“The way you really help me is when you let me be a guy”
“I help you be a guy?”
“Yeah, you know, it’s a guy’s thing to fix things and make them right. When I fix things, I feel like I am one with the universe.”
I’m feeling a bit of a hesitation about this post. On the one hand, I’m completely confident in my opinions and the facts I am about to lay out for you. But on the flip side, I know that a lot of people I really like will not agree with me. Normally, I avoid those kinds of posts, but in this case, I feel I cannot do so. I’m not looking to call anyone out, but I firmly believe this: Booth has not changed. And I want to prove that to you.
Booth has not changed. His situation has changed; that is not the same as him changing. Opinions of him may have changed, but this is also not the same as Booth actually changing. And even if there is unhappiness in public opinion re: the direction in which his ‘Boothyness’ is being shown, it doesn’t mean he’s changed.
This has been something that has been stirring in my mind since the season six premiere, when I was shocked by complaints from fans that “Booth isn’t Booth anymore”, but it wasn’t until after this past episode, The Bones That Weren’t, that I felt I really must plead my case. The impetus is this:
In my GMMR review of that episode, here is what I said about Booth…
As far as Booth goes, I’d say it’s pretty clear he’s also acting out of his normal way of precisely and deliberately making things “right.” Did you notice that he insists things between Hannah and himself are great because of what he’s “doing” in the relationship: making a nice dinner, putting the seat down, etc. It makes sense that once Booth found himself in a serious relationship, he would absolutely do everything he could to make it work perfectly.
Throughout the comments of that review, I received several statements where people replied with something to the effect of, “I agree. Booth has changed.”
Perhaps each person replying in those instances was replying to someone else who had mentioned that in a comment; that is possible. But since there isn’t a way to know if that is the case (unless the reviewer referred to someone else), I have to assume people are replying to what I said about Booth. And for each comment, I continued to be struck by the idea that, “No, that isn’t what I said. I said that Booth is being his normal self.”
So then I thought…well, maybe I’m wrong. But as I began to put my case together, I realized I was even more right than I’d first thought. I’ll warn you now, this post is quite lengthy. I considered turning it into a series, and depending on rebuttal statements I receive in the comments, I may still do so. You may or may not agree with me, but here are my thoughts…
There are several things we know about Booth based on the years we have known him. Likewise, there are several things we do not know about him. For example, we know he has a sexy smile; we know he likes brown sugar on everything; we know he named his son after Teddy Parker. We don’t know where he went to college, what he studied, what he does on the weekends, or what it looks like when he’s living with a woman (until now).
The point is that for every individual thing we know about Booth, the possibility exists that there are an equal amount of things we don’t know about him. Therefore, it’s impossible to ‘judge’ him based on what we don’t know and only fair to judge him on what we do know. When we do that, when we look at what we know about him, it’s clear that he stacks up just the same as ever. He’s being ‘Boothy’ in every way he’s ever been ‘Boothy’. The surrounding situation, the “Temperance Brennan. You’re in love with her, you’re building a world around her” world has changed, but he has not. Here are ten things we know about him, and I’m going to break down each one. Some are complimentary; some are not. I hope all are honest.
- Booth is resistant to Sweets’ interfering.
- Booth is sexy/highly physical in his relationships with women/not a prude.
- Booth is private and edgy with Brennan re: his personal life.
- Booth is willing to work a case even if the woman he’s romantically attached to is in the hospital.
- Booth is almost obsessive about making things ‘right’ or the way they ‘should be’, even to his own detriment, if he feels he is responsible for something/someone.
- Booth is good with women/ bad at relationships.
- Booth is sometimes snarky toward Brennan.
- Booth is confident in his work.
- Booth is protective of Brennan in the field.
- Booth is unsure about himself when it comes to Brennan’s feelings for him.
Here we go!
1. Booth is resistant to Sweets’ interfering.
This one is pretty easy, so it’s a good choice to get us started. We’re seeing Sweets push Booth a bit as far as his relationship decision making, and in the past episode, this was seen when he questioned Booth’s motives for leaving Hannah in the hospital alone while he worked a case with Brennan, implying that it signifies his affection and superior commitment to Brennan (as opposed to a commitment to his work). More on that later in #4, but when Booth reacts by closing up and being short with Sweets, that’s nothing new. Even when there was no Hannah or anything like that in the picture, Booth was resistant to Sweets pushing him for details on his personal life. It’s only when Brennan is in the picture (or sometimes regarding Parker) that Booth may open up. And usually, once he does, he closes up even tighter, disregarding what Sweets has said. Nothing new there.
2. Booth is sexy/highly physical in his relationships with women/not a prude.
Sorry about all of those, but…I think it was important to give evidence. Not that any of us really did think that Booth was a prude or not sexy, etc…but I think it’s pretty straightforward that he is definitely not. I contend that all of the relationships we’ve seen him in have been primarily physical. So far with Hannah, we’re not seeing anything contrary to that. The issue now is that (though I don’t think we’ve ever actually heard him declare “I Love You’ to Hannah) love seems to be involved, but again, we never saw him with Tessa, Rebecca or Cam much. I can absolutely see him telling each one of them that he loved them at one point or another. That Hannah seems to have bought into that isn’t a change in Booth’s behavior. He saved her life and is good in bed, so it’s not really a surprise that she’s into him. She seems pretty compatible with him sexually, which is the primary factor in the relationships we’ve seen him in so far. Granted, what we’ve seen of his sex life has been pretty limited, but that just proves that what we’re seeing now has the possibility to completely be Booth’s MO. Again, nothing new.
3. Booth is private and edgy with Brennan re: his personal life.
When Brennan comments on his relationships with each of the women previously mentioned, Booth is on edge. When she calls him out about Tessa (Man in the SUV), he is resistant and says, “What in the hell are you talking about” when she talks about sexual bonds being necessary for the survival of the species. When she is in his business about Rebecca, he is edgy about it and tells her it’s not her business. Same with Cam. He’s not open with her, as she tells him, Sweets and us in Man in the Outhouse. She says she assumes he’s sexually active, and he says he does fine. Did we believe him then and do we believe him now? If he’s not a prude, and he really is just a gentleman, then it’s no surprise that when Brennan is sort of asking about his relationship with Hannah that he gets grouchy about it (everyone says hi!). This is nothing new. I’m not sure why exactly he gets that way (except of course for the honest fact that he is indeed discreet), but perhaps it’s because he knows that he’s sort of feeding into her idea of biological urges. He’s edgy with anyone about his personal life; the point is that what we’re seeing now…it’s very Boothy. Those who argue that the reason he’s so private is because he’s secretly in love with Brennan may be on to something. However, this might come under scrutiny, because after all…that means Booth is either in love with Brennan now and actively with Hannah, or he was never in love with Brennan. I don’t think it’s fair to pin absolutes onto Booth’s feelings for Brennan in that way. I do think that it’s realistic that Booth could have been with Tessa, Rebecca, and Cam while harboring feelings for Brennan. We didn’t seem to mind at that time. If he is doing the same now, it’s not a poor reflection on him as some two-timing terrible person; it’s just a continual issue we see him struggling with. If we didn’t judge him on it with those other women, we can’t do it now. If you did judge him on that at the time in seasons one and two, then…judge away!
4. Booth is willing to work a case even if the woman he’s romantically attached to is in the hospital.
This analogy doesn’t completely hold up, as the case in question was also what put Cam in the hospital, but I think it’s still reasonable to compare the two. I’m also interested in your thoughts on this. I didn’t really see him leaving Cam at the hospital to go to Brennan’s apartment to catch Epps as an example of love, but more that he was really just doing his job and protecting his partner. You? Yes, there are often times that his love intertwines with those things, but it’s the job the mostly motivates him and the same was true in TBtW with Hannah. Sweets wants to make it about Brennan, and Booth and Brennan sort of hedge around it in such a way that they might both think that’s true for the other one, but the reality is that I believe Booth really is just doing his job. The way B&B react to Sweets’ questioning is a lot like the way they reacted to Dr. Wyatt’s questions in Priest in the Churchyard. He debunks their fears that the reason Brennan stayed behind when Sully left was because of Booth. Then again, like Angela…I’m not buying it. But the point is that Sweets, in this case, actually sort of is barking up the wrong tree, and Booth is continuing his pattern of putting his work first. Though Tessa never ended up in a hospital room, it’s implied that she didn’t like his hours, and I’m sure she didn’t like that when they did spend time together, he’d cut their date short to help Brennan in a meth filled busted club. So even though the three women in question, Tessa, Cam, Hannah, may possibly interpret Booth’s actions as unadulterated love and affection for Brennan…I just see it as him doing his job.
5. Booth is almost obsessive about making things ‘right’ or the way they ‘should be’, even to his own detriment, if he feels he is responsible for something/someone.
Whether it’s being a father, a partner, a brother, a lover, a grandson, a friend, a cop, an anything…Booth feels a tremendous amount of pressure to be practically perfect.This is both a strength and a weakness. It’s a strength in that he’s an incredibly honorable man. Booth really is amazing. It’s a weakness (though he might not see it this way) when he continually sacrifices himself for others who don’t always appreciate him. This is true when he has concerns about Parker, when he wants Brennan to understand her worth as a person, when he makes the perfect meal for Hannah, when he feels guilty about not being able to care for Pops the way he needs it, when he takes care of Sweets in Bones on a Blue Line, when he interrogates suspects, and when he constantly gets on Jared’s case. This personality trait causes a tension in Booth that is also attractive, but in reality is slightly unhealthy. If he has a nervous energy surrounding him when he’s home alone with Hannah, this is completely in character. Though we might want to imagine that he would be all smooth and natural in all circumstances, that’s just not realistic, I don’t think. I’m speculating here, but I think it’s reasonable to wonder if Booth’s childhood was something he felt he needed to hide. If we’re using more duck metaphors in BONES, it would be like a duck floating on the surface of the water while his legs were paddling/kicking wildly under the surface. It creates a pattern that he would repeat up to this point. He does the same with Brennan in season five, and earlier. Whenever she suggests something is out of sorts, he is quick to verbally assure her of the ‘truth’. Usually, she trusts him and buys it; it wasn’t until Boy with the Answer that she really didn’t. Not that he’s lying or anything like that…but I just think he’s very quick to declare that things are fine and then try to make them fine. If he is edgy with Hannah (it’s nothing, why does it have to be about a thing?), that’s in character; nothing new.
6. Booth is good with women/ bad at relationships.
It makes me laugh sometimes that Booth declares that meeting Brennan is fate. It’s not exactly fate when one of your best friends/ex-girlfriends recommends the other person and you actually go to where that person is and meet her, haha. That she turned out to be the amazing Brennan could be very fortuitous for him, but still…it’s not as if they randomly ran into each other and realized “Wow, we should work together!” I don’t know about you, but I personally can be the kind of person who always thinks I’ve found “the one”. I’m not trying to impose my issues onto Booth, but he and I do have similarities sometimes. But always feeling like new people you meet have possibility, that’s a by-product of being both a lonely person and an optimist at the same time, something Booth and I do share (I believe). So I completely see Booth jumping into new relationships and being very gung-ho about them. There has been some criticism about his wanting everything to be really nice and perfect for Hannah, and while I can see where people are coming from as far as it being slightly annoying, I also see it as completely in character for Booth, who has issues. The scene where he mentions the sheets is a scene between him and Sweets, where Sweets is saying he should take it slow. Booth says he bought sheets and then asks, “What kind of man would do that if he wasn’t sure?” Sweets sees through it, and so did we. The sheets don’t represent Booth’s approach to wooing a woman; in this case, they represent evidence to suggest he knows what he’s doing. I am sure he bought them and was like, ‘okay, I need new sheets. Now is a good time to do that’. That’s actually a nice thing! Ladies, am I right? But when Sweets challenges him on moving too fast with Hannah, Booth uses the sheets as evidence, as I mentioned. Like I mentioned in the review, he will absolutely do what it takes to make something work (and give the impression that it’s working). The same is true in his partnership with Brennan, in his relationship with Pops, in his relationship with Parker, etc, etc. I don’t want to say he’s not being himself, because in being that part of himself, he is absolutely being himself. That’s sort of a wordy circular reasoning, but I still think it’s true. He’s not perfect, and the constant pressure he puts on himself to make things perfect would stress anyone out. We’ve seen it in little cracks before, when he confesses his work as a sniper in Soldier/Grave, and in his humiliation story in Boy/Time Capsule. Booth is a good flirt (Perotta, Felicia, etc), but when it comes to the nitty/gritty of a real life relationship, he isn’t a pro. He says “surrogate nothing”, but we all know that’s not true. Brennan even says that a surrogate is a more pleasant alternative than the fleeting yet unpleasant sting of rejection. Booth and Brennan both lived in that ‘surrogate safehouse’ for a long time. I feel it’s that limbo period of years that contradicts people who argue that anything from seasons 1-4 (or so) does not hold as much merit as something between B&B in season five. I do not agree. The stasis of their relationship indicates that at any moment, it could have gone either way. Sure, they were growing closer in some ways, but to say that because they’ve been partners for almost six years means that Booth is completely responsible for Brennan’s emotions is unrealistic. They were BOTH in that surrogate standstill, equally guilty and equally vulnerable in it. I’m not trying to be judgmental about it. A lot of us have issues in relationships. I just think that it’s unfair to expect Booth to be perfect at them, when there is no evidence to suggest that he would be. He needs someone in his life who will tell him that: he’s not a loser, that he has nothing to prove to be worth loving, that she knows the truth of him and is dazzled by that truth. If Sweets or Cam (though she’s better at it) would concentrate on helping Booth come to terms with those things, instead of pointing out issues he needs to deal with, I think he’d really be more likely to come around to the idea of being better in relationships. As it is, his past and the pressure he puts on himself to ‘fix’ everything…it hinders him.
7. Booth can be snarky toward Brennan.
“Wednesday Addams”. “Dr. Burn in Hell”. Those are just two examples of times in the past when Booth has been downright cruel to Brennan. Did we call him out on it then? Yeah, we did. But what we’re seeing now is not even close to that sort of thing. Not that it excuses him ever, but I just don’t think there is evidence to suggest that he’s changed and become a jerk. Likewise, she is mean to him sometimes, and that’s not cool either. But to say that he’s being hurtful by having a girlfriend or not immediately noticing that Brennan may have conflicting emotions on that, and she is some sort of victim in all of this is slightly unrealistic, I think. It’s romanticizing a current scenario without examining past evidence. In Science in the Physicist, they both sort of get digs in on one another, but one thing I noticed about The Bones that Weren’t was that Booth was sort of teasing Brennan about her propensity for having stuff shipped to the Jeffersonian. Some people said that was an example of him now being mean, but in SitP, they are examining remains, and he makes her put it in sports terms, and he’s a bit condescending to her. Booth is a cocky SOB sometimes; he really is. It’s kind of attractive, in my opinion, mostly when it’s directed toward suspects. I always feel a slight twinge when it’s directed toward Brennan, but she gets her own insults in every once in awhile (with or without knowing, haha). I just don’t see how this is anything new that we’re just seeing this season.
8. Booth is confident in his work and when he can ‘fix things’ .
Like the opening quote (though in the real context, it’s somewhat tongue in cheek from Booth), Booth does get satisfaction from his job and in his personal life when he is successful. His life is measured in personal success, and it may or may not have begun as a defense mechanism. ‘If I don’t mess up, I’m not punished’. So he’s incredibly successful at his job, and he loses confidence in himself when he feels like he can’t do his job, or when he can’t do mundane things around his apartment.
Both of those times are very pleasant examples of Booth being gratified by his success. This is not necessarily anything that anyone is disputing this season. But Booth was particularly cocky in TBtW about his work with Brennan. And in Mastodon in the Room, I got the feeling that Booth felt fairly comfortable with the idea of being successful with the FBI with or without Brennan as his partner. Whether or not that success ever would have come to fruition is left to be seen (or not, hopefully!), but this is just another example of how Booth is the same as he’s ever been.
9. Booth is protective of Brennan in the field.
10. Booth is unsure about himself when it comes to Brennan’s feelings for him.
“Unsure” might not be the best word, but somewhere between that and ‘cautiously optimistic’ is where Booth falls as far as his reactions to Brennan’s reactions to him. This is a contrast to the supreme confidence he shows when he is helping her deal with her own emotions on any other subject. He gives her looks like this:
…when he’s encouraging her about something in her own life. He gets confidence when he fixes something in her life. When it’s him…not the agent, not her partner, but him on the line…he’s less confident. We don’t always see moments like that between them. It’s more that we see his reaction to the idea of him being worthy of her love. From Max or Dr. Wyatt or Cam…Booth almost seems eager to believe it’s true, but unable to quite do so. But when we do see those moments, he doesn’t have a cocky attitude when it comes to her affection for him. There are many things that we see that he doesn’t (another post for another day) as far as Brennan’s devotion to him. He can’t be held accountable to those things. But even when he sees what we can clearly see as her new ‘awareness’ of something for him (or about him…it’s impossible to define right now, deliciously impossible!), it’s not realistic to expect him to understand what is happening there. We don’t have a history of him understanding her thoughts and emotions about him. And even if we did, it still makes sense that he has reason to be confused about them. If he considers everything up to the 100th as evidence of her growing love for him, and she denies it (though she didn’t actually deny it), he can only interpret any sort of indication he might be sensing from her now as him imagining things.
So he’s doing the best he can with what he has to work with, a quality we’ve admired in him for a really long time.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us watching Booth in a ‘Brennan-less’ world while Brennan is right there. It seems irrational and incorrect. It’s Bizarro (Superman or Seinfeld, take your pick), like a coma dream gone wrong. I remember when I first watched the season six premiere thinking that we were sort of seeing a version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Brennan in the George Bailey role (of course with the exception that each character in the episode knows who Brennan is), and the way this season is shaping up still feels like that. She was seeing how her life and choices had affected many people for good. As the season has progressed, we’re seeing the tension in what Booth’s life would/will (WOULD! Let’s just agree on would and be happy, okay?) be without Brennan in it, running alongside a life she is actually in. But what we’re seeing is not that Booth has changed in any way. It’s an honest reflection of his life, completely in line and in character with what we know about him.
Do not get me wrong; I’m not skipping for joy this season. I mostly like it and I can appreciate the character development, but I’m not smiling for entire Fridays; does that make sense? I’m not in the small group of people who seem to be finding subversive pleasure in the idea that the majority of BONES fans are slightly miserable; I don’t want this post to be like that, and you all know me well enough to know that’s not where I’m coming from (and if you are new to the site and don’t know me that well, then take a look around, make the call for yourself) . I’m just as slightly miserable, and behind every single point I made is a broken heart and tears streaming down my face. But I just felt like there was a truth to be examined. The character of Booth cannot be blamed for the storyline, and Brennan’s character can’t be rewarded all the time for the storyline. That’s also probably a post for another day. For now, I’m just saying this. Booth is the same as he’s always been. It’s only his situation that has changed. What makes it seem as if he’s changed is that we have this bleak feeling in the pits of our stomachs at the idea that Booth’s life could be…okay…as it is now. We don’t want that. I don’t want that, at least. I want him to be himself…with Brennan. But to say he’s fundamentally changed is incorrect. We’re just seeing more of him in different ways. He’s the same as he’s always been. What we’ve seen over the past five+ seasons are little glimmers of possibility of who he might become if he and Brennan are together (admitting the gambling problem, etc). We see the same in her, and that is some of what has changed, as far as the current episodes go. But Booth himself…he hasn’t changed. If we think he jumped too quickly into a relationship with Hannah, we have no proof to suggest he’s done the opposite with anyone else. We didn’t see the beginnings of his relationships with Tessa, Cam or Rebecca. We DID see the beginning of his relationship with Brennan, …and as we’ve discussed before, he absolutely would have slept with her that night and tried to make it work. Chances are he would have failed. That we saw those scenes after 99 other episodes makes us think it was fate in action, but the truth is that it’s possible that it’s Booth’s pattern. If he takes a look at what he did with Brennan. And Brennan is the only woman who’s turned him down like she did (because of tequila, because he was seeing someone else…who knows!).
So what’s on the horizon is this…will Booth manage to get from his ‘bizarro’ world to the world we know is possible (and likewise…will Brennan? It’s not like she’s just standing in that world, waving at him, waiting for him to wise up). And also…what will happen if he doesn’t, or in the meantime before he does? This ‘Brennan-less’ world may find him more inclined to gamble, more inclined to get caught up in Jared’s business, more inclined to many things that we’ve seen in his character development. When that happens, will he save himself from himself? Or will he need saved by someone else? Either way, the ‘Brennan-less’ world is what has changed; it’s not Booth who has changed.
Please feel free to comment; I’d love to hear what you have to say. Though I must warn you, I’m not likely to be swayed. Also, I welcome you to present the information with facts. Not to disregard anyone’s feelings, but saying something like, “Well, it just feels off” or “You’re wrong because I don’t like it” doesn’t quite cut it this time. Not that anyone who feels that way would be wrong…in fact, I feel that way! If we’re wrong about it, I’m fine with that! But it can feel wrong and still be the truth that Booth has not changed. If you have evidence to the contrary, bring it on! If there is a lot of disagreement, I’ll be happy to respond in another post about the comments, with my opinions on why I’m right in this. I’m not saying you have to provide 4000+ words in reply to me to state your case; I’m just saying that if you want to try to sway me, I’m going to need a lot of proof. Evidence and explication, as Brennan might say. Just remember the rules: No Foul Language, No Spoilers.
Peace, Love & Bones,