Brennan doesn't pull any punches after the death of a men's rights activist
Credit: Patrick McElhenney/Fox
S11 E12
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Bones has always been a meninist’s nightmare: It’s a celebration of no-nonsense women in STEM fields who support each other, own their careers, have active sex lives, and call the shots in their romantic relationships. But Bones is also all about sympathy for the victim. What happens when the victim is a meninist?

Bones asks why a person would become a meninist in the first place. This week’s victim, Emil Bradford, co-founded men’s rights organization Men Now after suffering spousal abuse at the hands of his ex-wife, Gail. Brennan also wades through the group’s hateful talking points and plucks out one that she agrees with: equal custody in divorce settlements. But she knows as well as anyone that a tragic backstory can’t excuse everything.

“The Murder of the Meninist” might be the only episode of this show that doesn’t need to be quite so compassionate — I love it for trying, but if I can be selfish, that’s actually not what I wanted from this specific hour of television. I just wanted to watch Brennan channel Leslie Knope. Bones should absolutely continue to shed light on male domestic abuse victims (Booth is one) and the rights of fathers (Booth again), but in the context of this episode, legitimizing those causes also lends some legitimacy to the organization behind them. Motive is already a loaded thing in a world where men shoot women who turn them down for dates. Don’t feed the men’s rights activists.

But a few muddled messages can’t take away from the pure joy of watching the women of the Jeffersonian face down a bunch of meninists. Booth gets increasingly riled up by the group’s misogynistic rhetoric (“I really want to punch this guy”), but Brennan exists on such a separate plane from these people that she’s mildly annoyed, at best. The look on her face when she’s offered a Men Now brochure is classic. Meanwhile, Cam and Angela are back at the lab laughing at the idea that middle-aged white men are oppressed, which they probably also do every weekend at brunch.

Unsurprisingly, Emil’s work netted him plenty of enemies. Leah Marino, who runs the DC chapter of Women for Change, led protests outside the Men Now office, eventually hacking their website and knocking them offline for two days. (Brennan: “That’s a terrible loss.”) Booth is surprised to learn that Brennan has been a card-carrying member of Women for Change since college. I’m surprised that he’s surprised; of course she is. He just means that he never pegged her for a “bra-burning” radical, which Brennan insists isn’t the case; WFC is only concerned with equality. But one of the first stories she ever told Booth was about that time she drank fermented cannabis for academic research, so I don’t know why anyone here is trying to pretend that she wouldn’t burn some bras.

Booth and Brennan find Marino protesting a hotel known for wage inequality. She admits to the website shutdown but says that the antagonizing went both ways: Emil harassed her, standing outside her home and her work and shouting insults on his bullhorn. That still sounds like motive for murder, but two weeks ago, it all stopped. Emil moved on. The new target of his rage was Dr. Pamela Gould, whom Men Now was building a class action lawsuit against for performing circumcisions. Gould confronted Emil and hit his car with a tire iron, but when the two of them eventually talked it out, he claimed to have seen the error of his ways.

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That was just a line; Men Now gets into a lot of confrontations, so Karen Walters, whose husband Paul co-founded the organization, wrote out a standard mea culpa. “Turns out that lying is a lot less painful than having your face smashed in,” she says, trying to position Men Now as the victim. Is Karen a victim? How much say has she had in what her life has become? She toes the company line, but when Paul busts into the interrogation room and tries to fight her battles for her, she doesn’t appreciate it. Even if Karen agrees with her husband in theory, in practice, she’s not a big fan.

NEXT: A telegraphed punch

When Paul continues to shut down his wife, Brennan intervenes on Karen’s behalf, prompting Paul to call Brennan a “bitch” who “needs to be muzzled.” If Booth was looking for an excuse to punch this guy, he’s found it — but punching a civilian could cost him his job. (And just think of how many nights he’d lie awake feeling guilty for perpetrating more violence! Brennan needs her sleep.) As a consultant, Brennan is subject to lighter disciplinary action, so she takes one for the team and punches Paul square in the jaw. Given this episode’s non-violent bend, I suspect that I’m supposed to feel at least a little bit conflicted about this, but I am not as good as Bones wants me to be. I clapped.

Karen was with Emil on his last night alive; she won’t say what they were doing, but Booth’s gut tells him that she’s not the killer. Booth is right. Karen used her job at a security company (Wouldn’t her husband be against a working wife?) to help Emil break into his ex-wife’s house. Since the divorce, Gail has taken to sleeping with her contractor. If Emil could prove the relationship, he wouldn’t have to pay Gail any more alimony. Gail blames contractor Rob for her ex-husband’s death, claiming that he killed Emil and forced her to help stash the body, but Rob says that’s the opposite of how it went down. Booth takes them both into custody.

Back at the lab, another relationship is on the rocks. Thanks to Hodgins’ doctor, Angela knows what her husband neglected to tell her: It’s unlikely that he’ll ever walk again. He doesn’t have feeling in his legs, but he has plenty of other feelings: “Anger. Rage. Biting sarcasm. Though I’m not sure if that last one is a feeling or just a really pissy attitude.” (Brennan: “It’s an attitude.”) This is the Hodgins we met in season 1, but meaner. He resents the way his life has changed — that shot of the second level of the lab, now out of his reach, is painful — but he’s also uncomfortable with the way his condition affects the people around him. Even lunch at the diner isn’t easy anymore.

As his new reality starts to set in, Hodgins lashes out. Cam tries to distract him with an experiment (Camille Saroyan, you magnificent con artist), but he doesn’t bite. Angela gets the brunt of her husband’s anger; he even resents the fact that she’s proud of him for joining an online support group. “At least the people online, they’re honest,” he says. “They know that I’m not going to just snap back and be the person that I was before.” When Angela asks him not to yell, he tells her that if she can’t handle his temper, she might as well go. She does. The women of the Jeffersonian don’t put up with this treatment.

Bits and pieces:

  • TJ Thyne and Michaela Conlin are doing great work with this story.
  • “It was exhilarating, Cam. If I’d known I was getting one of those, I’d have crippled myself months ago.”
  • I have a hard time believing that Booth would brush off Rob’s plea that Gail hits him.
  • Rodolfo cements his place at the bottom of the squintern pile with his suggestion that “real men” don’t get hit, but Cam is here: “Surely you know that men can also be the victims of spousal abuse.”
  • Cam’s here again: “I thought human rights organizations were supposed to empower people who were marginalized or oppressed.”
  • “Remind me why we love the Internet?”
  • In other news, Booth thinks that Brennan could be a curse on the Flyers.
  • “I don’t know what that means.”
  • “We just love going viral.” “So do infectious diseases.” I’VE FOUND MY NEW FAVORITE BRENNAN LINE.
  • “May the force remain in your proximity.”
  • “That’s sexist. Now you’re looking at me like I’m some kind of piece of meat.” “I would never look at you like that. I’m a vegetarian.”

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