Bones Theory

I Don’t Know What That Means: Booth’s Bad Shot-Pilot Episode


So one of the most exciting things about this blog that our lovely Sarah/seels created and has been running is that it has GROWN by leaps and bounds. It is amazing to see the dozens of comments on each and every post and I know that I, for one, love visiting this site each and every single day. It’s smart, snappy, and witty – just like BONES itself.

I will tell you (and if you’ve ever read all of the comments in the past I clearly already have told you) that I have many, many opinions about this show. I can run with the best of them when spouting theories and passionate truisms about these amazing characters that cause our insides to roil in turbulence at their words, actions, behaviors, and dazzling eye. . um . . . exchanges.

One of my majors in undergrad was English. I always describe myself as the atypical English major because I can’t quote literature and have forgotten a lot of what I’ve read. I miss subtext and underlying themes in what I read all of the time. Symbolism, unless it is more obvious, is often lost on me. So, when folks start talking about the Season 4 finale, I cringe because honestly, I have no idea what most of that episode means.

SO. Although this post is NOT about helping me out with that episode, it IS an opener, which might eventually lead to aspects of that episode.

This is a “you tell me, please” post. For those of you who are superb at this kind of analysis of subtext and symbolism, I look forward to your thoughts.

First, seels, in her post, “The Ends and Beginnings: Season Finales and Premieres” reminded of this wonderful connection.

That because of what we learned in the 100th:


We have this:

booth brennan pilot no personal space

I have always loved that right from the start, these two have been each other’s personal space. Sparks. Fire. Chemistry. Explosions. Sheer Unadulterated Hotness.

Okay. Drank down some ice water. Moving on . . .

Here’s what I’m wondering. Booth meets up with Brennan at the firing range (saying that he thought he’d find her there – which I have no idea why he would, but maybe he’s just THAT GOOD at reading people, right? Whatev. Not the question, yet). After he finds out that Brennan “looked him up” and found out about his past as a sniper, he picks up her gun and does this:

booth closing eyes when firing gun

He purposely misses his shot.

The dialogue that follows:

Brennan: [Chuckling] Were you any good at being a sniper?
Booth: A sniper gets to know a little something about killers. Senator Bethlehem, he’s no killer.

The best I can think of for why Booth, this cocky-as-all-get-out FBI agent, would do this is because of his comment about snipers getting to know something about his killers. Did he miss to prove to Brennan that he does not know her very well, yet? Did he miss to prove to her that she doesn’t know him very well? Or perhaps he missed in order to prove the point that the target is still an unknown? Or . . . WHAT??? I don’t know and it drives me nuts that I don’t know this. I’d say it is unimportant, but throughout the series it is evident that his aim IS important.

We know what he does next, but in case you want a visual:

booth's arm shooting his weapon

Because, well, there’s a lot of symbolism in this even for me. Plus, I really love hands and just look at this one and that unbuttoned cuff below it. My other question might simply be why is that so freakin’ hot?

But I digress. Booth misses his shot. I don’t know why. Do you?


32 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What That Means: Booth’s Bad Shot-Pilot Episode

  1. First off, I agree with you about the hot hands thing. Booth has… amazingly beautiful (and masculine) hands. Secondly, I honestly have no idea why he missed. I would have thought that he would want to get it to prove something to Brennan. I really like how you pointed this out. Hmm… maybe he missed to get Brennan’s attention as opposed to her awe or praise. When he missed she laughed at him and he got his chance to state what he was thinking about the suspect. Maybe that is why. Or maybe Brennan’s gun was off. Who knows. (Shrug) Excellent post.

  2. Even with the unbuttoned cuff,he can be in a state of having his guard down being with brennan,but if someone came to hurt her he still would not miss his target.
    That pic just reminds me of James Bond and what Bond lacks…just about all that Booth is and represents.:D Booth would easily give Bond a run for his money.
    Just my opinion. 🙂

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  4. I’ve never thought about this, but I think it’s possible he missed to try to get the point to Brennan that he’s not a sniper anymore. Maybe that his primary skill is not just his amazing aim, but his gut feeling and interrogation skills. Or that he can’t do this alone and needs Brennan. His aim can only get him so far, but he needs her to help guide him to the killer using her skills. Hm, who knows. XD Maybe he was just distracted by Brennan’s hotness.

  5. I’ve always wondered the same thing. Why did he miss those shots in front of Brennan, and yes it was obvious it was deliberate. Then it’s like he couldn’t stand having that out there because as soon as she left he fired off those perfect shots so easily. I guess that was to make sure we knew that he really was an excellent shot, but I just don’t know why he did that and it’s actually kind of nagged at me since it first aired.

    I’ve never really been able to come up with a satisfactory reason. The closest I came was it was some way to put her at ease with him. He had already realized that Brennan likes being the best at pretty much everything, so he was giving her that even there, in one of the things he truly excelled at, and at that point their partership was still in doubt and he was trying to win her over, but even that just doesn’t satisfy me.

  6. I always thought that he missed because deep down he is still the gambler and he wasn’t quite ready to show her all his cards.

  7. OK, taking a leap of faith here, and posting my second ever comment in English…
    So, I’ve always thought that he misses his target in this scene as part of his ‘I pretend to be stupider than I am especially around Dr. Temperance Brennan’ routine. Nothing symbolic at all. Sorry. (In spite of being a big sucker of symbolic writing myself…)

  8. Booth proved to Brennan that she didn’t really know him by missing that shot. He wanted her to think he wasn’t the cold sniper, by the books agent she was making him out to be. Booth set out to change Brennan’s perception of him. He missed the shot to put them on a more equal footing. At this point in the relationship he gets her and has a good sense of how she works things out. He sees that she is making an assumption about who he is and he doesn’t like the image she is getting. So he choses to give this one to her to change her opinion of him, by missing the shot. While Brennan thinks she knows everything there is to know about him, she really doesn’t. Her brain intimidates him but is what is really most attractive to Booth about Brennan. He gets Brennan and how her mind works even this early in the show. Brennan doesn’t quite see all of Booth at this point. His cocky additude and his perception of how she was feeling towards him are bothering Booth at this point. This information she has garnered about who she thinks he is is really bothering Booth. He sees the picture she is forming about him and he chooses to change her assumtion. He doesn’t like that her apinion of him was turning her against him. Booth gave her that missed shot to make himself more human and at the same time giving Brennan an assurance that he does make mistakes and wasn’t perfect. He wanted to give her that connection about his character because he didn’t like what her snooping was filling her head with. Booth wants Brennan’s admiration but he doesn’t want her getting to know him through her reading about him. Booth at this point wants Brennan in his life and is making decisions to make this happen. Booth wants Brennan to work with him, not against him and by so doing so, learning who he really is.

  9. I’ve always assumed it’s classic Seeley Booth Interrogation Technique. He knew she looked him up, so they were on an even playing field again. In order to put her in a more vulnerable position (read: thinking she has the upper hand when, really, she doesn’t) he fakes not being as good a shot as her, thereby making her think she has something over him. Something important, a point of pride for a cop (not to mention an ex-sniper). Then he gets in her face and tries to intimidate her into seeing his side, thinking she’ll be knocked off balance like any other woman would be.

    Problem is, she isn’t just any other woman, and once he gets that close to her again, he remembers how things were between them when they first met, and when she walks away, he re-centers *himself* with the sexy-as-hell turn-and-fire move at the end of the scene.

    And then gets the warrant to search Senator Bethlehem’s house anyway. Because we know he can deny her nothing. 😉

    • I love that scene, when she shows up at his office, and he’s watching the vid. What does he say to her? He got the warrant, but not because she’s a genius, and not because he was ever scared of that guy. I love, love, love it. Classic Booth, right there. She gets this look on her face, like “Really?” I love it.

      • I credit that moment (when Brennan meets Booth in his office) as the moment when the partnership starts to form, and it is cemented by the later talk in the cemetery. Before then, they were combative, in each others faces, and just… tense. That’s where the gun scene is — the call to action, so to speak, which leads to the moment when Booth decides he wants a partnership with Brennan. Her decision comes after the case, in the cemetery.

      • There is something about Booth in that picture, in that shirt, behind that desk, all of it that always makes me think, “Angel, who?” Like…in that moment, Booth was really created. So much of the first part of that episode was sort of him and DB and the writers asserting “I”M NOT ANGEL” and some exposition, but there was just that (What Smurfs and I love to call) “Booth’s quiet confidence” and that, for me at least, is what makes him very very attractive. Like you said, Owl, it sort of solidifies the partnership, and in my opinion, because, like you said, of Booth’s decision to do so.

    • I think, as others have said, he misses the shot to bluff Brennan.

      But what I find more telling about that scene are the shots each of them fired perfectly. Brennan fired at the target’s heart and Booth fired at the head, which is essentially what they do for the rest of the series. Aim at each other.

  10. Yes! Finally! That question has plagued me for years! I’m so glad to know someone else wondered too! I’ve always thought two things about it. The first is that he knows he needs her to be able to solve the case…he’d already gone to bat for her with Cullen. Booth can also read people quite easily. He can tell that Brennan needs to feel superior to maintain her comfort level. Was this a concession to help her maintain that feeling? To ensure that she’s comfortable around him until he can fully win her over? They were still doing a tap dance around each other at that point. Even taking 100 into account much later, we found out that while Booth can read most people and even Brennan, he can’t read her as well as he thought he could. Otherwise he would have known not to grab her and yank her out of the office where she promptly slapped him! He would have seen that coming. So…one year later, he probably remembers that he still has a lot to figure out about this woman. Letting her be a better shot than he is obviously opened her up to teasing him as well as helping her maintain that level of superiority…that sense of comfort. I guess I think it was a deliberate attempt at manipulating her (lovingly said!) into continuing to work with him. Just like allowing her to get the upper hand in order to work in the field with him or blackmailing him. We know he’s not afraid to stand his ground, so his letting her get her way was just that…he let her. I’d even hazard a guess that he wants to continue working with her long after this case is over…again, taking 100 into account. He saw ‘them’ going somewhere and he still believes in fate…maybe he’s got his fingers crossed they can try that again. The sparks were flying still as evidenced by that shooting range scene…I think he wants to keep them going. He’s excellent at manipulating people in the interrogation room…all of this could just be his subtle manipulations to keep working with her. Course, this all could just be my wishful thinking!

    The second thought I’ve always had is what we know in hindsight and what philos said above…Booth pretends to be less than he is. He’s probably been doing that for years and it may even be a habit. Maybe he knew he wouldn’t hit that target before he even knew he was going to ask to try out Brennan’s gun.

    Whatever the reason…I’m glad other people wondered too! Thanks for this post!

  11. Wow…now i just feel thick. I just assumed it was because he used a gun he wasn’t familiar with, you know? Because aren’t they all different? I know nothing about guns in case you hadn’t noticed! LOL

    But now you’ve mentioned it there MUST have been another reason. There must have been.

    Damn it girl, now i have ANOTHER Bones mystery to torture myself with!!!

    OK, let me think about this.

    Maybe it was just to throw her off balance? She’d looked him up (and does anyone else love the look on his face when he says that line? He looks so…pleased!) and knew about his past, so would have expected him to be an amazing shot. So, by missing the shot he’d have surprised her, and she got cocky which would allow him to…something?! LOL

    I really don’t know…maybe even back then he had decided on how the partnership would go. He’d allow her to feel superior, by acting dumber than he was and letting her believe things that were untrue to she felt in control? Maybe…he knew her that well back then?

    OK basically i haven’t the slightest clue but it was fun guessing! LOL

    • Laffers, I also thought that maybe it was just that it was the first time he was firing that gun so had to learn how it was sighted and how it fired before he would be accurate with it, and that’s probably what someone who is more familiar with guns and shooting them would tell us. It just seemed to me that they did have some other intention behind that, so it’s bugged me ever since then.

      Maybe it’s one of those things that if they ever have a question and answer session with HH where he is answering questions from fans we can pose that question to him. Hopefully he’d actually have an answer for us.

      • Ha, Frankie,
        That is my dream. To be able to sit down with HH and ask him a list of questions. Not about FUTURE episodes, but about all the past ones, hahaha. He would be like, “Really? Are you serious with this?” Hahahaha.

  12. I think Angela said it best:
    Angela: Because what Booth has can’t be learned from baby-boy shrink. Booth’s brilliant at pretending to be stupider than he actually is, most of the time.
    Brennan: Brilliant at stupidity?
    Angela: Especially around you. Okay here’s what Newcomb’s skeleton looked like 12 hours ago.
    Brennan: Why would Booth do that?
    Angela: Well, he knows you like to be the smart one. So he let’s you have that.

    I think that is why Booth missed his target. He knew that Brennan was a good shot and praticed self-defense. If he let Brennan think that she is better than he is at shooting, then she would be more comfortable when dealing with him. He knew that she wasn’t thrilled with working with him again and he wanted her to feel comfortable with him.That she knew he was a sniper for the Army should have given her a clue that Booth was pretending; but, for some reason she didn’t question it. You can’t be stupid or inept and rise up in the ranks of the FBI and yet Brennan seems to mis-judge Booth a lot of the time when it comes to his intelligence and his skill sets. Booth is good at making people underestimate him. He uses it to his advantage most of the time, including, making Brennan comfortable enough to want to work with him. (Of course, this is hind sight, the first time I saw the episode I couldn’t figure out why he did it. I had to see all of 5 seasons first and then rewatch before I thought of this)

  13. When I first watched this episode, I immediately thought that he had purposely missed the shot so that Brennan would talk to him. Then they showed us him making a TERRIFIC shot later to show that he really is/was a good sniper. But maybe that’s just me…. 🙂

  14. This moment, for me, is the crux of the episode. I absolutely adore the Pilot episode, and whenever I’m down, I either watch it (on my iPod) or the episode commentary. Apparently, Booth’s speech to Brennan about how cops are the guys that find the answers by asking questions over and over again was almost word for word from something someone in law enforcement told them, and squints is a real term.

    This moment is entirely Booth — he is making the effort to control the situation, because this woman he is working with just won’t back down (remember, this is the moment after the Squints and Booth are debating about the case (they want to investigate the Senator, he refuses), and he tells them that they don’t know anything about the real world (Angela then reveals Brennan’s past to him)). This is a tense moment. They both are out of their elements — he has been thrust into the world of science and evidence, she has been thrust into the world of politics. And here they are, drawn close together. I think, in some way, like Brennan taking over Booth’s arena by talking to the senator and following him around, Booth is taking over her space (her comfort zone in the firing range and the lab), proving that he can push for the truth just as hard as she can. Why does he miss? Maybe he’s distracted by her, or unused to the gun, or maybe it’s proving the point that by taking over his space, she has shaken him. He then tells her what cops do, to prove that it’s not her place. This is NOT a partnership. We hear later that they both need to control their environments — this is what they are doing, trying to control their environments. Now they need to trust each other in order to become partners. That is what the following scene is, where Booth goes on Brennan’s level to prove that he is worthy of her partnership (not by showing his physical prominence, like the prior scene, and like we see Booth trying to do later in the series).

    And now I have to stop, before I analyze the entire episode. *innocent fake whistle b/c she can’t whistle*

    • Yes! I like to think that he was distracted by her… that he was having a problem similar to the one in season 5. Only, in season 5 her presence HELPS him since he’s so bent on protecting her… but at this early stage, he ISN’T since they don’t know each other and are constantly bickering, etc.

      Ugh. This isn’t making sense.

      Basically, I think that her presence gets him riled up, well, sexually (the kiss in the rain, anyone?) and since he knows he can’t have her, he misses, and once she’s gone and he’s calm, he can shoot again.

      Like magic! (“Oh, there’s magic…”) 😉

  15. This scene is so HOT, I have a hard time forming any coherent thoughts when I’m watching it…Seriously though, this is a great post and you guys have some wonderful theories.

  16. I always took “Booth missing his shot” as him trying to hide his card. It’s as if he’s trying to make Brennan underestimate him. They were giving off this competitive vibe afterall. I dunno what it is, but the scene sure made me feel gooooooood 😛 (off to look for ice water). That does go along with the “not shining a light on himself” speech Jared gave (although I’m not very tempted to believe Booth-lite). Analysis aside, don’t you just LOVE it when guys on TV pretend they can’t shoot even if they’re a great shot? Or Hodgins keeping quiet about his wealth. I guess it’s the sense of humbleness, mystery, and complexity of the character. But that’s just me talking. Ha!

  17. I read this post earlier and have really been thinking about it. I honestly have come to the conclusion that, although we may never know the real reason, I think that it was Booth wanting to give her the upper hand. It was his way of allowing her the satisfaction of being the smarter one in the relationship. Yes, there is no doubt that he did miss on purpose. I think he didn’t want to show all his cards to Brennan as they were still feeling their way around this fragile partnership. He goes to bat for her and he wants to give her that upper hand.

    I could be full of it but these are just my thoughts.

  18. I thought that Booth missed his shot on purpose to show weakness. They were both vying for dominance (more then they do these days) and maybe he just knew that Brennan wasn’t the type of person who would just give up. Maybe he thought that he had to show weakness in order for her to put aside her arguing and competitive nature and just listen for once (and by catching her off-guard by missing the shot I think that also helped). It’s kind of like what Angela told Brennan, that he let’s her be the smart one. I think that day he let her have her way because he saw that winning was both impossible and pointless, and the only way to leave her thinking and make her actually notice HIM, was to do something unexpected; lose.

    That question has annoyed me for ages though aswell. Maybe, like Seels said, one day we will get to sit down with HH and ask him all our question about the past.

  19. I am more of a Hodgins gal myself but honestly every time I see Booth with a gun my heart beats faster. Hot Damn!
    As for the reason he missed the first shot I think, like many of the rest of you, that he wanted Brennan to underestimate him and so was not showing all his cards. Missing the shot was quite an effective way to give Brennan, what she believes to be, the upper hand as well as proving to her that she doesn’t know him as well as she thinks.
    Although it could have been he was just off his game from having Brennan so close, I mean there was A LOT of sexual tension in that scene.
    Whatever the reason is, I for one believe that there should definitely be more of Booth using his gun! 🙂

  20. Booth believes Brennan is at her most comfortable when she feels superior. He’s downplaying his own skills so that she will feel superior in this as well. But once she’s gone, he can’t help but make the shot, just to prove he is the superior one (at target shooting, anyway).

  21. I always thought it was to put her at ease so he could figure out what she’s all about. In the early seasons, he downplayed his strengths…even his intelligence so that people could reveal more. Gordon Gordon even commented on this in Mayhem on a Cross.

    In the pilot episode, Booth didn’t know if Brennan was genuinely interested in catching the criminals to bring about justice for the victims and their families. The shooting range scene kind of solidified for him that she was for real…it probably solidified for him that they could be “partners”. Wasn’t it after this scene that you see them meet in his office where he concedes he didn’t drop the case but instead investigated further? And wasn’t the office scene the first time he called them “partners”? (Hope my memory is correct.) The shooting range scene was a tactic to figure her out…and it essentially began their journey as real partners. And after she leaves…his demonstration of how he was a expert marksman was just a display of how very male he is…they had to show us, thankfully, that Booth was going to be this sexy hot FBI guy….at least…that’s what I got out of this scene.

  22. you know how latter we learn that he ‘hates’ killing people,even if neccecary?well maybe he wanted to show that hitting the taret isn’t always killing the ‘target’…i don’t know if you understand me but i hope you do…makes sense in my head 😀

  23. I think commentor philos is right. This is the beginning of him playing dumb with Brennen. I think in this case though he wanted her to underestimate him so she’d open up and tell him what she really thought.

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