This is always going to be a very special episode for me. I watched it in a beach house off the coast of Georgia with eight close friends, all of whom I met through the Bones fandom. We’ve been through a lot together, this group, so enjoying the show while in the same physical space was one of those ‘favorite life moments’ I’ll always cherish.
The episodes I personally love the best are generally the ones more on the dramatic/angsty end of the spectrum, but laughing ourselves stupid over this only added to the fun.
I think as fans we sometimes fail to appreciate how important it is – and how challenging it must be – for the show to balance the lighter and darker episodes. If we watch mostly for the dramatic character stuff, the humor can seem distracting or an afterthought; if we watch for the fun, the drama can seem unnecessarily dark. But both are integral to what Bones is (which is one reason, IMO, that it’s often overlooked by critics and even many viewers.)
From what I see both in the fandom and among casual viewers I know, the audience who watches regularly is made up of three types of people: those who watch for the drama, but will tolerate the humor; those who watch for the humor, but will tolerate the drama; and those who want both.
To make it even more challenging, many of us who are in the last category have preferences about how far to either end of the funny/dramatic spectrum that the show can lean and still be enjoyable to us.
(Wow. My honest response to that is, ‘thank God I’m not a showrunner on Bones.’)
I’m in the want-both-leaning-more-towards-drama category, and because the mechanics of how they put the show together fascinates me, I try to pay attention to how they balance the tone. For example, I’ve noticed that darker eps nearly always have a lighter moment somewhere (even if it’s only the first scene, before things go pear-shaped, as with last spring’s The Verdict in the Victims); I realized a few years ago that they’ll often follow a run of darker episodes with a lighter one. (As they’ve done this season.)
Another challenge is that humor can be difficult to do well, anyway, even when you’re not integrating it with murder. What’s hysterically funny to one person may well cause the person sitting next to them to roll their eyes, and as someone who’s most often in the eye-rolling camp, I’m very aware of how hard it is to pull off funny.
For me, the more solidly based the humor is in the characters, the likelier I am to be amused. There are a number of examples of that in this episode, beginning with the diner scene when Booth first learns of Agent Andy’s fate. David and Emily’s facial expressions had me flat-out laughing out loud. (Memo to the entertainment industry: David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel are both way underrated as comedic actors, too.)
The grins continued with Betty White, who can often make me giggle without saying a word, and then with Oliver’s story. I find it interesting that so many people who’ve disliked him because of his arrogance still don’t like him, even here, when he’s very vulnerable. I’ve always enjoyed Oliver, in part because I think the story we’re seeing is one of his being transformed by his association with the team, and in part because of what we see in them as a result of his presence.
Plus? If not for Oliver, we wouldn’t have stoned Hodgins, and stoned Hodgins is one of my favorite things. There’s no question that TJ Thyne is a gifted comedic actor as well, but the interplay between him and Michaela Conlin has me grinning, just remembering it.
But what makes Bones, Bones – at least for me – is that even with all the fun, there are still character stories going on. I don’t expect them to reference the gambling arc every week (and indeed, would not want them to), but I like that it’s referenced in this episode, and in such a way as to show us how they’re dealing with it:
“Are your endorphin levels rising?”
“If you’re asking if I’m getting the gambling itch, the answer is yes.”
“Oh. That was not the response I was expecting.”
“Well, I’m never gonna hide things anymore, Bones. You know, covering builds it up inside. When I get an urge, I acknowledge it. Think about the pros and the cons that gambling added to my life, and then I can let it go.”
One of the things I saw people wondering (or, being honest, complaining about) when they killed off Jared was how it would affect Booth, and whether the loss of his brother the year after Sweets’ loss – which sent him into the gambling tailspin – was too much. But beyond that his relationship with the two men was very different, here we get another glimpse of why Jared’s death won’t affect him in the same way: he’s being more open with himself about what he’s feeling, confronting it and making a conscious decision about how to handle it.
Will we see him being more open with Brennan about how he’s feeling, from day to day, without her having to prompt him (as she did here?) I don’t know. He’s still Booth, he’s still a guy, and I can’t see him simply blurting out daily reports of what he surely views as a weakness. But I like this, that he’s being honest with both himself and her.
The other character story was Brennan’s response to Dr. Mayer, which I thought perfect. We’ve seen her react in the past when she feels professionally threatened, but over the years, the way the story has played out has gradually shifted. She still reacts, but then rises above it, remembering that being the best doesn’t mean she can’t learn from others.
And not only in respect to her forensic anthropology work. We’re not told how long the two women have known each other, only shown that they do, and that Brennan respects her enough to ask for relationship advice. The advice given – “Gals like us can’t stand peace and quiet – we need to be challenged” – is right on target, making me wish we were going to have an opportunity to get to know Dr. Mayer better. In what other ways is she like Brennan, and to what degree, when we see her, are we seeing what Brennan might be like, fifty years from now? Intriguing to think about, isn’t it?
The episode ends with Hodgins getting revenge on Oliver, and then a playful Booth and Brennan moment that reminded me a lot of the gun battle at the end of season seven’s “The Prince in the Plastic.” The truly interesting thing, though, is that while we know she writes the books, they seem to be partners in this, as well:
“She actually gave me some insight into Agent Andy, too.”
“Oh, you know, that reminds me. You were right.”
“Of course I was. About what?”
“About not bringing back Agent Andy. That was a good call. New beginnings for us, right?”
“Well actually, I believe there may be a way to bring him back now.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Booth, you were the one fighting to keep him alive.”
“Yeah, you know, but then I thought about it.”
“Well think about it some more. There are plenty of creative ways for Andy to survive.”
She’s not just telling him she’s going to bring Andy back, she wants him on board with it, and he doesn’t seem particularly surprised that they’re discussing it. The books are wholly hers (unlike their crime work) but he has some ownership in what happens in the novels, ownership which she allows.
Partners, in every possible way.
“I’m asking if this is the final draft or not.”
“Booth, I’m not changing it.”
“Wow. You guys really hit the ground running this morning.”
“Yeah, well, you know what? There’s a lot to hash out when your own wife is plotting your murder.”
“Ah! It’s not you! It’s a fictional character. And it’s not plotting if he’s already dead.”
“Maybe a coywolf ate the Fit-Step.”
“And then he pooped it out. Like a poop machine…that poops.” (Oliver, stoned Hodgins)
“When things get boring…that’s when you start killing characters.” (Dr. Mayer)