As I said the other night on Twitter, all is right in my world once again: I’m back to eating supper while watching truly disgusting bodies on my TV on Thursday nights.
And what a welcome back. Bones is my favorite show for a hundred different reasons, but anyone who’s read many of these reviews knows that one of the top ones is the family aspect, that these people love each other. Boy howdy, is that everywhere in this episode.
At the moment, the center of it all is Hodgins, the quiet hero, the man who takes such delight in science, in bugs, in don’t-call-it-dirt, and in Angela.
(Shout out to T.J. Thyne, who brings the character to life. He’s wonderful all through this. The loss on his face as he struggles with not being able to go into the field is a gut punch; his pleading with Cam to let him stay simply breaks me. Well done, sir.)
What struck me, though, was how little of Hodgins’ focus is on his physical recovery. We don’t see him researching the latest work in reversing paralysis or nerve regeneration, and physical therapy seems to be something he’s doing as much for Angela and Cam as himself. This may well change in future episodes, but his desperation here is more about proving that he’s the same man, even if he doesn’t walk again. Specifically, he has to know they still see him as the Jack Hodgins who works in, who belongs in, the lab. (“I need to be here. It’s who I am.”)
But that need to know he still has the work that gives his life meaning conflicts with the need the others have to protect him from further harm.
It didn’t occur to me until watching this that yes, of course Cam would feel guilt, although her actions in The Doom the Boom weren’t unreasonable: the killers were still on the loose, they were worried about Aubrey, and Hodgins seemed fine, simply sore. But hindsight is a bitch to live with, particularly for a doctor telling herself she should have known better.
In many ways, Brennan’s response is the most interesting to me, though, because in a similar situation, her response would be the same as Hodgins’. She’s a wife and mother, but her identity is no less tied up with her work now than it was in The Woman in Limbo, and it’s still where she retreats when life overwhelms her. She goes to work after she and Booth fight in The Shot in the Dark; she tells Angela in The Woman in White, ‘My feelings, they’re a jumble. But this case is something I understand.’
She’d be doing the same thing as Hodgins if she was the one in the wheelchair; in fact, it’s what she’s doing here: retreating to the science because she doesn’t know how to deal with the emotional fall-out of her fears for him.
Booth and Wendell, meanwhile, approach it from the emotional aspect rather than the science. I think Brennan misunderstands what Booth means about hope, though, because when he says ‘No one’s going to work harder than Hodgins’ it’s not so much that he thinks Hodgins can magic his way back to walking if he tries hard enough, it’s that he understands how essential it is for the other man to know that he is more than his legs, that he have hope for a meaningful life, regardless of the wheelchair.
Brennan’s comment about wounded soldiers made me think of Hank, the judge in the wheelchair from The Soldier on the Grave. Booth’s seen first hand that it’s possible to have a full life while in a wheelchair, but he also knows Hodgins has to be allowed to go after it. His comment about things getting back to normal isn’t because he’s equating Hodgins being out of rehab with the normal they’ve always known; it’s because he understands that it’s the first step toward Hodgins reclaiming his life, whatever happens with his legs.
And Wendell? Wendell has personal experience with what it means to focus on something else that has value when you’re fighting for your life. In one of those lovely moments of reversal the show is so capable of, it was Hodgins who said about Wendell in The High in the Low, “He needs this job, Cam. With what he’s going through? He needs to be a part of something. He needs a family.”
Here, Wendell pays it back, going behind their backs to involve Hodgins in the case, because he understands that as much as they need his expertise to solve the murder, Hodgins needs for them to need him even more.
Angela sees both sides of it. She gets that Hodgins needs the lab (did she not give up Paris because she understood?) but she also knows the doctor is still saying there’s a risk of his losing even more if he overdoes it. Ultimately, in what’s probably my favorite moment between the two of them, ever, she accepts that if she doesn’t allow him to do what he needs to do, she’s risking losing him anyway:
“I know you’re essential to the team. I never doubted that. But you’re essential to me, too.”
“What do you love about me?”
“So much. You’re passionate and you’re open-minded, and you’re curious. And you’re so smart.”
“Well, my work at the lab makes me those things. And without it? I don’t know how to be the man you fell in love with.”
“Okay. Wow, that was persuasive.”
It reminds me of the conversation between Booth and Brennan at the end of The Brother of the Basement, and I love it all the more for that being so:
“You’ve always done this. Risked your life for the sake of others. The army, the FBI…”
“I can change.”
“I don’t want you to. Booth, you are the most bravest, selfless man I have ever met. As much as I hate seeing you here in pain and suffering, I also know this is who you genuinely are.”
We have to let the people we love be who they are, despite the risks.
It’s not only in the conversations with Hodgins where we see the love between all these people, though, it’s also as they help one another deal with it.
Angela and Brennan’s relationship fascinates me. There’s such love and loyalty there, despite their differences, differences Angela’s not afraid to acknowledge:
“It’s like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
“Ah, yes. Between Scylla and Charybdis…The Greek myth on which the idiom is based. Odysseus had to choose which deadly sea monster to steer his ship past.”
“I don’t know why I’m asking, but what did he do?”
“He takes a calculated risk. He chooses the lesser of two evils and forfeits a few men in order to preserve the ship.”
“So what I’m hearing you say is that there is no version of us all making it through this alive?”
“I’m going to hug you.”
“Oh, thanks for the heads-up.”
Brennan understands that she needs a hug, and provides it, and the way Angela hangs onto her shows that Brennan was spot-on in her analysis of that need.
The other thing I like about that exchange is how Angela words her final question: “…there’s no version of us all making it through this alive?” Us all. Whatever happens, they’re all in it together, and she knows that.
Then there’s the scene between Booth and Brennan. She does believe in some intangibles, of course, like love, and she turns to what she has with him now for comfort, acknowledging (in what strikes me as one of the saddest lines from her, ever) that “the science just makes me sad.”
“Did you ever think you’d have an amazing, great husband like me and three beautiful kids who love you?”
“That was an unlikely turn of events.”
“Anything is possible. Angela and Hodgins, they love each other. They’re strong, okay? They’re going to get through this.”
His response is great, not just because of the inclusion of Parker in the kid count, which I love, but because of something that stuck me on my re-watch. (One of the reasons I enjoy doing these reviews is that I always catch something on the re-watch I do while working on the post that I missed when I watched the show live. Always.)
Here, it was Booth’s reminder that science can’t predict everything and the use of the word ‘unlikely,’ which recalls Brennan’s earlier conversation with Wendell:
“That metaphorical concept will not give Dr Hodgins’ the use of his legs. In fact, he may be offended by the very idea that he can fight his way back to his nerves regrowing given the extreme unlikeliness of recovery.”
“My recovery was extremely unlikely. But it happened.”
I find those dual references to unlikely events which yet happened interesting, because they seem to offer a bit of hope for Hodgins.
When I watched the show live on Thursday night, I thought the story they were setting up was one where Hodgins does not regain the use of his legs, which I’m fine with. I watch the show because I want to see characters I love overcoming whatever life throws at them, and the more hard-won the wins are, the more they matter to me.
Booth’s fight against the gambling addiction means more for our having watched him fall and struggle back to sobriety; Sweets’ loss, and Cam’s comment that ‘at least he made it to happy’ is in the context of something we all know, but tend to forget: it’s the quality of our lives that matters most.
Whether or not he’s paralyzed, I’m certain that Hodgins will be happy when the credits roll at the end of the final episode, and watching him reach that place can remind all of us who are fighting battles (and which of us is not?) that there are many ways of winning.
In that sense, I think Caroline nailed it with her words to Aubrey:
“Booth told me that Hodgins came back to work today.”
“So soon. Good for him!”
“It’s just I can’t stop thinking about him in that wheelchair.”
“Dr. Hodgins will watch his son grow up, thanks to you. You’re a hero. And I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
Hodgins is alive, and even if it doesn’t wind up being the life he would have chosen, there’s still potential for joy, meaning, and love. The fact that’s that so is a source of hope just as much as the reminders that science can’t predict everything, that unlikely things happen every day.
There’s nothing more important than hope.
“What an unexpected surprise!”
“Well, a surprise, by definition, is unexpected.” (Wendell and Brennan)
“Just the swashbuckler I was looking for.”
“Let me guess. You want in on this interrogation.”
“What I want is a dry vodka martini, but you’re about to question Vanessa Caldwell.” (Caroline, Booth)
“The fact that he went to all that trouble says there’s something to hide. He’s a sneaky little word-I-shouldn’t-say.”
“But if Brennan finds hard evidence he was with Drea the night she died in his apartment?”
“Then we can play ball, chere.”
“I really want to play ball.”
“I’ll catch for you.” (Caroline, Aubrey)