Hodgins once told Brennan that he’d learned something from her about science: It narrows its focus if it only looks forward. Science should look in all directions. Progress is inevitable, but nothing sticks if we don’t look back to see how we got here. It’s a lesson that is finally catching up with our characters outside the lab. Booth and Brennan have always been defined by how they’ve grown since they met, but lately everything from their past has been coming back around.
There was Booth’s gambling relapse, which pushed him out of the house for a while as he figured out how to admit that he needed help. And then there was Brennan’s desire to step away from murder, which she finally followed through on when she left the Jeffersonian. But even now that she’s free to live her life with Booth, Christine, and new baby, Hank, Brennan can’t stop one thing from their past from coming back around: People just keep dying. Wasn’t Sweets enough of a price to pay? Now we’ve (presumably) lost Booth’s Pops, baby Hank’s namesake, played by the late Ralph Waite. He doesn’t get a “goodbye” in the full sense of the word, but I respect the show’s decision not to equate a real friend’s death with a fictional character’s, and naming the baby after Pops feels like the proper way to honor his legacy. Booth and Brennan look back, but they move forward.
Which means it’s about time for more death. Six months into their new life, Brennan is consulting for museums (she’s already finished two books; what, like it’s hard?), and Booth is a freelance instructor at Quantico. One totally average day — which in this family means that there’s an old plow on the counter and Brennan is teaching Christine all about it — he fixes his wife and kids with an extra lingering glance before he leaves. It’s significant, but it’s also not that unusual. Booth does that sometimes. There’s no cause for alarm until a dead body shows up torched in a van, and all of the signs point one way: The body could be Booth’s.
Cam and Aubrey try the old “dumb guy normal stuff” and do as Booth would — they give him a call. No answer. Brennan can’t get through either. Worse, when she checks on his guns, she finds them all gone, his wedding ring left in their place. Always our rational scientist, Brennan refuses to believe the worst until she’s seen the proof herself, but she’s cracking under the weight of the possibilities. Arastoo catalogues the evidence point by point: Booth’s gun is fused to one bone. Both legs show signs of parachuting fractures. Both arms carry the defensive wounds of a boy who was beaten. The skull is too degraded to see the marks of Booth’s brain surgery for sure, but it can’t be ruled out.
That’s one-too-many maybes for Brennan, who kicks everyone else out and reassembles the skeleton in a more intimate setting. Bones the show and Brennan the character have always centered themselves in that bone room because, in the process of studying the bones, Brennan comes to know the person, too. But this time, she has to consider the fact that she might already know him, and that’s the best part of this scene: There’s no pity in it. When this all does come to an end, it won’t be sad because Brennan lost the person who knows her best. It’ll be sad because she lost the person she knows best. What I’m saying is that I cried when she flashed back to their first kiss.
Angela does a facial reconstruction on the skull, and an FBI task force traces Booth’s last steps. But Brennan just keeps working on those bones. It takes a while, but she finds her proof: When Booth was in that firefight last year, a bullet nicked off a part of his scapula, and this one’s intact. It isn’t Booth. Brennan is thrilled for about ten seconds, and then she’s furious. Her friends made her think that her husband was dead. “I hope this isn’t indicative of how you’ve been running the Jeffersonian in my absence,” she snaps at Cam, mostly because she’s mad, but also because, on some level, she’s been looking for an excuse to come back. She hasn’t approved a single one of her potential replacements. Brennan isn’t going anywhere until they know whose body is on the table and how her husband is involved.
NEXT: It wasn’t a real clown[pagebreak]
Special Agent Grace Miller of Internal Investigations is pretty sure that she already knows. Booth’s gun is on a dead man’s remains, and that makes him a suspect for murder. Technically, that’s fair. Also technically, Booth looks pretty unpredictable from the outside. He’s a gambler. He’s been in counseling. He shot a clown once (never forget). Miller prods Brennan for answers only to dismiss her, but the idea that she’s not important to the investigation insults Brennan almost as much as the implication that her husband is a killer. She’s not just “the suspect’s wife”; she’s the world’s foremost forensic anthropologist, thank you very much, and she won’t be limited by her relationship status any more than Booth should be judged by his family history.
And here’s where we should all take a minute: The dead body is Jared. Brennan figures it out from his battlefield appendectomy scars, and the rest of the physical evidence fits. Booth’s brother is dead. Brennan went on a date with him once, and Cam knew him well enough to have a stupid nickname for him. I know these people are clinical, and I know they’ve got another Booth to find, but I hope that when everyone is safe, they’ll take a minute to actually mourn. Jared was supposed to be getting his life together.
Instead, apparently, he hit a rough patch with his wife. When Padme kicked him out, Jared sent expensive gifts to win her back, funding his fancy watches and big-screen TVs with money that he got from Navy buddy Kevin O’Donnell. Padme says that Kevin was like a brother to Jared; if that’s true, he was the kind of brother Booth used to be, back when he took the fall for everything and never let Jared learn his own lessons. The second Brennan and Miller ask about Jared’s behavior, Kevin gets defensive and refuses to say anything more.
But who needs people when you’ve got hard evidence? The team figures out that Jared fell out of a third-story window in a house owned by drug trafficker/human trafficker/all-around bad guy Victor Mosborian — though by the time they get there, they find Mosborian and two other men dead in a robbery gone wrong. The shooter was a pro, and Miller still thinks it was Booth. Because this wasn’t bad enough already, Cam finds Booth’s blood at the scene, proving not only that he was there, but that he doesn’t have much time.
Booth, meanwhile, is hiding out in Kevin’s basement with two other men, doing his best to doctor his own bullet wound. What’s he gotten himself into? Why are these guys sending each other secret codes on burner phones and committing armed robberies? Knowing Booth, he’s working some sort of undercover game, but how was Jared involved? Booth was apparently funneling his brother money through a separate account. It’s not like him to go behind Brennan’s back, especially so soon after his relapse. Then again, as much as I believe that Brennan would encourage Booth not to give Jared money, it’s also not like her to push her husband not to see his brother at all. Does Brennan know more than she’s saying? Is all of season 11 going to cause me this much anxiety? Hopefully yes.
Bits and pieces:
- Elsewhere in the secrets and lies department, Miller hasn’t bothered to tell anyone that her own partner disappeared four days ago. Is anyone not mixed up in this scandal?
- The false alarm with Booth gave new showrunners Jonathan Collier and Michael Peterson a chance to throw in plenty of callbacks, but my favorite might be the grief pudding. Booth does love his pudding.
- There’s a line between Encouragement and Sick Burn, and Brennan has absolutely mastered straddling it: “Yes, it takes a lot of experience to do so.”
- Not everything is awful: Arastoo is going to propose to Cam. She’s seen the ring, and she hasn’t shut him down, so that’s a good sign. They’re holding off on the actual proposal until their friend is out of mortal danger, which is cute mostly because that never happens; where have they both been?
- Looks like Arastoo’s a doctor now!
- This is going to be a good hair season for Brennan; I can feel it.
- I wouldn’t say no to an episode that’s just Hodgins trying to impress Booth with his home-brewed beers and nobody dying.
- “Well, don’t thank me. Thank the foam.” “I’m okay with just thanking you.”
- “That is the amazing thing about buffelgrass.”
- Brennan continues to not care at all about Padme’s past as a prostitute, and I love her for it.
- “That is unseemly, but I will still talk to you.”
- “Miller.” “Oh, uh, okay. Montenegro here.”