I’ve seen comments in a couple of places about this being a ‘filler’ episode. While I respect others’ right to disagree, I think that reflects a limited view of Bones. The show is a dramedy, meaning that the humor isn’t an afterthought; it’s not something tacked on here and there when they can’t figure out a dramatic story. Rather, the lighter in tone/funny eps serve an important purpose: they keep the people watching who enjoy the characters but don’t want darkness every week. (One of my coworkers falls into this category.)
In terms of tone, the order so far this season has been: dramatic, light, light, dark, funny, funny – with what comes next looking like it could be one of the darkest stories in the entire run of the show. That pattern isn’t an accident where they threw out an episode just to fill a week where they didn’t have a story to tell. The point was the humor.
And it succeeded on that score. I’m quite often amused either by dialogue or facial expressions on the show, but I laughed out loud when Booth and Brennan tag-teamed Gene Frong, teaching him some of the consequences of drinking too much beer. Different skill sets, but they play off one another beautifully, and his following up her explanation of how the bladder works by running the water was perfect. (Also, can you imagine the two of them using that kind of maneuver when their kids are teenagers?)
Beyond the humor, though, I think the episode did accomplish some things in terms of overall story:
Booth and Brennan:
Without going into specifics, the promos and spoilers for the next couple of eps sound a little grim for our favorite couple, so the show takes an episode to remind us of the basics about their relationship: they’re very different people; that’s not going to change; and they’re nuts about one another both because of and in spite of those differences.
Brennan not only relies on science to make sense of the world, she loves the framework it gives her for figuring things out. Life is a puzzle to be solved – whether it’s teaching Christine how to ride a bike, or figuring out the best way to chop down a tree – and science guides her to the answer. Booth, on the other hand, enjoys mystery, enjoys beauty and motion for their own sake (rainbows, sports) without having to understand how everything works.
Neither of them are going to change. When they’re in their eighties, they’re still going to be having those same arguments. But that’s okay: part of why she loves him is that his thought processes run so differently from hers; part of why he adores her is that she never stops surprising him.
Friction. Early in the ep, a discussion about bike riding turns flirty and sexual, with Booth reacting to her use of the word, and then Brennan responding to his reaction. I loved it, because I continue to be impressed by how they portray their sex life. There’s only so much the show can give us in terms of visuals, but seeing them flirt with each other over oatmeal…yeow.
But friction also describes their relationship in general. They rub up against each other in every possible way, from their overall view of the world, to how they solve problems, to how they raise their kids…and neither of them would have it any other way. Date nights for them aren’t the conventional movie and a meal, but rather, Booth asking her with a half grin if she’s ‘up for another visit to the lumberjack show’; or going log-rolling after the case is solved.
I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t show us who fell. Part of the point has always been that they’re equals: her brains and science can and do accomplish things his instincts and skills can’t, but the reverse is also true, and Bones is careful to keep that balance for us. He needs her, she needs him, and even with a log-rolling competition we’re left wondering whether her science or his physicality carried the day, well able to imagine it being either one.
The Zack Arc
The basic subplot here is about Zack, and how they’re approaching clearing him. We learn that at some point, Brennan examined the lobbyist’s bones without finding anything useful; that Hodgins believes the blood splatter would be different if Zack were guilty, and finally, that he finds particulates in one of the stab wounds that he thinks clears their friend. Cam disagrees.
In terms of the season-long arc about Zack, it’s difficult to know exactly what to make of what they gave us. Was the point just that they’re working the problem, haven’t found anything yet, and when they do, it will be different from what Hodgins came up with? Or, when the show revisits the arc again, will it build on what he found? (With long arcs, they’ve not always followed up on everything they introduced along the way.)
Was this just a nod to the larger Zack story, or was what was revealed important to what comes later?
I want to know because while I’m glad the arc is popping up, what happened between Cam and Hodgins made me really, really unhappy. (Adverb abuse deliberate.) That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who read last week’s review, where I commented on how happy I’ve been with how they’ve written Cam the past couple of seasons.
This type of scene, where, in the role of Big Bad Boss, she’s pitched against the other characters to generate story tension is exactly what I meant.
Before I get shouted at…I know people who love each other can say and do hurtful things. I’m also aware that someone in a position of authority sometimes has to draw a hard line, even with people she cares about. I get all that. I do. But Cam accused Hodgins of planting evidence and questioned his professional ethics. She didn’t even really try to make it less insulting. She could have: she could have said that his findings were so unlikely (so ‘lucky’) that no one would find them credible, or she could have told him that even if the anthrax was there, the courts would assume bias was a factor and throw it out without something else to support it.
Nope. He says, “You think I planted evidence?” and she doesn’t say no. Instead, she tells this man she’s worked with for eleven years that she understands why he’d lie. Everything they do professionally hinges on their credibility, and she’s just told him that she doesn’t trust his integrity.
Quite often when I have a negative reaction to something on the show, re-watching it helps me interpret whatever it is differently, so I’ve watched that scene a few times now. And there are other ways of looking at it: Maybe Cam said it, but didn’t really mean it – it’s not that she really thinks he’d plant evidence, it’s just easier to believe that than to believe Brennan missed something. Or perhaps she does believe he manufactured data, but it doesn’t really matter because no else knows he did it, they all know Zack is innocent (and thus no one will be harmed by Hodgins’ actions) and, well, everyone makes mistakes.
One thing those re-watches did show me is how difficult it is to tell a story like this when we’re used to the team routinely performing investigative magic. That’s the point of the show, really: most of what they do seems impossible, and yet, every week they pull it off, usually with casual nonchalance. For twelve seasons we’ve been told they’re the best there is, so when they can’t immediately find the answer, it’s disconcerting, and when they (apparently) fail entirely, it’s as if rain is falling upward.
Week after week, we see Hodgins find particulates that tell us impossible things (i.e., where the suspect was born) so when Cam suddenly accuses him of lying about something that doesn’t sound any more improbable to me, really, than determining where the murder happened, it’s jarring.
The real question is what happens next. Will there be a point in the next six episodes where the two of them address what happened here, her lack of faith in him? If it turns out that what he found was a critical piece of evidence in clearing Zack, will she apologize? That would make me ridiculously happy, because I don’t mind conflict as long as it’s resolved in some way. As I said, people say and do really dumb things sometimes, and you find a way to get past the hurt and move on.
Crossing all my fingers on that one. And because I really did enjoy the episode overall…have a photo of those amusing facial expressions I referenced earlier (from the scene where Booth and Brennan figure out exactly how the victim and Helga were ‘training’):
“Don’t you think that it’s good to not know how something works? I mean, come on, science takes the magic out of everything.”
“There’s no magic to begin with. It’s just rules that govern the universe.”
“Next thing you know, you’re gonna be telling her that rainbows are…”
“Light refracted through water? She already knows that.”
“Of course she does.” (Booth, Brennan)
“It will be fascinating to see how non-human viscera effects the decomposition of a human corpse.”
“There goes my appetite.”
“You’d think after twelve years you could handle a little viscera with your oatmeal.” (Brennan, Booth)
“Four years of playing golf and you’re still calling it a golfing stick.”
“It’s a stick used to golf. How is that not accurate?” (Booth, Brennan)
“I’m like a forensic food-ologist.” (Aubrey)