I could talk about plenty of things this week. Like about Booth dealing with his gambling addiction, or Brennan projecting her subconscious in her novels, for instance. None of that really matters, though, because Betty Freakin’ White is our newest squint, and is wholly adorable at it.
All kidding aside, there was a surprising amount of character exploration in this episode, thanks to White’s Dr. Mayer. She basically played a variation of her persona, and it worked, because what else do you do when a legend is on your show? I was impressed with how they managed to involve her with every character; some scenes worked better than others, but it was obviously a delight for everyone to act with her. (And why wouldn’t it be?)
I was particularly curious about how the writers would play Brennan off of Mayer. While Brennan was the one who invited the senior expert to help out (mainly because she can’t stand working Dr. Wells, which made me chuckle), she also displayed jealousy when the nonagenarian bested her. It was a choice that initially dismayed me, as that’s a well the show has exhausted in recent years, especially with Clark. Yet, the interesting beat, to me, was that Brennan checked herself immediately, and while she was still visibly irritated, it seemed to be more at herself than Mayer, and didn’t let it interfere with the elder’s work.
It was so heartwarming to see Brennan get over her irrational hangup (and who among us hasn’t experienced those at work?) to call upon Mayer’s life experience for her own benefit. I thought it was another touching development in Brennan’s growth that she approached this relative stranger for personal advice, when in the past she might have kept her at arm’s length. (Sidenote: I don’t think Emily Deschanel had to do much acting to seem so charmed by Dr. Mayer there! That felt so genuine.)
I loved that they juxtaposed the two women’s lives, and that Mayer pointed out what we’ve been witnessing since the season premiere: that Brennan gets restless when she doesn’t have work, and just like we saw last week with Cam, that it’s okay for women to be proud of their career, and need that challenge to be satisfied. So Agent Andy is less a victim of Brennan’s sales targets, and more that of her sabbatical.
That mounting boredom, as the good doctor notes, is when you start doing silly things like killing off popular characters. (I’m totally pretending that’s a not-so-thinly-veiled shot at a certain other character that was killed off last year.) Frankly, I still wouldn’t be surprised if Booth getting shot multiple times didn’t have something to do with it, but apparently we’re not here to discuss that this week, and that’s quite all right.
Speaking of the downed hero, I had to laugh at Booth’s sudden change of demeanor after reading Brennan’s latest manuscript, from excited at the “cliffhanger,” to crestfallen when he realized that Brennan had indeed chosen to kill off the infamous Agent Andy. (What a callback, too! She started teasing this very plot twist two years ago, after all.) Years ago, Brennan vehemently denied Booth had anything to do with Andy, and now the two bicker over how closely he should follow her husband– what a world we live in, folks.
I found Booth’s pouting amusing, though it did get tiresome the more he railed about it. However, it was sweet that by the end, he understood that he was being silly, and reassured Brennan that she knew best when it came to writing her books. (And in true Bones style, she countered that she’d re-thought it, too, and maybe Andy didn’t need to die after all. These two!)
What was more striking to me, though, was that like Brennan’s realization about why she felt the need to torpedo her own franchise, Booth was able to open up about his gambling addiction, instigated by the victim’s. It’s no secret that I wasn’t thrilled with how his arc ended last year, precisely because it lacked any kind of introspection about why he gambled in the first place, and as we saw in this season’s premiere, he was still determined to keep things bottled up.
Yet, we got some glimpses, here, of the New Booth: he admits when he’s feeling excited by the prospect of gambling, but he can voice it out loud to Brennan, and he can stop himself and evaluate the pros and cons of the situation, in order to get through the temptation. I don’t think he’s going to be singing “Kumbaya” anytime soon, but it’s a huge development for him to talk about his feelings at all, unprompted, and I think he will only get stronger for it.
One thing that fell completely flat for me this week, though? Oliver Wells’ entire subplot — which seems to be par for the course when he’s around. I get that his schtick is to be a foil to Brennan, and I enjoy her unapologetic disdain for him, but the show took it way too far for my tastes this week. His erectile dysfunction was already too much information, but the crassness with which it was handled was juvenile and not terribly clever. (Did we really need the camera to pan down to his crotch when Dr. Mayer was discussing “Mr. Happy”? We get the innuendo, thanks.)
To be fair, I’m somewhat impressed some of the double-entendres made it past the censors, but the out-of-place story detracted from the otherwise enjoyable episode for me. (Not to mention the implication that like the boy in the teaser, he just had to “man up” in the great outdoors to regain his virility.) The one bright spot, however, was him accidentally shooting Hodgins with the tranquilizer gun, because we all need more stoned squints in our lives, please and thank you.
Overall, this was another solid effort, and I sure hope Betty White reprises her role soon. How did you like ‘Carpals’?