“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?
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!