Bones Theory

IDKWTM: Settling for Second Best


Good morning, and happy Monday!

Here’s something I’ve had on my mind for a couple of weeks: When Booth said “Sometimes you gotta settle for second best”, I thought the writers were setting us up for a season where B&B were going to still be partners. The quote came from the season five premiere –which, sidenote, I just love more every time I see it– which conveniently comes right after the season four finale (funny how that works 😀 ). But as you know, in that finale, we saw the coma dream. I still sort of narrow my eyes at that one, especially when I try to figure out which part of the coma dream was Brennan’s contribution and which was Booth’s brain. I suppose I will never know! But the point is, once that ‘happy being married’ was out in (sort of) canon, then them being partners sort of WAS second best, you see?

I kind of thought that ‘second best’ meant we were all just biding our time still. I DIDN’T anticipate that we (and Booth) would in fact be settling for second best in Hannah, within a year. Some of you have pointed out (quite rightly) that once the Bones writers had a two year deal, they set out to write a two year storyline. If that is the case, do you think that Booth’s settling for second best really was not necessarily a reflection of his coma dream and what had happened in the past but more of a foretelling of what would happen in the future?

On the flip side, was Brennan also settling for second best by choosing to be just partners with Booth when he wanted to give ‘more’ a shot? Did she know that? Is that why she was quick to reassure Booth that their partnership meant so much to her?

I’m just trying to figure out where that line “sometimes you gotta settle for second best” fits in to the series as a whole, and whether or not the characters, especially Booth since he said it, even would recognize this most recent part of their lives as ‘second best’.


Peace, Love & Bones


23 thoughts on “IDKWTM: Settling for Second Best

  1. Hm…very interesting question you pose! To me, I thought it was meant for Booth, and that he had to accept being partners over being more than that with Brennan. At that point, she was not to her “regrets” point yet, so it wouldn’t seem like that was directed at her then. Perhaps around DitP, it flipped, and it could apply to Brennan as she was on the other side of wanting a relationship that she couldn’t have. But you know, I had not thought of it as part of a 2 year storyline, so perhaps your theory is correct.

    And I’m not sure what parts of Season 6 were planned, and what were added/shortened/changed by ED’s pregnancy. TPTB have said that they were thinking about doing something like that, but that ED being pregnancy quickened their storyline. So perhaps Hannah was not originally planned to be how she ended up? I don’t know. So for me, I don’t know if I’d apply that statement all the way to Hannah, though I can see how it would apply. It seemed that Booth was genuine in his feelings for Hannah, so if he truly loved her, in his mind at least, he was not settling for 2nd best with her. At the time of the ep 5 premiere, however, he would have definitely applied it to Brennan, since he’d acknowledged his feelings that were not reciprocated, so that’s where the quote truly applies IMO 🙂

    But theories are just theories unless/until you can prove it, so let’s conjecture away!

  2. Avalon: You two are gonna keep doing things as usual.
    Booth: Sometimes you gotta settle for second best.

    I always took that to be aimed at Booth. I think that Booth realized that if he wanted to remain friends with Brennan then he would have to set his feeling aside for her and accept Brennan’s terms if he wanted to have a any relationship with her at all. This meant he had to accept that his friendship with her was all he could count on for the time being, it was second best and he was willing to go along with it.

    Booth says that Hannah wasn’t a consolation; but, I do think he thought of her as second best also. If he didn’t then he wouldn’t have reacted to harshly when Hannah rejected him. He certainly didn’t react that way when Brennan rejected him. That is because Brennan was never second best and never will be.

    • I’ve always been bothered by the consolation prize comment from Booth. It certainly suggests that Hannah’s not meant to be the consolation prize, but in so many ways she really is. Booth seems to be all over the map during season 6– the fallout from Brennan’s rejection and their separation no doubt. There are probably a whole list of examples of him sending two different messages through his words and actions; the man is positively bipolar when it comes to his love life.

      I like your take on the rejection from Hannah– he’s taken on the second-best and even she rejects him which is enough to drive the man crazy. Or make him angry. And he cannot trust that Brennan isn’t setting him up– hell, he’s already been rejected and he’s not willing to put his heart out there again and watch it be smashed to bits. Angela’s comment about how men are “more fragile” than women seems to be born out in the show. Brennan has one breakdown, but Booth seems to have several smaller breakdowns that cut through his character and change him in ways that aren’t strictly Boothy. “When something goes wrong in the heart department for men, it shows up in other ways,” according to the cougar little person in Dwarf. Settling for “second best” tears at the core of the man and leaves him struggling. And I would argue, that the struggle covers the better part of two seasons for Booth. Second best just doesn’t cut it for Booth– he’s got to have the best or he cannot be himself.

  3. I took it as “Sometimes you have to take what you can get” but it was softened by the fact that it would “all work out eventually.” So for Booth, he had to take Brennan on her terms until she was ready for more. Later, that was reversed, with the scary potential outcome of what Brennan could get only ever being Booth as her work partner. But when the time came to move beyond the treading water they’d each done, they moved past second best.

    Second best isn’t always bad. It’s just that first best is better. Their partnership and friendship was wonderful without more, but now? Now they’ve taken the leap from second best towards (into) first best.

  4. I’m pretty sure they had the Hannah/Brennan-eventually-chases-Booth storyline in their minds at the beginning of season 5; the symmetry of the two seasons is too perfect. My guess is that the second-hand statement was meant to apply to their partnership mainly from Booth’s perspective, and then would conveniently serve as a backdrop for Hannah. Avalon did bring up Brennan’s reluctance to see how Booth felt about her, so in a less obvious way it might also apply to Brennan; it’s just at this point in the series Brennan was less aware of her feelings than Booth was. Later though, the words apply to them equally; Booth with the professional partnership and with Hannah, and Brennan with the realization that the life she had chosen was definitely starting to look like “second best.” Hence her regrets.

    As to Brennan’s novel, I believe the “bones” of the coma story were hers, i.e. the whole marriage/mystery thing, but as she read it, his mind filled in the details. After all, Avalon pointedly asks her if she was pregnant in her story and she became all evasive so she must have written it that way. Did her story contain their actual names? Probably not, although I would guess subconsciously she knew it was them and wrote the characteres as such which is why it was so easy for Booth to fall right in line with the tale.

  5. Remember Booth’s line in DITD, “Not having the woman he loves can make a man crazy?” Amen. I think Booth did mean “second best” as the usual between him and Brennan after he got a taste for “more” in the coma dream. Brennan being pregnant in the coma dream? Well.. remember their faces when Angela brought it up? I think they both liked that little detail a bit too much. Booth’s only objection to donating his “stuff” to Brennan in the S4 finale was that he wanted to be involved, he wanted to be the child’s father, he wanted to raise the baby with Brennan. Even after he told Brennan his feelings on the subject he asked her “so, what about the kid?” he wasn’t saying no, just kind of revising his conditions. So, I think, they both liked that little detail in teh coma dream. As for Hannah well, I believe Booth when he says she wasn’t a consolation prize. He was trying really, really hard to move on and I believe he was struggling but did love Hannah but Hannah wasn’t Brennan. I believe he was in trouble the first time he hugged Brennan when they met up again in the S6 premeire – she still affected him even after 7 months, no contact, and meeting Hannah. The look he gives Brennan at the end of BITB is kind of a “Damn. I still love her but that time has passed, too much has happened”. I do believe Booth was settling into the idea by SITS/DITM that he could have Brennan as his partner/friend and have a relationship with Hannah. He knew he would always love Brennan and be there for her and, hey, Hannah didn’t seem to mind! Right? Right. Good old Hannah. I mean, think about that. Would a life with Hannah have been second best? Booth probably didn’t view it that way but I think we all have our opinions. The only wrinkle may have been if Brennan had found another person to move on with. Thank goodness we didn’t have to sit through that melodrama but, yeah, i think that could have thrown a real wrench into the plan. The notion that she would or could accept someone other than Booth as a father of her child and someone she could open herself up to can be debated but I think if Sully had come around at that point in Brennan’s life, she may have just given him a chance and let herself be happy, I think she was open to that possibility. THAT would have to gnaw away at Booth, right? He could be happy for her but a little part would have to be somewhat resentful of fate. As it was I do believe his “anger” post-Hannah was directed a lot at himself.

  6. Very interesting question Sarah!!

    At the time of the episode, I felt this phrase was more about Booth being happy with being “just partners”. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside thinking that Booth would wait for Brennan (as long as it takes), so I was positively disappointed when Booth literally went for “second best” by dating Hannah. But it made a lot of sense to me since Booth has always doubted whether he was good enough (so maybe he really thought “second best” was good enough for him…..apparently NOT!!!). Interestingly, Brennan on the other side is a perfectionist. She’s (literally) never settled (or gotten) a B, so I find it very hard that she would ever settle for “second best”. In my opinion, I find her choice to be “just partners” with Booth an unconscious choice for second best. Let me explain. At that particular moment (100th episode) I believe Brennan really felt “being partners” was the best thing she could have from Booth. Brennan, being a person who operates on empirical evidence, has no clue that “wanting more” could mean better.

    I do appreciate the symmetry between the seasons though (Booth chases Brennan, then Brennan chases Booth–and then finally Booth and Brennan together). *LIFE IS GOOD 🙂 🙂 *

    However, I’ve never seen Booth and Brennan as each other’s first choice. I’ve always seen them as each other’s “only” choice (sidenote: yes…that is really cheesy…but I’m still gonna go with it!!)

    • . . .I’ve never seen Booth and Brennan as each other’s first choice. I’ve always seen them as each other’s “only” choice . . .

      Dibs on quoting this line in a fanfic. 😀

    • I like how you mentioned the symmetry of the seasons. I kind of liked that Brennan had to be the one to “pine for” Booth for once, when most of the time it seemed that he’s the one waiting for her to be ready. I think it was good for her to experience a bit of Booth-related angst :). She realized, as she never had before, how much her life was intertwined with his both personally and professionally. He was her go-to guy in times of trouble. Finally, she saw how empty her life would be without him, and if he truly gave his life and heart to another, just how much she would lose. Brennan realized she could no longer settle for her second best (ie, her surface dating relationships) and that no one else would do. I really liked that. It was painful to see her break down, but I’m glad those walls finally did break down.

      Booth told Brennan that Hannah was not a consolation prize, which has caused many fans much confusion and trouble, but I see no problem with it. She was, in actuality, a consolation prize, but Booth did not conciously realize that. He was still in “I have to move on” mode, and saying that was as much to convince himself of that as he was trying to convince Brennan. Even though Brennan had expressed regrets over missing her chance, but she did not go on to say “I love you, I miss you” or make him pull over and make out with him 🙂 I think that might’ve changed his mind hehe. So Hannah was second best, and I think deep down she knew that too. But its hard to resist such a good guy with a lion heart like Seeley Booth so she gave it a shot.

      Please PLEASE season 7, lets see them in an actual relationship! They’ve shed their second bests, and now its their turn to be the bestest together!

      • I couldn’t agree more. Your first paragraph was my exact thoughts coming into season 6. I was unable to remain spoiler free (I know…guilty!!) during that summer so I knew beforehand that “Hannah” was going to happen. The thought that this storyline would make Brennan realize what she missed was the only positive thing I thought could come from Hannah being there. It could be an “Emma” situation (if you’ve read Emma you’ll know what I mean :P….if not then it’s probably a poor metaphor).

        I love that you said that Hannah was an unconscious “consolation prize” for Booth. I’ve always been on the fence as to whether she was one, but now I’m definitely leaning towards your side :). Booth was so good at convincing himself that it made it THAT much more painful when it all came crashing down.

        Haha!! Maybe if Brennan told him to hit the brakes and gave him a smooch things would go just a tad bit different wouldn’t it?? Hahahaha. But I nonetheless feel that Booth would never have reciprocated her feelings at that point in time (he’s still in the, as you put it, “I have to move on” mode…LOL!!). I agree with you about Hannah feeling rather intimidated by Brennan (maybe that’s what prompted her to snatch Brennan’s glasses….we’ll never know haha).

        Anyway, sorry this ran long ><". Can't wait for season 7!!!! It is indeed ABOUT TIME for them to show all the second bests HOW.IT'S.DONE!!! YEAH! Hahaha :).

  7. Great question. I think that second best has been the story of Booth’s life. His father was abusive. He was raised by a grandfather instead of parents. He is an access parent to his child, instead of a full-time dad. He’s still atoning for his past as a sniper. I believe that at the time Booth said that line in the S5 premiere, he was talking about settling for a partnership (it was right after Sweets has told him his brain was on fire), rather than a relationship.
    I wish I had the faith that others do that the two season arc was well planned. I really don’t think it was planned very well at all, and need look no further than all the prevaricating over whether Booth was in the army or not. Pretty simple question, and in the span of a few months, Show went a completely different direction with it. That’s ok. Things unfold as they will, but I can’t agree that the intention of that line in Season 5 was to foreshadow Hannah any more than I can agree that Booth was intended to be an army contractor when General Whoever came calling in the S5 finale.
    I don’t know if Brennan was settling for second best in 100 as much as she was settling for safety. Apparently, her wings were not allowing her to fly 😉
    No one will ever convince me that Booth saying “she’s not the consoloation prize” meant anything other than “she is the consolation prize and you have just turned my world upside down, just when I thought I was finding some balance and figuring out that second best was ok, because that’s what I get in my life.”
    Now Booth apparently has the standard. However, there might still be areas where he feels like he’s getting second best. Is he going to be just an access dad to this child? If Brennan doesn’t marry him, and agrees to live with him, is that second best for him? I suspect Booth may yet feel like he is settling, but maybe that kind of settling is ok.

    • I don’t know if you are into reading fanfiction or not, but va32h has a great piece called “The Mourning after the Proposal.” I recommend it because it examines Booth desire to marry, and is that what he really wants using the analogy of a guy wanting steak at GGW’s restaurant even though it wasn’t served there. Right, too much to explain here, so that’s why I recommend the read.

      Anyway, my point is that maybe it doesn’t have to be that Booth is settling at all (except for settling down.) But if he keeps his mind open, and Brennan is as committed as I think she is, he may find himself getting more than he ever thought to ask for or imagine. You know, like the reality being far better than the fantasy sort of thing. In my fantasy, Booth will get to the point where he is totally secure in Brennan’s commitment to him, he decides he’s fine without it, and then she wants to get married. Actually, I’m still on the fence on whether I feel like I want them to get married or not. I don’t think they actually have to, but perhaps should do it for practical reasons, especially with a child involved. But still, some couples never get married and raise their children together, so they find their ways to manage any conflicts that may arise from their “untraditional” life.

      • Love your second paragraph, C-bones.

        I don’t need to see them married, but would love it if Booth no longer needed it and that was when Brennan finally went for it. Perfect!

      • I love va32h’s work. It continually amazes me that she can be so even-handed with the characters because most fanfic writers sympathize with one character or another, especially on the BB front . She sees the flaws in them both and makes them work through it.

        There is also a writer on called fourth rose who wrote a great fic that references Booth and second best. I believe it is called “Close to Home”.
        In my little shipper heart, I hope things work out much as you describe. I would like to see Booth get to the point where the dream of the typical Americal family is replaced by his reality, but the reality is better and I would like Brennan to get to the point where she understands that marriage can still have value in our modern society as a means of telling your community that you are committed to one person.

  8. @Sirikanya : I have read, but most often seen the Gwenyth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam movie version…so I understand your comparison perfectly!

    Emma: “I did not know it until poor Harriet said that she had the hope of his returning her affection that I felt ill that I could lose him, and I knew that no one must marry Mr Knightley but me!”

    See, ultimately that’s why I don’t mind Hannah. I think it jarred Brennan enough to face her feelings for Booth once she saw their closeness and care for each other. And anything that gets B&B together is OK by me 🙂

  9. Avalon: You two are gonna keep doing things as usual.
    Booth: Sometimes you gotta settle for second best.

    This dialogue spells it out for me perfectly – for Booth, him and Brennan carrying on ‘doing things as usual’ was second best compared to what he now knew was possible.

    Incidentally, I never saw any kind of promise that he’d wait for her until she was ready. I like the fact that Booth listened to what Brennan said in the 100th – she said no, repeatedly. Not ‘I’m not ready’, not ‘I’m scared of losing what we have’, Not ‘Give me more time’ – she resolutely refused him. He knows she’s a woman of her word, so had he ignored her wishes and carried on regardless I’d have lost respect for him.

    Booth is a survivor – child abuse, torture, gun shot wounds, brain tumours – he takes his knocks, picks himself up and strives forward, trying to be the best man he can be. I think it took guts to carry on being Brennan’s partner while simultaneously trying to move on from her romantically, but he wouldn’t be Booth if he hadn’t.

    As someone else mentioned, Booth is used to being second best – it’s rare that a person in his life has put him first.

  10. “On the flip side, was Brennan also settling for second best by choosing to be just partners with Booth when he wanted to give ‘more’ a shot? Did she know that? Is that why she was quick to reassure Booth that their partnership meant so much to her?”

    Love this statement. I hadn’t thought about it until you said it but I totally think she was. It was safe and even though she wanted/dreamed/wrote about more….Partners was safe. She just didn’t realize that she by trying to protect their partnership she would loose him anyway.

    • That’s an interesting point you just made A – ‘She just didn’t realize that she by trying to protect their partnership she would loose him anyway.’

      That’s made lots of thoughts swirl round my head – was it the partnership she was protecting or was it their surrogate relationship? isn’t it true that a traditional partnership looks alot like early season 6? Is it fair that he withdrew that closeness from her without telling her? Or should she (and us) have expected it from the conversation on the bench when he said things ‘have to change’? Was it fair of Booth to make it an all or nothing scenario? Is that what he did?

      hmm interesting, verrrrrrrry interesting…

      • Very, very good questions, Sophia. I’ve had the same ones. I guess she wanted to protect both. She wanted to protect everything, really – the partnership, surrogate relationship, Booth, herself. Remember when her father left after finding out who he was, and he told her that if she ever found someone to trust, to hold onto them? I think that’s what spurred her decision. Brennan is pretty good at a poker face when it comes to her feelings, so I wasn’t always sure how much she was aware of the ways in which their relationship were changing, i.e. getting deeper. We saw glimpses of it. By season 5, I knew she knew more than she let on. I think there was a mutual understanding of what they would allow between themselves that didn’t fit strictly in the partner zone (I believe there is at least one post about this.) They were both (kinda) okay holding on to the status quo until Booth’s coma dream.

        Was Booth being fair by giving so much beyond friendship, and taking it away when she didn’t want to go beyond that? I would consider it unfair, except I don’t think he even realized at the time what he was doing. He was just drawn to her. The line between friendship and something more can look pretty blurry, and so he probably convinced himself that he was acting as a friend – which he was, a lot of the times. But there were certain things he wouldn’t have done for just any friend.

        Looking back, I guess he did tell her when he said things have to change. She didn’t know how much, and he probably didn’t know exactly how much at the time, either. I like to compare Brennan to a vast ocean with many treasures buried deep. Booth had to be careful around her because it’s way too easy for him to be pulled in. Remember at her high school reunion dance? He went from saying no to a slow dance, to holding her at arm’s length, to her completely being in his arms, which he was trying to avoid in the first place. And it didn’t take a lot of time or much convincing on her part to do it, either. Yeah, it felt good, but it just about killed him, too.

        I think at the beginning of season 6 it looked like all-or-nothing because he was still adjusting. I look at much of his early behaviour as him recalibrating. By the time he realized how much he missed her by pulling away, I think he felt like maybe he could regain some of their closeness without getting into too much trouble. But strict boundaries could help with that (enter proposal #2).

  11. I think at the end of S5 BWTA Booth was definitely slipping back into their routine, not moving on. Yes, they were friends but they were more than that. As Angela said they were a couple, they just weren’t having sex. Remember Man in the Outhouse when Booth was getting all involved with Brennan and her “two men”? Remember how booth thought the one guy was gay? Booth said the guy had to be gay if he was okay with just socializing with Brennan but not having sex. Telling. Yes, B&B were partners but I do think that somewhere under the surface there was this anticipation or hope on Booth’s behalf that they would become more. I think Brennan really believed that all relationships are doom to fail and she held what she had with Booth in such high regard that she was scared to go there and did believe she would only hurt him because, as she saw it, she wasn’t able to be as vulnerable as she would need to be to really go for it. I think Brennan believed they could continue as they were while Booth found a romantic relationship somewhere else. The trouble with that though was that Booth knew that couldn’t happen. If he were to move on and be faithful and give a relationship his all, he would have to pull back from Brennan because he could get easily wrapped up in her. I do see the proposal to Hannah as a way to set clear boundaries, he loved her and wanted to committ to the relationship but realized he needed to set some clear boundaries to truly move forward. Post DITP I did see some of the old B&B creeping back in, it was like a piece of the wall Booth put up broke down. He was hurt by Brennan walking away from the partnership but I think hearing that she had regrets softened some of that anger, he didn’t want to hurt her. By the end of BITB I think he knew his feelings for her weren’t completely in the past but he had to find a way to walk the line. And Brennan? Well, yeah, I think after DITP she knew that she would have to move on but it would be second-best. She had lost more than I think she ever realized. Both B&B were hurting in S6, even if Booth had moved on they were hurting. And I think they truly did miss one another and what they once shared. Neither ever said “I missed you” but I file that away under “some things are better left unsaid”.

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