Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Verdict in the Story

While this episode was well written (by Christopher Ambrose) viewed as a standalone, for me it was irritating and alienating, seeking to tug on heartstrings that not only weren't there, but for which it was just wrong to grasp.

Booth and Brennan show up at a crime scene and find a skeleton, on its stomach, hand clutching its legs from behind the back, so that the abdomen on the floor curves like a rocking horse. Brennan finds it hilarious and can't imagine how it happened. How could someone die in that position? Bones said maybe they were killed and buried in a rug. Then, where is the rug? It maybe disintegrated along with the meat on the bones, he theorizes. That would take thousands of years to occur she informs him, further amused by his naivete. As they start to gather clues, Caroline comes and orders them to stop working together. Why is that, because Bones laughed at him, Booth says "that really doesn't bother me" [and I think it's cute that it really doesn't]. No, Caroline says. It's because Brennan has been suspended from her work with Booth, since her father is about to go on trial [Didn't they know the trial date well ahead of this? Why is the first she's being told of the suspension]. She can't work with Booth, since Booth arrested her father.

They both say that they continue to work and it won't impact their relationship, but Caroline won't hear of it.

Bones goes to meet with her father and Russ. Clarke is going to be the forensics expert, because Booth is considered too biased to do it. Max is wary of Clarke's ability and Russ is grumpy and sarcastic as usual -- for reasons unknown. He should be nothing but grateful to Brennan, Bones and everyone else EXCEPT his dad, yet he has a perennial chip on his shoulder. He is annoying. The actor is not charming. And I have no use for this character.

At the lab, they all discuss having to work against Bones and for the prosecution to give testimony at trial and they (Zach excluded) are all bummed about it which brings me to the crux of my problem. They all feel guilty about having to participate in putting Max away. WHY!!!! He not only killed the Deputy Director of the FBI, he cut out his intestines, tied him to a stake and set him on fire, to send a message to all of Max's other enemies. And the director was not even the only guy that Max assassinated in this horrific manner. He did it because the crooked Director was after Russ and Brennan, which may explain why they don't want to see Max in jail, but why should the rest of the crime fighters feel the same way -- especially since Brennan is not crying on their shoulder and begging them to spare her dad, sobbing that she doesn't know how she can make it without him. Instead, she is calm, practical, doesn't understand their guilt and doesn't fully realize the extent of her own latent concern for Max's fate half the time. She's certainly not wearing it on her sleeve. So, where's all their sympathy coming from. Max may love his kids, but he's not a likable person, in general.

If I had seen him reluctantly kill the director in self defense, maybe I'd be on his side. But all I saw him do was flambe the corpse in a manner that was thrilling -- and made that episode shocking and exciting -- but definitely cold. The reason his actions were so good to watch is because they were so dispassionate and diabological. This is a man you want to have protecting you, but if you are not one of his loved ones, the idea of knowing he's safely locked up and away from society is a pretty cozy and secure one. Having this guy in jail is not a bad thing, so why does this show pretend like it is and try to make us root for his release? I not only fail to understand why the lab crew feels bad, but I think somewhat less of Brennan, for wanting him free as well. I'm not empathizing, I'm criticizing her. Sure, she can love him and visit him in prison, but I want her sense of justice to outweigh or --at the very least resist-- the filial weakness. In the past, she was determined to turn him, if he showed up as fugitive on her doorstep. But since then, she not only failed to do that, but urged Booth to help Max too. Of course, the flip flop is not out of character, if one considers that she is battling within and only vacillates because her heart is in conflict with her conscience. Fine, that reveals the doctor and makes her a more dimensioned person. Let her waver. But don't try to tell us our emotions should lie with hers.

As the lab crew watches Brennan, Clarke and the defense attorney examine the evidence, they struggle. They hate seeing Brennan alone. Zach says she's not alone, she's with those two African American men. I don't get why he says this. Yes, I know he is a very literal, unemotional person, much like Brennan herself. But why would he need to describe those men as African-American. How does their race figure into her not being alone? What's worrisome is that Cam looks at him and says they shouldn't be competitive about the trial. They should all just do their jobs. Zach says trials wouldn't be considered an adversarial process if they weren't supposed to be competitive. He does feel like the defense is the opponent. So, since we know he feels that way, he must notice their race as an aspect of that competition. He thinks their being black somehow influences their proficiency as sparring partners. For me, the implication is that race makes them inferior opponents in Zach's mind and I don't now why they have decided to present him in that light. Why present any character as having those thoughts, especially when it's not a prejudice that the script is going to deal with. Instead, it is just touched on and left unexplained. I feel uneasy about it. This show goes out of its way to be equal opportunity and casts more than its share of minorities. It's clear to me that the producers (and DB himself) are very fair-minded and the characters usually don't seem to notice race. If the show thinks that is unrealistic and wants to tackle racial tension as a storyline, I have no problem with that. But don't just throw out a line that strangely addresses such tension and comes from a character who usually doesn't exhibit any race-conscious behavior whatsoever.

I had been rooting for Cam and Zach to come together and that would still be interesting to see, but I'd also be interested in knowing why Zach gratuitously pointed out that the men were African-American and would like to have that resolved as part of a pairing with Cam.

Anyway, back to the trial at hand . . . Bones and Booth meet at the diner with Sweets. Booth gleefully fires Sweets, telling him that since he and Bones aren't partners (but Bones' suspension is only temporary, so I don't know why Sweets is permanently fired), Sweets doesn't get to analyze how they work together any more. Sweets protests and also reveals that he is the profiler for the prosecution against Max. He wonders how Bones feels about that. Surely, it effects her to have everyone, her staff, her partner and, "including your therapist" working to imprison her father, even if she doesn't admit it. Booth happily points out that Sweets is Bones' "former therapist" and they have fun mocking Sweets together, but Booth feels that it is upsetting to Brennan. She denies it and Sweets says, "this is a golden opportunity for you to feel the situation rather than simply rationalizing it." She says she is fine. Sweets says if that were true she'd be balled up in the corner weeping or catatonic. Booth agrees. That's too much. Not everyone would be as removed as Brennan, but to insist that every normal person in her place would be an emotional wreck just assumes too much and generalizes human reactions in a way that I would hope a therapist would refrain from doing.

As for Sweets, I'd have to go back and look at message boards from Season 3 to see if anyone else suspected he might be the murderer that early on. Is it just me? Did other viewers think the person who jumped out of the closet to kill that guy was Sweets, as I thought it might be? Anyway, much of what he says about personality types has a double meaning to my ears, as he talks about himself. I think the writers intended this and were planting seeds, but I don't think they thought the audience would catch on. I think it was still the ptb's secret, the way the show presents Sweets. It's not as if the characters don't know he's bad. It's like the objective POV for the show doesn't know it either. It's strange, because murderer or not, I've found Sweets kind of creepy from the beginning and definitely wanted him gone -- or at least I wanted him to stop diagnosing Brennan and Booth.

Booth gives Sweets the brush, sarcastically saying it's been a pleasure. Brennan says, "I too find him intriguing in a non-rigorous, pragmatically irrelevant kind of way." Booth agrees with what she said and leaves Sweets with the restaurant tab.

In a meeting with Caroline who tries to scold the lab crew into being good witnesses, Caroline asks if Cam has any control over them. Cam says she has absolutely none at all? What? Really? Any other time she is riding herd. Angela says she is not going to testify. She is convinced she is doing the right thing when everyone else is not. Um no. She's the one who told a victim's father who she erroneously thought the murderer was, causing the father to kill the wrong guy. If she wants to "do the right thing" why not pay penance for that, rather than insisting that everyone who testifies against the savage killer who happens to be Bones' dad is disloyal.

The trial is cute, comical and maddening, in turns. Booth and Brennan sit across the aisle from one another, but chat constantly across the aisle, until the judge separates them like school children. I like the fact that they are inextricably aligned even while on opposite sides and feel the need to be together no matter what the circumstances. On the other hand, this talking in court gets out of hand, especially when Brennan repeatedly talks to witnesses on the stand from her courtroom seat. The judge mildly reprimands her, but she does it so much, without being removed that I begin to wish that she (or the writers) be given the death sentence for her illogical interruptions.

Also, the fact that Angela goes to prison rather than testifying against Max really makes me want to see her lie in the bed she's made. I want that woman to do time. Max is not innocent. If the murder hadn't been such a violent one, then maybe I'd hesitate to take the stand against him, but as it is, Angela's moral ground is as solid as quick sand. The show suggests we, the audience, agrees with her and that's what I resent the most. I'd rather have Max go to jail and break out, than to have to be told that the Brennan family somehow deserves the happy ending of his acquittal.

Brennan and Booth sharing coffee outside of the courtroom when they have been banned from talking to each other about the case is very cute. They keep the coffee cups in front of their mouths to shield their conversation. DB is adorable and Emily is square-faced and lovely for this scene. As he leaves, Booth sheepishly tells Brennan he hopes she remembers who gave her the (awful) coffee, since he's the next witness against her dad. This is a surprise to her, but something the prosecutor would have told her anyway. Before that happens, Brennan applauds Zach for being the only one who was not hesitant to testify. Hodgins asked for her permission before doing it. She doesn't now what's wrong with being a witness for the prosecution. Booth says, it's not what's wrong. "It's what's right." Like Angela, he seems to feel that those who support Max are on the side of right. Ugh. Booth tells Brennan that it's all right to want her dad to be released. It's ok for her to think as a daughter, with her heart, rather than as part of law enforcement. I don't mind him giving her this advice as a friend. I just don't want the script to hand that same advice to me. Nothing about Max has touched my heart, so why should I be thinking with it?

When Sweets testifies he says that Max kills without hesitation, without remorse. Does Sweets kill in the same way?

Outside, he says he wants to keep working with Booth and Brennan. The way they talk to each other, refer to him in the third person and exclude them is fascinating. He wants to study them some more. Brennan says he wants to observe them, because he likes them, he really likes them. She sing songs, in a playful manner with which I didn't think she was familiar. Booth says that he'll let Sweets study them if he'll give them free profiles on the cases. Can't Booth get Sweets to do this as part of his job, since Sweets works with the FBI? Bones has no objections to this deal, even though she doesn't find profiling useful. So, Sweets strike a bargain and the writers have forged a plot device that explains Sweets continued presence.

Zach watches Clark worth with the evidence and openly admits that he wants to know if Clark is seeing something that Zach missed. Clark is impressed by Zach's candor and is surprised that Zach is not bluffing him or making any attempt to save face. Facades are foreign to Zach. It turns out that by looking at the fissures in the skull, Clarke sees that Zach pinpointed the wrong murder weapon. Zach did miss something. Zach is stunned by his own infallibility. This is the writers way of checking the air of superiority he expressed early on. I still don't understand why they had him express it in racial turns, since he's a character that never exhibited prejudice before. He knows he's brilliant and has vied with Hodgins. They could have had him compete with Clarke in the same manner without the unaddressed racial overtones.

When the murder weapon is thrown out, the prosecution is left scrambling and there's hope for Max. Booth shows up with a search warrant to look for the true murder weapon at Brennan's apartment where the murder took place. As Zach executes the warrant, Booth and Bones talk. She's surprised at her own disappointment when the chance for Max's release is snatched from under him. Why is she so sad when Booth and Bones both know Max is guilty, she asks. Booth tells her she has a right to be sad as the daughter. Don't fight it. He tells her to take out her brain and put her heart in drive. She says sometimes she thinks he's from another planet and sometimes she thinks he's very nice.

Booth is caring towards her, while still reluctantly doing his job in clinching Zach's find of the true murder weapon.

At the prison, Brennan says that her crew was just good at finding evidence. The horrible Russ tells her to gloat about her employee's proficiency some other time. The prosecutor says that it's all over except for the shouting. If only they could have given the jury someone else to blame. A boogeyman. A light bulb goes off in Brennan's hand.

She feels Booth out. Isn't Max's guilt just a hypothesis? Why should he go to jail for just a theory? That makes me mad, since she knows it's more than a theory and has said so several times in the episode, prompting the prosecutor to tell her to keep her incriminating thoughts to herself. But now she says that Max being the murderer is just a hypothesis. And Booth tells her that she doesn't really "know" that Max did it in a legal sense. She lets him persuade her this is true. Can she proffer another hypothesis? He says they aren't supposed to talk about the case, but she says he's the only one she usually discusses criminal theories with, so she has to bounce it off of him. If she finds another scenario for how the deputy director was killed can that get Max off? Can she do it without lying, Booth wants to know. She says she can. Then Booth says that could work. "And is it all right for me to take advantage of this?" Why ask him. He knows criminal procedure, not legal or moral right and wrong. Why get his permission for her own subterfuge? But he gives consent.

"Brain and heart, Bones. Brain and heart." She must let the latter guide her.

Booth takes the stand. The prosecutor questions him about who else was in Bones apartment. Who else could have killed the Director. Booth sees where the prosecutor is going. Caroline was around, but not all the time. She could not have killed the director. So, the other person left is Bones. Booth does not want to answer. He looks towards the judge [stupid, like the judge can tell him he doesn't have to answer absent an objection from Caroline and why doesn't Caroline object] Booth says that Bones was with him the entire day and could not have done it. The prosecutor says that Booth left to take his son home. He was gone for 45 minutes. Bones could have done it then. Booth says that he has stood over death with Bones. He has faced it with her. She is not capable of murder. The prosecutor says that's not what he asked. He asked if Bones had the TIME to do it [actually not what he asked the first time, even if he's asking it now]. Yes, Booth grudgingly admits. She had the time. I don't like that Brennan makes herself the scapegoat for her father's brutal murder through Booth. I'm sure he doesn't think she could go to jail for a crime she didn't commit. So, he shouldn't be in deep pain over having to testify that way, but he doesn't want to say those words. DB does a good acting job and Booth's misgivings are clear. It's not easy for him and I don't like the way Brennan is being used.

Sweets gets on the stand and says that Brennan is perfectly capable of murder because she has a rare ability to compartmentalize her feelings. Again, is he speaking about himself?

We see Brennan on the courthouse steps. Booth comes out and hugs her. Then, our anxiety is supposedly relieved when a triumphant Max emerges, a free man. The jury acquitted. Brennan is happy. The lab crew is happy for her. Booth looks on as the family hugged, glad he helped them. Just gag me. Let Brennan have her hugfest, but at least give her a slight pang. Have Booth walk past her an bypass an embrace, still unsettled by the trick the prosecutor played on him. Why make him the unwitting tool of Max's release? Well, I guess he owed her one. He told another prosecutor about her past, so that she could be stripped bare in front of the jury and forced to show emotion. She didn't hold it against her. Now, he is pleased that she made him act against his will to save Jack the Ripper. All's fair in love, I guess.

Not troubled by what the characters did, so much as in how the show itself viewed what they did in an approving way. Main characters in a plot are often biased, so the characters outside of the action represent the "reasonable man" and express the objective viewer's point of view. In this case, the objective view was a skewed and disturbing one, cheering for those who least deserved it and promoting a result that left me smarting from the injustice. I love villains. I don't care if they win. Just don't tell me they're right.

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