For a show about two D.C.-based government employees at the top of their game, Bones doesn’t play by the rules of politics as usual. Aside from the occasional FBI cover-up, the world Booth and Brennan live in is a little bit kinder. Science saves the day. Patriotism is a virtue. Women run a government lab. It’s a jolt, then, to be pulled back into the pearl-clutching, scandal-generating political realm, where women are expected to stand behind their husbands and moral compromises are par for the course. When a senator is found murdered, our characters are thrown into a world that doesn’t entirely fit them — with interesting results. Call it one of Brennan’s experiments.
From the start of her investigation into the death of Virginia Senator Rick O’Malley, Brennan is restricted. Caroline, a welcome presence tasked with a very unwelcome job, even asks that Brennan not go along to notify O’Malley’s wife, out of fear that Brennan’s lack of tact will get them all into trouble. Booth and Aubrey find Lynette O’Malley looking and acting every bit the senator’s grieving wife, right down to her suspicion that her husband was having an affair: O’Malley was spending a lot of time with the party’s whip, Senator Haley Winters.
Winters makes Caroline’s job both easier and harder when she requests a meeting with Booth — easier because it means the FBI doesn’t have to haul in the Senate majority whip for questioning and harder because she wants Brennan to come along. Winters was a doctor, so she’s interested in the forensic perspective. Booth promises Caroline that he’ll keep a close eye on Brennan, then tells his wife, who’s all set to be on her “best behavior,” that her actual best behavior is just being herself. “I just want you to be you,” he says. “You know, you — your usual, wonderful but very direct self.” There’s a reason this man didn’t go into politics.
It’s a relief to hear Booth tell Brennan that she doesn’t need to change, especially given how many storylines lately have revolved around her need to let go of whatever new hang-up she has this week. Booth and Brennan stand out even more against this political backdrop; they’ve never been the type to play games, and Brennan in particular doesn’t hide anything about herself. It does complicate things that Booth has a motive, too — he knows that her directness will put Winters on edge, and he wants to use it. Brennan shouldn’t need anyone’s permission to be herself. But if the most problematic thing about Booth and Brennan’s relationship is that he sees the benefit in all she does, I’ll take it.
Brennan goes on the offensive with Winters, who denies the affair. The last time she saw O’Malley was at a fundraiser the night before; he was rattled by protesters and left the event soon after. The protesters’ cause was personal for him: They opposed an amendment ordering the reduction of coal emissions, which O’Malley had agreed to back despite being in support of coal miners. Winters persuaded him to vote against his conscience for the good of the party. O’Malley was confronted outside by one protester with a record, but the man channeled his anger into forming a picket line instead.
Evidence suggests that the killer tried to poison O’Malley, which, statistically, points to a female suspect. But we’ve already heard one speech about going against the odds in this episode, so the math doesn’t mean much anymore, and anyway, Brennan does hate jumping to conclusions. Her world isn’t the kind to presume a person’s guilt based solely on gendered statistics; the political world is.
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