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!