Fan Review: The Stiff in the Cliff (Bones)

Anyone who’s read much of what I’ve written about Bones over the years probably knows that the theme I return to the most often in terms of the big-picture story they’re telling is that of their made-from-scratch family.

It’s not that biological family isn’t important, and the show’s told that story, too, (even here, with Cam and Felicia) but the idea that people we’re not related to by blood can become the people we count on to stand by us, often more truly than those blood relations, is compelling to me.

Given that, there were a lot of moments in this for me to love. We not only had the team working to help one of their own, we had Wendell and Clark (I love the idea that the interns are all friends outside of work), Cam and Angela, and that lovely scene at the end between Brennan and Clark. This season just keeps getting better, guys. Truth.


The Case/Clark/Brennan: 

What I liked the most about the case/overall structure of the story was that it all hinged on Clark’s behavior and the fact that he was actually guilty. Not of murder, obviously, but of assault that he knew would leave clues pointing to him, and of falsifying data, which he believed Brennan would view as nearly as bad as murder.

There are other stories they could have told here, including one where Clark’s telling them he’s innocent while evidence is stacking up against him (a variation on what we’ve already seen play out with Brennan) or one where he comes clean right at the beginning about his involvement and asks for her help.

Instead, he’s acting guilty, even before the evidence starts accumulating.  I was a bit wary of that in the beginning, because I kept thinking, ‘he obviously didn’t kill the guy – why isn’t he trusting this team he’s worked with all these years? Why isn’t he trusting Brennan?’

The answer, that he was so ashamed for her to know he’d falsified the logs, that he couldn’t bring himself to ask for her help, made complete sense. We’ve always known that her opinion of him as a scientist and a forensic anthropologist matters to him; now we see just how much.


What I really like, though, is how well this all explains what we’ve seen about Clark over the years. When he first met them, he didn’t want to be part of their personal lives, and made it clear – or tried to – that he was open to professional relationships only. Watching them gradually wear him down on that has been such a delight to me that it’s why, while I love all the squinterns, he’s my most-favorite. (Shhh. Don’t tell.)

We’ve seen him work to prove Brennan’s innocence even though doing so meant the loss of his job; we’ve seen him asking her to trust him to work the Ghost Killer case that she’d lost her objectivity on; we’ve seen him taking over the work in the lab so she could focus on her wedding; we’ve seen him making up a bones rap song for Christine. He came to love them in spite of himself.

And yet behind all of it was the question of why he was so reluctant in the first place, and here, years after we first met him, we learn the answer: the darkest event in his professional life was triggered by a personal relationship with a coworker.

That’s so perfect to me, I can’t even tell you.

One aspect of the story did puzzle me a bit.  Since I was assuming that Brennan considers Clark a friend, I automatically interpreted everything she did through the lens that she knew remaining objective was essential if she was to help him. The end seems to validate that view.

But Booth didn’t seem to see that, and I’m used to him understanding her, often better than she does herself.

Granted, there’s the situation with Christine, which the two of them view very differently.

I’m not at all surprised Booth would be firmly in the camp that Christine should stand up for Emma against a bully. I also liked seeing the two of them checking with each other on it. While under other circumstances, Booth might have been all for Christine giving Lucas a mighty shove into the mud, I like that he respected Brennan’s position on it and encouraged Christine to use her words. (Of course, as Brennan’s daughter, her words are going to be a formidable weapon.)


But I’m not sure I understand Brennan’s preference for Christine not to get involved in the first place. It seems to be saying something about her view of friendship that I can’t quite reconcile with the woman we see, who values friendship even if she’s not always sure how to express it.

My uncertainty there led to confusion over this bit of dialogue:

“Oh come on, Bones, she’s defending her friend. … Bones, you know what, you could learn something from your daughter.”
“If you are trying to imply that I should show more support for Clark, I fundamentally disagree. It is essential for my work that I remain unbiased.”
“Look, all I’m saying is if it was one of my guys, okay, in this situation, I would do everything in my power to save the guy.”

My initial read on it was that Booth didn’t think she was doing anything to help Clark, similar to what it sounded like she was indicating Christine should do when Lukas bullied Emma – stand back, not get involved. That baffled me for a while, because it was so obvious to me that Brennan was doing exactly what would help Clark the most if he was innocent: determining the truth. And how could the person who knows Brennan the best not see that?

But then I had a chat with pal Frankie, and she shared that her take wasn’t that Booth didn’t think Brennan cared, or that she wasn’t doing anything at all; rather, he wanted her to do something more obviously supportive. (Like, you know, take him a box of doughnuts. LOL.)


But Brennan couldn’t do that. She could only continue to follow the evidence in an impartial way. One thing was clear to her: that the truth must come out. She didn’t think Clark was a killer, but, as always, her need for truth trumped her personal beliefs.

When she and Booth meet with Clark in the interrogation room, I don’t sense from either of them a belief that the story is over. They have evidence that he punched Henry, but they both know that’s not proof of murder. (How many cases have they worked where someone who attacked the victim was not the person who killed them?)  It is, however, the point where Clark finally has to decide whether he’s going to trust them, and he does. And once what he’s truly guilty of is laid bare, he asks for her help.

It’s interesting to me that despite her confidence in herself, and her belief that he’s innocent (based on what she tells him at the end), she only promises to re-examine the evidence. No false promises, no grand declarations, just …”I’ll re-examine the evidence, but I’m afraid that’s the best I can do.”

But it’s not. She not only re-examines the bones, she re-reads Eldredge’s book and leads the rest of the team in working all hours to find something that will break the case. And find it she does.

And then, then, she makes the grand gesture Booth had been prompting her for: she writes a defense of Clark for the rest of the forensic anthropology world to see, because proving his innocence isn’t enough, not when his career is at stake.


I love when he hugs her in response, but it left me wondering whether he’ll be any different the next time we see him. The experiences on the expedition affected him in a profound way in a negative direction. What effect will the team’s support, will Brennan’s support, have on him in the future?

What occurred to me only when I was revising this post (for hopefully the final time!) was that given Clark’s situation grew out of his defense of Hazel, maybe the point isn’t whether or not we support/defend/stand up for our friends, it’s when and how we do so: Brennan’s support for Clark was different from Booth’s; in the end, Christine showed her support for Emma by jumping in the mud with her.

(Random thing I’m wondering…in S8’s The Maiden in the Mushroom, it was ‘one of the Emmas’ that Christine bit in preschool. Same Emma she’s now defending? Or complete common-name coincidence? I like the idea that she’s got a pal from pre-school, so unless they say otherwise, I’m going with the former.)


Meanwhile, Cam’s planning her wedding…and we have another callback to an earlier season in the form of Cam’s complicated relationship with her sister. (I love the call backs. Love them.)

But two things struck me in that final scene between them:

First, my heart broke a little that Felicia felt it necessary to say, “I love you, that doesn’t change.”  Repeatedly we’ve seen that Cam doesn’t open up easily to her friends, nor expect anything from the others in terms of their love.  She’s vulnerable in a way that I’m not certain anyone else on the show is, and it hurts me for her that even as old as she is, as surrounded by love as she is, that she still needs to hear that love isn’t contingent on temporary circumstances.


It sort of makes me wish the show could go another eleven years, so I could see whether Cam eventually comes to trust in love – not just from Arastoo, but from all of them.

Second, and related, I loved Angela’s assumption that if Cam was going to have bridesmaids, she’d be one.  On the whole, I’ve felt like their friendship has been portrayed more consistently this season than other seasons, but this simple assumption on Angela’s part gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies.

“That’s what friends and teammates do. They stand up for each other.”

Bonus Quotes:

“You know what they did in that hut? They chowed down on people burgers.”
“Wow. I love a good burger, but that’s where I draw the line.”
“That’s good to know there’s a line, Aubrey.” (Booth, Aubrey)


“Christine’s teacher says Christine called Lukas a troglodyte.”
“She’s using her words.” (Brennan, Booth)


“A boring, run-of-the-mill shipwreck doesn’t exactly sell books, so you figured you’d turn the Yawner party into the Donner party.” Aubrey, to Eldredge


“If Angela and I have learned anything from my being in this chair, it’s that a person can’t possibly know what you’re thinking unless you tell them.” (Hodgins, to Cam)


“Please don’t tell me you want to elope, not after all the favors I called in.”
“No, I don’t want to elope, either. I know it’s silly, but I can’t help it. I want the poofy dress, and the champagne waterfalls and the personalized candy bars and the bridesmaids and the ten-piece band.”
“The have personalized candy bars?” (Felicia. Cam, Angela)


3 thoughts on “Fan Review: The Stiff in the Cliff (Bones)

  1. Loved this. It’s like doing a re-watch without taking the 40 minutes. LOL Our show just keeps getting better and better and that makes me sadder and sadder that it’s ending.

    • LOL! The Readers Digest version? But agree on the show. They could go another few years, and there’d still be stuff I want to know about these characters. Grateful for s12, though!

  2. The writing on Bones is very inconsistent and that is why Bones is just an average show.In season 4 Brennan told Booth that he was a good father for telling Parker he should walk away from a fight unless he was defending someone but in this episode she doesn’t want Christine to get involved while her friend is being bullied,that is lousy parenting and nobody should know more about getting bullied than when Brennan was in school.The up and down writing is what keeps Bones from being a really good show.I hope that at the end of this season there isn’t ANOTHER Booth and Brennan separation.It’s time for Bones to end.14 and counting.

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