Bones Theory

IAYA: Partners


Good morning! Here’s another ‘I Ask, You Answer’ for us to consider:


Booth has used the “we’re partners” phrase to protect himself a lot more than Brennan has. What does this mean?




28 thoughts on “IAYA: Partners

  1. I think it shows that he’s in denial of his feelings. He is so concerned over her rejecting him, that he doesn’t want to alienate her further. Her rejection of him in PitSW, hurt him, and he doesn’t want to feel that again, so on the outside he continues to use partners, trying to convince himself it’s true.

  2. I agree with Kimberly. Booth used the “we’re just partners” thing as a shield. At first he did it because he didn’t want to push Brennan into anything if she wasn’t ready for it. He was shielding her from his possible interest. After 100, he used it as a shield to protect himself.

  3. I think he also does it to remind himself. To force anything else out of his mind. To state it out loud makes it more real. More permanent. No different than the little engine that could chanting “I think I can” over and over.

    • I think you nailed it ceeray. It’s to bring himself down to earth when gets all googly eyed in love with her :). Plus, a shield for not only himself but for Brennan also, to protect BOTH of them from taking their relationship somewhere they are not ready to go.

  4. I’m going to disagree here, in part. I think you all are right in terms of recent times, but I don’t think that this was true from the beginning.

    I think that in the beginning, it was just the way you introduced or characterized the relationship between two people who work together. It makes clear that one is not subordinate to another. It makes it clear that they work together regularly as opposed to just working together on an ad hoc basis. In “Fire in the Ice,” neither Booth nor Perrotta introduced the other as their partner.

    Furthermore, I think that the use of partner as a protective strategy applies just as much to Brennan. She too has always countered that they were “just partners.” I’d argue that that designation was critical to her earlier than it was to Booth, especially when other people were thinking that they were a couple. She has used it explicitly to explain away her own and Booth’s behavior from very early on.

    • I agree that in the beginning it was a way to introduce themselves. But I also think that Booth used it as a way to differentiate his personal feelings for her, from his professional standing. As the series continued, he used it for often, because he needed to keep reminding himself she was only a partner. I think Booth was scared of the intensity of his feelings from the beginning, and this was a way to help him cope.

      • I can see that. Then we have to agree that he had strong feelings and was aware of them on some level from the beginning. I don’t have a problem with that, but some people would.

    • I think he knew from the beginning. He said “I knew, Bones I knew, right from the beginning.” I think that night on the steps in the rain, he was relieved that she refused him.

      I believe his reaction to her touch, touched him a little too deeply, and he wanted to wait until he knew her better, before he slept with her. He was looking for that ‘making love’ connection, and I think he found it in her, so he wanted to wait until a relationship formed. Little did he know it would take her so long to admit it.

  5. I believe that the phrase has been used to cover a multitude of sins over the years by both Booth and Brennan, although I definitely associate it more with him than with her. I completely agree with Lenora that at the beginning it served as a way to make Brennan more comfortable with him, especially in the face of so many people assuming that there might be something more than work between them. Later, like ceeray said, he used it as a reminder to himself not to step over a line that might possibly end the comfortable relationship they had worked out between them.

    It’s interesting to me that Booth, who always seemed like a loner and seems to have worked alone before (other than when he had his spotter in the army,) places so much value on the word partner. I think it reassures him that he has someone that is part of his group, his family if you will and anything that threatens that is met with great resistance, like when GG and Sweets meddled with his relationship with Brennan. Once Booth lets you in you become part of his clan, his responsibility, and he takes this role very seriously like he did when he carried Teddy Parker trying to save his life, or the numerous times he’s risked everything for Brennan or been willing to sacrifice his possible livelyhood for Pops.

    To me one of the most powerful, and ambiguous uses of the word came in Daredevil. I’m not sure even Booth understood what he was saying when he said “we’re partners” other than it was a very obvious “keep out” sign. But while he could have very well ended their relationship completely at this point because of how he was feeling, he chose to let her have the option of saving that part of what they had. A work partnership in its most basic sense was the only lifeline left to him, the only thing he could give at that moment, and I for one am very glad she agreed to his terms.

    • Off Topic. Maria, I had an idea for a story and tried it out in Bones Fanfic. I tried to present Booth’s point of view of what happened in season 6. I just wanted to fill in the holes that HH and his writers left us with during the season. They left way too much for us to imagine. If you have time to kill, it’s there to read under “Heart Versus Brain”. I plan to finish it tomorrow. Let me know what you think. (I wrote it under FaithinBones – because someone took my name)

      • Lenora, I’ve been able to read half of your story so far, and I wanted you to know that I’m really enjoying it. It fills in so many of the blanks that relate to how Booth felt about Brennan once she left and how he dealt with things once Hannah came along. It’s the wonderful thing about fanfic; it helps to give depth to all the things we didn’t see but which we know must have happened. It would really be great if people who comment on this blog and also write fiction under a different name (as is often the case) would provide their pennames. I for one would really like to read and support those writers, especially since I already appreciate much of what they say on this site. Maybe that could be a little feature added to this blog that people could access on a regular basis. Just a thought. And Lenora, I’m looking forward to reading your other ones too!

    • I disagree. When Booth stressed the ‘we’re partners’ in the bar scene, to me it showed that he was reaffirming his connection with Brennan in the face of the faux connection he had just shattered with Hannah. For Booth, partners is an inclusive term. You would kill for your partner; you would die for your partner. Neither Booth nor Brennan can be unaware that the term is used frequently to denote lifetime commitments as well as work relationships. Brennan basically broke their partnership when she left for Maluku and at this very low point in Booth’s emotional life, he is reaffirming to himself and to her that they still have this connection. Then with a tremendous gesture of generosity he gives her the option of breaking it again. And given his closed eyes and hunched shoulders while waiting for her response, he seems to be expecting her to walk out again. But she doesn’t, reaffirming on her side that the partnership still holds even if the center is still out of focus.

      • EL, I love your interpretation of Booth’s bar scene: ” Brennan basically broke their partnership when she left for Maluku and at this very low point in Booth’s emotional life, he is reaffirming to himself and to her that they still have this connection. Then with a tremendous gesture of generosity he gives her the option of breaking it again. And given his closed eyes and hunched shoulders while waiting for her response, he seems to be expecting her to walk out again.”

        That scene just rips my heart out. And I like how you mentioned his body language too. Even though it hurts him to offer her “freedom” from their partnership, he still does it. Even though she’s one of the women who “rejected” him. Ah…..some people I’ve talked to on other message boards think Booth is selfish and mean and they hate the scene, but I LOVE it. It’s a painful scene, but its nice to see Booth actually vent and share his true feelings instead of hiding it for the sake of other people. In this case, their “surrogate relationship” helped hold them together, to give them time for Booth to heal, and Brennan to give up that imperviousness.

        Yay! 🙂

      • Well, it’s a wonderful scene which is definitely open to interpretation. When I saw it my immediate reaction was that he was hurting very badly from the collective rejections in his past and he felt that he couldn’t expose himself to any more pain by just going back to the surrogate relationship he and Brennan had shared previously. My impression was that he was putting that line back firmly in place, because otherwise he was going to fall back into the same old comfortable pattern of loving her from a distance and he couldn’t go there just yet. We know she said she had regrets before, but it isn’t clear exactly what that meant for them and in his drunken, extremely vulnerable state he wasn’t going to risk it, at least not any time soon. I do believe that that he still wanted to be with her regardless of any possible pain which is why I found it really heartbreaking that he offered to get her a new guy if she couldn’t accept these new boundaries. Regardless of how we see his actions though, it was an amazing, gut-wrenching performance and for me one of the highlights of the whole series.

      • Maria, I love your response as well! “We know she said she had regrets before, but it isn’t clear exactly what that meant for them and in his drunken, extremely vulnerable state he wasn’t going to risk it, at least not any time soon.”

        Thanks exactly how I interpreted the scene. I know some people find him cold, or selfish, I don’t get that vibe at all!!! He’s drunk, recently rejected, and as Sweets so helpfully points out, he’s not getting any younger. He sort of lashed out in the moment, but I’m kind of glad he did. He kind of stuck up for himself for once and I think Brennan needed to see that. See that her dragging her feet did cause him pain. Sort of what Cam said about cracking Brennan’s shell in reverse. Brennan needed to realize that she needed to be careful in her responses and actions to Booth as well as he did for her in the past.

        But yay, they are together now! 🙂 Woot!

  6. I think the definition for the word partner is very fluid, for both of them, and it means different things – to one or both of them – depending on the particular circumstances.

    Both of them have used it as a barrier and both of them have used it almost as an endearment. I think if you were to ask them, they wouldn’t be able to give you a concrete definition.

    And next season, it will have yet another meaning for them because now they’re partner-partners.

  7. “We’re partners” is along the same the line as “Atta girl/boy” I love you’s. It’s a way for both of them to express their connection, trust, care for each other without ACTUALLY saying it. They’ve both used it to protect each other. It helped them keep their distance when things got too emotional or they need reassurance. I believe that Brennan has been totally aware of Booth’s extraneous use of “its a partner thing” and lets herself touch him, help him, etc under that partner umbrella. They were just so funny like that, Booth to help himself keep his attraction under control, Brennan to be with Booth, but not “with” Booth. (Cuz we all know her tendency to touch him even if she wouldn’t admit it 🙂 haha).

  8. Some time ago, I was engaged in a discussion on here about how Booth used the “just partners” line justify un-partner-like behavior to Brennan, and there was some debate about whether or not it was intentional. For instance, the “guy hugs” would fall under the umbrella of things that Booth convinced Brennan are allowed between “just partners.” My personal opinion is that, in the beginning, Booth knew that Brennan was closed off, he felt that he could/should try to open her up a bit, and since Brennan seems to take his word as gospel, she bought the “it’s what partners do” schpiel. However, I would also agree that the meaning of the phrase and the way that they used it to justify their behavior evolved over the series. I also think that at some point Brennan caught on to the fact that their definition of partnership was rather elastic compared to most (I really don’t know exactly when), and that she chose to use it rather than call Booth on it. I’m guessing that she didn’t really realize how much they had stretched the definition of “just partners” until after Hannah entered the picture.

    • Yeah that is a good point. I think Sweets was totally right when he called them out on their surrogate relationships and their inability to form long term relationships with others because of it. Whether they were totally concious of it the whole time or not, that might be more of a fluid concept, they were totally using their “partnership” to be connected with someone while trying to avoid the pitfalls and troubles of an actual romantic relationship. I think at different times along the way, both of them have been aware of this, but either unable or unwilling to actually admit that.

      • bb- Yes! I think they have had an unspoken agreement for some time that they both know certain things that they can’t or won’t acknowledge. It’s how they maintain the balance in their relationship. They can be close, they can touch each other platonically, they can support each other emotionally, but if certain things were voiced, they would either have to move forward to put some distance between themselves. Which is exactly what happened after Booth’s outburst in the 100th. Nobody was really fooled by the “just partners” song an dance, but it was a necessary fiction for them to function professionally, while still cultivating a personal relationship. What I find interesting is to go back and watch older episodes with something like this in mind and look for clues as to exactly when each of them become aware of all of these unspoken things.

    • CJsMom, I totally agree with what you said here. It’s really fascinating the lengths Booth went to to get Brennan to open up and trust him.

      In the beginning, Cullen told him that he was responsible for taking her, a squint, out into the field. And Booth took and still takes that responsibility very seriously. It drives him crazy sometimes because she can be rather reckless because of her independence, but at the same time, he loves her independence and strength because that’s part of what makes her an “exceptional” partner who he can count on to have his back and save it, if need be. They’ve both had hard lives, and I get the feeling that for each of them, their partnership is one of the best things that happened to either of them (they are smiling when telling Sweets about when they first met each other, and you can tell they are so happy that they did.)

      I think a major turning point is when Brennan asked for Booth’s help with her parents’ disappearance. I think that going through that process with her drew him to her emotionally, and he felt compelled to protect her emotionally instead of just physically. And Brennan, overwhelmed with the pain she had been compartmentalizing for years, took the shoulder he offered her. Maybe not always easily, but eventually she came to consider him a constant in her life, and even sought him out for comfort several times. I think that was also one of the biggest blows she received when he was with Hannah. And it made the moment that she went to him after Vincent died so special, because I imagine she really missed being able to do that before.

      Booth and Brennan have never been “just partners”.But even with them being together now, and expectant parents, I still think partners (in every sense of the word) is the best way to describe them. Really, though, I think they are inexplicable (thanks for the idea, Booth, and the vocab lesson, Brennan).

      • C-bones, I think you have a point about Booth always trying to protect Brennan. I always love it when they have a little quick speech, before they confront someone and Booth tells Brennan to stay in the car, ok well stay behind me, ok here’s a gun. They have done that more than once and I laugh every time. Your right, he wants to protect; but, at the same time he knows she can take care of herself and he loves that about her. I also think you are right about the turning point in their relationship. I always thought they got closer after Booth started to look into her parents disappearance.

      • I’m re-watching BONES from the beginning, and I’m more than halfway through the first season. Wow, what a difference time makes! This show is still addicting to me. To know that these two people with a rocky start are together now and having a baby soon blows my mind. How did they get there? I’m just going have to rewatch it all to see how it happened! 😉

      • C-bones, I agree, he is VERY protective of her–from the beginning. I think that at the beginning of the series, Booth treated Brennan the way he would treat his best friend’s kid sister. He was protective of her, and even though he found her sexually attractive she was off limits. I really started to think that after reading laffers post about how Booth isn’t in love with Brennan yet, and then I went back and watched some early season one episodes. The Man in the Bear was the first one that this idea really struck me; it’s in his attitude about all the men in that small town making eyes at her. It’s obvious he finds her attractive but he doesn’t make any overtures towards her, and it pisses him off that she’s being ogled and treated like a piece of meat. Of course the 100th puts a whole new spin on that, but I still think it holds, because after their falling out and subsequent alienation for a year, it makes sense that he would need to keep her at a distance sexually/romantically in order to maintain their professional relationship. I also loved in The Man in the Morgue when he flew to New Orleans, burst into the hospital, stole evidence. etc. It seems like he works very hard to protect her and to keep her at arms length (as a woman) early in the series, while simultaneously trying to get her to open herself up to him, trust him, and accept him as her “family.” I hope this is coherent. It is nearly impossible to keep my train of thought with my noisy children in the background.

  9. I agree that he was establishing boundaries with the partners statement in the bar but I also think that he was reconfirming their relationship as well. Even in his drunken state, given that he had never stopped caring for Brennan despite the plot device diversion of Hannah, he had to know that staying with Brennan as a partner was going to lead him into the same emotional territory he had struggled so hard to escape — wanting to love and be loved but being rejected. He offered Brennan an out but he didn’t take one for himself. That was a tacit commitment to her even if for the time being it had to be defined as ‘being partners’. I would say ‘only partners’ except that for Booth, there is no such thing. A partner is a life and death commitment as he has told Brennan on numerous occasions.

    • Well, their partnership has definitely evolved over the years and has always been more, in my opinion, than just professional. We learned the genesis of their partnership in the 100th episode and it did put into context , for me anyway, their interaction in season 1. Post 100th episode, their partnership continued, per Brennan’s request to Booth, but was made more complicated. I think Booth tried so hard to “move on” so he could find some kind of happiness instead of just loving Brennan from afar and waiting/hoping she would give them a try. After Brennan told Booth she had made a mistake by not giving him/them a chance in Doctor in the Photo, their partnership still continued….akward but I think it says a lot. And, of course, Daredevil in the Mold. Wow. That episode has so much going on but the end scene and Booth’s ultimatium… in that moment of licking the curb Booth poured his hurt and his heart out to his “partner”, Brennan. That was a low moment for sure but, to me, it was the ultimate test of “partnership”… partners see each other at their best and worst. Booth offered Brennan partership – nothing more because he had nothing more to give at that moment – that moment. She chose to stay with him, by him and, as we found out later, it meant the world to him.

      It will be interesting to see how their “partnership” evolves into season 7. No matter what happens, they will have a bond that transcends a professional role. I’m sure they will be tested even further so it will be interesting to see if their professional partnership can still hold even if their personal partnership falters.

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