Fan Review: The Woman in the Whirlpool (Bones)

Okay. I know the focus of this episode is Booth, and I promise you, I have lots of words about that.

But I’ve got to get this out of my system first.

Do you remember this?

“I don’t have your kind of open heart.”

And this?

“A substance that is impervious to damage doesn’t need to be strong…a time could come when you’re not angry anymore, and I’m strong enough to risk losing the last of my imperviousness, and we could try to be together.”

Last weekend, I watched some old episodes (as you do when there’s no new Bones), and was struck by how much Brennan has changed. I first re-watched The Memories in the Shallow Grave, because I wanted to compare pregnancies, and whoa, Nellie. The woman who hurt Booth with her fear of emotional commitment …that woman is not the one we see here.

And yet, she is. And that’s freaking awesome and makes me want to grab people and say, ‘do you see how slowly and naturally they’ve allowed this character to grow?’

Ahem. Because yeah, watching this, I kept thinking about those early episodes, and how all this season, we’ve seen both her strength and that open heart. It’s beautiful, and heartbreaking, and she is my hero.

QuicklyChangeIn some ways, we see the change in her the clearest in her interactions with Jessica, particularly when she gives her the gift of the x-ray. Her openness and affection is a change over how she was with the squinterns even just a few years ago.

And the fact that she can express that affection now, in the context of her fears about Booth (“I’ve realized how quickly relationships can change, and how important it is to value those we have right now.”) is breathtaking.

Meanwhile, with Booth, she’s vulnerable enough to reach out to him in hope, strong enough to walk away when she realizes he’s not ready yet, and loving enough to make sure he knows she still loves him.


(About this scene, can I say that I don’t know which is sadder: Booth eating his comfort food alone, or Brennan not even trying to eat there by herself?)

It’s hard to love an addict. She’s navigating a line between letting him know she still loves the man he is when he’s willing to fight the addiction, and in not enabling him if he won’t be that man.  Hodgins gets it when he worries about Booth feeling alone, and it’s clear that she does, too. But he has to choose her over the addiction.

Booth has always been about Brennan; Brennan has always been about Booth.  Rare have been the times when they’ve not put one another first, and the fact that he’s not doing so now is the clearest indicator that he’s not yet ready to come home.

When she walks away in the diner, it’s because we’ve not yet seen him say anything that acknowledges what he’s done to her – no ‘I’m sorry for how you felt when I lied,’ no ‘I should never have exposed you and Christine in that way.’

The man who would die for her is not on view here.  With his vague “I made a mistake,” he’s all about getting out of the consequences of what he did, without once expressing concern for her.

Until he does, they don’t have a relationship…but that man we’re not seeing? She misses him, she loves him, and she desperately wants him back.

Despite his love for her, it’s not a simple thing to do, and I’m so grateful that the show isn’t pretending otherwise. Addiction infiltrates every area of life, deluding us about who we are, what we can be, and the effects of our choices. Hollywood often portrays recovery as a single moment in time, a fork in the road where the addict chooses sobriety. But the reality is that there’s a journey to that point, and Bones is honoring that.

When the episode begins, he’s going to meetings, and there’s no sign that he’s gambling, which Brennan affirms with her “You’re off to a good start.” But he’s not yet chosen his life over the addiction, and the show allows us to watch him move slowly closer to doing so.

Despite the tension of the diner scene there are subtle hints throughout that he’s moving in the right direction. In particular, I find the progression of his interactions with Aubrey interesting, from this scene, early on:

“We’re just all concerned because for some crazy reason, we care about you.”
“Well, maybe you should be more concerned that we don’t have a motive or a suspect.”

To this one, later in the episode:

“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got to take care of business.”
“Do you need some back up?”
“Not this time, all right?”

It’s a gradual shift in tone and responsiveness, and I enjoy that subtlety.

But the turning point is in the interrogation room with the victim’s daughter. Sometimes, the people we love the most can’t get through to us directly, and I think that’s what happens here.

When Courtney says, “I could love her even though she’d never love me,” my mind went immediately to Brennan telling him she loved him in the diner, as well as her “I don’t believe you, not now” response to his “I love you” at the end of The Murder in the Middle East.

Based on Booth’s reaction, that’s where his mind went, too:


We’ve seen him take emotional gut punches before, but this is wholly new (and again, I want to shake Hollywood and say, ‘do you see what this actor can do?’)

This compassionate man, confronted with Courtney’s pain, sees in it a mirror of what he’s doing to the woman he loves, and is rocked by it.

Also? I’m fascinated by his glance upward. That’s the first of two times we see him do so, and I wonder if that’s the moment that he’s reaching out to God.

And then there’s the scene with Brennan and the killer, and what’s fascinating to me there is that he just lets her take the lead, because he can’t look away from her.


When they come out of that room, things have changed. He compliments their work together, and I suspect that’s the first truly personal comment he’s made to her since she confronted him. It’s another step back toward being the man he is and so she responds by asking if he’d like to come home and tuck Christine in.



He says no, but that’s because he’s got a meeting to go to, and he’s finally ready to take the next step. He’s chosen her and their life together.



This week, we had a discussion over at Bonesology about what, exactly, it is that he’s running from. Some fans thought that it was the trauma of last year (betrayal, imprisonment, Sweets’ death.) I mostly took a different view, though, positing that he wasn’t facing the truth about himself.

For ten years, he was a gambler, but he was a gambler in recovery, and I think he could tell himself it was because he was strong enough not to give in. (Which was very much what he was saying to everyone in The Eye in the Sky.) And not only is he not that strong man, he’s not the man he believed he was in respect to protecting his family, either.

Having seen this episode, though, I believe both are true. Gavin, his sponsor, asks, “You think if you don’t talk, it didn’t happen?” and to me, that (along with Booth’s plea to Brennan that they ‘not make more of it than it was’) suggests he’s desperate to deny how far he fell. The fact that when he finally does stand up at the end, he’s effectively saying, “I am the man who betrayed my family and put them in danger” goes along with that.

But the last thing we hear him say is “I’m here to find a sense of resolution with that, so I can better understand myself,” and I think that’s an acknowledgement that there are reasons he fell, and he needs to face those things in order not to fall again.

Also? This is the second point where we see him look up, just prior to beginning to speak:



Meanwhile, what’s happening with Booth and Brennan is being felt by the others.

I love Angela and Hodgins in this, first because it’s interesting to me that while we’re seeing the fallout of their careers in one direction via Booth and Brennan, we’re getting a different perspective on it through these two. Plus? I love that they both defend Booth, without denying the consequences of the gambling.

I’m also good with Jessica and Aubrey – not only in terms of their characters, but also as part of the show’s tendency to pair up the regulars in different ways.

The reality is that it’s easier to tell personal stories about the characters when it’s the same story affecting more than one of them at a time.  Cam dated Paul, but the stories were rather one-sided. They’re not going to go outside the lab/bureau to show us these other people in their regular lives, so we never get to the know them, only the relationship. It’s similar with Wendell and Andie. She’s an oncology nurse, but we’re never going to travel away from the Bones universe to see her doing her job (with patients other than Wendell, at least) so we’re really only ever going to know one facet of her.

But when they bring together two people who are already in that universe, the story can work better because we know both of them as individuals. Granted, sometimes it does so better than others – I didn’t find Daisy and Sweets interesting until they broke up, and it’s no secret that Cam and Arastoo didn’t work for me for quite a while. But Aubrey and Jessica? I like both of them as characters, and enjoy their chemistry.

I liked the attic scene because it’s another of those subtle ways that the show confronts male/female stereotypes of strength and courage. He admits to being afraid of spiders, so she goes first into the dark attic, but he’s the one with the gun, stepping in front of her when they realize they’re not alone.

And I loved the Founding Fathers scene, granted, mostly because of what he says about Booth and Brennan, but the food thing amuses me.  Plus, having griped mightily about not seeing the beginning of Cam and Arastoo’s romance, I liked this for showing us that.

This, though, is now on my top ten list of favorite Bones dialog exchanges, ever:

“So do you think Booth and Brennan are going to get a divorce?”
“Those two? Never.”
“Pretty definite there, Superman.”
“Well you know, Sweets wrote a book about them, and he said that it was their friendship that was the foundation of their relationship, not the fickle nature of love.”

Part of why I love the show so much has always been the authenticity of Booth and Brennan’s relationship, that we’ve seen their bond – one that goes well beyond sexual tension – develop for years, both as friends and lovers. And to have Aubrey, by way of Sweets, spell out that that’s why they’re going to overcome Booth’s relapse makes me silly with joy.

They’re rock solid, their love (remember me saying last week that the show is about how they love one another?) founded on years of friendship. This is challenging them, but they’ll come out the other side stronger.

Bonus Quotes:

“She didn’t go into the water voluntarily.”
“It’s the Potomac. Who would?” (Cam and Booth)


“Have you ever been on the internet? it’s the land of nasty, bitter people.” (Cheryl McMichaels)


“Did you know I used to have this same vintage, ugly plane when I was a kid?”
“Have you found anything aside from your lost childhood?” (Hodgins and Jessica)


“This isn’t looking good for you, Mr. Simon – you actually got caught with your hand in the cookie jar.” (Booth)


“Do you ever miss anything?”
“Well, no one’s perfect, Ms. Warren.”
“Very humble.”
“But I come very close.” (Jessica and Brennan)


25 thoughts on “Fan Review: The Woman in the Whirlpool (Bones)

  1. I think I will probably watch the scenes from the interrogation room and afterward in front of the elevator many, many times. It seems Booth has finally seen the light: he loves his Bones more than anything, is relieved that she still loves him, and is ready to move out of the darkness of his addiction. It is so amazing to me that all of this intense emotion can be conveyed with just a few facial expressions. I can’t imagine why David Boreanz gets so little recognition for his acting.

    I really enjoyed this episode as another chapter in this wonderful story arc and am excited to see how it all plays out.

  2. This really has been an incredible story arc hasn’t it. I’ve loved the way it’s revealed the strength (not imperviousness) and vulnerability in Brennan. That woman has a very giving heart (and we see that in many ways and in dealing with the various characters) and staying strong in dealing with Booth is crushing her. Then watching Booth deal with it all, denying the depth of the problem has been awesome (both actors are killing it here). I mean the whole story, all those scenes are heartbreaking, but wonderfully done.

    And hey with Aubrey and Jessica, I’m wondering if they’re going to be a way to bring UST back to the series. A couple very attracted to each other, but opting for a work/friendship relationship over “messing that up” with a romantic/sexual relationship. Since Jessica is not in every episode I’m not sure they’d go that way since it’d only be a sometime thing, but it’d be interesting if they did. And Jessica and Aubrey both came to know Booth and Brennan long after they were an established couple, married and with a child. Listen to them, they just can’t imagine Booth and Brennan as anything before they were firmly a couple; so they’d probably have no idea they were repeating history. Oh well, just a thought.

    • I’d wondered that about UST, too, and it would be fun to watch (without the angst of B&B, honestly) – will be interesting to see what they do with the relationship.

  3. I have my own feelings about Bones so I never read reviews. I read yours and it’s so rewarding to see that the depth of the writing and the great emotional acting aren’t lost . This season has had all of the best that is Bones. David and Emily have brought such subtle emotions and the return of those looks that say more than any dialog could ever express since Booth’s return. You have great insights and I’m glad I broke my rule👏

    • Thanks! Really, my reviews are more about the emotion and character development, because that’s what I love so much in the show. I’ve always enjoyed analyzing stories on those points, so I just figure I’ll share.

      I’ve loved every single season of this show, but I have to admit to thinking this one is pretty special in terms of what they’ve given us. I’m so glad we’ve got another season to look forward to.

  4. I’m okay with Jessica/Aubrey. I don’t care either way. I think it’s probably normal for people who work a lot together to hang out together after work, and it doesn’t always have to lead to romance…unless it’s on Bones 🙂

    • It would actually be interesting to me if they became good friends, and nothing more. But I suspect that story would be harder to tell given she’s not on the show every week.

      • I do like Aubrey’s character a lot more since his quirks have been toned down a bit. Jessica is okay….I’m glad they have a female squintern but I always wonder why all of the interns seem to be unmarried, except for the older man in the episode about dog fighting. I guess that makes it easier to mix and match and write a secondary plot.

  5. Only one comment I understand what you were trying to convey, where you were going, but I think maybe you good have used a different line in one place. He is still the man that would die for her. Pther than that, BRAVO!!!!!

    • That’s fair, because you’re right – if a nut had come into the diner with a gun while they were talking, he’d absolutely have still protected her with his life.

      At the same time, in steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the danger his choices put in her, he also wasn’t acting like the protective man she’s known for ten years, either. But he’s getting there.

      • When Brennan told Booth that he put Christine and her in danger he still acted like he didn’t believe it, mostly I think because he didn’t want to believe that about himself. That’s evidence of how far his addiction has taken him down. In the past, when he felt his loved ones threatened he was gung ho to catch the bad guys and put them in jail (or worse). When she told him the bookie had come to the house, he didn’t react the way he normally would have done. He didn’t seem to comprehend what had happened with that situation, in my opinion (or chose not to). That’s the evidence that he wasn’t being his normal protective self.

  6. Thanks for the commentary, Ryn. I always wait for your review because I know it will be interesting, insightful and rational.
    Re : Aubrey/Jessica. I have a Thought! Why not make Jessica gay then she and Aubrey can just be Best Mates and avoid the whole will they/won’t they hook up thing? Meh – just something different.

  7. In light of this episode, I reread your post on Bonestheory about Booth and gambling (an alternate view of Booth as a gambler)…and even though it was written a few years ago a lot of it can still apply to this story arc. It was a well written piece, and I enjoyed it. Do you think what you wrote then still applies in this situation?

    • I had to go re-read it! Four years is a long time for my poor brain. LOL.

      But yeah, I think it all still holds. I think if I were to modify what I said there in light of now, it would be to emphasize what I said recently (at the forum, I think) about him not being exactly the same person he was ten years ago.

      He’s always been a gambler, and whatever his triggers were (war, needing to be good at something, needing a challenge) that working with/being her partner allowed him to resist, the last year changed things in terms of emotional blows and perhaps even how he views himself.

      (What was really worse, I wonder? Being betrayed by the government he’s always trusted (the same one he’s killed for when they said ‘pull the trigger’?); or Sweets’ death? I’ve mostly seen it as a combination of all of it, but I do wonder.)

      So yeah, I guess a more straightforward way of saying it would be that an addict’s response to the addiction would vary according to life circumstances.

      It’s interesting, though, that if I was right about his being good at something (closing cases with Brennan, being a good FBI agent, being a good father (in that there’s no evidence he failed Parker))…that wasn’t enough to prevent him from taking the risks he did with Jimmy that put her and Christine in danger. And that, maybe, circles back around to my theory that what made these steps back toward recovery hard for him wasn’t just the addiction but that he has to change his view of himself, and not in a good way. He’s not a gambler who yet never let his son down prior to recovery…he’s now a man who betrayed his family in a significant way.

      All interesting to think about! Thanks for reminding me of that post!

      • To me the worse part for Booth may not be facing himself but facing Brennan, whom he has always tried to protect, and baring his soul to her about everything that happened. It would be in character for him not to want to tell her so she wouldn’t have to worry and so she will not think badly of him, I think. But I also think the pay off will be that he finds out that she loves him unconditionally, which will help him grow and gain confidence in himself again.

        All throughout the series these characters have loved each other unconditionally, but I am not sure they realized just how deep that love and trust extends. Perhaps now they can get a glimpse of that.

      • I was thinking something similar, Laura. The hardest part for him, I think, will be facing the degree to which he let her down, and accepting that she loves him anyway. But that’s the beauty of their relationship, and why I’m so excited to see this play out. I wouldn’t have thought they could be stronger than they were, but I think that’s what we’ll see next season.

  8. First – thank you again for your reviews! I love reading them and I always get more insight for my inevitable rewatch!

    I just had two comments/questions:

    -I am not addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc but I did watch in light of my love of this show to make sure I wasn’t veering into the obsession realm – it so could easily happen….😉

    -why do you think so many fans are upset by this gambling storyline? I have read so many comments and I still don’t get it. I am so happy that ED and esp DB get to do new things in terms of acting and character work and that we are the beneficiaries of it! I love watching these two and the whole cast just nail scene after scene. After 10 years they could easily just phone it in and they don’t.

    Just a unique and amazing show….

    • In my opinion, a lot of people are upset because they think Booth’s image has been tarnished, even though from the start we knew he was a gambler, and they think Brennan has been portrayed as cold and heartless, even though she is handling an awful situation in what is most likely the best possible way. This is a real life situation and some people prefer less realism. I personally love this story arc because it is so real and heartfelt, but that’s just me….

      • Maybe that is it – they don’t want to see the “bad” parts of him. But like you said he has always had this as part of his character. I think he never actually hit bottom – even when he stopped before. I think getting to this point is overdue.

        Plus what makes characters interesting is their flaws. I personally don’t care one way or another about Arastoo because I don’t think they have done enough to show any flaw- he is too perfect and therefore boring. I don’t care about him.
        But the others (even the other squints) have been crafted into characters with not only flaws but with traits that make you love and root for them.

    • The fandom often splits over story lines (well, the big dramatic ones, at least) and I think it’s because we watch for different reasons: some like the lighter, sweeter moments (so angst is a problem, right from go); others watch for the angst, and so don’t like the lighter stories, etc.

      That’s some of what’s going on, while others are unhappy as much with the timing as anything, saying that if they had to do this kind of story, they should have done it last fall, so it would be well over with before the season finale, with lots of sweeter, lighter eps prior to that. (I’m withholding judgement on that, because some of those people were also saying there was *no* way they could resolve it and have B&B back on any kind of solid footing by the end of the finale, and that’s exactly what I’m expecting to see. If I’m wrong, I’ll say so here, believe me.)

      But, as Laura notes, a lot of other people are just unhappy at having Booth portrayed in such a way. They don’t believe an addict can be a hero, even a recovering one, and, particularly those for whom the show has always been first and foremost about loving Booth, that’s a hard thing to accept.

      Personally, I think the point is that a recovering addict can be exactly that, and the show is asking people to look at what makes a hero.

      But that’s part of the problem, too, I think: there are a lot of people out there who either are addicts, or have been hurt by one, and this has been challenging for them in a whole different way.

      I think they’re doing a great job with it so far (and I say that as the daughter of an abusive alcoholic who did later recover) but we’ll see how the rest of it plays out.

  9. Ryn, wow! I am new to your blog. I read a bit on Twitter and had to seek out more. I have spent the last couple of days reading through your archives. Yes,I am a Bones fan. I came late to the show after my college age daughter introduced me along season 5-6. I have since made up for my late arrival via DVD and TNT, over and over…lol. Just wanted to mention how much I have enjoyed your ‘take’. When I come across an entry other then concerning Bones I have to admit It makes me sad because I hadn’t read that book or watched that program and your writings make me wished I had.
    I have never ever written anything that might be read publicly, but wanted to say “thanks”.

    • Oh, thank you! What a lovely compliment! I enjoy doing them; only wish I had more time to do other books/shows/films that I love. Real life interferes way too often.

      So glad your daughter got you hooked on Bones!

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