Bones Theory

How Can I Love Without Grace?


I love listening to music. Play me a song with a pretty melody and meaningful lyrics and I’m almost guaranteed to be completely captivated. Pair a song with an especially touching scene in a movie or television show and I’m a weepy puddle by the time the credits roll. We all know, and have discussed before, how adept the Bones production team is at using music to enhance their show. Consider the scene at the end of The Boneless Bride in the River where Brennan, having just watched Sully sail off into the sunrise, turns around to see Booth standing at the other end of the dock as Fisher’s “You” plays in the background. She’s obviously not happy to see him. He is, after all (more than either of them will ever likely admit), at least part of the reason she stayed behind. But he’s there, and, well, that has to count for something. And the music? The music makes the moment just about perfect…

“And you

You make me run

And you

You make me want to live

For you”

I could give countless more examples (and I’m sure you all could as well), but since that’s not actually the point of this essay, we’ll have to stop at one (although you’re welcome to chime in with your favorites later on in the comments). Let’s just say that, without a doubt, music makes the Bones experience that much better. And if you’re at all like me, your iPod or MP3 player is home to more than a few “Bones songs” (as my kids call them).

So one evening I was listening to my iPod while making homemade flour tortillas (taco night!), brainstorming ideas for my last Bones Theory blog post (Into the Looking Glass:  How Angela & Hodgins’ Relationship Mirrors Booth & Brennan’s, 11/20/10), and trying to keep my 2-year old from eating flour and uncooked tortilla dough (blech!), when one of those “Bones songs” (“My Ghost” by Glass Pear) started playing. Now I’ve mentioned at least twice before how much more beautiful I think the scenes at the end of The Dwarf in the Dirt are because of this song. In my opinion, it’s pure poetry. I typically have to listen to it two or three times before I can go on to the next song, and that night was no exception. But that night, as I listened, one line in particular grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go:

“How can I love without grace?”              

And for the first time, instead of just singing along, I asked myself what that line really meant. “If you can’t love someone without grace,” I thought, “then what does it mean to love with grace?” Well, in my way of thinking, loving with grace simply means forgiving when you’ve been wronged. My husband and I have been married for 10 ½ years and we learned very early in our marriage the value of extending grace because, like it or not, sometimes the people you love the most are the ones you hurt the worst.

Booth and Brennan are no different. Their partnership/friendship/surrogate relationship  – whatever you want to call it – has grown consistently stronger over the years despite, or perhaps because of, some pretty major wrongdoing on both their parts. I’m not saying they have some magical ability to forgive and forget with hardly any effort or that they love each other blindly – it’s quite the opposite sometimes actually. The fact that they mess up and say and do mean things to each other is a large part of what makes them human. But ultimately it’s their ability to say “I’m sorry” and “it’s okay” that really matters.

I’ve thought a lot about what forgiveness between Booth and Brennan looks like and I’ve come to the conclusion that while the apology isn’t always spoken aloud, much less formally accepted, their ability to forgive one another is still illustrated quite effectively in their willingness to let go and move on.  Yes, I know, “let go” and “move on” are interesting word choices considering where we are now, a third of the way through season six, but stick with me here. I’ll get to current events later; first I want to look back at five examples of forgiveness from the first five seasons.

The Girl in the Fridge

This first example is interesting because it takes place fairly early in season one. Booth and Brennan are essentially still learning what it means to be partners and what Booth does to Brennan at the end of the episode when he tells the prosecutor to use Brennan’s time in the foster system as a tool to force her to relate to the jury better has the potential to shatter that fragile bond completely. Brennan is mad – and rightly so. “You had no right!” she says.

When Booth apologizes to Brennan for his actions,

she replies, “You had something to accomplish and you found a logical way to get what you needed,” and then reluctantly admits, “I probably would have done the same thing.” Apology offered…and accepted.

The Pain in the Heart

By the end of season three, Booth and Brennan’s partnership is pretty well established and I think their friendship is as well. So it comes as no surprise that Brennan is furious with Booth when, after believing for two weeks that he had died protecting her, she not only finds out he’s still alive but that he didn’t call to tell her he was okay.

Booth tells her the FBI was supposed to notify her that he was still alive and he was only following protocol since it was a matter of national security, but Brennan refuses to accept this excuse, insisting that he should have disregarded protocol and called her personally. He had broken protocol in the past, after all, and put her life in danger because of it. Booth somewhat grudgingly promises to find out why she wasn’t told, quipping, “Next time I die I promise I’ll tell you.” It’s perhaps not the most sincere mea culpa, but it’s apparently enough for Brennan who responds, “I’ll look forward to that.”

In all fairness to Booth, he isn’t completely to blame for this fiasco. As it turns out, Sweets made the decision (in the interest of national security, of course) to not tell Brennan the truth because he felt her ability to compartmentalize meant that she could “handle” his death. Much to Booth’s dismay, Brennan agrees with Sweets, until Booth is out of earshot, and then she gives Sweets a tongue-lashing he won’t soon forget!

The Con Man in the Meth Lab

We’ve seen Booth get mad at Brennan plenty of times before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as mad as he was in this episode. I’m always a little shocked at the intensity of his anger when he asks her, “Do you think I’m a loser?” But at the same time, I can’t blame him because Brennan should have known better than to date Jared and she should have known better than to believe what Jared said about Booth instead of what she knew to be true. I don’t think it’s an accident that her toast to Booth, the “quiet man, the invisible man…the real alpha male,” at his birthday celebration sounds an awful lot like an apology. And forgiveness? Well forgiveness came in a smile, 

a slight nod of the head, and a quiet confession to a trusted partner and friend.  

A Night at the Bones Museum

It’s all about the egg.

Sigh. You’d think Brennan would know by now not to date people who are connected to Booth. It never seems to end well. When Brennan inadvertently tells her date, FBI Assistant Deputy Director Hacker, why Booth refuses to eat the meatloaf at the Founding Fathers and Hacker mentions it to Booth, well…he’s justifiably upset. Brennan doesn’t understand the reason why until Booth tells her, “what goes on between us is ours.” She apologizes by taking Booth to the museum exhibit opening instead of Hacker and when Booth calls her on it, she answers, “What goes on between us, that should just be ours. Isn’t that what you say?”  

And Booth? Well, Booth is so willing to let bygones be bygones that he almost…    

The Parts in the Sum of the Whole         

It took me awhile to decide whether I wanted to use this example first or last because even though the episode aired towards the end of season five, chronologically the events in question actually happened before my first example in season one. I’m talking, of course, about the series of events that started with too much tequila and ended with Brennan slapping Booth and then storming out of the FBI building swearing that she would never work with him again.

This is the first wrong done between them and it has, perhaps, the farthest reaching consequences. It’s also a situation in which I feel they both held an equal share of the blame.  

Sarah says in her 100DaysofBones review of the 100th episode:

“We have seen them over the years as they came to know one another’s issues and pasts and family lives, etc, etc, but for them to have…within the first week of knowing one another…just pinpointed right to the heart of each other’s…pain…I don’t even know what to say. Please tell me I’m not the only who just could not breathe. That Booth will struggle with the idea that he’s not smart enough for her for YEARS just so makes sense (along with the idea that she doesn’t want to work with him).”

And it does take years. For both of them. It’s thirteen months before Brennan even agrees to work with Booth again, and even longer before they are both able to move past their anger enough to build a successful partnership…friendship…relationship. Ironically, I think the events at the end of The Girl in the Fridge – Booth’s apology and Brennan’s subsequent forgiveness – are the first signs of that shift.

So where are they now? Well, I kind of think they’re back at the beginning (the real beginning). What if Brennan’s initial rejection of Booth’s romantic/sexual advances during the Gemma Arrington case was the match that ignited that firestorm of anger and bitterness between them? Feelings were hurt, mean things were said, and one thing led to another until everything just exploded. If that’s the case, then it’s possible that Brennan’s second rejection (which wasn’t inherently “wrong” by the way) at the end of the 100th episode had a similar effect. Only this time it was more of a slow burn. It took months before Booth’s pain and confusion finally exploded into anger in the heat of the Afghan desert. And now here we are. Booth is angry and bitter at Brennan for breaking up their partnership and not calling him once in seven months. He is essentially unable to let go and move on. So what they’re left with is the same tentative, uneasy partnership that characterized the first part of season one. The one glaring difference is that Brennan seems much more willing to forgive Booth’s sometimes bad behavior towards her than she’s been in the past. But regardless of where the fault lies now, they both bear some responsibility for the carnage. And this time, as with the first time, the need for apology and forgiveness is mutual.

So does that mean there’s no hope? Are Booth and Brennan destined to keep burning each other until there’s nothing left but ashes? I don’t think so. The apologies and forgiveness – they’ll come eventually. Why? Because despite the fact that we can’t currently see it and they won’t presently admit it, they both love each other deeply.  Because inasmuch as a cool, pounding rain has the power to quench the fury of a forest fire, so too can a simple act of grace smooth over even the roughest edges of anger and bitterness. How can we love without grace? Thankfully for Booth and Brennan the answer is that we can’t.


So, what is your favorite Booth and Brennan forgiveness moment? Do you think Booth’s current attitude towards Brennan is indicative of a lack of forgiveness on his part? Does either one of them owe the other an apology? And finally, what does loving without grace mean to you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!


13 thoughts on “How Can I Love Without Grace?

  1. I love all of them cuz is part of their amazing love story. But i ave to choose one so i choose the forgiveness moment of The Night at the Bones museum cuz that scene really show a glimpse how Brennan can be able to left being love for Booth. There’s no forgiveness better than that.

  2. This was a great article, thank you! I don’t really have anything to add – I think you said it all perfectly!!!

  3. I’ll add the end scene from Boy in the Time Capsule when, after a case full of snarky moments about their high school past, after Booth finally reveals his own embarrassing moment. Holding out his hand, Booth offers not only an apology but a cute little Brainy Smurf. That is just so like him. I really just like the idea that Booth realized he needed to make things right so he hunted down a Brainy Smurf just for Brennan as part of his apology.

  4. For me, my favorite “grace” moment has to be in Conman in the Meth Lab. I was so mad at Brennan for going out with Jared in the first place, but then believing what he said about Booth made me wonder what planet she was living on. Really? You question Booth? Please! So wrong…but so Brennan. But I did forgive her at Booth’s birthday…and loved her speech which was her way of saying I’m sorry. Booth gets that…and he has the grace to accept her way of apologizing. (Although I was inwardly glad that he got mad at her because he felt betrayed…and he had every right to feel that way.)

    Currently, I think Booth is more disappointed with Brennan than angry. He still feels the sting of her rejection and she feels pangs of regret, so I see Booth being defensive and Brennan hiding behind her science as their ways of dealing with the situation. Neither one of them is being vindictive, disrespectful or angry. I see sadness. Plain and simple. Sadness that things have changed…and not the way they intended.

    Do they need to apologize to each other? In a way, yes, but neither one of them is doing anything inherently wrong; however in order to heal, they need each other to know there is regret on both sides. At some point, they will need to accept, gracefully, that they misjudged each other.

    The song “My Ghost” by Glass Pear has to be one of my absolute favorite songs used on Bones. It just made that scene so poignant. I love the words…”how can I love without grace?” Not very well it turns out. You only make yourself miserable if you can’t move on and forgive. So to me, living with grace…and loving with grace…is just simply acceptance/forgiveness of the other person.

    One of my favorite quotes is: “One who looks for a friend without faults will have none.” This is living/loving without grace.

  5. When you said “Well, I kind of think they’re back at the beginning (the real beginning),” it hit me that that’s the reason for the title of the finale- The Beginning in the End. You’re good. =)

  6. Mmm…not sure about the last example. I wouldn’t call it Brennan’s rejection, as she’s the one who initiated the encounter. I thought she was merely postponing it because it seemed to mean more to Booth, so she wanted them to be both sober. Then, the next day, Booth has reinstated their partnership so that they can’t be involved again. Brennan looks shocked, then masks it. Now, I can see Booth seeing it as a rejection also, which is why I think of this as the beginning of their mis-communication in terms of romantic feelings towards each other. Each thinks the other isn’t interested/is just toying with them, and is hurt and furious. If it were just one-sided wouldn’t one have been more baffled than angry? The anger in that final scene definetely seemed to be about sex, not what they were actually talking about.

  7. I could literally write pages about music and how it relates to my viewing enjoyment. I absolutely love relating music back to scenes/emotions! Some of the music on BONES is absolutely amazing in that they strike a chord with the viewer. Whoever is in charge of music for the show is really good about doing that.

    Despite the inconsistencies with Brennan in Con Man, I really did like that forgiveness scene, though my favourite is A Night at the Bones Museum, simply because Brennan was genuinely sorry for making that mistake. She’s very distraught over saying the wrong thing, which I loved.

    What do I think about Booth’s current attitude? Quite frankly I don’t care for it, though I can understand it. I think many people are angry at Booth because he’s not acting entirely like what we’re used to now that we’ve gotten to know him. Snarky Booth has always been entertaining, but not when the snark has been borderline offensive, and I think regardless of season (Season 1 vs. Season 6), fans don’t like to see him that way since we know he’s capable of being nicer. I do think his attitude has something to do with not having forgiven Brennan, mostly likely due to her non-existent communication over their 7 month separation. I think that was sort of nails in the coffin for him. I think that he misunderstood that as indifference on Brennan’s part rather than practicality, so I don’t think she owes him an apology except maybe to say “I’m sorry for not explaining that I would be incommunicado.” I really don’t think either of them need to provide apologies, they only need to be honest/truthful to each other and actually TALK to each other rather than dance around it all, which is what they’re doing now.

  8. I was re-watching The Bones that Weren’t last night (the 3rd time?), and I was struck by how cold Booth is towards Brennan in that episode. (It’s painful to watch.)

    His sarcastic remarks, I believe, are definitely indicative of anger towards her: for rejecting him, for leaving and splitting up the team… possibly, for still being the woman he wants, even though he really isn’t supposed to.

    An yes, Brennan DID split them up; it was selfish of her to simply take off, and frankly, she still owes everyone an apology for that. However, the other two possible points of anger for Booth aren’t Brennan’s fault. So, for Booth to lash out isn’t really fair… and therefore, he owes Brennan an apology. (And I’m counting on that one to be my favorite, as he will likely have to explain WHY he was angry, which will lead to a wonderful confession. 🙂 )

    • I agree…he is hard to deal with….I keep hoping it is something related to going back to war and he just needs some help getting over being in a war zone again.

  9. I’ve been meaning all week to comment on this and tell you how much I enjoyed it.

    How two people process anger/forgiveness is one of the most important factors in whether they stay together long term or not, so seeing that they do weather such storms and yet stick with each other is important. (Sort of like what I was saying the other day about what we’re seeing now, that their bond is still there, in spite of everything they’re going through.)

    “Booth is angry and bitter at Brennan for breaking up their partnership and not calling him once in seven months. He is essentially unable to let go and move on.”

    I’m not sure I completely agree with this, though. It makes it sound like if he could forgive her for not calling him, he’d be able to move on from loving her (or that’s how it strikes me.)

    I do think he’s still angry at her for leaving. From his perspective, he asked her to give them a chance and she said no – but then asked him to make the sacrifice of continuing to work with her/see her every day when she wouldn’t love him. And because he loves her, he couldn’t do otherwise, so he agreed. And then, having asked him to do that for her, she up and left him. I don’t see how it couldn’t have felt like another rejection, another way of saying he didn’t matter to her – even when it seemed clear in other ways that she did. And then she drove that point home even more by not contacting him.

    He knows she cares about him – they have too much history for him to doubt that. But I wonder sometimes if he questions on a regular basis just how he matters to her, particularly after the last year. So yeah, anger and hurt there. But the reason those are there are because he loves her as much as he does. I think he’s working very, very hard to convince himself and everyone else he loves Hannah, and I do think he’s sincere in that, that he cares about her. But moved on from Brennan? He’d be a lot more relaxed with her if that were the case, don’t you think?

    • Oh no, no, no! Please let me clarify! I absolutely DON’T think Booth will be able to move on from loving Brennan (nor do I think he should). What I meant is that he can’t let go and move on from the anger and bitterness. I think for whatever reason he’s clinging to that anger and it’s affecting his and Brennan’s current working relationship. They’ve been off-balance for most of the season and I think that’s why. What I’m suggesting is that they won’t find that balance again until he’s able to move on from his anger. Does that make sense?

  10. I have ever song from the first 5 seasons downloaded into I-tunes, in playlists called Bones S1, S2, S3, S4, and S5. There are a couple of very strange, read terrible songs (they must have been background music at some point) but most are incredible. I went through each episode listing on the Fox website – I am a geek :-).

    As to the thought of forgiveness – the bond these two have developed has been shown beautifully with forgiveness and acceptance being a big part of the progression of their relationship. It is hard to see now, as we are seeing Booth either too hurt or too angry (or a mix of both) to allow his guard down, to forgive. But if he were to forgive easily, he would likely move on too, as Brennan is only now getting ready to think about him romantically. I’d love to see some pain filled looks by him though – ED has been rocking them this season!

  11. What I love about this post was the incredibly timeliness of it. I’d seen the DitP ep, but you hadn’t when you wrote it, and yet, it totally applied to that episode in that week. It’s so insightful and great.

    There’s been a lot of discussion lately, here and on Twitter and in general discussions, it seems to me, that revolve around this idea, that ‘Are B&B right for one another?’ or “Are the feelings/etc/etc B&B feel for each other actually healthy for them?”…that sort of thing, and I think this post falls into that category as well sometimes. Just because it works for them (their sometimes silent agreements to move on for the sake of work, etc) doesn’t necessarily make it good. Will a lifelong committed, sexual and exclusive relationship work between them if they put their work first, if they do the wrong thing, assuming on the others’ forgiveness…that sort of thing?

    I don’t know. I guess I think they, like every human ever, have more to learn about forgiveness and grace. I’m thankful for what we’ve seen!
    That slap on the face hurts my heart every time!

    Oh man! And your birthday forgiveness smile melts my heart every time 🙂

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