Bones Theory

“I Hate Psychology”: The Deeper Meaning Behind Brennan’s Touch



“I find it interesting that I am only afraid of snakes when Booth is around to be jumped upon.”

-Dr. Temperance Brennan, The Mastodon in the Room


Hello fellow BONES fans! It’s really weird to be on the other side of the fence today. Usually I’m the one making comments so it’s kind of scary to be the one doing the actual post writing. First off, I loved this quote in the season six episode opener. What a confession!! Who wouldn’t want to be afraid of snakes, or anything else, with Seeley Booth around? And because I loved this quote so much I felt that I had to share it with the rest of you BONES fans. And it leads me to today’s topic.

I was watching The Body and the Bounty, enjoying the fact that a little bit of the old chemistry was back between Booth and Brennan, when something near the end of the episode caught my attention. Brennan touched Booth’s arm!! My heart leapt with joy and hope filled my heart. After some angsty episodes with a huge wall between Booth and Brennan, I was excited to have hope that someday that huge wall will be torn down and the two people we love will be together. Finally.

            Brennan isn’t normally an affectionate person. In fact, she often comes off as cold and distant to most outsiders. We, as faithful fans, know better of course. We know that she is a warm and caring person. I began to wonder if Brennan even realized that she touched Booth’s arm. Does she realize the significance of touching him? Then I wondered… why does she touch him?

Let’s look at the following:

            Angela tells Brennan that sometimes “knowing when a simple touch is enough” is all that she [Brennan] can do to help Booth in The Soldier on the Grave. Brennan takes Angela’s advice to heart and at the end of the episode, when Booth reveals something painful about his past, Brennan gently lays her hand on Booth’s arm. Booth returns her compassionate touch with a squeeze of her hand. And thus it begins.  

            What’s the difference between Booth touching Brennan and Brennan touching Booth, you may ask? We already know that Booth is a warm, affectionate, loving guy who thinks with his heart. For him to touch someone he cares for isn’t such a big deal. Brennan has issues stemming from her abandonment as a teenager. For her to cross that bridge and make a physical connection is a pretty big deal. As Booth and Brennan’s relationship progresses, so does the way that Brennan continues to touch Booth. At first it’s a touch on the arm and then it progresses to a readjustment of his tie, tucking his handkerchief back into this suit pocket, or one of their infamous ‘guy’ hugs.  

             Why does Brennan touch Booth? In my opinion she touches him to keep a connection between them. She needs to be reassured that he’s there so she reaches out for him, literally. She has found herself in this serious relationship (not quite the romantic relationship we all hope for but serious anyhow) and now she needs the keep a connection so she won’t be abandoned again. She’s been abandoned by others that she’s loved deeply (i.e. her parents, Russ, Zack) and it’s hard for her to keep the connections she has because of her fear of being abandoned. She needs that connection. Touching Booth, whether she realizes it or not, is how she keeps her connection with Booth. It’s how she knows that he’s still there.  

            Seels pointed out in her episode review of The Devil in the Details how Brennan sort of latches on to Booth when she gets creeped out by Neviah. I have to wonder, is Brennan touching Booth, whether it be the arm latch or fixing his ties or guy hugs, her way of ‘latching’ on to him? We know she has serious abandonment issues, so is it surprising that she latches on to Booth through little touches? Another thought, does she even realize that she does reach for him?

            So tell me, fellow BONES fans, what do you think is the significance of Brennan touching Booth? And do you have a favorite moment when she did? How is Booth affected by it? Discuss!


19 thoughts on ““I Hate Psychology”: The Deeper Meaning Behind Brennan’s Touch

  1. I think you’re right she touches Booth so that she can be close to him. It’s like what Angela said in the couple in the cave “You were in a relationship, you just weren’t having sex.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Brennan didn’t realize it at the time that she was also to quote Dr. umm Chef Wyatt “She’s building a life around him.” I don’t think she does realize the electricity that is there when she touches Booth, if she did I’m sure she would have jumped Booth. You’d have to be insane not to right. Even Sweets sees it. His book cover tells us everything Bones: The Heart of the matter. I think that was the title, my brain isn’t working. When Sweets saw the simple act of Brenna putting Booth’s handkerchief back in his jacket he saw that Brennan is in love with Booth but will never admit to it. In my opinion Sweets is also trying to push them together by changing the title of his book. That simple touch tells us so much. There have been so many intimate times when Booth has touched Brennan that had the fans screaming just kiss her already that I can’t possibly name them all. But my all time favorite is in Judas on a Pole at the end where Booth lifts Brennan chin so that she look into his eyes. The second is what Brennan did in Harbingers in the Fountain when Booth shoots the crazy doctor trying to kill Brennan. She pulls out the scalpel and Booth puts pressure on the wound, and all Brennan can do is nuzzle herself next to Booth and cry on his shoulder. That one moment to me tells so much and if Brennan hadn’t almost gotten killed it may have turned out differently, possible for the better.

  2. Wow. Great insight. If you’re right, and I suspect you are, then that says a lot about the end of the 100th episode.

    I’ve seen plenty of comments (on other sites) about how cruel it was for Brennan to grab Booth’s arm and lay her head on his shoulder as they were walking away considering that she had just “broken his heart”…but what if the act of holding onto him was meant to give her physical reassurance that she hadn’t lost him completely? Fascinating!

    • With the 100th episode, that’s EXACTLY what I thought! She was completely latched on. Her body language shows that she refuses to let go of him, which is interesting, given her trip to Maluku.

      • When I watched that last scene, the one as they walked away, I had the thought that that moment belonged not to B&B but ED and DB. By that I mean that the scene had been a particularly difficult, very emotional one and they had both done such a great job with it, and that arm taking and head leaning as they walked away was a way of saying, sort of, “Wow, that was hard. Damn, we are GOOD!” And, I was sort of surprised they left it in because it seemed a bit out of place to me, given the dialogue.

        But it works, too, for B&B. After all that pain, still clinging to each other.

  3. I completely agree with you.
    On the awareness issue, I think when she first started touching Booth, she was very aware of what she was doing. You can even see it in her body language in those first seasons. But, like all her other walls, over time Booth has broken them down and I don’t think she does notice any more, it’s just habit now. The lure of the comfort she receives is too much to ignore and touching Booth has become like a drug to her. Ha! To all of us, right?
    I think my favorite is the pocket square in MoaC, but I think the funniest is her tapping on his shoulder in TTOTT.

  4. Wow, I was just thinking about this a couple of hours ago when I rewatched the last episode! During the scene at the hospital there was a lot of touching, but one of them made me go “whoa!” When they first entered the hospital they were close but not (or barely) touching, but when the camera moves to the bounty hunter girl and then back at them, she hooked her arm with his!! I didn’t really notice it before, but wow, I was surprised! And after that a lot more touching in that scene 😉

    Another touch that hit me was the one in Night at the Bones Museum. When they were walking in the parking lot she slightly touched his arm and he looked down at her hand. This was after the (fantastic) egg scene so he may have been a little pissed then!

    But maybe my favorite touch ever was at the end of Mayhem 0n a Cross, when she put his handkerchief back in his pocked and lingered there *sigh* so many words in that touch…

    I completely agree with your opinion about Brennan seeking connection to him with her little or less little touches 🙂

  5. Brennan’s “sense of touch,” so to speak, has always fascinated me. As someone who took forever to get used to touching people, especially friends, I recognized and appreciated the journey.

    Brennan definitely feels the urge to touch people, and it becomes more obvious over the seasons. The only character that she has never seemed touch-inhibited with is Angela, which is fascinating. One of my favorite Brennan touching scenes was actually not with Booth — it was with Angela in The Skull in the Desert. Brennan goes to hug Angela and Angela asks why she’s hugging her, because if it’s out of sympathy it’s because she (Brennan) thinks that the skeleton is Angela’s boyfriend. It happens again in “The Mastodon in the Room” — Angela tells Brennan that she hopes that she’s hugging her because she’s happy that she’ll be an aunt (metaphorically). Brennan is not a verbal communicator (I’d say Angela is more of a verbal communicator). She speaks more with facial expressions and actions than with words, like in Dentist in the Ditch and Vincent trying to get her approval (he sees her kind of nod and look at him, and he says thank you, and Cam and Hodgins missed it), or paying for Wendell’s scholarship (twice!).

    With Booth, you’re right, it’s a bit different. I think he’s a bit like Angela, and is not as inhibited (not sure if that’s the right word) when it comes to touching people, and I think that while his way of showing people that he cares is more centered towards objects, it is very based in actions. In a way, he’s taught Brennan that it’s OK to touch people in certain circumstances, like when you’re scared, or happy for them, and I think that because she is more demonstrative of her feelings through her actions, it makes perfect sense that it would be through touch that she shows that she cares for Booth. With Brennan the saying “actions speak louder than words” is really, really clear. The beginning of Mastodon in the Room… did you see that hug Brennan gave Booth? It said more than her words have that she missed him.

    I think this is one of the most unique and amazing things about Brennan, and this show. On a lot of TV shows, the characters are demonstrative of their feelings through dialogue (vocal inflection, in particular) most of the time. On this show, we’ve got a variety of different people who show their emotions in different ways. Most are centered in dialogue, because it is television, which is based in dialogue and visual entertainment, but some are not.

    Thank you for this awesome article. I love thinking about this stuff!

  6. I like this post because it reminds me of the I think one of Brennan’s love languages is indeed physical touch.

    I think there is a definite truth to the idea that Brennan is trying to attach herself to Booth and hang on to him by her physical touch. And, looking at her reactions to Booth when he does the same, she is definitely affected by that.
    And whereas Brennan often feels that she is being very clear about things when she speaks, she cannot always adequately express her feelings in that way. It is that physical touch that actually transmits her emotions – her heart. And maybe that is why Booth discovered her heart so much sooner than others – because of that physical touch.

    • Janet,
      I thought of that book too. My husband and I have both read that book and gained a good understanding about what each other’s primary love language is. Would you say that Booth is both physical touch and words of affirmation? He needs to hear that he is a good man from Brennan and I think he does like it when she touches him.

      • Yes, exactly what I was thinking with Booth! I think another of Brennan’s is Acts of Service.

  7. Thank you for this really thought-provoking article.
    The thing about learning to be ‘touchy-feely’ with people is that, in my opinion, it becomes easier each time you do it. After a while you stop feeling so self-conscious and it starts becoming more instinctive. This I think is what has happened for Brennan (and after all, who wouldn’t want to touch Booth?). She might not be prepared to admit as much yet, but I think that she has absorbed a lot of ‘life lessons’ from Booth over the years.
    For Booth it must have been heart-crushing at times because he is only too well aware that she hasn’t grasped the full significance of the effect it must have on him when she does it. (End of 100th Episode is a case in point, I reckon.)
    My favourite moment is in ‘Two Bodies in the Lab’ when she hugs him after he saves her from almost imminent death – all her defenses are down and she reacts completely naturally and normally.

  8. You make some excellent points. If you recall in Season 1, Booth stated in a number of episodes that, “she doesn’t like to be touched” so to be at the point where she accepts touches and reaches out to touch others shows a great deal of growth on her part. Also, the fact that she is initiating touches is huge. She is no longer just responding, but also initiating.

  9. Great first post Nicole! 🙂
    And I completely agree with you! Now I do gotta run and rewatch the ending of the Body and The Bounty.
    And like Stephanie said, it means a lot for the ending of the 100th episode when Brennan goes as far as looping her arms through his and even putting her head down on his shoulder.
    Which is why I think you’re right when you say that she does it to reassure herself that he’s still there. In that moment she probably needed that reassurance more than ever.
    I hope the fact that they are back to touching each other means that we’re close to a breakdown and all those walls will be destroyed.

  10. I agree…and love…this topic about Brennan’s touch, because touch is so important to all humans. So…I looked at touching from Booth’s perspective. Brennan is the only one that is allowed to touch Booth. He cringes if anyone else tries to, backs away and basically withdraws from any sort of touching or hugging, unless he initiates it. But not with Brennan. When she does touch him, I don’t see any sign that he’s uncomfortable…not even at the end of the 100th. He knows her, and that that’s the way she shows him she cares and validates his place in her life. So it seems to me Booth has as many issues with touching as she does, given both of their backgrounds. His maybe more so than hers, because he (likely) suffered more physical abuse than she did. Booth touches Brennan as a way of being her “white knight” protector, which includes the emotional aspect, too, such as when he guides her through doorways by placing his hand on her back. It’s his way of saying “I’m here for you.” He’s not much better at verbalizing his feelings than Brennan is when it comes to extremely personal issues. By touching each other they connect in ways they can’t do otherwise. At least not yet. Hope and patience, my friends!

  11. Brennan pinching Booth on the cheek in the car in Season 1—The Man on the Fairway, I think.

  12. What’s also interesting is when we look to see WHO and HOW Booth touches. It’s not many people, not really. And he has different ways of expressing touch to different people.

    As far as Brennan, I think my all time fave is the same as Ange’s, which is her putting his handkerchief back into his pocket.

  13. I agree with all the posters that #1 this is fun to think about, and #2 that touch is B & B’s “love language”. Touch can say things without having to verbalize them aloud. Neither person is truly ready to get down to the real nitty gritty of their feelings…even Booth on the 100th just said he wanted to “give it a chance” which is still not an “I love you”. And I do believe that they do both love each other, and yes, romantic love as well as friendship love. I know many other posts have touched on their backgrounds why each one has trouble in relationships, etc. so I won’t go on, but I think that at this point, both of them have now expressed “feelings”, and they know it, and they know the other one knows they know it, etc (haha) as evidenced on the elevator…but still…STILL they won’t address it verbally and put it out there officially.

    So. All we have is touch. I agree that Booth touches as her protector, to show he is supporting her. I do think he is aware of his touching and why. Brennan I agree touches to have tangible proof that he has not left her like others have, that he is real, and there. I think she is aware of the touching but not the “why” of it…she does hate psychology, you know? Probably because it hits so close to the truth of her (and she is not yet dazzled by her truth). So, I think Brennan’s are subconcious touches.

    However, Booth is aware of her touches. You can see it on the hospital kiss on the cheek, when she disrobes him for “evidence”, when she fixes a tie, when she cracks his back. He knows. He also knows she doesn’t know why (or won’t admit to it) and that she doesn’t know how it affects him. And he sure won’t let her…cuz then she’ll stop! 🙂

    Its this little back and forth dance they’ve done since day one, and the little touches keep them tied to each other (and keep us watching, eh, viewers?) and hopefully we’ll get to that date on the papers they burned and we’ll see a little more than “casual” touches!

    • Also, this reminds me of a quote from possibly the best movie ever, While You Were Sleeping (Bill Pullman, Sandra Bullock).

      I think Jack (Bill Pullman) explains it best:

      Jack: And then you *leaned*
      Lucy: And then I leaned.
      Jack: Yeah.
      Lucy: Okay, how did I lean when I leaned?

      Jack: It was a lot different from hugging. Hugging’s very different. Hugging that involves arms and hands; and leaning is whole bodies moving in like this…
      [leans toward her suggestively]

      Jack: Leaning involves *wanting*… and *accepting*…

  14. Pingback: When the Walls Come Tumbling Down « Bones Theory

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