Just like an old country song, someone’s sick, someone dies, and someone’s got a broken heart (and arm) in this week’s Bones. Tonight’s episode was directed by leading man David Boreanaz, which means, as usual, our souls got a little bit (or a lot) crushed by the end of the hour.
The ‘Big’ in the title is a country singer whose remains are found in a particularly gory mess (which Brennan teases Booth about just for good measure). He was down on his luck, barely making ends meet and struggling to find success, but it turns out he was a big star on Philippine radio, much to his great shock.
It leads to a revolving door of suspects: the head of his record label, who was fleecing him out of thousands of dollars he was owed from his overseas success; his building’s super, who he had a crush on along with an ill-fated date and a Filipino fan who set off some stalker warning bells by hiding in the guy’s apartment while Booth and Sweets looked for evidence. In the end, the murderer ends up being the bartender at the singer’s old haunt, who’s jealous that he was dating his ex-girlfriend (the super). Ah yes, nothing says country like a love triangle gone sour. Ultimately, a guy who had everything going for him had it all ripped away, which is the theme of the night.
The real story in this episode was Wendell’s sudden brush with the grim reaper, courtesy of a broken arm. What first appears to be a simple hockey injury reveals that Wendell in fact has a form of bone cancer that is very rare and unfortunately carries with it an extremely high mortality rate. As truly awful as this diagnosis is for the intern, I have to say it definitely brought out the entire cast’s A-game, and demonstrated why they all work so well together, all these years later.
We saw Brennan ride a roller coaster here. You can tell that as soon as Booth shows her the video on his phone of the hit Wendell took in their hockey game, that she knows something isn’t right. (Because she is brilliant.) She tries to keep a professional distance, but her affection and worry for Wendell win out, and she breaks the rules by getting a hold of his X-rays to make her diagnosis.
I found Cam’s alarm at her ethical violation spot-on, but I also completely understand where Brennan is coming from. (She has a habit of doing stuff like this, after all.) What she did was wrong, but it’s not the first time Brennan’s used her position to come to someone’s aid, especially when she feels like they’re being mistreated medically. I’m still not sure how she would have gotten her hands on those X-rays without Wendell’s consent or knowledge, but that’s TV magic for you.
In any case, watching her trying to figure out what she should do, then how she should break it to Wendell, was heartbreaking. When she finally did confess to him, with Booth’s help, you could see how scared she was for her ‘charge’. It really was like a member of her family battling this.
Booth’s reaction was really interesting, too. He’s such a buttoned-up guy most of the time, especially around the lab rats. But Wendell’s more than a colleague, because he’s the most “normal” blue-collar guy of the bunch, and they play hockey together in their spare time. So, naturally, a situation like this one hits him harder than it would otherwise. Being the devout guy that he is, he has faith that Wendell can fight this, and wants to see his friend pull through. It’s an unusual display of affection from the normally gruff FBI agent.
Meanwhile, Michael Grant Terry gave a great performance in this episode, as a happy-go-lucky guy who just received the worst news he could possibly get. Wendell’s always been so laid back, and even though he’s faced some hard knocks in his life (like always struggling for money or losing his dad young), he’s generally taken everything with a grain of salt. This is the guy who broke up with his girlfriend (Angela) because she still had feelings for her ex (Hodgins) and gave them his blessing, after all. Just like his boss, you saw him run through so many stages: shock at his diagnosis, fear at what his future holds, refusal to obtain treatment because he views his fate as inevitable, to acceptance of his illness and deciding to fight.
Everything was spot on; here’s a guy who has his whole future ahead of him, and that’s all threatened in the blink of an eye. It’s not just that he has a long road ahead of him in treatment, it’s that even at best, his odds of survival are at less than ten percent. I don’t blame him at all for his initial reaction, and it takes a lot of courage to decide to stick around and fight, regardless of the odds. Luckily for him, he’s got a whole extended family in the squinterns to help him through his ordeal. Terry displayed all of those feelings so beautifully, and so subtly. As painful as this will be for Wendell, I’m looking forward to seeing more of him on the show.
The final scene kind of wrapped all of this up in a neat little bow, for now. Everyone knows Wendell has an uphill battle, but we know, thanks to Brennan, that they’re all going to do everything they can to help him out. (I loved their big hug.) The dance at the end to a sad country song is a reminder that you have to hold on to the little things in life, before they slip away.
So, did Wendell make you cry? Will he make it? Did Brennan cross a line? Do you have a sudden urge to pick up a banjo and drive a pickup truck?