Bones Theory

The Jeffersonian: More Than Just The House Of Reason


Imagine that you are talking with someone about Bones for the first time. You would probably describe the characters and the cases, but what about the setting? Do you call it “the Lab,” the Jeffersonian, the FBI, or Washington, DC?

Bones’ DC is very different from the real DC, but both DC’s have a large role to play in the show, in its foundation and its execution. Since the show is filmed in California, certain things, like climate and geography, will never be portrayed properly, but I can forgive that (I’m from the area, and have worked there three times now, even once for the Smithsonian). Even the Jeffersonian, the Bones-world take on the Smithsonian Institution, is quite different from the real Smithsonian, but it’s OK – there is something about that place that makes it real to me (and made me squee when I started working for the Smithsonian, because it’s the real-world Jeffersonian).

My recent internship at the Smithsonian made me think a lot about the Lab. I decided, one day, that the Lab isn’t just a setting, it’s the “home” of the characters.

The Jeffersonian is almost like its own character, isn’t it? It has a variety of people who are specialists in many different fields all coming together and something pretty amazing. The accuracy of the many different types of specialists is great (I know a guy from the Smithsonian Natural History museum who specializes in pineapples). The Jeffersonian has the old building feel (I love the chandelier and the brick), mixed with a very modern lab. Everything is state-of-the-art. It’s a place that college students see and want to work in. The colors are cool, sterile, and calm. The space feels open at the main platform, but the offices are warm and intimate (minus Cam’s, which still has a cool angular feeling).

Some of Bones’ most unique episodes are the “bottle” episodes, where the characters are all stuck in the lab (“Man in the Fallout Shelter” and “Proof in the Pudding”), but in both episodes, so much more is learned about the characters. In one episode, we learned about Booth’s son, Parker, and in the other, we find out that he is the descendant of John Wilkes Booth. In MitFS, we learn a bit more about Brennan’s parents’ disappearance, and in PitP, we learn that Hodgins is still Angela’s guy.

The Lab was also the nightclub in The End in the Beginning. How would the episode have felt if it had been brought out of context and the nightclub was in a completely different location? I don’t think it would have worked so well, and I don’t think the characters would have felt as “them” if that had been the case. My main argument for liking tEitB is that the characters remained the same. Isn’t it true of the Lab, though? I mean, the set was changed only a tiny bit, but that tiny alteration made it feel more real than had it been placed somewhere else.

Finally, we have also seen the Lab as part of the beginning of the team in the 100th episode. In that past Lab, there was less technology, and everyone was focused on past remains, bugs, slime, pollen, etc. There was no such thing as the Angelator (or the current Angelatron, which I like much less), no Ookey room, and most importantly, no team. By the time we reach the MitFS, they are colleagues, according to Dr. Goodman. They can barely describe themselves as friends to each other. Zack and Hodgins are “roommates” but that’s about it. Brennan, of everyone, is most attached to the Lab. When she feels that the Lab is threatened, she gets very upset (Intern in the Incinerator and the Gormogon arc). We see her more in the Lab than we’ve seen her anywhere else, it’s where she runs to when she wants an escape or answers (Doctor in the Photo). We’ve never seen where Angela, Hodgins, and Cam live, and we rarely see them outside of the Lab. Their identities are attached to that Lab much stronger than could be thought.

We have also seen what happens when you take the squints completely out of the Lab, thanks to Mastodon in the Room. While they were still them as a team, an important piece was missing – the Lab. It must be no coincidence that Brennan said “welcome home” to Booth only after they got back to the Lab. I really want to say that leaving was a good thing for our Jeffersonian crew. Why? It solidified their identities beyond the Lab. Angela and Hodgins now have Paris (and a baby created there) attached to their lives. Brennan, although she leaves often, obviously went through a process of introspection in Maluku that she could have never had at the Lab. Isn’t that why she left? I guess that’s why I have always supported Brennan’s leaving – the type of perspective she was looking for would have never been found in the Lab. Booth hardly goes to the Lab, now, but really, is it as strong a part of Booth’s identity as the rest of the characters?

So I guess my main thought is this: the Lab is part of the glue that binds the team together – for them, it is Home. It is where they formed as a team, where Angela and Hodgins fell in love, where Cam and Brennan found peace, where Brennan proves to Booth over and over again how brilliant she is, and where the team became a family. It is where everyone returns to when there’s trouble, and where Brennan made sure that they would go back. While the Diner and Founding Fathers are crash-and-rehash-time places, the FBI is the place for synthesizing the facts and interrogating suspects, and the car is the place of discussion, it all really happens at the Lab.

So what do you think – is the Lab “home” for our characters? Is the Lab its OWN character of sorts?  What do you think is the most important Lab-related episode? Let’s discuss!


Author: Owl

Observant owl-lover that remembers too much, especially about history. Also a museum nerd.

13 thoughts on “The Jeffersonian: More Than Just The House Of Reason

  1. When it comes to the Lab, I am torn between The Man In The Fallout Shelter and the Intern In The Incinerator for my favorite “Lab” episodes. TMITFS was where I first noticed how beautiful the lab could be. Angela, with help from Hodgins and Zach, decorated the Lab for Christmas and it looked so lovely. We also got to see everyone interacting with each other in a more “family” setting in the lab. All in all, my favorite episode and yet the IITI showed us parts of the Jeffersonian we hadn’t seen before and how Brennan considered it her house. That a murder was committed in her house by “one of us” was truly upsetting for her. It just seemed to me that the Lab was very important in these episodes.

    I agree with you that End In The Beginning would not have felt right if the nightclub had been anywhere else. The Lab is so central to Brennan and the Squints; so, to have a dream story still take place in the Lab and yet not at the Lab made total sense to me. The Lab wore a disguise; but, we were still able to see the house that Brennan loves so much.

    I don’t think Booth is ever comfortable in the Lab. The Lab represents the technical side of murder. The only smart person Booth has ever liked is Brennan. I think Booth thinks of the Squints as more co-workers than friends. The only time he ever comes to the Lab is when he wants to get Brennan or wants something from Brennan. His comfort zone is out in the field and like Brennan said in the early episodes, Booth hates the parking at the Jerffersonian.

  2. I think the Intern in the incinerator is a great episode where describe well why the lab is their home. Not that the other episodes don’t do that because they do all in a particular way. But the incinerator is the episode when Booth recognize that there is Brennan’s home. Not where she sleeps as he tell her but where she feels comfortable. It’s her House of reason. But as Booth is aware of it on this episode i think the same applies to Angela,Hodgins,Cam, the Squinterns and even Booth too. That’s why i think he’s not been on the lab on this season cuz to him that place is where his Family live. The family he learn love during all this 6 years. It’s the place that is the home of the woman he learn to love. It’s their comfort zone. The place where Booth feel great when he’s with Brennan and the squints.Since he was with Hannah he tried dettached to the lab cuz would be very hard to him beeing with Hannah and be on the lab taht remind him the other family he have the woman he learn love. I just hope now that Hannah gone Booth find the to his home.the House of reason, The House of Love why not. It’s on the Jeff when he found all this , A Family and the love of his life.Yes ! The lab is their Home indeed.

  3. I think you’re right that the lab is another character in the Bones universe. How each character interacts outside of the lab adds more to our knowledge of them, but they are heavily defined by the lab. I think that’s why one of the complaints this year about Booth’s absence from the lab is so telling. We see that as being the home of the family and there’s a certain comfort and intimacy that is achieved there.

  4. I’ve always thought of the Lab as like a mothership. But “home” works too 🙂 And, really, I LOVE it when they’re stuck in the Lab!! hahaha.

  5. I do have to agree that the lab is really another character on the show. I guess that should be capitalized since that would be the character’s name right (I did notice that you did capitalize it 🙂 )? The Lab is a presence and if we had episodes where we weren’t there it would be just as missed as episodes without one of the other main characters. You’re right and I hadn’t really paid attention, but just like the other characters the Lab as changed over the course of the show to a certain extent, and as the characters have developed that atmosphere at the Lab has developed.

  6. I agree that the Lab is really another character even though I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Man in the Fallout Shelter is one of my very favorites and one of the reasons why is because being confined to the Lab brings everyone closer. We learn so much more about the characters in this episode and even their connection with their outside lives takes place in the Lab when they touch their family members through the door. That Brennan doesn’t feel the need to run out when they are finally allowed to leave shows us that it is definitely her home, her house of reason. The Lab is a home away from home for Hodgins since he doesn’t have to work but does it out of love of science, etc.
    Even though there are times when Booth isn’t comfortable in the Lab, I like that the End in the Beginning takes place there. Maybe Booth dreaming about being happy yet the Lab is the setting for it tells us just how much the Lab is a part of their lives. BTW – End in the Beginning is one of the most creative inventive episodes in all of television. It is really a tribute to HH and SN that they could pull that off successfully.

  7. I agree with you. The Lab is definitely a kind of “home” for the characters. When you think about it, it’s amazing how well we know Cam, Angela and Hodgins without ever seeing where they live.

    I got frustrated now that you mentioned the fact that Booth hardly goes to the lab anymore. I do NOT like that fact, at all. WHY doesn’t he ever go there anymore?!?!

  8. What a fabulous piece, Owl 🙂
    I really love the Lab. It struck me just recently how good looking Bones was as a show. All the actors are hot, but the Lab is just as gorgeous. I love how science is portrayed by the Lab. Compare it to the place in the physicist episode (sorry – brain fade). The Lab just oozes sophistication and class and yet manages to feel homey.

    The most we’ve gotten to know the characters is via their offices – especially given we have never been to Cam, Hodgins, or Angela’s homes. We learn about them via what we see in the Lab. One of the things that I have always loved about Bones is that the science comes before the cops. Many crime shows are based in the ‘cop world’. This one is centred on the house of reason and so the Lab deserves to be it’s own ‘character’ so to speak, because its presence creates the relationships we see.

  9. Love your piece on the Lab and agree it is another character in the show. I hadn’t thought of it before but its true we’ve learned so much about Angela, Cam, Hodgins and the squints without ever seeing them in their homes. This is also true for Sweets in the FBI Building. We do see them from time to time in the diner or the Founding Fathers but overall their world is the Lab. For us the viewers, the Lab is their home and this has been doubly true for Brennan. She has always looked so comfortable and in control at the Jeffersonian which has not been so for Booth who has always uncomfortable I believe because its a place of science (the head) and not a place where leaps of intuition are made (the heart). Also being surrounded by so much intelligence and intellect would make most people fidget at the least. We know he has gone to the Lab because that is where Brennan is and where it has been clear for the past 5 seasons where she ‘lives’ and rules.

    In season 6 which has concentrated on Booth’s story and of Brennan coming to terms with her feelings for Booth we rarely if ever see Booth at the Lab. During the Hannah arc apart from when he and Brennan were called out to view remains it appeared he had less contact with Brennan and obtained information from the Lab via Cam or emails etc. This forced Brennan to come to him in the FBI building, where Booth is in control. The tables have been turned completely from past seasons and Brennan now enters his world whenever she can to pass on relevant information but essentially to maintain as much contact with him as possible. What I understand from the change in her behaviour is that the Lab no longer represents what is most important to her (notwithstanding that her work will always be important) and the Lab as ‘home’ as a place of emotional safety has been replaced in her heart by her slowly acknowledged love for Booth and she will go wherever required to be with him.

  10. Owl, that’s a lovely post. I don’t have much to add, but I do agree that the lab is really sort of a character in its own right; especially in regards to its use in End in the Beginning. The slight redressing of the set was inspired, and you’re right that the episode would have felt wrong anywhere else. Heck, I would go to a club like “The Lab” if it existed. It looked like fun. 😉

  11. Just another thought…. The Lab as a club belonged to both Booth and Brennan as a couple. I’m wondering if Booth’s distancing from the place will be rectified once they hook up. We may start to see him there again and it be a bit more their place.

    That be, if DB quits whining about Lab scenes…which is from what I’ve read the reason we don’t see him there as much…

  12. Love it! I actually don’t even know what to say, I just love everything you talked about. Haha. The ‘bottle episodes’ are by far some of my favorites. I think those episodes prove how great the writers and actors are, but as you mentioned also spotlight the Lab. The Lab is home. 🙂

  13. Love the post mate!!

    And you’re totally spot on. The ‘Lab’ is like a character of it’s own…it has it’s own identity and it has it’s own purpose, both in terms of the work that goes on their and the characters themselves.

    I love any episode ‘Lab’ based because, for me, it gives us the most from the characters. When they are confined to the Lab, be it because of lung fungi, murder or secret mission, we always learn so much from the characters AND we get much more interaction between them.

    My personal favourite is Proof In The Pudding…that is easily my favourite episode from S5. It has everything. Action. Drama. Romance. Humour. And most important of all it has…Booth with a gun 😉

    And really, what more could a girl want?! 😛

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