Bones 5X01: “Harbingers in the Fountain”
“I’m back, baby!”
Special Agent Seeley Booth
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Angela’s wonderfully named psychic, Avalon Harmonia (guest star Cyndi Lauper, in an appearance inspired by one of my favorite Bones moments from season three), acts as a thematic backbone for this episode, in which we experience some doubt-inspired non-revelations. It’s Booth’s first case back on the job after six weeks of coma-inspired leave (he’s feeling like a new man), and Brennan has been hiding in Guatemala, as she is wont to do when things get scary. “Scary,” this time, not meaning dead people covered in whatever kind of goo as per the usual (although there is some of that, and even some real physical danger). No, “scary” this time means having everything you know to be true about your way of life called into question. “Scary” means having to face change, change that could either make your world one thousand times better, or kill you (metaphorically speaking). “Scary” means having to face parts of yourself that you buried a long time ago. And it appears that all of those things are at the center of the fifth season of Bones.
Here’s What Happened
We open with Brennan — fresh from the airport — consulting Angela’s psychic, who tells her some things she doesn’t understand, doesn’t believe, and doesn’t want to think about. Meanwhile, Booth is being evaluated by Sweets to determine whether or not he’s fit for duty. Through both scenes, we learn the two haven’t talked since he was released from the hospital, and that what caused Booth to have that elaborate dream from last season’s finale was some sort of mixing of his own thoughts and the book that Brennan was reading out loud to him as he recovered: a book she had written. This caused confusion in Booth, who upon awakening, didn’t know which Brennan was real, the one from his head (his wife, pregnant with his child) or the one standing in front of him (his emotionally detached partner).
Brennan, back in the Jeffersonian to check in with Cam, accidentally sits on Booth in her office, and there is a cute/sad scene involving both of them blowing raspberries (I’ll explain later). Brennan expresses her surprise that Booth is only now being cleared for duty, but it soon becomes evident that he still isn’t completely healed. He forgets about his usual regulation wardrobe rebellion (“funny socks and gaudy ties”), but this revelation is interrupted by the discovery of twelve skeletons under a fountain. Angela’s psychic had given them the tip, so she immediately becomes a suspect. While interrogating her, however, Booth realizes a few things about his coma and about Brennan. The team soon discovers that Avalon’s sister was one of the victims, which means she really is psychic or that she’s involved somehow. While Booth is off having his crisis, confessing to Cam and to Sweets that he is in love with Brennan, we find out that the victims all shared a common medical condition (they were literally allergic to the world around them) and had been seeking a refuge underwater with a fraudulent crackpot who robbed them of their money and then murdered them. Brennan is attacked when they find out the victims were poisoned with anti-freeze, and Avalon is the one that tells Booth to go save her, lending even more credence to her actual abilities.
The episode ends with everything up in the air: they can’t catch the guy for murder because they have no evidence, but they do stick him with like one hundred counts of fraud, and Booth decides not to tell Brennan of his feelings because he can’t trust his own brain.
So What, Bitches?
This episode had three basic functions: a) To alleviate any tensions, misconceptions, and/or confusion caused by last season’s risky finale, b) To set the tone for the rest of the season, and c) To re-introduce characters, concepts, and the show to new or forgetful viewers (a standard challenge for a season premiere.) Frankly, I think it kicked ass on all three fronts, and if you disagree with me, I think we might be viewing the show through very different lenses.
One of the reasons that I love Bones so much, besides its wonderful characters, is that it’s a procedural with a metaphorical heart. It has character development, structural unity, and themes. Oh, the themes! (Themes are my favorite.) And it is smart and very compassionate about people and difficult situations in a way that makes it look easy. In fact, I think sometimes this show makes things look easy in a way that makes people discount it. “Harbingers in the Fountain” is an apt title for this episode. There’s the obvious level: the twelve victims were members of a cult called Harbingers of the New Day. Then there’s the not so obvious stuff, like how all the Harbingers were suffering from a medical condition that made them want to hide from the world, much like Brennan does every single day of her life, only she hides behind science not underwater in a submarine for the rest of her life. Or how about how this whole episode is a harbinger of what’s to come? There are also literal harbingers spread throughout the episode by one Avalon Harmonia. Her tarot readings inspire fear, doubt, and comfort (in that order) for Booth and Brennan.
Speaking of Avalon, Cyndi Lauper’s new recurring role and it’s place in the show is something I have some thoughts about. In the episode, Avalon acts as a counterpoint to all the science flying Booth’s way via the Squints and Sweets. She is central to the purpose and structure of the episode. This episode is about welcoming back the old, but it’s also about questioning the new. Sure we have the gang back together, but it’s a gang — whose center is placed on Booth and Brennan — that isn’t sure where it stands. The early premise of the show has stuck since the beginning: Booth, a man of faith and instincts, has always had things to teach the Squints and Dr. Brennan about real life and life beyond science, and in turn they have taught him to see the world a little bit more rationally. This dynamic has always worked well. It allows the show to let its characters grow and change without fear of backlash, because that’s what the show is about. So, what this whole Booth-Identity-Confusion storyline is doing to the show is essentially making it question its identity. Booth has always been the solid and reassuring one, and now the only person he has on the side of instinct is a psychic, a phenomenon that even “superstitious Booth” doesn’t believe in. Bones isn’t a show afraid to mess with less than definable subjects. The writers create storylines that often seem to imply that there exists things that can’t be quantified by science, a la Avalon’s psychic-ness, and Booth’s faith in God (and love and family). That there are things beyond our understanding is a bold thing for a forensic show to imply, and I think, a smart and well-balanced one.
This is mostly Booth’s episode. Sure, we get hints through Avalon’s and Brennan’s interactions of what’s going on in Brennan’s deliciously complex brain. That Brennan hides her fierce emotions behind a wall of science as a self-preservation thing is something I’ve discussed before, and which fascinates me endlessly. Another was Avalon confronting Brennan with the idea that she can’t fathom why anyone would love her, which led to one of my favorite quotes from the episode (see below). I really hope they delve more into Brennan’s childhood. We know a lot about before she was abandoned and her life as an adult, but we know almost nothing about her stint in foster-care, besides that it was awful and life-changing in not a good way. But really, this one is all about Booth, and for good reason.
Seeley Booth is usually the one with the answers, but this time its the Squints trying to remind him who he is. Usually the most self-assured person in the room, especially when it comes to emotions, Booth is way out of his comfort zone. Emotions and instincts are an integral part of his identity, and how he defines himself as a man. What has happened to Booth is the worst thing that could have happened. He’s lost his center, and it’s making him question everything. As Sweets points out, his sense of reality has been challenged; how can he know who he is? He has these feelings for Brennan, and he’s feeling them really deeply. He glimpsed a possible future that looks positively delicious, but he can’t trust his own brain. So he’s asking himself all these questions that he can’ t possibly have answers for, and he’s got Cam and Sweets telling him to be careful, that his feelings aren’t his own. I mean, what makes us who we are? It’s the whole science versus intuition thing. Booth is an intuitive guy, but he has all these squints in his life who are influencing him, bringing him another perspective: science. And science is making him question who he is, in more ways than one. Take this conversation with Cam in the bar:
Cam: My advice, for what it’s worth? Forget the bruised brain and go with your lion heart.
Booth: Tell Bones how I feel.
Cam: Yes, except be sure about your feelings, because if you crack that shell and you change your mind . . . she’ll die of loneliness before she’ll ever trust anyone again.
Booth, the “lion hearted,” can handle this brain injury thing by himself, but his confused identity is also impacting his partner. He truly feels that he is in love with her and that he’s ready to take the plunge, but Sweets and Cam (and his own forgetfulness) have really shaken him up. He is now unsure of the one thing that he used to be so sure of, the thing that makes him him. Sweets and Cam giving Booth the same advice, trying to protect Brennan (which is Booth’s weak spot), do not trust Booth’s brain and his intuition, which has never happened to him before. It gives him doubt that his thoughts might not be his own. It’s interesting to me how Booth has taken this illness as a question of identity. “Am I the same man?” he asks Cam. Not being able to do undermines his sense of self; it’s why he’s so eager to get back in the field.
Methinks the ending scene holds many hints of the season to come. Booth is all set to ignore Cam and Sweets’ advice and get that love off of his chest when along comes a clown. No, really. But here’s the thing: Booth hates clowns, and he can’t remember. Does it matter that Booth is afraid of clowns? Why is he? Because of some past experience that he’s forgotten, or is it simply ingrained in him? These are really complex issues the show is bringing up, and Booth doesn’t want to mess around with them. If Booth can forget something as integral as his hatred of clowns, then who’s to say this love isn’t fabricated? He can’t take that chance, not when Brennan’s sense of self is wrapped up in it as well, because Cam and Sweets are right. If Booth were to break her, she would be done with the human race, probably for good. I think it’s important, however, to realize that none of the scientific squints (except Angela) have considered that he dreamed he was in love because he IS in love? We’ve got twenty something episodes to find out.
Stuff That Made Me Wish I Wasn’t Eating
- Nothing! Even though I was eating Taco Bell. There weren’t any gooey stuffs! Oh, wait, I lied. When Hodgins was talking to Booth on the phone, there were some giant and disgusting cockroaches in a fish tank. Gag.
Booth/Brennan Sex Watch ’09 (Which I will be continuing, sadly, because THEY STILL HAVEN’T DONE IT.)
- Obviously the main thing that came out of the whole season ending coma dream sequence is that both Booth and Brennan realized they had deeper feelings for one another. The only difference between them is that Booth is ready to accept his, and Brennan — as evidenced by the deletion of her book — is hiding from hers.
- I like how during their reunion scene in Brennan’s office, Booth has to read Brennan’s cues before he can poo-poo the spiritual link Avalon made between them to Angela. There is a split-millisecond that Boreanaz waits to see Brennan’s reaction (which is to blow a raspberry), before he does the same as an act of self-preservation.
- The moment right after is SO AWKWARD. Repression much?
- Cam: “You’re in love with Dr. Brennan.” It is obvious to everyone, apparently. To me, Cam saying this straight out is the writers playing with the fans. Booth expected to make a confession, and we expected to see one. Instead, Cam gives him such much needed honesty.
- The look on Brennan’s face as Booth ditches their breakfast speaks volumes. She really depends on him.
- When Brennan playfully offers to give Booth a kiss on the forehead, too, the look on his face says: “Yes, please.”
- There was something kind of creepy and yet sweet about Booth staying in his dirty shirt, covered in Brennan’s blood. Very emo and self-indulgent, and kind of morbidly romantic. I liked it.
- Booth’s love confession, the end moment when he realizes that he can’t take the chance. I pretty much covered this one above.
Some people are becoming frustrated with the will-they or won’t-they tone of the show, but I think it’s important to remember a couple of things. If you’ve been paying attention, we already know they will thanks to Hart Hanson himself, it’s just a matter of when and how. He has stated in a couple of interviews that he and his team never thought Bones would go beyond a season, let alone be so successful that it would merit a fifth and sixth. They never planned on dealing with the sexual tension between B&B for that reason: they didn’t think the show would last long enough. However, when it became clear that not only was it lasting, but thriving, they needed a new gameplan in order to remain credible as a show. They didn’t want to fall victim to the Mulder/Scully trap, because honestly? Seven years is ridiculous for a couple who are so obviously in love with one another. Which brings me to my next point: the will-they or won’t-they only really started in season three, and only began affecting the plot as of season four. The sexual tension has been there, but they’ve only consciously been messing with it for about two years. (I also have a conspiracy theory involving the FOX network being chicken shitted cockblockers, and nixing the romance.)
Finally, in a lot of ways, Bones is a character study. Its characters are deeply flawed, and one of them (Brennan) has a flaw that prevents her from being able to connect to people. That isn’t something that is to be taken lightly, and if the creators were planning this from early on, they had to have acknowledged that Brennan was not going to be a character easily changed. Change takes time, trust takes time. In contradiction to what some people have been saying, I firmly believe that if this were real life, these two characters would not get together so easily. Brennan has too many hang-ups. Honestly, it’s taken her four years to trust Booth as much as she does. She has issues, you guys. So: lighten up, and if they still aren’t together by the end of the year, then you have my permission to throw a shit-fit.
- Angela: “When Booth woke up he thought they had a whole different life together. He thought that they were married. He thought that for days.”
- Brennan: “You’re the one who told me never to look happy at a crime scene.”
- Avalon: “You never lost anything in that coma, Agent Booth. You gained something.”
- Cam: “The things that make you a great cop have nothing to do with your socks.”
- Avalon, to Brennan: “He sees the truth of you, and he’s dazzled by it.”