Hey BONES Theory friends! I don’t know about you, but I’m still thinking about last week’s episode, The Couple in the Cave. So when Sarah asked if I wanted to put my thoughts down on paper (well, virtual paper at least), I said yes and got to work. Today we’re going to consider the possibility that Booth needed to “abandon” Brennan, followed by an honest conversation about whether or not season six Booth really deserves to be hated on so much. Are you scared yet? Let’s get started!
In the season five BONES premiere, a freshly reinstated (and freshly shaven), six-weeks-post-coma-dream Booth shares a drink with Cam at the bar in the Founding Fathers. It appears they are there to celebrate Sweets’ decision to recertify Booth as fit for duty, but as it turns out, Booth has a bit more on his mind than just work. Always the perceptive friend, Cam saves Booth the awkward introduction and gets right to the point, telling him, “You’re in love with Dr. Brennan.”
Booth then wonders if he is the same man he was before his brain surgery. Does he have the right, under the circumstances, to tell Dr. Brennan the true nature of his feelings for her? “Forget the bruised brain and go with your lion heart,” advises Cam, but, “be sure about your feelings, because if you crack that shell and you change your mind, she’ll die of loneliness before she ever trusts anyone again.” Well, Bones fans, we all know what happened next, don’t we?
He asked. She said no.
He held on. She walked away.
He came back…and he wasn’t alone. She cracked.
To the dismay of Bones fans everywhere, season six brought the crushing realization that Booth has seemingly forgotten his season five devotion to Brennan and is essentially doing everything that Cam told him not to do. Meanwhile, Brennan, who evidently started to crack at some point between the end of season five and the beginning of season six, is reacting exactly the way Cam said she would. This apparent role reversal is brilliantly foreshadowed in the airport scene at the end of the season five finale when we see Brennan try to hold on and Booth pull away first.
So after careful consideration of all the evidence, how do we not conclude that Brennan will eventually die of loneliness as Cam (and even Brennan herself) predicted? Have Booth and Brennan missed their moment; or is it possible that we, in our obsessive focus on Hannah and the inevitable effect she will have on Booth and Brennan’s relationship, missed the big picture entirely?
Remember the point Sarah (Seels) made a couple weeks ago about Hart Hanson focusing on Brennan’s character development above (and sometimes to the detriment of) everything, and everyone, else (BRENNAN WEEK: Temperance Brennan. In Love with Her. Building a World Around Her, 9/23/10)? Well, at some point, I suspect that he and the Bones writing team came to the inevitable conclusion that the best way to force Brennan to conquer her fears was to actually make her face them. It makes sense, after all, that Brennan first needs to move past her fear of abandonment before she will be able to pursue a successful relationship with Booth. Only then can brain and heart learn to co-exist. It also makes sense that the one character capable of forcing a change of that magnitude in Brennan is Booth. The danger, of course, in using Booth (and Hannah) as the catalyst for change, is in the questions it raises about his integrity. My personal opinion is that Booth’s transgressions aren’t nearly as bad as they seem on the surface, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
We all know that Cam wasn’t addressing Booth and Brennan’s potential romantic future when she warned Booth of the risks of cracking Brennan’s shell, but rather Brennan’s well-documented abandonment issues. While her assessment of Brennan’s character was true, the mistake I think I made after re-watching Harbingers in a Fountain this summer was in reading Cam’s statement as an imperative, thus buying into the notion that Booth couldn’t ever abandon Brennan or he’d lose her forever. As a result, I lost sight of the crucial fact that Brennan’s perceived notions about love are absolutely wrong. It’s essential that she comes to understand the true value of love and to be able to give and receive it herself. And because of that, Cam’s warning to Booth had to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Booth had to be allowed mess up where she’s concerned. And by “mess up” I mean come back from Afghanistan with a girlfriend named Hannah. The purpose, I think, is for Brennan to use this “abandonment” to face her fears and break the bonds that have held her down for so long.
So where does all of Brennan’s lovely character development leave Booth? Well, on the plus side, his relationship with Hannah seems to have helped him put some distance between himself and his pain over Brennan’s rejection. Happy Booth is back, and that’s a really good thing. Unfortunately, it also looks like he abandoned Brennan at exactly the wrong moment. And that hurts because despite the good that I believe will eventually come from this situation, that he moved on at all still feels like a betrayal of the character we’ve come to know and love over the last five years.
Or is it? I suspect Booth’s alleged fall from grace isn’t quite as severe as we’d like to believe. What do you say we consider a few issues from his perspective and see if we might be able to muster up some empathy for both Booth and Brennan?
First, and foremost, I think it’s only fair to consider that by the end of season five, Booth really was in a pretty bad place emotionally. He always kind of reminded me of a worm on a hook in the episodes between The Parts in the Sum of the Whole and The Beginning in the End. Although he had been defeated on the relationship front, he couldn’t quite bring himself to completely give up hope, so he just sat there, writhing in pain, waiting for something or someone to come put him out of his misery.
Then the Maluku dig came along and Brennan grabbed the opportunity to both get back to her anthropological roots and gain some perspective in her relationship with Booth. Only… Booth didn’t know about that pesky perspective part. All he knew was that, with a single action, she severed every tie that had bound them together for the past five years. And as breaks go – this one was completely clean. Not a word exchanged in seven months. Talk about a stake to the heart (no pun intended Angel fans).
So there’s Booth in Afghanistan – rejected and abandoned, doing work that I’m pretty sure he didn’t really want to be doing (despite what he told Brennan in the finale). I’m thinking he had a lot of time to build some pretty thick walls of bitterness and anger around his heart. And, ultimately, to find someone who seemed as available as Brennan was unavailable; as open as she appeared closed; and as loving as she appeared incapable of love. I’m not saying these perceptions of Brennan are accurate, but under the circumstances, can you blame him for latching onto Hannah like a man wandering in the desert without any water?
Despite Booth’s obviously cool attitude toward Brennan after their return to D.C., I do think he was trying to protect her somewhat by telling her that his work in Afghanistan was “mostly administrative” (something we know wasn’t true). She did beg him before they parted ways at the end of season five to not be a hero (and as usual, he didn’t listen). His overwhelming need to protect her both physically and emotionally may be somewhat misguided at times, but it’s classic Booth. And no matter what he says about the virtues of moving on, I think that protective spark, although mostly hidden for the moment, still burns pretty brightly. Did anyone notice his barely perceptible (but still noticeable) look of concern at Brennan’s emotional reaction to Hannah’s story during their lunch in The Couple in the Cave? He may act like he doesn’t care, but actions (and in this case, facial expressions) always speak louder than words.
It’s also worth considering what Sweets wrote in his book about Booth suffering from “white knight syndrome.” Booth and Hannah’s relationship began as a result of him saving her life. I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that their relationship provided the validation he so desperately needed after Brennan essentially told him that she couldn’t be saved (“I’m a scientist….I can’t change”). And when you consider the fact that Hannah took a job she hated just so she could be close to Booth (something that Brennan was simply unable to do at the end of season five, regardless of the motivating factors behind her decision), well no wonder he thinks she’s pretty swell!
I guess what I’m saying is that we can’t measure Booth’s character using Brennan’s measuring stick and vice versa. We have to look at each character and judge them on their own merits. We can look at Brennan and feel her pain because we can see that the very foundation of her belief system is being shaken. In the same way, we need to be able to look at Booth’s apparent unwillingness to reach out to Brennan and see it (and Hannah) for what they really are – coping mechanisms he’s using to protect himself from further pain.
So what do you think? Is Hart Hanson using Booth as a tool to force Brennan to face her fears of abandonment? Is Booth’s halo really tarnished, or are we giving him a bum rap? Was it even fair of us to give him that halo in the first place (c’mon, you know we did)? I would really love to hear your thoughts!
Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom of three (all boys) from Maryland. When she’s not cleaning the house, making dinner, chasing kids, helping with homework, or writing about the joys and challenges of raising kids for her local MOPS group’s newsletter, she can usually be found online checking out BONES scoop and theories. She’s married to a wonderful man who likes to shower her with BONES DVDs on her birthday, their anniversary, or just because. Her other interests include reading, listening to music, and hanging out with her best friend (her husband) and family.