Dick jokes and fan fiction, that’s the highbrow content we’re used to on Bones.
What do you get when you mix privileged white children, their overbearing parents and college admissions? Why, murder of course. Have no fear, though, because Brennan is here to tell them all to check themselves before they wreck themselves. (Is that on the SATs?)
Calling back to seasons of yore is a recurring theme this year, and once again, ‘Tutor’ delivers on that promise, both in theme and in easter eggs for fans. Years ago, the team investigated the murder of a predatory college mascot who got off on harassing classmates and sleeping with the dean’s wife. This week, a college tutor to the rich and overzealous gets off by… telling his clients they aren’t special snowflakes, and sleeping with their moms as a pawn in dysfunctional marriages. Hodgins even finds evidence in the guy’s boxers this time around! It’s Turn-Back-The-Clock Tuesday!
Yet what a lot of these throwbacks have done lately is highlight how much the characters’ worlds have changed in the intervening decade — or rather, maybe it’s that they’ve revealed their core selves. Take Brennan, for instance: she’s a lifelong high-achiever, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly when it comes to excusing lackluster performance. Here, though, faced with an entire network of kids whose top-percentile test scores fail to impress their maniacal parents, Brennan maintains her perspective when they lose theirs.
It could have been an easy trap for Brennan to identify with these poor excuses for “Tiger Moms,” but that’s not who Brennan is. She was always used to being top of her class, but unlike these students, she came from nothing and fought her way to the top — and proud of coming from a “community college” like Northwestern. Our doctor may expect everyone around her to try their very best (including her kids), but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t see the value in different life experiences, and just because the Ivy League isn’t the right fit doesn’t mean a person can’t go on to excel. She sure did.
And part of that is recognizing excellence in others, too. Brennan’s ego is healthy-sized, so naturally she’d feel she could easily do a better job of recording her audiobooks than professional actors. But even she isn’t exempt from auditioning for the job. (“Don’t be silly, of course I’m going to do it.” Never met a challenge she wouldn’t take, this one.) However, I liked how instead of humiliating her with the tape, which on many other shows would have been the punchline, Brennan realized on her own, from Aubrey and Booth’s reactions to her reading, that maybe it was okay to rely on others’ expertise in their own fields to get the job done. She can keep writing the words, and actors can keep reading them, and everyone gets to enjoy their work a little more. Besides, that doesn’t mean six-year-old (already?!) Christine doesn’t love her mom’s renditions, and I’m thrilled that Booth reminded her of that. In the end, that’s what will mean the most to her, and it’s touching that Brennan took solace in that, too.
Which contrasts with the return of Fisher the intern this week. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Joel David Moore on the show, and his alter ego is as glum as ever. Of course Fisher would be the one person in the lab who would voice out loud that Brennan’s novels lack “perspicacity,” because that is a thing people totally bring up in conversation. (Maybe Fisher and Cam should form their own alt-Jeffersonian book club.) It was so interesting to me that he first coined them as “pulp novels,” and that Brennan took offense not at the mass-market appeal of her work but the allusion that it was lacking skill.
I admit that her career as an author has fascinated me throughout the series, since superficially, it’s such a different side to how she presents herself to the world. On the other hand, it’s completely believable to me that she uses the books as an outlet for the side of her she isn’t always allowed to show off. (Hence the coma dream episode in season 4.) She refreshingly makes no apologies for her work— maybe it is pop lit, but it’s probably the best darn mystery series out there — and the sales have afforded her the luxury of doing whatever she wants, so who’s lacking perspicacity now, Fisher?
The twist at the end was one I wasn’t expecting, though: Fisher was actually such a fan of Brennan’s books that he wrote fan fiction about them in his youth, and Brennan figured it out because the turn of phrase matched some of his assignments he’s submitted to her over the years. I laughed out loud at his being caught, and at how he’s now in a hell of his own making because Brennan will gleefully hold this over his head. However, the fact that she used his ‘pain’ to underscore that she knows he’s got a heart in there somewhere that does take joy in some things was sweet, and I think that reflects her journey, as well. She used to hide behind a mask so that she wouldn’t get hurt, but now opens herself up because the rewards are worth it; I think she hopes Fisher can find the same peace himself.
I’ve run out of space once again, but I have to mention Aubrey’s dad (played by John Boyd’s own father) walking into the Diner as though he weren’t a fugitive, because was that stolen right out of Max’s playbook or what?! I’m comforted by the fact that it seems like this time, the writers are doubling-down on Aubrey père’s sociopathy, going as far as making up a fake new family to tug at our agent’s heartstrings to help him out. I’m proud of Aubrey for sticking to his guns, because that demonstrates a wisdom beyond his own years of knowing when to love, and when to protect your own heart.
What did you think of ‘Tutor’?