True story: things are challenging for me right now. Work’s stressful, and there’s a family situation that’s hard and likely to get worse. There are good days in the midst of the grim ones, of course, and I’m good at finding hope in small things, remembering that ‘Even darkness must pass,’ – to quote Sam Gamgee. But some days, navigating the land mines in my life becomes overwhelming.
Thursday was one of those days. While I was looking forward to Bones, I was distracted by exhaustion and not a little despair.
And then the episode came on.
Structurally, there are four different stories all beautifully interwoven around the theme of second chances. It’s a lot to pull off in one episode, but writer Emily Silver nails it, and so does the cast.
Booth and Brennan:
The opening scene, while largely played for humor, not only sets up the tension of Brennan being in trouble with the FBI, but it also gives us the first callback (in an episode jam-packed with great ones), as well as telling us more about their sex life. First, that they’re adventuresome (rabbit ears? A jump? Tribal music?) and second, that they’re willing to try new things in an effort to please one another.
No, we still don’t know exactly what’s on page 187 (originally a move by Hodgins that Brennan, in consultation with Angela, put into her novel, “Bone of Contention” in S5’s The Bones on the Blue Line) and while I think it’s better if the specifics are left to our imagination, the overall point is that both guys are imaginative, generous lovers. (Whew. Is it hot in here?)
Booth and Brennan’s story bookends the episode, picking up again at the end, but in the midst of my laughter over their bickering (and, even better, my amusement at the trying-to-be-stern FBI woman laughing at them), I was struck by something important: Booth’s flat refusal to make a commitment on Brennan’s behalf is a sign of his respect, not only for her, but also for the equality inherent in their relationship.
He’s not the boss of her. He’ll testify on her behalf, but her promises are hers alone to make and keep. The counterpoint, of course, is Brennan’s distress at the FBI trying to hold him accountable for her actions. It’s not unreasonable of them, since he is a senior FBI agent (and there’s another callback, there, if you will, to the pilot, when Cullen tells Booth he’s responsible for her) but Brennan, driven by love, is upset over the idea of him suffering due to her. It’s especially ironic given part of her justification for hitting the suspect was that it was clear one of them was going to, and she thought it would be better for it to be her.
Booth, Kenny, Kalani
I never know what to say when people ask me what I’d like to see from the show before it ends, and this is why: Bones has not only already given me so much more than I hoped for, they regularly give me things I wanted, but which it never would have occurred to me to ask for.
Every time I’ve watched The Conspiracy in the Corpse, I’ve wondered what happened to him, and wished they could follow up on that story. It mattered to me that Booth had someone on his side in prison, and knowing that it would have mattered to Booth, too, I wanted to see a follow-up, however unlikely I was to get it. (Let’s face it – “What happened to Kenny?” isn’t one of those things fans clamor for, particularly since so much was going on in S10.)
But…oh, look: The Bones Writers Fairies waved their magic wand again. Better yet, they gave me exactly what I would have wanted, should I have thought to ask: loyal!Booth – always a favorite – and good guy Kenny getting a happy ending.
Booth’s instincts about people are no less important to the work they do than is Brennan’s brilliance with bones. She, however, can prove her points with physical evidence while Booth’s knowledge of people is generally used as it is here, to focus the investigation by eliminating the innocent. Those instincts still have to be proven in a way satisfactory in court, though, and when his emotions are involved, it’s good that Aubrey’s there to challenge him: No matter what your gut is saying, we still have to have proof.
And then there’s Kalani. She broke my heart when she said, I’m alone again,” so the end scene, where we see her and her father meeting, is deeply satisfying to me.
Aubrey and Jessica:
The show’s always set up parallels between these two and Booth and Brennan, and here, in a major turning point episode for them, they played with that idea explicitly, not only through the story, but through numerous callbacks.
I love all of it, and here’s why:
First, the fact that they’ve taken the time to show them as friends. It’s a contrast to Daisy and Sweets, which I didn’t enjoy until they broke up, largely because it felt like their whole relationship was about them having sex in inappropriate places.
Second, despite the parallels in their courtship, Jessica and Aubrey aren’t copies of Booth and Brennan. Both of them are similar to and different from their mentors: Jessica is like Brennan in some ways, but is more comfortable with her emotions; Aubrey is similar to Booth but with an analytical streak. While their personality similarities mean there might be similarities in their courtship; the differences mean they put their own stamp on it.
That said, Jessica and Aubrey have delayed a relationship for the same reasons Booth and Brennan did: because what they have is too precious to them to risk. And in the end, both couples were pushed over that cliff of indecision by a dramatic event: Booth and Brennan had Vincent’s death; Aubrey and Jessica have him saving her from a car (which, yes, also figured prominently in Booth and Brennan’s courtship, albeit at a different point.)
(Did you catch, amidst the other callbacks (such as ‘attaboy’), the nod to Vincent in the T. Rex conversation?)
Third, I think the show is giving us another glimpse into an alternate way Booth and Brennan’s story could have gone. No, Jessica’s not Brennan, and Aubrey’s not Booth, and their story is their story, never mind the parallels. But there’s enough similarities there to think if Brennan and Booth had had slightly different life experiences, if they’d not been quite so damaged when they met, their story could have gone very much like this one. I enjoy seeing that.
Hodgins and Angela:
In addition to the Angela and Hodgins scenes, this episode also gave us two other moments I think a lot of us have been waiting for in the conversations between each of them and Brennan.
I’m girl-crushing hard on Brennan right now. I love not only the wisdom in this exchange, but that she frames her thoughts in terms of Kalani:
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you have the whole world supporting you, success can be just out of reach.”
“Then success must be redefined as that which be accomplished.”
When we’re broken, all the love and support in the world won’t fix us – only we can do that, and sometimes doing so means redefining what it means to be whole. Loss isn’t something you ‘get over’ – grief punches a hole into life that we have to learn to live around. Joy and love and laughter are still possible – eventually – they’re just arranged differently than before.
With Angela, I love Brennan’s straightforwardness when she asks if Angela’s going to cheat on Hodgins. There’s no beating around the bush and no judgment, and that honesty allows Angela to express the full range of what she’s feeling, from her fears about what the sex dream meant, to her understanding that only Hodgins can fix himself.
The sex dream was a clever way of showing us what’s at stake. Over the past few weeks, Hodgins has crossed the line into emotional abuse, and that made it easier to understand why Angela might be tempted to stray, even while I desperately didn’t want her to do so. (All of that is indicative of how well the show’s told this story, because I’m firmly in the ‘no justification, ever, for cheating’ camp.)
I was also disappointed in Sebastian during those moments before we knew it was a dream. While I’m happy Cam’s back with Arastoo, I like Sebastian a lot, and was troubled by the idea that he’d go after a married woman in such a way, particularly when he’s still working through his feelings for Cam.
But it was only a dream, albeit one that brings things to a crisis point for the two of them:
“We’re broken. And it’s my fault. Because I am miserable. And what’s worse is I’m making you miserable.”
“So change. I know that this is painful for you. And I know that you think that I couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like. But this is life. It’s hard. And it’s painful. And it is every day. But we fight. We fight together.”
“This is my decision.”
“No. This is a coward’s decision. I am not letting you make it.”
(Guys, TJ and Michaela rocked this scene so hard. Every time I think I understand what this cast is capable of, they up the stakes even more. Kudos to them.)
Anyway, that’s now my favorite exchange between the two of them, and is high up there on my list of favorite dialogues on the show, period, for three reasons:
First, I love what she says about life. It is hard. It is painful. Pretending it’s not, or that we’re entitled to endless sunshine and lollipops doesn’t get us anywhere because whatever hand life has dealt us, that’s what we have to play. We mine love and joy and satisfaction from whatever we’re given, and we do so every day.
Second, that line is a nod to something Buffy says to Angel in a similar scene in one of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together.”
I first watched that Angel/Buffy scene at another dark point in my life, by the way, so the timing of this refrain, compliments of Bones, is particularly interesting. Life is hard, but there’s love and joy along the way if we don’t give up.
Third, I love Hodgins’ response. It’s possible to be so trapped in our own pain that we can’t see a way out; we can’t see a way to begin letting go of the anger. But he still loves her, and when he finally understands how much she needs him, with or without his legs, we get this, which makes me sob:
So I watched the episode, and I smiled at Booth and Brennan’s sex talk, and laughed at their bickering; I wept with Kalani and Angela, and I cheered Jessica and Aubrey.
And afterward, I realized I felt more lighter and more hopeful about my own difficulties. Life is painful, and it’s hard, and, right now, at least, it’s every freaking day. But hope wins.
“You punched a witness.”
“After that misogynist-”
“Same thing. He told you to put a muzzle on me. He’s lucky all I did was punch him.” (Booth and Brennan)
“Nothing says romantic like having your first kiss interrupted by murder.” (Jessica)
“The first kiss is always awkward, there’s lot of awkward moments. I mean, Bones and I, we had many awkward moments.” (Booth, summing up the first six seasons of the show for Aubrey.)
“I’m normally the forward one. Why can’t I be here?”
“Because you’re scared. Maybe you feel differently about him than you have anyone else. You know, it’s easy to want to run away from things that scare you. Easier than trying to fight through the complications.” (Jessica and Cam)
“Will Bones here ever punch anyone again? I-I can’t say. But you should give her a chance to try.”
“You want this committee to forego punishment so Dr. Brennan can try not to hit people?” (Booth, FBI A.D. Schwartz)