A couple of weeks ago, I was bewildered by a conversation we had here, where it seemed to come down to…either the lighter toned episodes are your favorites, or you must want endless angst.
I obviously misunderstood the whole thing, or was in a temporary fugue state or something, but I was thinking about that conversation while watching this (which I’ve now seen four times, thank you) because this, right here, is my absolute favorite kind of Bones episode. A case that matters, important character moments, humor, and no appreciable angst. (Which, just to be clear, doesn’t mean I don’t like both comic episodes and angst on occasion.)
In my head, I visualize the show as traveling down a path with comedy on one side, and drama on the other, and it wanders back and forth to various degrees. Sometimes, entire episodes or arcs tend toward one side or the other before being pulled back toward the middle, but it’s also true of individual episodes, where a plot may veer to the lighter side only for the story as a whole to be pulled back in the other direction by a different scene being more dramatic.
One of the ironies, given that whatever else the show is, it’s a crime procedural, is that the murder often skews toward humor, from the body find by hapless witnesses to thick-headed suspects, to a snarky, wise-cracking Booth in the interrogation room.
But not always.
I don’t mind the cases being mined for humor, because I think that allows the show to focus on the characters’ lives for drama, and because the show doesn’t quite cross the line of making murder too funny: Booth and Aubrey may snark, Hodgins may blow things up in experiments, but in the end, someone’s arrested, and that scene is usually played more seriously.
But the cases that aren’t played for humor at all, those tend to stay with me longer.
When are secrets good? Where’s the line between patriotism and treason, when the traitor’s motives were pure? Is there a way to expose corruption in the government while keeping innocents safe?
This episode asked those questions, and then didn’t answer them, because political extremists aside, there are no simple answers.
As the audience, we often play the ‘whodunit’ game where we guess which guest star is the killer; this episode proved clever in that respect, with four viable suspects, all of whom were guilty of something, all of whom pointed the team in the direction of the next piece of the puzzle.
What I particularly liked, though, was Gill’s story. Early on, he says to Aubrey, “there are people in the NSA who want us to be better, who know things need to change.” However wrong his methods, his goals were admirable, and it’s clear later that he wasn’t being callous concerning the agents whose lives he risked. Rather, he thought he could trust Vivian – an experienced, award-winning journalist – and was wrong. Her desperation to keep her job took priority over innocent lives. Gill’s grief at this point seems genuine, and I can almost feel for him.
Almost, because he was still wrong, though as Brennan points out to Booth, George Washington was a traitor, too. (Also, have to say this – did any other Sleepy Hollow fans smirk at that conversation and think, ‘hey, Brennan, you should ask your friend Ichabod Crane about General Washington…?’ No? Just me? Okay, then.)
Anyway, Gill gives us several great moments with the team, but two in particular I wanted to comment on: First, we got to see Bad-Ass Cam, who is one of my favorite Cams (I love when she lays down the law without ever raising her voice – you go, woman!) and then with Booth, in the hotel room.
The fact that they meet there shows that Booth was listening to Hodgins in the discussion at the diner, however annoyed he was at the time, and that matters to me. But the scene itself? This is Booth-in-charge, and there’s no snark, no sarcasm. Just the two of them, with Booth confronting a traitor. (Also? I thought the lighting and camera work in that scene, reminiscent of a spy film, was really cool.)
Speaking of Hodgins and Booth, though…that scene of the two of them at the end might be my favorite scene from the season so far. After Booth and Brennan, Booth and Hodgins are my favorite relationship on the show, and I’ve been musing on the why of that for several days now. I think it’s because they’re so very different, and yet, there is a bond there, one that’s been growing since season one’s, A Boy in a Bush.
Beyond the obvious differences of cop/squint, they’re polar opposites in key ways: Hodgins is an unapologetic nerd while Booth is a jock; Booth trusts the government enough to have killed for it, while Hodgins could be the poster child for antiestablishmentarianism.
Or at least, Booth once trusted the government that much; Hodgins used to be that poster child. They’ve both been changed by their experiences. Through his work with Booth, Sweets, and Aubrey, Hodgins has learned that true-hearted people work for the government; Booth now knows it’s capable of corruption.
Neither of them know the answer to the question, ‘how do we expose that corruption while keeping innocent agents safe?’ What they do know is that they trust each other: Hodgins trusts Booth enough to give him the flash drive, Booth trusts Hodgins enough to hand it back to him to destroy.
I love that. Freaking love it.
Season five’s The Proof in the Pudding gave us this conversation between Cam, Brennan and Sweets:
“Do you know how many people Booth has shot for his country?
“Wow, that’s a lot of blood to have on your hands. I mean, it’s the kind of thing that would keep a person awake at night.”
“And Booth did that because he trusted that it was right. And who did he trust?”
“If they lied about the murder of a president, they can lie about anything.”
Four years later, with his imprisonment and Sweets’ death, Booth was confronted with proof about the corruptibility of that government, and it took a toll on him, on all of them, in the form of his gambling relapse. While Brennan’s love and faith are essential to how he came back, I think the confidence the team has in him as a good man also matters.
When Hodgins says, “I don’t think I’m qualified to decide the right thing to do with that. If anyone is…it’s you,” it reminds me of Zach saying to Booth, “You know more about duty and honor than anyone else I know,” at the end of season two’s The Stargazer in the Puddle. There’s no greater gift, I think, no greater affirmation for Booth, than to know that people who know him recognize that in him – despite the lives he’s taken.
But here’s what I love more: The confidence isn’t all one way. Hodgins may believe that if anyone in the world can make that call, it’s Booth, but Booth passes the flash drive back to him, trusting him to destroy it. They could have played the scene differently – we could have seen Booth tuck the drive into his pocket. Watching him hand it back to Hodgins mattered more.
Meanwhile, there’s another story here, of Brennan keeping a really good secret from Booth, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite work as well as the rest of the episode for me. I think the reveal – Parker’s entrance at the diner – felt too abrupt, somehow. Maybe if he’d been referenced in some way earlier, it would have worked better? A stray comment from Booth about plans to Skype with Parker on Thanksgiving, possibly, or how much he was looking forward to seeing him at Christmas, just something casual to give that part of the story context.
Still, I liked meeting new!Parker, and enjoyed his presence in the Thanksgiving scene at the end. Not just seeing him play video games with Booth, but also Hodgins casually placing his hands on Parker’s shoulders when he asks to talk to Booth. It served as a reminder that Parker has been part of the family for years, however seldom we see him.
The secret/Parker storyline also gave us this conversation, which was great on several levels:
“The phone call. You hung up so fast when I got into the kitchen.”
“You’re imagining things, Booth.”“No, you know what I’m imagining? It’s five weeks till Christmas, and you’re shopping early, and you know that I’ve had my eye on that Jet Ski.”“I am not Christmas shopping, and if I were, I assure you, I would not be buying you a Jet Ski so you could kill yourself riding around like a sixteen year old.”“Well it would make your husband very happy, like a kid on Christmas morning.”“No, Hank and Christine will be like kids on Christmas morning. You will be like a grown-up. Or as grown-up as you can be.”“It’s Christmas morning. Everybody acts like a kid.”“No, kids act like kids.”“I’m gonna have the feetie pajamas on and I’ll be looking for the Jet Ski.”“Great.”“Jet ski under the tree. Good luck trying to get that in without making noise.”“There has to be one adult in the family at least.”“Ain’t gonna be me. Not on Christmas morning.”
First, it’s my favorite funny bit from the episode. But what really impressed me – and why I quoted the whole thing – is that the show managed to give us Christmas in the midst of the Thanksgiving episode, sort of a bonus, two-for-one holiday special.
Although it would be fun to see Booth and Brennan celebrating Christmas with the kids, I’ve always understood how tricky that is, on a number of levels. But this dialog gives it to us in a small way, as I can now imagine their Christmas morning, complete with feetie pajamas, a Booth who’s just as excited as the kids, and a Brennan who’s loving the whole thing while pretending to be the adult. (Also, in my imagination, she sends Booth outside to get that ‘one gift’ she forgot to bring in, the Jet Ski.)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (even if you don’t celebrate!)
“Am I allowed to speak, or that a members-only privilege?”
“Typically, caddies don’t speak.”
“Caddy? I’m not your caddy. And golf isn’t a game, it’s a sport.”
“No, no, no. There’s no defense. No defense in golf. No defense, no sport.”
“What Booth means is if I can beat him, it’s not a sport.” (Aubrey, Brennan, Booth)
“What are you talking about? I do it every morning. I got a cup of joe in the left hand, I got the paper in the right, I can feel the ink on my skin.”
“Yeah, it’s a mess.”
“Paper, ink…what? What are you talking about? It’s a tradition. You’re not getting it.”
“No, I get it. You’re old.” (Booth, Aubrey)
“Sir, stop! FBI! …Uh, partner of the FBI.” (Brennan)
“Man, I knew it. They were monitoring every word we said.”
“I guess what they say is true. Even paranoids have enemies.” (Hodgins, Angela)
“The chicken squares are awesome.”
“I think that’s baked tofu with artichoke hearts.”
“Okay, if the turkey is not a turkey, I’m going to the diner.” (Aubrey, Cam)
“Okay, just to be clear, I let you win that game.”
“Yeah, just to be clear, no one in this room is buying that.” (Booth, Parker)