Sometimes, Bones is so absurd it gives you Bud Bundy as an orange half-man, half-panther. Sometimes, the show hits so close to home that it gets you right in the ol’ heart muscle. Sometimes, like this week, it does both at the same time.
All year long, we’ve seen the interns slowly but surely close the books on their time at the Jeffersonian. New degrees, new jobs, and new cities await them all as they graduate from the Jeffersonian’s esteemed ranks, and this week is Wendell’s turn, in a story that probably feels more than a little familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in academia — or, frankly, been in a job long-term. At the Hoover, Aubrey finally gets to play lead on a case to test his leadership chops, and it seems like both of our protégés have their work cut out for them.
A brief visit by Dr. Beth Meyer (the incomparable Betty White) leads Brennan to muse about the role of passion in one’s career, and it’s an interesting debate, though undoubtedly guided by a certain degree of privilege that is afforded to those with exceptional means like herself. I should know better by now, but I fell for the “trap” of believing Brennan’s pensiveness was due to concerns about her own relationship with her work, which wouldn’t be unheard of given her previous decisions to step back from the lab (see: seasons 5 and 10).
It turns out, instead, that it isn’t her own career choices she’s worried about, but rather her student’s, and that’s where things get a little more complicated. Since he’s year eight into grad school and has yet to confirm his dissertation topic (yikes!), Brennan is concerned that his indecisiveness about his thesis masks uncertainty about his field of study, period. It’s a testament to Brennan’s affection for her pupil that she recognizes his brilliance and how it may not be used to his full potential, but also to her own drive that it prompts her to question how people get through their own careers without feeling the passion she is so accustomed to pursuing in her efforts.
This is where I become conflicted with the story, though. On the one hand, Wendell’s struggles with finding direction in grad school is so true-to-life it’s almost painful, and definitely brought back memories of my own time in college, trying to fit in between the obvious go-getters and the just-trying-to-get-by crowd. It’s a dilemma lots of students face, especially when surrounded by high-achievers who seem to have their lives together. (Impostor syndrome, anyone?)When combined with his personal trials over the years — illness, financial issues, even personality clashes — his reticence to pick a firm course of action is completely understandable.
However, I’m not sure I can entirely get behind Brennan’s ultimate conclusion about his reservations, which is that perhaps he needs to find another career path because he’s too smart to “waste” time at something he doesn’t love. First of all, I don’t know that having trouble narrowing a research topic is necessarily indicative of a lack of passion, but maybe is instead a sign of feeling overwhelmed and needing guidance — from, say, your mentor who has admittedly written more than a handful of theses — especially in a character who’s expressed anxiety about his place in this academic setting to begin with. It’s certainly a valid story choice had it been teased out earlier, but I don’t know that the dots connect here, at least not from what we’ve seen of Wendell’s commitment.
Secondly, and perhaps more puzzling to me, is the message that one requires passion to find a rewarding career. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that is ideal, but as Angela remarked in ‘Panthers’, I don’t think that’s an option for most people beyond the minority of the population who are afforded that opportunity — but that’s also okay, because there’s value in any job, whether it’s spiritually fulfilling, provides a service, or simply pays the bills. I can see where Brennan is coming from, particularly in the wake of her recent loss, in that life is certainly too short to do something you don’t enjoy if you have the option of finding another path, but I think the problem here is that it doesn’t seem like Wendell doesn’t enjoy his work. In fact, I’d wager that the efforts he made to get to this point, along with the community support behind him to get him here, counter that point. It seems to be more that his academic game plan isn’t working for him at the moment, which isn’t strictly-speaking the same issue.
I would have loved if they’d explored that more, or that he’d find tangential track to chase, but I understand that there is an economy of time with two (!) episodes left in the series. I’m happy the squint always has a place with his Jeffersonian family, and his final heart-to-heart conversation with his long-time teacher was touching. It reminded me of the special bond between them throughout the series (for which I was always a sucker), and as with the other interns, at the very least, this leaves us, and him, in a better place than when we found him, and that’s about all we can hope for.
Speaking of mentees, Aubrey is appropriately tested here, but I’m thrilled that in the end, Booth’s prodding was just a warm-up to the eventual revelation that the younger agent has already been tapped for a supervisory role in the Los Angeles field office. The moment between the two men was surprisingly heartfelt, and it was lovely to see Booth pass the baton in such a surprisingly affectionate fashion. It is a fitting end to their relationship in the last three years, and I have no doubt Aubrey is ready for La-La Land— even if the pizza leaves a lot to be desired.
This is really it, folks: we finally move onto the two-part finale next week, and we can’t live in denial anymore. What did you think of Wendell’s exit, and Aubrey’s new horizons?