Fan Review: The Cowboy in the Contest/The Doom in the Boom (Bones) (pt 1)

Well. Wow. Yikes. The mid-season finale was really something on the emotional spectrum, wasn’t it? Days later, I’m still grinning foolishly when I think of moments from the first half, and tearing up when I recall what happened in the second.

That range of emotions is part of why I love the show so much, though, meaning this two-part episode satisfied me in every way.

Two-part episode? Well…yes. Though the cases are unrelated, enough of the character stories carry over from the first to the second that I think it qualifies as a single story, and thus I’m combining the episodes for review purposes. (Though still doing two blog posts, because I’ve got way too much to say for one!)

Booth and Brennan:

Oh, all right…there’s not really a continuing story for these two as there are for the others, but I think you can make the case for what we see here being a follow-up to what happened in the last year or so.

In The Cowboy in the Contest, Brennan says to Angela, “I’m finding a lot of Booth’s behavior strange these days…First he wanted a jet ski, now he’s looking at motorcycles…he’s only recently recovered from being shot and he wants to put his life in danger for I don’t know what.”

While Brennan may not understand it, it makes sense to me.  From a biochemical perspective, gambling is about the body’s hormonal response to risk and excitement. And truly, much of Booth’s life (special forces, sniper, cop) has been about fulfilling those urges in socially acceptable ways, while also meeting a different need to be a force for good in the world.

Given that, some of us used to speculate that the reason he stopped gambling when he met Brennan was that the challenge of their relationship and the work they did together satisfied those urges. And then, as Brennan notes in the second part of the story, Sweets died. And for the first time, his life with Brennan wasn’t enough, couldn’t counter the weight of the guilt he felt over that, particularly given her pregnancy coming so soon after the birth of the son Sweets would never see.

Eventually, though, he chose to fight for what he really wanted: her and their children. And as he says at the end of the first hour, he loves the routine of raising two kids together. But the need for that rush of excitement is still there, and so Brennan takes this opportunity to remind him that however ordinary their home life is, she’s still Temperance Brennan: unpredictable, spontaneous and fascinating. He has a literal wildcard in his life (did you see what they did there, with her choice of moniker?) – who needs gambling?

BBCollage

And it was sheer fun to watch them rediscover and affirm that. I like that due to their relationship, and his faith in her, it’s never about jealousy. He’s not threatened by Glen, just intrigued by not quite knowing what Brennan will do next.  And Brennan, competitive to the last, succeeds in challenging him, and yet is, by turns, turned on by his prowess and later, unfailingly proud of him when he wins the competition. When Glen says, ‘that’s impossible, he’s cheating!’ her quiet, ‘he’s not’ is full of pride. Booth, meanwhile, has eyes only for her, because she’s the only one who matters.

BBCollage2

But what of Brennan? How is it that the person I’ve called ‘the world’s leading expert on Seeley J Booth’ sees only the physical danger of jet skis and motorcycles, and not what they represent – a need for excitement, for unpredictability in his life? I think the answer to that is in the second episode, where her response to his plan to make himself a target is this: “After all that you’ve been through with Jared? I just got you back!”

Brennan has been scarred by the events of the last year, no less than Booth, and it’s changed her.  She responded to Sweets’ death and the gambling relapse by initiating the job change; what happened with Jared taught her that what they do is less a factor than who they are in how dangerous their lives are. She spent many years distancing herself from emotional ties so as to protect herself; now she not only has those ties, but knows how easily those she loves the most can be lost to her.

And that, I think, sets the stage for what comes next. While I believe we’re going to continue to see the fallout from the last year for the two of them, we’re also going to see them supporting Hodgins and Angela. Their leadership extends beyond their jobs, to life itself – when life goes south, you want these two in your corner. We saw that when Cam turned to Brennan for strength to autopsy Sweets, when Wendell looked to both of them for courage to fight cancer, and here, when Angela trusted Brennan to tell her the truth about Hodgins’ injury. I’m very much looking forward to watching them lead the team – their family – through this crisis.

(Did I really need two sets of photos of them from the Frontier Games? Yes! It’s indulgent, but one of my favorite things about the episode was the way they kept looking at one another, so sue me. Or not…because I’m pretty broke right now.)

Cam:

TV (and other types of pop fiction, as well) often struggles with how to portray the difference between sex and love. Showing two good-looking people being attracted to each other and/or having sex is frequently used as shorthand for portraying adult romantic relationships. Then, if it’s supposed to be love, at some point they’ll either say the magic words (“I love you”) or at least make it clear they’re in a committed relationship; if it’s a fling, they won’t. There’s apparently no need to show emotional intimacy, or conversation unrelated to the larger plot of the story, or the complications that occur when two people are trying to figure out how to merge their lives.

Stories about relationships ending fare a little better, but all too often, still miss out on just how messy and complicated love can be, even when it’s over.

Part of what I’ve always enjoyed about Bones is that it doesn’t do any of those things, or only rarely. We saw Booth and Brennan being emotionally intimate for years before they became lovers; we saw why they came to love each other, beyond the physical attraction.  It’s not that there aren’t casual relationships on the show, but they’re allowed to be just that, without carrying the burden of substituting for love.

Do relationships sometimes end for stupid reasons? Yes. Is it possible to love more than one person at a time? Yes. Is it possible to still love someone when you’re no longer in a relationship with them? Absolutely. Is it possible to be friends with someone you once were in a relationship with? That, too. What about when love is real, but the couple can’t figure out how to make a life together? Check.

Bones has tackled all of those scenarios, and more. There are as many ways as there are people for two people to love one another, whether temporarily or for a life time deal, and while many shows take a shorthand approach instead of wading into that messiest of emotions, the show isn’t afraid to take a swing at it.

That’s the context for Cam’s rather complicated love life. I’ve said before that she and Arastoo initially didn’t work for me as a couple because we didn’t get to see the beginning of the romance. Because we knew them so well as “head of the lab” and “squintern,” not being told why or how she woke up one day seeing him as something else made it hard to buy into the story. (What was special about him to her? Why Arastoo and not Fisher?)

CamArastoo

Only, after watching them be together for three years, it no longer seems to matter. I may not know how they came to view each other in a different way, but I’ve seen enough to know that they do. We’ve watched them deal with some pretty serious crap (his poisoning, her identity theft, his brother’s cancer), we’ve seen them screw up, we’ve seen them be there for one another – and the others.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Cam, but Arastoo has grown on me. Granted, I was very unimpressed when he acted like a toddler with his parents in The Cold in the Case, but since then? I’ve come to admire him, particularly in his loyalty to his brother and in his devotion to Brennan. The latter was on display again here when we saw him come in to help after the explosion. That wasn’t just about Cam, it was about all of them, as his smile for Angela, and her hug in response, made clear.

But what of Sebastian? He’s a nice guy. In fact, he’s a really nice guy. Helping Angela, pursuing Cam but respectful of her boundaries…what’s not to love? Well, nothing, because we’re unlikely to get to know him well enough to see any flaws, which is what makes pairing any of them up with someone who’s not a permanent part of the show difficult.

It’s not a show about gynecologists, oncology nurses, photographers or journalists, it’s a show about a group of scientists working with the FBI to catch killers. So those outside love interests are never fleshed out as much as we’d like for them to be, because there’s not enough screen time to do so. What we learn about Sebastian, we’ll learn through his encounters with Cam (and possibly Angela), not because we’ll travel with him to one of those war-torn countries and see him interacting with the people he meets there.

And that means that his relationship with Cam will always feel somewhat one-sided, whereas with Arastoo, because we know him apart from the romance, it’s possible to show us more facets of the story, and that feels more authentic to me.

It’s probably clear that I’m rooting for Arastoo, but I’m fine with how the show left things, that minor cliffhanger where Cam’s response to him was interrupted by Angela’s scream. I don’t mind if it takes time for her to work through her feelings, particularly since we don’t know yet how they’ll resolve Arastoo’s job situation.

One other thing this arc gave us was Daisy.  It never ceases to astonish me that the show has taken me from loathing Daisy to loving her. That’s some serious character development, even if it did come via the breakup with Sweets and then his death. And this conversation with Cam? It brought to mind the end of The Twist in the Plot, when she found Daisy crying in the lab over Sweets, and comforted her. Cam often retreats when her friends express concern for her, but with Daisy? She simply listens, because not only has Daisy earned the right to be heard on this subject, there’s history there, between the two of them. Those kinds of character moments never stop thrilling me.

DaisyCam

 

(This weekend just kicked my butt. But there’s a second part of this review coming along, hopefully by Wednesday.)

Bonus Quotes:

“You made coffee…and are in my robe.”
“I stopped walking around naked about twenty years ago.”
“And started cross-dressing?” (Cam, Sebastian)

B&B

“I know it’s absolutely none of my business, but I understand how hard it is to open your heart again after a loss. It takes time, and it takes courage, but at some point, you have to risk it. If you don’t? You shrink a little inside.” (Daisy, to Cam)

B&B

“He wouldn’t want to go back to being your intern.”
“He wouldn’t be. He’d be my consultant.”
“I’ll be whatever you need for me to be. I just want to help.” (Cam, Brennan, Arastoo)

B&B

“Hodgins, who’s Sebastian?”
“He’s…no one. He’s just a guy who exists in reality.”
“Are he and Cam dating?”
“What? Why would you…I mean, how would I…what makes you think…yeah. I wouldn’t worry about it, dude. Seriously, the guy’s not around that much. I mean, he’s this like photojournalist who’s always off in some war-torn country. Which is actually really impressive. But not as impressive as you. I mean, you’re totally impressive, even without a job. I’m gonna stop talking now.” (Arastoo, Hodgins)

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3 thoughts on “Fan Review: The Cowboy in the Contest/The Doom in the Boom (Bones) (pt 1)

  1. You can put as many pictures of Booth wearing that cowboy hat as you want….I’ll never complain about that….

    I really liked the contrast between the two episodes, because we have the discussion of routines. In the first episode they step out of their routine to solve the crime. In the second, Hodgins is doing something that should be a routine part of his job and what happens instead changes everyone’s life. It goes back to the theme of taking nothing for granted. I enjoyed both of the episodes quite a bit. I read some stuff on line about the contrast being too much of a roller coaster, but life can be that way….sailing along, and BAM…you run into a reef. I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.

  2. i really enjoyed the 1st episode. loved seeing Booth in the cowboy hat looking incredibly sexy. and then aubrey and all that jealously over B&B attending a bbq without him and his knowledge of types of bbq. I loved the looks between Booth & Brennan. i liked the 2nd episode up until the final moments when i started bawling my eyes out over poor hodgins and Angela.

  3. I saw the situation with Cam and Arastoo similarly. I think when you brought up Sebastian, you make a good point about the limitations of bringing in an outside character. In an alternate universe, Bones would be structured more like Parenthood and we could concentrate 100% on the relationships and characters. Alas, the cases get in the way! Of course, Bones would be a 5 season show instead of an 11 season show, if it weren’t a procedural. (Just a fact of life that procedurals last longer than any other genre) But given those limitations (I think of the case being akin to “So how about those Mets!” taking us out of emotional situations), they’ve done lots of great character work on the show. But it’s probably why it hasn’t received the same accolades Parenthood was given.

    I agree that if there is a B&B arc this season, it’s the after effects of Season 10 (too soon to tell, but 11 has not eclipsed my love of S10 so far). It does seem like our big arc will be Hodgela and I’m okay with that. Despite what many hope for (and complain when B&B aren’t in every scene), Bones is an ensemble show. The leads are the center but the show wouldn’t work without the entire support cast. I am looking forward to what TJ and Michaela bring us in the back half of S11.

    I really enjoyed both episodes. It showed the strength of Bones being how it can strike different tones in different episodes. Few shows actually do that. Not that there aren’t lighter/darker episodes of, say, The Flash, but the range on Bones is more pronounced.

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