I had every intention of using the three-month (?) Bones break to disconnect from the show, and start watching something new in the interim. There are so many new shows out there, and so little time! I’ve failed at that resolution, but this is a new week, right?
(I’m blaming my terrible internet connection. It isn’t fast enough to stream anything for more than five minutes. Plus I live in Narnia, which means I can’t use all those nifty sites to catch up on anything. Which sucks because I really want to watch The Americans, dammit. But I digress.)
In any case, the reason I’ve failed is because a few days ago, I got the inkling to rewatch season 9. I kept remembering, in recent weeks, that it was a very strong one, yet I haven’t seen any of the episodes since they originally aired, thanks to a hectic work schedule this past year. And I was in the mood to really reconnect with the show, without any distractions. (God, I sound like a self-help book. What is wrong with me?!)
I’ve been watching about one episode a night before going to bed, and it’s been really illuminating. Sure, some plot holes are even more glaring since the dust has settled (how was Booth supposed to keep the engagement interruptus a secret exactly? Pelant’s “I want to challenge the entire squint squad to prove I’m smarter than all of them combined– lol jokes I’m really in love with Brennan and want to make her my queen” schtick, etc.), but on the other hand, what’s even more obvious now is how well-crafted the storylines were, at least for the first four episodes I’ve watched so far. I love the arcs that were carried through consistently in them — the Pelant threat, Sweets’ professional anxiety, even Angela’s anger at Booth. It’s much more serialized than this show usually is, and for someone like me who loves character-driven stories, it was the cherry on the sundae.
For some reason, I feel the need to talk about them, despite the fact that I already wrote novel-length recaps for most of the episodes. I’m kinda taking a page out of thetvmouse’s books and going over a couple of episodes per post like she has for her excellent X-Files commentary. (Go read them, if you’re a fan of the show, because they’re brilliant.) Basically, I’m summing up at the end of each DVD disc, because that’s how I roll. Maybe I should wait until I get to the end of the season and do one giant post-mortem instead, but what would be the fun in that? Hell, I might do one at the end, anyway.
So onward and upwards for season 9! It’s the year that brought us national treasure Aldo Clemens (WHEN IS HE RETURNING?!), an end to Pelant (in retrospect I’m almost sad to see him go), a wedding (at last!) and a funeral (… of sorts), and all kinds of things in between.
1. The Secrets in the Proposal
Oh, the pain, you guys. Everyone is miserable, and no one knows what to do about it.
What strikes me even more this time around is how amazing the performances are, especially from Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz.
Booth is edgy, frazzled, and totally paranoid, while also scared out of his mind — both of what Pelant will pull next, and of what Brennan will ultimately do about their relationship. He’s a bit in denial about how bad things are, as he is wont to do, and it takes Cam to knock some sense into him that Brennan won’t put up with this forever. Booth is usually so cocky and sure of himself, so to see him “tin-foil hat paranoid” with Aldo is unlike anything we’ve seen from him in the previous eight years. It’s jarring, to be honest, yet makes perfect sense given the pressure he’s under.
On the other hand, Brennan is borderline (or actually) depressed, which is also completely out of the norm for her. She hardly has any life to her eyes; even her affect has changed, and she’s much more subdued and reserved than usual. I remember her looking sad when this first aired, but this was a whole new ballgame, even beyond season 6’s trauma. She isn’t eating, she seems like she probably isn’t sleeping much either, she isn’t interested in anything, and she looks lost in space whenever anyone tries to engage with her, whether it’s Booth at the crime scene, Angela at the diner, or Cam at work. It’s no wonder she reaches a boiling point here: it’s no way to live, and she realizes it, even if it’s going to break her heart. Again, it’s a Brennan unlike any we’ve ever seen, and I have to give Emily Deschanel major credit for that.
Another thing that struck me all over again was how great their respective support systems are. Sweets and Caroline are both worried about Booth, because this whole proposal takeback is out of character for him, as is the rest of his behaviour, but they don’t know what to do about it. Cam has to straddle both lines: she was Booth’s friend first and knows him the best, but she sees Brennan everyday and has become close to her, too. (Reminder that I really want to write that Cam essay someday.) Which is how she’s able to point out that they’re both miserable and that means they still care. Then there’s Angela who will defend Brennan to the death, as per usual, and she doesn’t care what gets in her way. (Especially Booth.) And Hodgins, who very serenely intuits that there’s something else going on with Booth and that they need to butt out, for both their sakes.
Plus, Aldo. I remember being a little irked that they were dropping this brand-new character into season 9 who would have this backstory with Booth we’d never heard of, because that’s usually a plot device of Cousin Oliver proportions. Instead, he was awesome. He has a very different dynamic with both Booth and Brennan, and they both work. He’s the crusty, bitter tough-love guy with Booth, but he’s enchanted (and enamoured) by Brennan, yet still able to hold his own with her. I know Mather Zickel is super busy on award-winning shows like Masters of Sex now, but I so, so want him to come back now. And not in an alternate universe in which he’s a sexist pig with a bad English accent in 1950s Hollywood.
(It also made me think that there should be an essay about how Hart Hanson addresses religion in this show, because it’s fascinating, but that’s a whole other tangent.)
That last scene, though, is a thing of beauty. Booth certain that Brennan has finally given up on him, then completely relieved when she tells him she hasn’t. I thought Booth was near tears there, so kudos to David Boreanaz. I’m still a little miffed at Brennan being the one to apologize to Booth, when she didn’t do anything wrong and was right to be fed up with his behaviour, but, I don’t dwell on it, because otherwise the scene is so lovely. Brennan is so calm and self-assured and back to being the woman we know and love who is in love, and proves she is the rock in their family.
I had a lot more feelings, but I watched this last week and didn’t take notes, so consider yourselves spared. (Plus, there is that whole recap I wrote, too. I haven’t even read it.)
Wait, this is the episode with Freddie Prinze Jr. right? Whatever happened to Danny? And his CIA job offer? I must know these things.
2. The Cheat in the Retreat
I’m going to admit off the bat that I really love this episode, and enjoy it even more on each subsequent viewing.
Yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out: Booth and Brennan are forced to go undercover to a marriage retreat to catch a killer, but they just broke off their own engagement! Oh the potential for layers — which is completely ignored! Then they have to go to a sharing circle and someone asks if “Tony” ever keeps secrets from her and we all yell YES HE IS and implore “Roxie” to bring that up, and instead we get them fighting over Booth’s beer helmet and Brennan’s tribal art. It’s a wasted opportunity, absolutely. But you know what? I’m fine with it now, especially knowing how they bring the actual secrets up two episodes from now. Booth and Brennan had a job to do here, and bringing up your friendly neighbourhood serial killer’s machinations in a roomful of strangers is probably not conducive to that. Besides, I’m choosing to believe Brennan’s pointed look towards Booth when asked about his secrets is a nod to it all.
Moreover, what I loved about this is that we get a glimpse into Domestic!B&B that we never would otherwise. Sure, we get the teaser or tag scenes with breakfast or post-case drinks, usually involving bickering, but we don’t see them fighting over leaving the toilet seat up or interior design choices. Which I don’t think I ever would want to see on a regular basis, but it worked within the context of this episode. I love how “Roxie” unintentionally drops the accent when she brings up the beer helmet, indicating that this is not undercover fake-irritation, but real-life Brennan irritation at Booth’s quirks. (Man, that beer helmet sure has gotten a lot of mileage on this show.) Just like how we know the “African fertility statue” must be the bane of real-life Booth’s existence when he rants about that. (Um, I take it Brennan wasn’t kidding when she said she was inspired by it, ifyouknowwhatImean
later this year.)
Yet, what was the best part of this episode is how well Booth and Brennan work together, both professionally and personally. As always, they are a team, on all fronts, and are at their best together. It’s why Pelant’s plans (spoiler alert) will never work. Like Brennan would later say, they really are bound to one another.
Plus, Bill and Evelyn are adorable, even if they’re homicidal. Is that weird to say? Frankly, this time around, they reminded me of what Max and Ruth Keenan would probably have been like — you know, old-timer conmen (con people?) robbing people while being desperately in love with one another? No wonder Brennan felt such kinship with them. (Or why Booth thought they were “the greatest couple ever.”)
Again, Brennan? Is so completely serene. Not in a scary, medicalized way, but in a way only someone completely sure of herself and her relationships can be. Like when Angela asks her what she learned about her relationship with Booth at the retreat, and she says that she realized their relationship is “very good” compared to most — understatement of the century, right? But she’s just so, so happy at that, and not even Angela’s snark can harsh her mellow. (Actually, if I think about it, that serenity and zen has carried through into season 10, now.)
That grace follows through in the last scene. I mean, sure, it’s all about Booth and Brennan G-rated sexytimes where we don’t actually see anything, but Brennan is just so confident in both of them, and again is the rock of their relationship. She wants to reconnect through their “energy,” because she wants to nurture their relationship. She’s just so goddamn smiley, you guys. It’s so wonderful to see compared to earlier seasons. And Booth can’t help but be charmed by it, either. Which is why he must kiss her senseless. Ah, stupid beautiful babies.
On the serious side, Sweets’ building frustration (which I lOVED LOVED LOVED) comes to a head, and he decides to take a leave of absence, and it breaks my heart but in a totally brilliant way. THIS is how Sweets should have been written out (and was, originally — damn you movie studios and your messing with John Francis Daley’s schedule), and I would have bought it hook, line and sinker.
3. El Carnicero en el Coche
Is this the first episode to be titled in a language other than English?
You know what, I’ve been a big fan of all the bonus episodes in seasons 8 and 9 and think they’re vastly underrated, which I take it is an unpopular opinion in the fandom. However, the reason why this one appeals to me in particular is because it follows through on the stories we’ve established this season. Whereas the other bonus episodes in these two seasons were meant to fit just about anywhere, this one was obviously written to be exactly where it was, with mentions of Pelant’s carnage and Sweets’ departure. So, I take this less as a “bonus” episode, and more an episode that was shot out of order. Anyway.
Yes, the case is totally heavy-handed. Gangs are bad! Mothers who are in gangs are especially bad because they will choose the gang over their children in a heartbeat! Kids in gangs don’t stand a chance! etc. But that’s kind of par for the course on this show. As usual, the more compelling part is the individual stories, namely Sweets feeling like he needs to make a difference, in light of Pelant using his profession against him in season 8. Sweets probably did need professional help himself, but obviously no one in his circle was willing to cast the first stone. I loved seeing him so desperate to connect to Javier, as if making a difference in just this one kid’s life could be the road to salvation for him. Sigh. Poor Sweets. This really was Sweets at his best — his kindness and generosity were overwhelming, and while the odds were stacked against Javier, you knew he at least had a fighting chance with Sweets in his corner. (I take it now that Sweets is gone, Javier is screwed.)
I also loved how worried everyone was for Sweets, because he is their Baby Duck after all. If only that story could have carried on for longer throughout the season — even though now I totally understand why it didn’t. (Short version: Sweets really was supposed to take a leave of absence from the show while Daley shot the new National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. At the last minute, the project was put on hold, but the episodes were already in the can. Hence his quick turnaround in the next episode. And why he was written off permanently in season 10.) And honourable mention goes to Brennan astutely pointing out the realities of gang life on kids, as tough as it is to hear. She’s nothing if not accurate, yet it feels less like an anthropology lesson from her and more like the voice of experience. (Not that Brennan’s been in gangs, but that she’s come across it all to often in her work.) And to Javier for being adorable in the midst of so much tragedy in his life. He must be the most sympathetic killer the show’s ever had, am I right?
Plus, it gave us the whole gang (including Caroline!) hanging out at the Founding Fathers for drinks after work, which I desperately missed, so there’s that!
4. The Sense in the Sacrifice
This one was a total revelation to me.
I haven’t given this episode a second thought since it originally aired. I definitely think it got stuck in the “ding dong the witch is dead”/thank god Pelant is finished/YAY B&B CAN FINALLY GET MARRIED hoopla last year. I remember feeling underwhelmed when it aired for a variety of reasons, namely that after all this time, Pelant’s true motivation was simply that he was in love with Brennan, and that Booth’s proposal really wasn’t much of a proposal.
Now, I repent.
Yes, those two factors still irk me a little, but instead what I take out of this episode is just how action-packed it is.
I love that the entire team is brought into relief here. Everyone is at the top of their game, and we get to watch it all.
However, Brennan, as always, is my homegirl, and I feel like she is especially well lauded, and not just because she is the object of a serial killer’s affections. She’s in almost every scene, and she’s the glue that holds the team together. Everything is designed to show us how brilliant Brennan is, and not in a showboating, superficial kind of way, but in the way that made Brennan so compelling from the start: her brain works in ways no one else’s does. It’s caused her pain and strife in the past, but it’s also what makes her so good at what she does. I had so many thoughts while watching this last night, but of course now can’t remember any of them. Such is life.
And on a totally shallow note, she looks fabulous while hunting down a serial killer. Basically, everything she chooses to be in this episode harkens back to the pilot, and I love it.
Moreover, Aldo’s back! And again, he’s got scenes with both of the Bs! He’s a sounding board for Booth and his dilemma over killing Pelant, and he’s a confidant for Brennan when she wants to know where Booth’s head is at. Seriously, he could go rogue and be a PI with Booth if they ever went down that road.
In retrospect, yes, the Pelant seduction reveal is trite, but it makes sense in its own way. I do love the scene where Sweets bursts into Booth’s office with his Eureka moment, because it’s just so him. (Sniff. Baby Duck.) Especially when he corners Booth about Pelant interfering with his relationship with Brennan — you know that Sweets has been wondering about this for months, but finally had a valid, professional reason to bring it up, and his intuition is right. Aw, Baby Duck. And let’s be honest, who isn’t in love with Brennan, right?
I mean, I’m still a little disappointed that after Pelant’s awesome introduction in “Crack in the Code” in season 7, where he was a foil for the entire team put together and seemed to be targeting each member individually, starting with Hodgins, it turns out he was doing it all for Brennan so he could club her over the head and sneak her off to his lair. It seems so pedestrian, in an odd way, but just like I said back then, I suppose that’s the point — that this brilliant evil genius is consumed by his basic desires as much as anyone else.
That being said, he entertained me so much more this time around. I love him confronting Brennan in Limbo like he’s getting ready for school. I love him challenging her and making her unsure of herself, because it’s delicious to watch Brennan struggle with it (and will be for the rest of the season, if memory serves me right). I love that Brennan admires Pelant’s genius while abhorring his actions. I love him sparring with them both. I love that he introduced the Ghost Killer concept, because that was a brilliant way to tie the entire season together and move from one arc to the next seamlessly. And I absolutely guffaw every time he tells her “I tried to design the explosion to shield you from the blast, but nobody’s perfect!” like he just ordered her her favourite flowers or something. Maybe this is a case of the grass being greener on the other side, but yeah, I admit now that I almost kind of miss the weasel, because he was such a great foil for everyone. (If only he had stayed “local” in his criminality, instead of turning into Dr. Evil with the drones.) I only wanted his story over with because he’d become such a cartoon, but in hindsight, the idea of Pelant was a great narrative choice, to me, even if the execution was sometimes a little lacking.
I also enjoyed watching Booth wrestle with how to handle Pelant. He’s always been the White Knight, even when he has to do something bad (like killing someone), so to see him admit that he wished he’d killed Pelant months ago when he had the chance was a big deal. He knows, ethically, the guy should be caught alive, but his gut says Pelant needs to be stopped permanently. So how do you sanction that? Well, lucky for him he has Brennan, who basically takes the choice out of his hands. We rarely get that much insight into Sniper!Booth, so it was a cool exercise. In addition, I loved seeing Cam be the one to teach us about Booth — i.e. “I feel bad for Pelant because he just killed someone who saved Booth’s life so he’s dead meat” — because I love her friendship with him and want to see more of that. Thanks for the nod, Show. (Man, what I wouldn’t give to see Brennan and Cam shoot the shit re: Booth one day.)
Oh yeah, Flynn! Poor Flynn! Your last year of life sucked ass. Maybe you and Sweets can share umbrella drinks in Bones heaven and commiserate over unceremonious exits?
Of course, there’s the (non-)proposal. Look, I’m not gonna lie, for whatever reason I don’t even understand myself, I wish Booth had uttered the words “Will you marry me?” after that sweet scene — and now that I have watched it again, I’m just going to pretend he did once the camera shifted back to the squints. What I noticed this time was how quiet and shy and nervous Booth got once he broached the subject with Brennan — again, it’s unlike any Booth we’ve ever seen. Brennan’s stood by him through thick and thin when she had every reason to give up on him, which essentially proves her point that she’s with him for life, but he’s still worried she might say no if he asks for real — and it’s so sweet, oddly. So I loved the emotion behind the scene, and I give them all props for that.
Plus, who doesn’t love a little meta commentary from the squints? “I feel like we missed a whole bunch.”/”Who cares, we were here for the big happy ending.” — I see what you did there, Show.
Anyway, what I’m saying is that on this rewatch, an episode I remember as being merely “OK” now ranks up there with the likes of “Two Bodies in the Lab” and “Aliens in a Spaceship” in terms of pacing and suspense.
Well, that’s the first four episodes of season 9. Think I can keep this going for the next 18?