Bones Theory

Foils and the Flip Side


I always loved the term “Foil” in school, because it applied to math (First, Inner, Outer, Last!) and English, which was my specialty and eventually became my college major. Two characters, whose qualities, personalities, actions, etc ‘reflect’ one another’s so much that their qualities, personalities, etc, etc are amplified—that is a very basic, not-probably going to find it in a dictionary or glossary of literary terms, definition.


Man in the Wall was on last night (White polo shirt, adios Tessa, Brennan on meth…you know the one,) and one of my favorite parts of that episode is when Brennan insists to Angela that Booth is not a balker. It’s one of those moments that is very hot, as Booth described her in the “pre-canon 100th” stuff, and this time around, it reminded me of the future, when Dr. Wyatt tells Sweets that B&B are more alike than different. This idea that Brennan and Booth are more alike than different is an idea I like very much, but it doesn’t exactly fall in line with talk about foils, in the literary sense.

I think B&B are foils in some ways, but I also think there could be claims for Brennan/Sweets as foils, Booth/Sweets as foils, Booth/Jeffersonian team as foils, Brennan/Angela as foils, and there are probably others I’m not thinking about. What about the idea of B&B/Sweets (with Booth and Brennan as one unit as foils to Sweets)? I’m just tossing ideas out here; I am not sure what I think one way or the other.

What do you think? Which characters’ personalities clash/reflect one another’s so greatly as to amplify them?

On the flip side, which characters’ personalities are more alike than different? Do B&B fall into this category for you? How about Booth and Max? Brennan and Sweets perhaps, with their genius minds?

I’m interested to hear what you have to say, so I hope you will.


Peace, Love & Bones,



15 thoughts on “Foils and the Flip Side

  1. I definitely think there are similarities between Booth and Max. Booth and Max could also be foils as well. But, yeah, I think the similarities between the two are stronger than their differences. The fact that Max identified, as did his daughter, that Booth is a good man is big. Fathers don’t give their blessings easily. In fact, I think we all know the lengths to which Max would go to protect his children. Booth even was able to see all the sides to Max’s actions. Booth is the law but he understands Max’s desire to protect his family and quickly pointed out that the people Max came up against often deserved what they got.

    Foils? Well, I think Booth/Squint squad would be the foil I would go with. Remember when Gordon Gordon idenified Booth’s discomfort with the Jeffersonian? He found it hard to relate to the atmosphere and that’s challenging to someone as alpha male as Booth. And we know from the 100th episode that Dr. Addy was a little bit of a c-block there for Booth to overcome for the 13th months minus a week between B&B’s first real case and the case we see them work on in the pilot. The squints seem to get under Booth’s skin a little bit more than when Brennan is in Booth’s domain – the interrogation room, the field, etc. On the flip side though, Booth does consider the Jeffersonian crew to be “his people” as well as we saw in Proof in the Pudding.

  2. I’m not sure I have the correct idea – I’ve always thought a foil was someone who was opposite to the other and I don’t think that’s what this post is saying.

    I will wait to see where the comments go.

    • Me too. I was a business major in college and did everything in my power to take the absolute minimum of English that I could get away with and still graduate (ha!) so the ‘foil’ concept is something I didn’t know about until Hannah was described as one for Brennan last year. So I thought I understood it as how MJ described it, but now I’m not so sure.

      If I’m understanding your definition correctly, I think Booth & Max are great foils. I never really thought of them that way until now, but seeing it that way kind of adds a whole new dimension to their relationship for me.

  3. A foil is a character who contrasts with another in order to highlight qualities of the other character. Sometimes the qualities are physical, sometimes emotional, sometimes psychological. In other words, they are a mirror that is held up to the main character to allow the viewer/reader to see the qualities of the main character better.

    In the Broadsky arc, Broadsky (the antagonist) is contrasted with Booth (the protagonist). Both are snipers, both are in the top tier of shooters, but then they diverge. Broadsky takes the law into his own hands to have justice served while Booth uses the law to bring about justice. Both would agree that the people Broadsky was going after were bad people (except for the collateral deaths) but how to bring about that justice is where they differ. (Many of the suspects are little mirrors for the main characters, but that’s not what we’re about today, is it?)

    If we’re just looking at the main body of characters in the Bones world, I always thought that Angela and Brennan were interesting in how they see the world. Angela is the female Booth, the voice of practicality in the real world, while Brennan is practical in the academic world. Angela’s heart and emotions and Brennan is brains and reason. I find it interesting that Brennan is going to Angela as much as she is this season (I love their interactions, mostly, don’t get me wrong), because she is so aware of what she lacks in her relationship with Booth. Angela’s advice completes Brennan and her approach to everything so far has been fairly down-to-earth: find another place, give what only you can to Booth, bend a bit and learn to let your inner child out. Their talks amplify Brennan’s weaknesses in this relationship and give voice to what Brennan is thinking.

    Another way to look at this is to look at pairings: A/H vs. B/B or Max as “father-in-law” to Booth vs. Angela’s dad (or O Bearded One) to Hodgins. (Again, maybe I’m veering into another lane of traffic entirely. I do tend to do that.)

  4. I was asking two questions, I guess! Roxane put it best, so take her word for it 🙂

    Basically…Which pairs of characters make up foils (that is, have opposite traits that illuminate the differences in one another/annoy one another/etc), and which pairs of characters, on the flip side, are more alike than they are different?

    I think some people would argue that B&B are foils, and some would argue that they aren’t foils/opposites. Some might say that Brennan and Angela are foils, some might say they aren’t.

    That is what I was asking (in a roundabout way, haha)—which pairs (romantic, friendship, work-related, family) are opposites, and which aren’t?

  5. The scene that popped into my mind when I read this is the scene in Sweets’ office where Brennan explains to Booth that Sweets is saying that they complement each other. ‘She never compliments me!’ exclaims Booth. ‘Did you compliment me?” ‘Compleeement,’ says Brennan, ‘he means we complete each other (small pause) professionally speaking’, and Booth looks bewildered. Beneath the surface, Booth and Brennan are very much alike. Superficially because of their frequently stated opposite beliefs, B&B may appear as foils for each other but underneath they are very similar.

    Daisy is a foil for Brennan because her hysterical qualities are in direct opposition to Brennan’s calm and Sweets’ constant prying (for psychological purposes naturally) are a foil for Booth’s obsessive sense of privacy.

    • I always understood that foils have similarities that allow for the comparison, so the fact that Brennan and Booth are similar in their beliefs about justice, fighting for the victim, tenaciousness as well as their traumatic childhoods makes them comparable as foils.

      Cam is a fine foil to Brennan– both want to run the lab and do so with a professional approach, but where they veer off from the other is in their attitude about the work, I guess. Brennan would never cheat (although she’ll shade the truth for Booth) but Cam will doctor the evidence to build a particular slant on the story or she’ll “tart up” Michelle’s essay to help her get accepted into college. Brennan approves of that one college professor’s deception of posting a bogus test online to catch some cheaters.

  6. This is interesting, because while I am in education and I do have an English minor, I think I’m going to play off of your math FOIL, because using FOIL was the one thing I could do correctly in math! (I have strange brain, but I’m sure you all knew that…moving on…)

    Pertaining to B&B, I’m thinking of their first meeting, when Brennan is up there speaking, Booth walks in, and POW. Also, their first kiss. Those two had an instant connection from the beginning, sparks galore. From the first, it’s always been about B&B.

    They tried to look outside each other for romantic companionship, Brennan’s mulitple surface-y partners, Sully, Tessa, Cam, Hannah…but we all know how those turned out.

    Booth’s coma dream, Brennan’s DitP realizations, Blizzard conversation. They had to look insided themselves and get to the same place, where they realized what they had, and were willing to finally take that chance.

    It was B&B at the first, it will be B&B (&B) at the last. No matter what cases they’ve had, brushed with death, relationships with others, family struggles…they’ve had each other. And I believe that they always will. Not that their lives will be “picture perfect”, but they’ve got each other’s back. At the end of day, when it’s all said and done, its B&B.


  7. I’d love to see more Booth and Hodgins scenes because they are probably the most romantic of men in the show and have struggled with love throughout. Foils? I think if you look at the whole history of the show, there would be a thread of differences between the two. Hodgins gets shot down and he keeps asking; Booth gets shot down and he fires back with a he’s moving on or the woman needs to hit the road. Hodgins drags around the legacy of his dead, rich parents; Booth drags around the legacy of his (now dead) not-so-rich (well, we don’t know anything yet, right?) abusive father. Hodgins crafts love letters in florescent shrimp and aromatic mold; Booth crafts his in the guise of take out and children toys. Hodgins might truly be the King of the Lab, while Booth is King of the Hoover. (King of the FBI does sound better, doesn’t it?) But how they approach their work– one is supportive while the other is protective– and their skill sets set them apart.

    • King of the Hoover? Boy can that guy vacuum! Sully was a foil for Booth, or Booth-lite. When Booth drew the line in the sand at the end of the last Epps episode, Brennan went for Sully as a Booth substitute. But a substitute never satisfies like the real thing as she discovered. Max and Pops in a way are foils for each other, one the thief who loves his kids, one the blue collar worker (what did Pops do for a living?) who loves his grandsons.

  8. I always thought of a foil as someone who is outwardly similar but when you dug deeper they were actually different. Some classic examples are Broadsky/Booth, Gravedigger/Brennan, Hannah/Brennan, etc. Looking at the main characters, I would say that Sweets & Brennan and Cam & Booth are foils.

  9. Happy Last Bones Day of 2011! Don’t forget to watch and squee! 🙂

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