Bones Theory

The Partner Zone


{Edit from Seels: Today’s post from Nicole is one I ‘commissioned’ her to write. If you don’t know it already, she has her own blog, “The Life of a Hopeless Romantic“, and I love her writing there. I am often very jealous of it. It’s worth a read. Anyway, a month or so ago, she had a post called “The Friend Zone” and I loved it. You know…the friend zone? The difference between men and women? When a woman says, “I feel like I can tell you anything,” she means “I want a life with you”. When a man says it, it might mean, “I like you for your ears, and that’s all.” Ha! Once I read her post, I asked if she would consider spinning it toward B&B and their partner-ness, and she totally accepted and rose to the challenge. Enough from me!}

“Me and you are partners. That’s what we do. We’re partners. And, uh, we-we’re good people who catch bad people, right? Yeah, and-and… and we argue, we-we go back and forth. We’re partners.”

                        Booth, The Daredevil in the Mold

Remember that first moment you met Special Agent Seeley Booth and Dr. Temperance Brennan? Do you remember that moment when you saw the amazing chemistry between them? The attraction practically sizzles between them every moment they are together?  It’s intense. It’s climatic. It’s addicting. And it’s what brings us back every time.

            We’ve waited (anxiously) for six long years for our favorite FBI agent and scientist to finally get their act together and admit that they love each other. Okay, okay. So they have technically, sort of, admitted to having feelings for each other but I mean, come on, they always seem to miss their moment. Darn you, she who shall not be named!! (I know it’s not fair to blame her but I need a scapegoat and she’s standing right there saying no to Seeley Booth!)

            So what has kept them from revealing their feelings for each for so long? There is that pesky little line that ‘doesn’t need to be there’ according to Brennan. But there is no denying that there is a line and it’s drawn firmly in the sand, so to speak. So what exactly does this line mean? I’ll tell you what that line means. That line is the separation between their partnership and The Unknown. That line keeps them safely inside…wait for it… The Partner Zone.

I imagine The Partner Zone to be this large square area where a small section of the floor is painted green with a thick yellow line bordering it and on the outside is the red zone. The green zone is equal to safety, to status quo, to what they, Booth and Brennan, know. The yellow line signifies the caution zone. It’s not as safe as The Partner Zone but it doesn’t scream DANGER!! It sort of whispers CAUTION instead. The red zone is The Unknown. It’s what the future could hold if they ever step away from their comfort zone.

                Booth and Brennan’s relationship is defined in the green zone or The Partner Zone. They started out as partners and only partners. Then they graduated to being friends. And then… well, they’ve been toeing that yellow CAUTION line for quite some time.  

I love what Rynogeny had to say about Booth in her discussion of Booth’s Turning Points a while back: “I think you can make good arguments for other moments in the series being the point when Booth knew he was in love with Brennan, or even, as one friend maintains, that while he loves her, he’s never actually been in love with her at all, not yet.  But for me, the end of this episode, when we see him react to Brennan and Sully kissing, is that moment.  I don’t have any other explanation for his absolute dejection there than that of a man watching the woman he loves kiss another man. Along those lines, I think it’s significant that after this point, we never see him interested in another woman, not until after Brennan turns him down in a way he believed was permanent and non-negotiable.”

Booth definitely took a chance stepping over the yellow CAUTION line, and firmly putting a foot outside The Partner Zone when he asked Brennan for “30, 40, 50 years”. But when Brennan ‘rejected’ him, he retreated far back into the safety of The Partner Zone, vowing to never leave again (well actually to ‘move on’ but for my purposes they mean the same thing). When they split up for seven months, they were both deeply immersed within The Partner Zone. But when Brennan confessed that she made a mistake in The Doctor in the Photo, her foot was where Booth’s had been in The Parts of the Sum of the Whole, right over that yellow line. When Booth said no, Brennan retreated back into The Partner Zone, only not as far as Booth.

Brennan is still standing very close to that CAUTION line, staring longingly (at least I believe she is) into The Unknown. And I say ‘still’ because I believe that, despite all that has happened, Brennan still has hope that one day it’ll work out.  The tables are turned this time. Booth is tucked safely in The Partner Zone and Brennan is the one who’s ready to take that big step, forgive the cliché, into The Unknown.

            I know what you’re thinking. Will they ever leave this zone? Especially after Booth has so firmly (and heartcrushingly) re-drawn the line around their relationship? Don’t give up hope my friends. Someday, that yellow line will be crossed. Someday, The Partner Zone will be no more.

            Until Someday, we just have to be content with the fact that Booth and Brennan are Partners. They’ll continue to do their partner thing: catching murderers, bickering in the car, and changing the future. It’s all about having faith that our favorite duo will work through their issues and make there way from The Partner Zone to the Can’t-Keep-Their-Hands-And-Eyes-Off-Each-Other-Couple Zone that we’ve waited for so long.

So what do you think? Is there such thing as The Partner Zone? Are Booth and Brennan worth the wait? Will they ever take the epic step into The Unknown? What will they find when they get there?


21 thoughts on “The Partner Zone

  1. I like how you’ve simplified the unsimple: Booth and Brennan and THE LINE.

    That line shifts in the hands of fans who interpret every little look, every little touch as a trespass over the line. I also think it’s interesting that Brennan at this point seems much more comfortable with her place in the line even when she doesn’t quite understand where Booth is. I think we see that early in the season when she is desperately trying to engage Booth in conversation and he is almost as desperately trying to not be engaged. (Remember “the perfect murder” that Brennan was talking about?) Booth seems to have created even more lines within the boundaries of the “partner zone”; lines that exist to keep him true to his live-in lover or his vision of what it means to have “moved on.”

    Brennan’s belief that there might be a day in which the two of them are more than partners is probably going to be tested in the coming episode. I hope so. I think she’s made it clear with her willingness to accept his ultimatum, her present of Tommy guns on Valentine’s Day and her statement of “I’ll always stand by you” show just how ready she is to step past the line. It’s Booth dragging his feet right now– or standing awkwardly shuffling his feet, taking one step forward then retreating the moment he thinks she’s questioning him. As much as the early part of the season was agonizing in some ways, it seems to have firmly established just how much Booth has tried to distance himself from the line (and Brennan.)

  2. Yes, I too believe that there is a Partner Zone. It is the zone that makes Booth and Brennan very close friends when all else in their life is going to hell in a hand basket. They can be moody towards each other, bicker, get on each others nerves; but, because they are partners they allow themselves to overlook each others flaws. This zone allows them to be best friends. It has also allowed them to reject each other in the past and yet expect the other to continue with their friendship. The Partner Zone is also their friendship zone, their saftey zone. A place to retreat when they disappoint each other.
    Booth and Brennan are definitely worth the wait. Their story is so fascinating. Will they? Won’t they? Most of us hope so. They will make such an interesting couple. Definitely the chocolate version of relationships, no vanilla here.
    What will they find when they get there? They will find the life partners they both so desperately need. Yes, I say desperately. They both have had terrible childhoods. They have seen what dysfunctional families look like, up close and personal. They must hope that if they ever find the one meant for them that the family they form will be a strong one. Each of them knows the weaknesses of the other. They have been though good times and bad already. When they get together, they will know what to expect from each other. There won’t be any mystery about who they really are. No unrealistic expectations. This will allow the partnership zone to expand to a life partnership zone. It will be a very interesting place to be. For them and for us.

  3. This is a lovely post – I really like having a framework to discuss their partnership around and agree that they have both taken steps over the line at separate times before retreating back.

    That’s what I think is significant – they’ve taken steps over when they are ready individually, but no one has taken a step when they’ve both been ready and in the same place emotionally. It’s when they get to that point that it might actually be time for them to both take the leap together.

    I also love how brave Brennan is being. I think I always knew that when it came to it, Brennan would love Booth fiercly, with all the tenacity and dedication she brings to everything. But to see her being so brave before they’re even together makes my heart warm and full with love for her too. I’m so proud of her for being courageous with her heart and not retreating behind her walls. Booth’s a lucky man to have her standing beside him.

    • Brennan had absolutely no reason to believe that Booth would be waiting on the other side of Hannah and yet she waits. I like how you put it– she “would love Booth fiercely.” I know that some have labeled Brennan a doormat to Booth or even worried about her being a rebound, but I think how she’s being played right now suggests that she would never see herself as either of those things. In fact, I would lay odds that she’s going to be the one who makes the first step.

      • I agree with you that Brennan is no doormat to Booth. She is a strong individual who knows what she wants. She is patient and if that is what it takes to get Booth in the end then that is what she will be. I also think that Brennan is going to be the one to move the relationship along. Booth has already been told no by Brennan twice. There is no way he will make the next move and risk losing Brennan’s friendship now. His insecurities when it comes to his love life are deeper than they ever were. If the relationship between Booth and Brennan is going to go anywhere it will have to be Brennan that pushes it along. That doesn’t mean she is bending to Booths will. To me it means that Booth will have to bend to Brennans will. I may have said that wrong. I am a big Booth and Brennan fan and I don’t think one is subservient to the other.
        By the way, if anyone was a rebound, it was Hannah. Brennan can’t be the rebound if Hannah was.

      • Those doormat comments bother me too. I see nothing doormat-ish in her behavior in the last two episodes. I see someone who is above petty attempts at “getting even” by matching each hurt or rejection tit for tat.

  4. Interesting post. I agree with the comments above. So I’ll only add that I often wonder how B&B would cope without the Partner Zone being in place. Both cling to it. Both realise that it’s the glue that holds them together. Both seem to use it as a mechanism to reset their changing/evolving relationship – in the 100th, Brennan tearfully asks if they can still work together, and later, Booth will make clear that this is the status of their relationship after being refused by Hannah. What if their partnership was dissolved…what then? What of their friendship? I guess without their partnership, I don’t imagine it will be easy for either to pick up the phone and arrange to have coffee… Are things that precarious? Just the thought makes me sad 😦

  5. I firmly believe in the “Partner Zone,” but I think the edges for each level are fuzzy and at times, undetermined. I find that frustrating beyond belief, but it’s also why I have 107 episodes on my DVR, and want the rest of them.

    But I read something in the comment section of one of the posts in this blog that has given me a sense of peace and helps me push back against the frustration I sometimes feel. I copied it to a draft email to help me remember it:

    Commenter “Barbara”:
    And as annoyed with HH as I often am, I am absolutely certain he is ultimately telling a love story.

    That has become sort of like my Wizard of Oz reflex. Instead of clicking my heels three times, I just recite – It’s a love story. It’s a love story.

    And I feel better.

  6. This post reminds me of the scene in TKITC, where Brennan has her arms open spinning in front of the car showing Booth that it is safe from Broadsky.

    She is out there wanting to be in the open, pulling Booth with her. I think it will take time for him to join her there but that is to be expected. I want to see them have that love that lasts and not have her be a rebound from the rebound.

    Anyway, that is my two cents, because HH said they haven’t missed their moment and everything really does happen eventually.

    Great post by the waty.

  7. This makes a lot of sense to describe what we’ve had on the show. The Partner Zone describes it quite well, and yes they’ve never been ready to move into the next zone at the same time. I think the Partner Zone is what has made them so able to function all these years, it’s thier safety zone.

    Right now I think Brennan is still ready to step oustide of that safety zone and she’s just waiting for Booth to be ready too. Once he is she’ll be ready to grab his hand so they can make the leap together.

  8. It’s interesting to me that neither Booth nor Brennan has directly used those “three little words” that seem to come so easily to characters on other shows. It’s been said for Booth in various ways by Cam, Sweets, GG, and he sort of said it with the disclaimer “in an atta girl kind of way.” Likewise, Brennan says she doesn’t want to have regrets but shies away from actually saying “I love you.” I’m dying to hear those words because for me that will be the true time that the green zone is left behind-hopefully for good. Uttering those words will really put them outside their usual partnership mode in a way that would make it almost impossible to go back to the safety of being “just” work partners. Except that the way that B/B are almost guarantees that even if they become romantic partners (actually, no “if” there-comprende writers?), they will continue to remain partners in the other things that matter to them: their friendship, how they share ideas and beliefs and how they want to help others; these things remaining even if the work partnership gets taken away from them for some reason or other.

    And so I’m actually very happy that they haven’t said “I love you” to each other yet, and I think that has been deliberate on the part of the writers. I’m hopeful that they are saving it because they know how powerful those words will really be at that time, undiluted by overuse. And I’m praying that after they’re used, we’ll never see our adored couple part again, not in a meaningful way.

    • I like what you said, maria, about them not saying those three words yet. I wouldn’t want them to be overused, either. I find it fascinating that they didn’t explicitly say it in their confessions, but that’s what the other person heard/saw anyway. I didn’t get it, but I still like it because it makes me love them even more. Even though I’m watching their moments, sometimes they are the only ones who knows what is really going on.

      I also think Booth and Brennan will forever be partners; it’s just that the definition for them will grow and expand for them.

    • I think that Sweets got it wrong when he said that when they kissed a dam would break. I think when they kiss as a couple a dam will burst, but I think the real “breaking point” (or breaking out of the boundaries of the line point) will be “I love you.” Once those words are said, there’s no going back for either one of them. The fact that neither one of them has overtly defined their relationship (until Booth used the word after his proposal to Hannah) as love, but presented it as knowing or something to be regretted suggests just how powerful those words are for either one of them.

  9. 1) Totally agree about the partner zone.
    2) Still don’t entirely trust HH about eventually.
    3) Two questions:
    a) In the quote from DitM you left out that he says that he loves that they’re partners — no ellipsis or other indication that words were left out. Deliberate?
    b) Why is everyone interpreting Booth’s words at the end of DitM so definitively? I don’t think he really was drawing a line at all. These words were said when he was drunk and in incredible emotional pain and very, very angry (probably mostly at himself for his rash actions here — I don’t think he was rash in ep 100 — but he lashes out, really vents at Brennan). I really don’t see his words as having intent much beyond this particular moment. At most I think he’s saying he needs some space and time. I just don’t see him, under these specific circumstances, as drawing some thick black (or yellow) line that cannot be crossed around their partnership.
    While I didn’t really see them as flirting in the beginning of KitC, I did see that he clearly wanted to spend the day with Brennan even when he didn’t have to. To me that’s a clear step (however small) toward over that line. And, I see his frustration with Brennan equating him with Broadsky similarly. Yeah, it bugs him that his partner — nuh uh — it bothers him that Brennan, his true soulmate, might see him this way. He’s still hurt and trying to protect himself, but now that there’s no reason (meaning H, of course) to not be with Brennan as much as he wants to, he is trying to be with his Bones as much as he wants to, even when he doesn’t have to be. That thick yellow line gets thinner and thinner.

    • I agree with you about 3b. He was in a lot of pain and drunk. And based on Brennan’s actions from there on out, she didn’t take it all to heart, either. At the time, he couldn’t see that far into the future, and he didn’t know what to do. In a way, he was saying he needed (or really wanted) their friendship/partnership to help him get his equilibrium back. Because he still values that, and he didn’t belittle that at all. I think Booth is allowed the occasional pity party, but I don’t want to see any more of his moping “Nobody wants me” when it’s clear that Brennan does.

  10. Awesomely awesome post 🙂

    I do love this…The Partner Zone. It’s a really cool idea and i think it is very apt for Booth and Brennan.

    They have their comfort blanket part of the relationship where they desperately avoid seeing each other as anything BUT partners. Every now and then they cross it…not sure Booth did so in the 100th but that’s a whole other story 😀

    Brilliant post!

  11. Ha ha – The Partner Zone! It’s catchy and I love the visual. Great post Nicole! Here’s hoping it’s not too much longer until they (both) have both feet firmly in the red…:)

  12. Great post, Nicole.

    Firstly, of course they’ll cross into the red zone ‘eventually’. I agree with those who call this a love story. You can’t build it to this without the inevitable happening. I also agree with Angelena – I didn’t take Booth’s drunken, selfpity filled statements at the end of DitM seriously…and I’m seeing weekly evidence of that. (He want’s to attend a lecture? Yeah right!).

    B&B will cross the line and it will be beautiful…but some more time and trust is needed. I love a lot of things about this show atm, but I love watching Brennan being ready. She is so ready to cross that line and is adorable and sweet and makes me so proud of her! I feel like a mummy watching her child grow up!

  13. Love this post. Is it mean to kind of want someone to take away the partnership box on them? Boy, I’d really love to see them react to (one show only please my heart), someone like Hatcher or another FBI ptb decide that it’s rediculous for Booth and Brennan work together. Wouldn’t that be fabulous. Because we know that they wouldn’t be able to stay away. It would be like Proof in the Pudding but both working on different cases. Oh, that would be fun… at least for one episode.

  14. I just loved this post!

    Also, the clear defining of where THE LINE is and where they are/were at specific moments helped!

    Brilliant writing! 🙂

  15. if i could just cut out and compile all the scenes that booth and brennan are just staring at each other (smiling, thoughtfully), i would do it! (maybe someday i will!) and it would go on FOR HOURS!!!
    i think they are just both afraid that if they get to cross the line (or the zone), things could go horribly wrong. maybe they are presently contented with being the best partners there ever was… however… no one is getting any younger here…. if they could just be together and still keep the series running… (for a long time)… hmmm, that would be a dream come true…

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