to him and kiss him.’ Teenagers, maybe, but not these two.
On the other hand, I loved Cam’s defense of Arastoo to Mr. Namazi. That wasn’t dumb, or impulsive, or culturally ignorant. She knew the cost, and did it anyway, and it’s beautiful:
“Why not? Because your son drank? Because he fell in love with a woman you don’t approve of?”
“I’m not surprised you defend him. In the eyes of Allah, you’re also a disgrace.”
“How dare you…You don’t even know Arastoo, and yet you condemn him. You don’t see what he does every day to uphold the pillars of your religion. Prayers, fasting, giving to the needy…the only acts of defiance he’s ever committed have been in the name of love. So I don’t care what you do to me. I will not listen to you judge him.”
Sometimes, things need to be said, whether or not they make a difference and whether or not doing so exacts a cost, simply because they’re true.
But I was also interested in Booth’s response to that scene: “Only God is allowed to judge. Our job is to show compassion and mercy.”
The theme of how we respond to people we love, even when they disappoint us, continues when Booth, Cam and Arastoo are having tea with Mr. Namazi and he says that yes, he still disapproves of the life his son was living, but…he loved him anyway.
It’s no accident that Booth was part of both of those scenes, nor is it a coincidence that the show reminded us in such a way that we are to be guided by compassion and mercy, and that we continue to love others even when they let us down.
A few weeks ago, I recalled something the show has said before, which I think is particularly relevant as we wait for what comes next:
“At the end of the day, we’re all going to make mistakes. We’re all going to do things we regret, even to those we care about. It’s unavoidable. But at the end what matters is how you address your failings…how you treat your family…how you treat your friends…how you forgive, and how you love.” (Charles, the victim in The Lady on the List)
“I used to work surveillance.”
“Domestic surveillance? I was just starting to like you.” (Aubrey and Hodgins)
“Mommy, what day will daddy be home?”
“Soon, I hope.”
“You always tell me to be precise. ‘Soon’ is not precise.” (Christine and Brennan)
“I don’t tell my name to strangers. I tell strangers that my daddy works for the FBI.” (Christine)
“I was told not to bother you, but I thought that you’d want to know. The CIA and the FBI are working on a plan “B” to get Booth, Cam and Arastoo out of Iran.”
“So you interrupted my work on plan A to tell me there may be a plan B.” (Aubrey and Brennan)