Bones Theory

Temperance Brennan: More Than Her Mistakes?

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“You are more than the choices that you make

You are more than the sum of your past mistakes”

                -“You are More” by Tenth Avenue North

“I made a mistake.” (Brennan, The Doctor in the Photo)

Hey there Bones Theory friends! I hope 2011 has been treating you well thus far. Today I’d like to talk about the ever lovely Dr. Temperance Brennan and something that she doesn’t often talk about:  her mistakes. Now before you start warming up your “in defense of Brennan” speech, let me assure you that the purpose of this post is not to criticize or blame Brennan for her choices, but to look at them in light of her own admission to Booth at the end of The Doctor in the Photo. Brennan admitted she made a mistake in rejecting Booth, but which rejection was she talking about? Does it even matter? And how have the choices Booth made as a result of Brennan’s actions influenced where they are today? Let’s look at four major crossroads moments Brennan and Booth have faced in their relationship-slash-partnership and see what we can find out.

Moment #1:  Tequila (The Parts in the Sum of the Whole)

 Let’s start at the very beginning (as Maria told the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music, “it’s a very good place to start”). Booth and Brennan are working their very first case together. Right from the start, there’s this electricity between them that’s undeniable. The attraction is acknowledged, explanations are made (the FBI prohibits fraternization between FBI agents and consultants), boundaries are set. Then, in the course of investigating Gemma Arrington’s murder, Brennan punches a federal judge in the nose…twice. At Caroline Julian’s insistence Booth takes Brennan to the local pool hall (a place he knows all too well), gets both of them drunk, and then reluctantly fires her…and the Jeffersonian (“You fired the Jeffersonian?!?”). But wait! “If we don’t work together anymore…we can have sex!” Brennan says. 

“I’ll call a cab!” Booth volunteers eagerly. (This is a totally unrelated side note, but…whoa, down boy! Aren’t you, “seeing someone?” Am I the only one who wondered why Booth was so eager to hop in the sack with Brennan that night if he was already seeing someone else? Dating one woman, however “casually,” and sleeping with another just doesn’t seem very Boothy, especially considering his very vehement exclamation at the end of A Man on Death Row that he has, “never, ever cheated on any woman he’s ever been with.” I think this is one of those scenes that gains new meaning when viewed in the context of the 100th episode. [Refer to Top Five Tuesday:  New Meaning, 10/5/10 for additional examples]. Could it be that when Brennan angrily accuses him of having sex with multiple women at the same time, he feels the need to prove to her that his actions that night at the pool hall were an anomaly born of fate and too much tequila and not a part of his usual MO?)

Anyway, back to the story. The cab is waiting. Booth and Brennan are standing, nose to nose, underneath an overhang, oblivious to the rain pouring down around them. Breathlessly, Booth tells her there’s something she should know about him (and no, it’s not that he’s related to John Wilkes Booth). He has a gambling problem. But he’s dealing with it. Brennan wants to know why he told her that. “You know, I just feel like, um, this is going somewhere,” he murmurs. And they kiss.

“We are not spending the night together!” Brennan breathlessly exclaims, laughing.

“Why?” Booth wants to know.

“Tequila,” she says as she gets into the waiting cab.

Booth asks if she’s afraid she’ll wake up in the morning with regrets. “That would never happen,” she assures him confidently.

And then the cab drives away, leaving Booth standing, alone, in the rain. In a scene heavy with symbolism, he turns, looks dejectedly at the flickering “Pool” sign, stuffs his hands in his pockets, and walks away. 

So why did Brennan change her mind? Maybe, as Joy pointed out the other day (see comments on Girl, Eventually; 1/17/11), it was all about the tequila. It’s also possible that she didn’t expect him to take her offer seriously. But I’m just not sure it’s that simple. I think she panicked. I think her offer that night was more about satisfying her “biological urges” (because, let’s face it, Booth is hot) than it was about commitment. Booth wanted her sexually, yes, but he was open to so much more. And so I think it’s possible that he lost her in his moment of honesty.

At the risk of getting sidetracked again, I also want to point out that I think she made the right decision that night for a lot of reasons (that have absolutely nothing to do with tequila). I believe this scene is so pivotal not because of her actual decision to not have sex with him, but because of the set-up (she propositioned him and then essentially changed her mind) and the way each of them reacted in the aftermath.

Moment #2:  The Gamble (The Parts in the Sum of the Whole)

I’m not sure there’s much left to say about Booth’s gamble at the end of the 100th episode that hasn’t already been analyzed and re-analyzed here and on every other Bones fan forum on the World Wide Web. We’re all familiar with the arguments:  he pushed too hard/not hard enough; she panicked/was just trying to protect him; he didn’t give her a choice, didn’t say I love you, had a history of giving her mixed signals/she would have said no anyway; he was wrong to tell her he had to move on so quickly/moving on was a matter of survival, and so on.

For the sake of today’s discussion, however, we need only consider two critical, indisputable facts:  1) she said no, and 2) he said he had to move on.

Moment #3:  Maluku (The Beginning in the End)

Rynogeny wrote in a recent post (Booth’s Turning Points, 1/4/2011) that Brennan’s decision to go to Maluku in the season five finale was Booth’s true low point, and I agree. It’s clear in the episodes between The Parts in the Sum of the Whole and The Beginning in the End that Booth was still holding on to Brennan pretty tightly.

Sure, he dabbled a bit with the concept of moving on; as rynogeny said, “He was open to the idea of finding someone else…but part of him was still hoping.” When Brennan chose to join the Maluku dig for a year, she effectively severed their partnership and everything they had built up until that point. We know she was running away as much for him as she was for herself, but Booth didn’t know that. All he knew was that she had asked him if they could still work together. Once again, he’d done what she’d asked only to have her change her mind (sound familiar?). It was a final, crushing rejection and for him at least, I think it was the tipping point. She made her choice, and so did he.

I held out hope the entire summer following the season five finale that the defeated look in his eyes in the airport scene;

the fact that he pulled away first, wasn’t a harbinger of what was to come. That the coffee cart scene, however unlikely, could still happen. And then fall came.

An evangelist who occasionally speaks at my church is fond of saying that we have the ability to choose our actions but not the consequences of those actions. I think this is exactly what happened to Temperance Brennan. She made her choices and in every one of those moments I believe that she believed she had made the right decision (and perhaps she had). But those decisions weren’t made in a vacuum. And the consequences of her actions, the choices Booth made in response to her actions, were completely out of her control. And that changed everything.

Moment #4:  Signals from the Universe (The Doctor in the Photo)     

One thing that strikes me as significant about Brennan’s confession to Booth in The Doctor in the Photo is that she couldn’t have made it at a worse time. Booth’s acceptance of what she offered was by no means a sure thing. When Booth made his gambler speech in the 100th episode, they were both unattached. But because Hannah now stood between them, Brennan was almost guaranteed to go down in flames. And yet, for the sake of not having any regrets, she did what she had to do. She tried to rectify her mistake. 

So what mistake did Brennan think she made? What was her regret? Was it that she rejected Booth sexually?

Romantically?

As a partner?

Or was it that she simply didn’t realize the value of what she had until it was too late?

We may never know the specifics, but we do know one thing:  for three days the world turned upside down and in the ensuing chaos, something incredible happened. She got the signal. And what happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Temperance Brennan, scientist, gambled against much greater odds than Seeley Booth ever had.

So what do you think? Will Brennan’s admission to Booth be enough to eventually turn the tide? As the song says, are they more than the sum of their past mistakes? There’s a lot to discuss here, so pick an idea and start typing. I triple-dog-dare you!

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25 thoughts on “Temperance Brennan: More Than Her Mistakes?

  1. Pretty good post today and I agree with you, it wasn’t about the tequila.
    When I saw the scene where Brennan turned down Booth, I got the impression that she did so because what would have just been a fling for her turned into something else. When Booth told her about his gambling problem and thought he should tell her because he thought “this was going somewhere” this caused her to rethink what was going on. We know she has never liked to be commited to anyone in the past so when she saw that what, to her, would just be fun, would be more to Booth. She just couldn’t go through with it. She told him it was because of the tequila; but, I think it was her fear of close involvement with anyone. She was protecting herself from emotional hurt; but, whether she intended it or not, she inflicted emotional hurt on Booth. We know Booth has issues with self worth and when Brennan rejected him, he probably felt that his view of himself, when it comes to the opposite sex, was confirmed again. I think Brennan made the right decision at the time because to her, she needed to protect herself from someone who may have wanted more from her than she could give. She didn’t know Booth, wasn’t aware of his past, and probably thought that rejecting him wouldn’t matter. Of course, what she did, ultimately made Booth question their compatability and whether they could work together, this torpedoed their relationship for a year. It looks like a mistake to some people, in hindsight; but, I don’t think it was.

    #2, The Gamble, I think this was Brennan’s biggest mistake. She said no; but, didn’t consider all of the ramifications of her decision. Like you have said, a lot has been written about this. I know some have said she made the decision and did it for logical reasons. I think she said no because she panicked. She didn’t have time to think everything through. She had been saying No for so long, when it comes to intimate relations, that saying yes would have been impossible for her at that time. On the other hand, by saying No, she set off a chain of events that ultimately will help her grow emotionally. So a mistake and yet something she and Booth may benefit from in the end.

    #3 Maluku, a consequence of # 2. She was trying to protect herself from further emotional upheaval and needed a place to go to give herself time to think. Unfortuntealy for her, it also gave Booth time to think also.

    #4 – I still don’t know what Brennan regrets. A chance to fall in love? A chance to see love through the eyes of another? I still don’t think she knows either. I don’t think she thought she rejected Booth as a partner. She was quick to tell him when she said no that she still wanted to work with him. I think this hurt Booth the most. She wanted to work with him, be with him professionally; but, not personally. This made Booth throw up a sheild between Brennan and himself and that wall is still there.

  2. Wow, great post. It was very insightful and I really want to make an intelligent contribution to the discussion, but honestly can’t think of what exactly it is I want to say right now. I will check back later, hopefully when I read some other responses I will be able tp jump in, but wanted you to know that I read it and loved it.

  3. In the TIDP When Brennan said she made a mistake i think she meant all the options above. Not so sure the Tequila thing but Romantically and as a partner sure she did. Her clarification about her mistakes to be begun in Maluku. When she came back to help Cam was the opportunity to her start see that. That’s why she Thank Caroline on the end of the episode saying was her the linchpin. In the TIDP was her huge moment of Awakeness. It was when she thought i can’t continue make this kistakes anymore. Seriously i think on the moment she opened her heart to Booth on the car she opened too a door put them together.Because now Booth knows she can love him , she want love him she really loves him. And now is up to Booth try heal his wounds of the rejection and open his heart again to her and say he never stopped love her any second of his life. I so want see this happen. Are you with me on it ? Hope so.

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  5. Woot, yeah! That last part was pure gold.

  6. I’ve wondered too what Brennan is referencing specifically when she says she made a mistake. I haven’t really been able to put my finger on an idea for what it is she considered the mistake, but I feel confident that she’s not referring to their almost-first night together. I just don’t see how she could look back on that night and feel sorry for the way things turned out. Yes, Booth indicated that things would’ve been more serious than a one night stand with his, “I just think this might be going somewhere” talk, but at the same time, would starting their relationship off sleeping together from the get go ever allow them to reach the level of intimate friendship they enjoy?–ugh, or at least enjoyed, before all of this…this whatever it is of season 6. I just can’t imagine Brennan wishing that they had spent that night together, potentially (and I propose probably) at the expense of the friendship they’ve achieved. Because really, in the end, in the Booth-and-Brennan-eventually end, that’s what it comes down to, in my opinion–the friendship. Yes, they’re hot for each other, yes, their chemistry is undeniable. But the reason we all say–and see!–that they belong together is the friendship they share, the care they’ve shown for each other through the years, regardless of romantic potential. I don’t see how Brennan could look that friendship in the face, and wish that they had started it out by sleeping together.

    Just another little note, how interesting you say that she gambled against higher odds than Booth! I had never thought of it like that. Oh, does it ever get less heartbreaking??

  7. To answer the question, I think the mistake that Brennan refers to is her rejection of Booth romantically then her subsequent decision to put physical distance between them by going on the dig, thus severing their partnership.

    I will add that I don’t think it was Brennan’s intent to come between Hannah and Booth when she admits to the mistake in Doctor in the Photo.  Rather, I saw it as a way for Brennan to get her feelings out there and making it known to Booth.  In the 100th, Booth makes it clear that he’s known from the beginning, he’s “that” guy etc. But nothing Brennan said indicated the feeling was mutual.  Booth looked so hurt and I just wanted Brennan to say that she feels the same way at that moment, but because feelings are transient and blah blah… just something!  By admitting that mistake, maybe it’s Brennan’s way of comforting Booth, reassuring him that she felt the same way that night.  Anyway great post, Stephanie.  Thanks!

  8. The title of your post caught my eye, Stephanie, because I think that it doesn’t need to end in a question. Brennan is more than her mistakes. So is Booth. We all are. And by the way, I love that lyric you opened with. I’m going to have to check that song out.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand. You said:

    We may never know the specifics, but we do know one thing: for three days the world turned upside down and in the ensuing chaos, something incredible happened. She got the signal. And what happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Temperance Brennan, scientist, gambled against much greater odds than Seeley Booth ever had.

    Oh my gosh. I just think that is a beautiful statement. I have to say, The Doctor in the Photo is one of my favorite episodes of BONES. I think it is the most beautifully written and filmed episode of television I have ever seen. There is just something about the way the whole episode came together that, while heartcrushing in some some respects, was breathtaking and poignant and just all around beautiful. And you summed it up just as beautifully.

    I’m not sure that it really matters which rejection Brennan meant when she told Booth she made a mistake. I think that in context, what she was really saying was that she made a mistake in not taking a chance on him; not taking a chance on them. But I don’t think that’s what is important here. I think the most important part was that she put herself out there and finally, finally, finally took a chance on Booth.

    And it’s clear from the look on his face as she’s talking what kind of an impact that had on him. Right or wrong, good or bad, he is affected by her words. There are “no changies, no takebacks” on this one. It’s out there in the universe. They both know how the other feels and they know where the other stands, even if they both probably feel like they are standing on a beach as the tide washes the sand out from under their feet. No, neither has said “I love you” except in that “atta girl/atta boy” way, but they’ve been saying “I love you” to each other in their deeds and actions for years, and now it feels as though it has all slipped away from them.

    His gamble and confession. Her confession and gamble. They are built on five years of knowing, trusting, laughing and loving each other. Their words have power, and they are going to have ramifications down the road for both of them. We saw the ramifications of his admissions at the end of last season and I think we are already starting to see the ramifications of her admission.

    I think that her admission to Booth will eventually turn the the tide, but I don’t think it’s going to be fast or easy. I think Brennan’s admission fanned a flame that Booth had managed to bank in order to “move on”. I think that the rekindling of that flame is partially responsible for his actions in last week’s episode.

    It’s not fair that Booth is having to deal with this, but then, life isn’t fair. That’s not meant to sound flip. It’s just that one of the things about this show that is so great is that the characters are realistic and complex and relate-able. They deal with real problems, struggle with real issues, and the writers, actors and producers are not afraid to delve into those struggles. I don’t think any of us would be as drawn to the journey these characters are on if not for that. And if this path Booth now finds himself on were easy, I think we, the fans, would feel cheated somehow.

    Anyway, back to Booth. He has helped Brennan deal with her baggage, he has opened her up, he’s been her rock and her support for years, but we haven’t really seen him lean on her in a similar way. That’s not to say that it hasn’t happened at all, because it has, it just hasn’t been consistent. He has leaned on her about things, but he is not open and forthcoming about a lot of his past. He opens up just enough to take the pressure off, but always holds back from going too deep down. My thought is he is afraid that his dark side will scare her away. I think he’s afraid that his dark side will scare women away period. (Little does he know how appealing that can be…)

    I think he’s hasn’t given Brennan enough credit to be able to deal with his baggage, and he certainly doesn’t think that Hannah could handle it despite his assertion that they are “battle tested”. That’s not to say that I want to see Hannah and Booth together when all is said and done, but I don’t hate Hannah; in fact the more I see her, the more I like her character. There are even times when I kind of feel bad for her, because she’s with this amazing guy, but they don’t stand a chance because he is getting in their way. It’s been mentioned in other posts here, but I think that their relationship is very telling in what is missing from it. It’s all about good stuff and never about the bad.

    I think that before Booth is going to be open enough for a real deep and meaningful relationship with anyone, he’s got a road he has to go down. And that road is not going to be pretty or easy. And because he’s Booth, he’s going to try to walk it alone. But maybe, just maybe, the fact that Temperance Brennan took a chance on him when she stood the most to lose, maybe that will be the thing that ends up saving him from himself, and will ultimately save them both.

    And yeah, I know that’s really long, but that’s what you get when you triple-dog dare me to start typing. :-p

  9. I really don’t have anything constructive to add, because your last paragraph just sums it up so nicely. Everyone is more than their mistakes and their choices. Brennan felt she made a mistake somewhere on that road, and she made the choice to tell Booth the truth.

    Oh, and I LOVE the Tenth Avenue North reference. I’ve listened to that song three times today because you quoted it. It fits everything so nicely.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves that song. I knew the first time I heard those two lines that they would be perfect for a BT blog post.

      • Ok… I have to add something to this: this song became my song of the year after this post. This and “Healing Begins” fit so perfectly into Bones and what has happened in my life over the past year that it was perfect. So… yeah… I just want to say thank you. 🙂

      • Awww…Owl – thanks (and you’re welcome)!

        I agree, “Healing Begins” is another a great fit for Bones, as is “Safe” by Britt Nicole (my new favorite).

  10. It’s way too late for me to think of a coherant response to any of these things! LOL

    But i will say one thing…i’ve never thought of Brennan’s declaration in the terms you’ve just put it. That she gambled, and against greater odds than Booth. It..makes makes me even more torn that i already was so thanks for that! LOL

    I used to think…she was kind of selfish. Not consciously so, but that what she did..it wasn’t fair. To Booth, Hannah OR herself…but now, even though her timing was so bad it’s not even funny, I can’t help but admire her a little bit.

    I mean…she put herself out there despite tha fact that it was almost guaranteed that she would be rejected. Now, the cynic in me just wants to call her a silly cow and be done with it. Putting yourself out there knowing you were going to hurt….how dumb is that?

    But the part of me that is almost normal (almost! LOL) can’t do anything but take my hat off to her…she was incredibly brave. Brave and strong and true to herself and brutally honest…i can’t help but be proud of her. Her timing sucks, but her heart finally started to have a say in things.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t last long! LOL

  11. Reading your post, it struck my just how many times Brennan’s missed her chance, one way or another. Under the circumstances, she would be justified in believing precisely what she does believe: that essentially she always screws things up. She screws things up because she’s running away, like during tequila night, or because she knows she can’t make Booth happy, or she’s decided to go and kind of find herself in Maluku, or just because Booth has someone else – it doesn’t really matter. What matters to her is that she inevitably does screw thing up, even inadvertently. Or that’s what her past experience must tell her, in my interpretation.

  12. WOW, interesting post!! I really liked it!! I am inspired to write this response, which I promise will get to the point in the end. (I also apologise for the overuse of the word control; synonyms are not my strong point.)

    In rynogeny’s post yesterday I commented that “Brennan has always had the control, called the shots, until now”, while refering to ‘the line’ scene at the end of “The Man in the Cell”. It made me realise that Booth had always given Brennan so much control when it came to their relationship. She was always the one to have the overall say on what happened between them, except for a few major moments; when she tells Booth that they can have sex now in the flashback and Booth’s reactions after the 100th (including when she decides to go to Maluku and especially when they return).

    When she asks Booth whether he wants to have sex, she is putting the ball in his park, pretty much completely, and when he agrees and then he confesses to her about his gambling problem and he kisses her as passionately as he does, she changes her mind. I agree with you that she was scared that he wanted more then to just satisfy his biological urges, and she couldn’t deal with that. But more then anything, I think she just needed to take control of the situation, and she knows that if she rejects him, sure she’s giving up that satisfaction, but at least she’ll know what’s happening. I also think that her anger at Booth the morning after is a mixture of just plain hung over, and fear that she was able to lose so much control around him, that she almost made a mistake (in her eyes letting someone be more to her then just sex was a mistake at the time). From then onwards I think they both knew that she was the one who had to call the shots in their relationship, which is evident from the get-go of the pilot when it’s her call whether they work together or not.

    After the 100th (when Booth gives her all the control, and she just can’t deal with it), I believe Brennan is a bit shocked by Booth’s behaviour. He has always done what she wanted, fought a bit, but she had the last say, and up until the 100th, she had to stop them from going too far. But now, when he’s trying to distance himself from her, she doesn’t know how to deal with him. He’s taking control of himself without caring about her reaction and I believe it’s this shift in power that makes her realise that something is really wrong between them, more then her rejection of him in the 100th. It’s like (using your example) her decisions up until the 100th were all in a vacuum where she knew what Booth was going to do, but after the 100th they were out of the vacuum, and his reaction and the consequences were completely out of her grasp. That was what she had to think over in Maluku, I think she may have realised that if she wanted it to work between her Booth, she had to let him have control every now and then.

    She returns to DC after 7 months away ready for change, and ready to relinquish her control as much as necessary so that she and Booth can work things out. But him being with someone else, not only freaks her out, but means that he never really asks her for command. He just tries to go back to normal, not caring what she does, allowing her to have power over him, but not hanging off her every word like he used to. Brennan is sort of in limbo, now she is trying to allow him to be in charge, but all he wants is for her to take the reigns. He doesn’t fight it anymore. In Doctor in the Photo we see her stop fighting as well. By saying she made a mistake, she is relying on whatever Booth says to make that step forward. She allows him to call the shots for once, and that is what makes that moment so imppresive. She just completely gives herself up to him, and lets him see that.

    So, I think that when she said she made a mistake and doesn’t want regrets, she is not only apologising for the 100th and everything afterwads, but she is also apologising for anytime she has ever taken advantage of the control she had over him, because now she has experienced how relying on another person’s every move feels. (see i told you I’d get there in the end…)

  13. I think mistake Brennan was talking about was that she didn’t even give Booth (and thus a possible relationship) a chance by saying no outright.

  14. Great post Stephanie. Very thought provoking.
    To me when Brennan said she made a mistake in DitP, it was that her mistake was not even trying what Booth offered in the 100th. I agree with Lenora in that I too think she panicked.
    Though her timing sucked BIG TIME when she confessed to Booth in the SUV, I think she just had to tell him. I also don’t think she expected him to drop Hannah there and then for her but knowing that if she didn’t tell him then that would be her big regret.
    The heading, Temperance Brennan: More Than Her Mistakes? Of course she is! She is a person who is willing to learn and expand her way of thinking. She is also a person who is willing to admit that she makes mistakes. If we ONLY saw a person as the mistakes they make then we would be very narrow minded indeed & we would miss out on the very best of that person.

  15. That old saying applies, You never know what you got til its gone.

    Loved your post.

    Do I think Brennan regretted not sleeping with Booth, no, because as someone else stated his confession caused her to second guess her initial decision.
    Do I think Brennan regretted turning Booth down in the 100th episode, yes & no. Yes because she was afraid of all that she would lose if they didn’t work out. No because her rational side says that love in an emotion and can not transcend time.
    Brennan’s confession has placed Booth in a predicament. We know that he told Hannah how Brennan feels about him, but part of me wonders just how much of his own feelings he divulged.
    Brennan is the one who has to adapt to her mistake. She knows she made a mistake in not giving him a chance, now its something she must deal with.
    Trust me, nothing hurts more than watching the person you love, love someone else.

  16. I think her mistake is about her rejection of Booth’s offer in the 100th (not their first meeting) and her mistake about not believing in love. I think the message from the universe is that love is real, that she is capable of love and is worthy of love and that loving someone is worth the emotional pain that sometimes comes with being vulnerable. Even though Booth’s been telling her these things for years, it finally hit her that life is short and that Booth was right. Now that she knows, she is compelled to tell him, even though she knows he isn’t going to leave Hannah because of her confession. She regrets not coming to this realization sooner but now that she has, she can heal and learn to become an even stronger person than she was previously. I don’t see her gamble as being more than Booth’s gamble in the 100th. He had so much more to lose at that point and in Doctor in the Photo she doesn’t because she doesn’t expect Booth to leave Hannah for her.

  17. You’ve made so many interesting points here.

    I think the mistake she was referring to was turning him down in the 100th and then not revisiting that. It’s hard (for me, at least) to separate the ‘no’ from the decision to leave.

    I also think it’s important that Booth interpreted it that way – in last week’s ep, he told Sweets she’d told him she loved him, when she never said those words. But while they don’t always get it perfect, they know one another better than anyone else. And I think that knowledge does matter. 🙂

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