Now turning to Cam and Arastoo, and their relationship, and whoo-boy. I have so many Thoughts.
I have a whole mess of feelings about Camille Saroyan.
First, yeah, there’s what I’ve commented on before, that I think they sometimes overplayed her as ‘bad boss.’ It’s not that I don’t recognize that there would be tension in that situation, but rather that much of the time, it seemed pointless to me. Cam would be the villain, and then it would be over.
One of the great joys for me in the past few seasons is that, overall, we’ve seen this less. When she’s having to be the mean grown-up, we often see that it’s costing her, and, not infrequently, that the cats she’s herding are responsible for the mess she’s trying to clean up. There’s still not as much follow-up as I would have liked, or, even better, acknowledgement from the, er, cats about the position they put her in, but, well, you can’t have everything.
But there’s another story with Cam, having to do with how she seemed to me to change after S5. I find it difficult to articulate what I mean, and more than once I’ve wondered if I’m imagining it. After all, if the show was telling a deliberate story there, wouldn’t it have been clear they were doing so?
But whether it was part of the story or not, it influenced my view of Cam, so I’m going to unpack it here a bit. (Because…if not now, when?)
Prior to the S5 finale, Cam seemed more confident to me, more sure of herself. She was still vulnerable at times, but generally, she struck me as a woman quite comfortable with who she was. She was also more open with the others when she was struggling with something.
And then The Beginning in the End happened, and they all bailed on her. To be clear, I don’t blame Booth or Brennan for doing so – I think they were both in crisis mode and leaving was the only option. But the fact that Hodgins took Angela and ran off to Paris without once appearing to think about Cam is still the only time in the twelve seasons of the show that he let me down.
Yes, I know he was in love, and no, I wouldn’t have expected him not to go at all, but geeze. The arrogance all of them displayed in thinking they could just up and leave for a year and expect that Cam would keep things running so they could come back to their jobs and find everything the way they left it was breathtaking. (Seriously, which is it? She can keep things running in your absence because you’re not that essential, or you’re so irreplaceable that of course those jobs will be waiting for you?)
In any respect, things go south, and then Caroline-the-hero calls them, they all come home to save her. Yay, team! (I’m not being snarky – I do love that when push comes right up against shove, they all rush home for her.)
But things are never quite the same where Cam is concerned. It’s not that we don’t see her being strong, or the leader. But to me, she’s never as sure of herself, or her place on the team after that point. She becomes more private and much less willing to discuss her life outside the lab with them, for one thing.
The same woman who once casually talked about preferring to read ‘feminist trash’ (aka sex books) over Brennan’s novels freaks out completely when Arastoo outs her enjoyment of shopping channels; the woman who opens up to both Booth and Brennan about her relationship with Andrew and her love for Michelle finds it difficult to accept help from any of them when her identity is stolen.
None of this is a criticism of the show, by the way. I don’t know if that change was deliberate and they intended for her to be different, or that’s just how my brain filtered things after what happened. But I think that’s why I was always particularly sensitive to her relationships with them after that point, both positive and negative.
Cam and Brennan:
One of my favorite relationship arcs on the show is between these two. From their détente in The Boy in the Shroud, to Cam turning to Brennan for strength to autopsy Sweets, to this moment in The Next in the Last, when Brennan acknowledges her reluctance to hurt her friend, it’s been a wonderful journey for me:
“Dr. Brennan, when were you planning on telling me?”
“I…wasn’t sure. Because you are not merely my superior, you are also my friend. The thought of hurting you…clearly this is not my area of expertise, and for that, I apologize, and hope that you can forgive me.”
Cam and Booth:
Maybe it says I’m hopelessly optimistic, but I love the idea of friendship enduring past break-ups (which we see repeatedly in Bones, to different degrees.)
But it’s not just romantic history that Cam and Booth share; it’s a decades’ long knowledge of one another that enables her to tell Brennan the truth about Jared in Con Man in the Meth Lab; and it’s that same history which allows her to confront him with his feelings in Harbingers in the Fountain.
It’s not one-sided, though: while we don’t often see her turn to him, he’s there when she needs him most, including going with her to Iran. (Yeah, I keep mentioning that, but I loved it a lot.)
Not everyone can be the love of Booth’s life, but happy are those he counts as friends.
Instead, it turns out that the love of Cam’s life is Arastoo, and that was initially a problem. It wasn’t the same, at all, as Booth and Brennan moments the show skipped between The Change in the Game and The Memories in the Shallow Grave. I’d seen so much of their relationship, I had no problem imagining those scenes, and was perfectly happy with what they gave me instead.
But with Arastoo and Cam, we went from a discussion about his embarrassment over a paper not being published in S7’s The Don’t in the Do to the reveal ten episodes later, in S8’s The Bod in the Pod, that they were in an established, secret relationship. And I still can’t visualize how that transition happened, can’t ‘see’ the moment she stopped viewing him as an employee.
It no longer matters, though. While it was a stumbling block for me for quite a while, they’ve now been together so long, and we’ve seen them navigate so many types of situations together, how they began is irrelevant. About the time the show started to tell the story of his brother in Iran, I realized I was actively rooting for them.
Her love for him is never clearer than the speech she makes in his defense in The Murder in the Middle East:
“Why not? Because your son drank? Because he fell in love with a woman you don’t approve of?”
“I’m not surprised you defend him. In the eyes of Allah, you’re also a disgrace.”
“How dare you…You don’t even know Arastoo, and yet you condemn him. You don’t see what he does every day to uphold the pillars of your religion. Prayers, fasting, giving to the needy…the only acts of defiance he’s ever committed have been in the name of love. So I don’t care what you do to me. I will not listen to you judge him.”
And his love for her, including while she was dating Sebastian and his efforts to protect her privacy in The Movie in The Making convinced me utterly that they deserve each other, and all the happiness they can find together.
I’ve liked a great many Arastoo scenes, but a couple are particular favorites.
First, as I referenced above, there was the moment Cam asks him for a ride home at the end of The Monster in the Closet, and he – of course – says yes, all the while making it clear that he’s not assuming anything. He’ll wait with her, so she’s not alone, and then leave. It’s unnecessary, because Cam’s realized she wants him, but the fact that he loves her enough to want what’s best for her, even if it’s Sebastian, had me falling in love with him. He never pushes her.
But my all time favorite Arastoo moments are from The Patriot in Purgatory.
I can’t figure out how to say this where I don’t sound ridiculous. But I promised myself when I began these posts that I’d be honest, both about my feelings and the effects the show has had on me. That’s what this is. It’s also simply about me – not what anyone else should see.
Long ago, I studied religions, including Islam, in college. I like to think I was open-minded (particularly since, as a psych major, I’d taken classes on the psychological origins of cultural bias – how and why we classify people as ‘other,’ where stereotypes come from, and how to resist them.)
In fact, even after the world changed on 9/11, I made a point of trying not to be influenced by what I saw and heard around me. (Terrorism is a hideous reality. But when it’s another culture – or a bunch of cultures, for that matter – how do you distinguish between what’s true of the culture, and what’s true of individuals or subsets within that culture?)
We all want desperately to be seen as individuals, and yet, it often seems as if the easiest thing in the world is to judge people based on how we’re classifying them.
Anyway, I thought I was doing a fairly good job on that front when Arastoo was introduced. And then I kept being surprised by the character, and gradually admitted to myself that I’d bought into more stereotypes than I’d realized.
The fact that Arastoo is played by Muslim Pej Vahdat mattered. He’s said in interviews that the show encouraged his input into Arastoo, particularly the religious aspects. Does Arastoo represent all Muslims? Of course not, which is the point. (I can think of a number of people right now who identify as Christians that I can say with certainty don’t represent me.)
Getting back to The Patriot in Purgatory…while his impassioned response to Finn moves me, it’s what he says later, when the interns are sharing their where-they-were-on-9/11 stories that touches me most deeply:
“I was at morning prayers. I didn’t believe that day. I didn’t believe in anything that day.”
Even now, when I’ve watched that scene a hundred times, I get a lump in my throat, because…that was me, that day, too.
All of this took on greater personal meaning two years ago, when a young relative, someone I’m very close to, fell in love with a Muslim man. He’s warm, and funny, and one of the kindest people I know, and I’d like to think I would have been open-minded toward him, even if I’d never watched Bones. But because of Arastoo, I’m less surprised by my now Muslim relative (they married last summer), less likely to assume things without even realizing I’m doing so. That matters to me – and they’ve told me it matters to them, too, so I’ll always be grateful to the show for that.
Tomorrow: Favorite team moments