Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Finger in the Nest

I found the humor in this episode so delightful that I was keen to identify the writer, Lyla Oliver, and see which other scripts she'd been responsible for (think this is the first on Bones), but then I realized it doesn't matter. No matter how good the shows are, most of them don't stand out. They just blend into one another, like largely identical hedges in a labyrinth.

Some things stand out, like Brennan and Hodgins being buried alive in that car, or two of the gormogon shows (including Zack's exposure), or Brennan's father killing that priest, but if I've seen over 60 shows so far, less than 55 of them were memorable, which is not to say they weren't enjoyable at the time. They're simply fungible. When one thing is too much like another, neither is special. I would think the problem is that Bones is a procedural. There's a crime, an investigation and a resolution. Does that format automatically give series a mechanical air? No. Cagney and Lacey has been off the air for 25 years and I still remember many of the plot points. Same with NYPD Blue. I remember Sylvia's death, Andy Jr.'s and how it made Andy, Sr. turn back to drink, Bobby Simone's death, Danny's death . . . ok there were a lot of deaths on NYPD Blue, but that's not why I remember their emotional impact. Booth recently "died" on Bones and it was annoying, rather than moving. I had no real sense of the characters' connection to each other, so their loss didn't translate into my caring, beyond the length of the episode.

They try to resonate with Brennan's orphan background, but that subplot is stupid to me and when she cries over her disappearing parents, I simply can't buy it. I also hate her brother, as I do Booth's son. So, their family moments don't appeal to me. Bottom line is this show is all gloss and no penetration. I fell in love with Buffy, which led me to Angel, which has led me to Bones. When I got here, I loved that the ride was often amusing, but I thought it would be meaningful as well. It's not. And that's ok. It's just an adjustment.

The show starts off with Booth playing in the park with his son. He's trying to teach the kid football. Isn't the football hold beautiful? Well, Parker has been told that a sunset and the Mona Lisa is beautiful, so he doesn't know about football . . . Booth gets a little impatient when he constantly hears "Mom said..." They see a bird's nest and Parker's first instinct is to throw the ball at it, but Booth tells him there's a living creature inside and he shouldn't hurt it. For all my complaints about them TELLING us stuff in the last episode, I like this one because we are left to infer so much, about Booth's parenting style (although Bones does tell us he's a good dad) and his hopes. Later on, when Sweets tells him how Parker brags about him, Booth beams. It's just David mugging a bit, but it's also touching, because Bones is touch. Booth got tired of hearing what "Mom said," but when he's not there Parker boasts a lot about what Dad says too and it's a nice way of conveying what father means to son, without giving us mushy scenes.

Booth lifts Parker up to see into the nest. There's a finger inside. The bird flew it there from some unknown murder scene. They start an investigation and Booth is afraid that Parker may be scarred for life by the digit discovery. He takes him to Sweets for a diagnosis, but Sweets resists, saying he's not some radio psychologist who dispenses advice for a dime. I don't know why he has this reaction, since he's always giving out unsolicited therapy. Why so shy now?

Bones says she found her neighbor dead when she was 5 and it didn't scar her for life did it? Well, she makes a living digging up dead people, so Booth things it might have impacted her. She says after she found the body, she played dead for weeks after that, pretending to hang herself, etc. And she really thinks she was unfazed, Booth wants to know??

The gang eventually finds the rest of the corpse, realizing that a bird would only bring things to its nest, based on a certain radius. There's an opossum by the gravesite and I realize that that's the thing I saw crossing a busy intersection (Michelson) a few weeks ago. I'm not that good on identifying critters, so I'm glad this show did it for me. When the opossum appears to die, Booth says that the corpse must have been poisoned and it died after nibbling on the body. Bones calmly points out that it is merely "playing opossum" and is alive and well. She corrects Booth's pronunciation. It's O-possum, not possum. They learn that the victim was mauled to death by a dog. They go looking for the canine, who has distinctive, filed teeth as an identifier. When they get to the dog owner's place, there's an unchained pit bull in the yard and Booth says that they'll sit in the car and wait for the owner to come out. Bones notes that he's afraid. He denies it and says that that's just common courtesy in the country. You wait in the car. Well, he was scared then, but later when he goes to arrest the owner, he has no problem getting out of the car, without a thought and I liked that. It was a nice way of showing that when there's danger in the air, he's fearless, but he was cognizant of a threat when things were normal and quiet.

Zack's newest temporary replacement is Brennan's oldest grad student, Scott Starret. He's held every job known to man and is versed on every subject. Hodgins finds that it's the same man who sold him a bum car when he was a kid and he lashes out at Scott every chance he gets. I'm surprised that no one tells him not to keep letting a 15 year old car transaction interfere with their current case, but they just ignore his fuming. When Hodgins finds a pivotal clue he says that he would call "King of the Lab" but that would just bring back painful memories. Scott looks quizzical. Finally, after Hodgins and Angela rejoice over a break through, both compliment each other and then feel very awkward and withdraw, Hodgins admits to Scott (then Sweets) that he hates everyone, because his best friend got himself into trouble (well, Zack did a lot more than that) and then Hodgins lost Angela and feels that it was his fault. I can predict that Angela and Hodgins reunite, but if it's because he apologizes to her, I won't be happy. It wasn't his fault. Her behavior with her ex was wrong and if it pinpointed any problem in their relationship, that problem wasn't Hodgins' lack of trust. My opinion is that Angela is not such a prize. Sweets actually thinks that Hodgins' feelings of "hate" are a good thing. He's independently wealthy and he's still coming to work isn't he. So, his anger is not crippling him. He's working through it. Now that they've talked, does this mean that Hodgins is Sweets' patient, Hodgins wonders self-consciously? Nope. They're just co-workers. Hodgins is relieved. I wish Sweets would just be co-workers with Bones and Booth too.

Cam still has to remind someone she's the boss every single episode. Why IS this? Last week it was Daisy. This week, when Scott's presence is bugging Hodgins, he calls Cam over. She sends Scott away. Hodgins then reveals he has nothing to tell him, he just wanted her to get rid of Scott. Well, that's not a wise way to use your boss, she cautions. But it worked, he answers.

As they move closer to the killer, Bones and Booth uncover a dog-fighting ring. Bones can hardly bare to look at the remains of the dogs who died. This is just maddening, since she has no qualms about dead people. I think that those who torture animals are more mentally depraved than other criminals, but it's because it's not even really a power trip with them. It's not about dominating. It's just the pure joy of inflicting pain. That's frightening, but I'm not one who is more moved by the suffering of animals than I am the suffering of human beings. Bones' tears over the dogs are designed to show her tender heart underneath the analytical exterior, but the vulnerability now only makes me resent her clinical detachment at other times.

Cesar Millan, the real life Dog Whisperer, comes and helps them tame the canines used in dog fights, so they can find the one who was used to attack and kill the victim. It's somewhat humorous when Bones recognizes him, he says thank you and she retorts that just because she knows him from television doesn't mean she was giving him a compliment. Television exposure itself is no sign of achievement. But then he is able to quiet the dogs, when she can't, even when she tries to mimic exactly what he did, so that must have been humbling for her. She must have realized that he wasn't just famous for being famous, at that point.

Booth leaves an unwilling Sweets alone with Parker long enough to discover that the kid has been exhibiting symptoms of trauma because he's being bullied by a large girl, not because of the finger. He thought finding the finger was cool and wishes Booth had let him keep it. The girl is another story. Booth told him never to hit girls (Booth says he told him not to hit anyone, with some qualifications) and he doesn't run away from her because his father never ran away from anything. Booth is happy to hear, from Sweets, what Parker actually thinks of him. But clarifies that unlike his son, he was never carried around by a girl. Boreanaz's comical facial expressions never fail to steal a scene. In the end, he tells Parker that it's ok to walk away, when it's for himself, but when it's for anyone else, then that's when he should stand his ground.

Booth and Bones find the dog that killed the man, Ripley. Ripley's trainer sicced the dog on a vet who was about to expose the dog fighting ring and made the canine a killer. Cesar is full of compassion, telling the dog, Ripley, "I'm sorry buddy. I'm so sorry." The dead man wasn't the killer's only victim. Brennan goes out and buys the dog a collar and a "Ripley Brennan" tag, planning to adopt him. Booth stops her, saying that the dog had to be put down, since he attacked a human. "You killed him?" Brennan asks? Booth nods. Is he the one who gave the order? I guess. I doubt it would come directly from him, but the fact that it did -- or Brennan takes it that way -- and she doesn't blame him personally for it, knowing that he was only doing his job, reminds me of how he had to turn her father in. Trust in the implicit fairness of his character, even when it hurts her personally, is the best thing I can say about their relationship so far, in that it's a fundamental relationship building block and a more complicated bond to express for the writers than their so-called sexual tension is. So, I respect it more.

Booth takes her to dig a grave for Ripley. He makes the whole and she wants to close it up. An equal division of chores. He tells her to say a few words for Ripley. She speaks to him and he says it's not his fault. She says, but he's the only one there. He tells her to speak to God or to Ripley. Well, she's not spiritual and she says there's not much she can say to Ripley since he was a DOG and there was a limit to what he could understand -- but she says he had to suffer for the wrongfulness of others and that it's not right. Did she say enough? He said her words were a fitting tribute for anyone, Ripley too. They hug.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Man in the Outhouse

Three seasons down and this show hasn't grown any more organic. Maybe that's what you get when you watch a Fox drama instead of HBO, but then again The X-Files was on Fox, so . . . Still, Bones and Booth often act more like Peg and Ed than Mulder and Scully.

I don't understand it, when you have actors who are talented enough to convey a lot through subtlety and are appealing, why do you need so much mugging and exposition? Sometimes, it seems that this show is written both to be performed by nitwits and watched by them.

Booth shows up at Brennan's apartment to take her to their latest case and she is entertaining a gentleman caller. Of course, Brennan, ever logical, isn't exactly discomfited by his presence, but she does think he should call first. Booth wonders why. He didn't even know she was dating. Booth enjoys making Mark, her toweled date, feel awkward and, suggesting that things are not as big of a deal as they should be, Booth wonders if Mark is chilly. Of course, he can only be joking because Brennan assures us that Mark is well-endowed and an excellent lover. He's a deep sea diver and an expert bobber, traits she praises so excessively that Booth has to clarify that she is actually talking about Mark's talents below the water.

Now, this is cute, but once they had "bobber" in the script, we could have imagined the rest. We would have implied a double meaning to all of Brennan's comments on our own. Booth didn't have to rub the joke in by actually asking if they were still talking about deep sea diving. 1) It might be funnier if they never said whether they were or not. Brennan could mean one thing and the audience could think another. 2) If Booth needed to ask, David Boreanaz could have easily have done so with a raised brow. No dialogue necessary.

Just as too much kneading removes the air and makes dough heavy, too many words explaining the obvious leaden a show.

Brennan says that Mark is a way on dives for a long time and that absence sharpens his sexual needs. So, he's very exciting to be with physically. But she sees (she fines the word "dates" too confine by traditional expectations) another man, Jason, for mental stimulation.

Booth says he believes in monogamy, the way God intended. Bones counters that monogamy is unnatural. I don't mind this discussion because I haven't seen the show in a long time, BUT I know they've had this conversation many times before. I don't know that they should write the series expecting that people will watch episodes months apart on DVD like I did. If you are actually watching week to week in real time, I think that Booth and Bones conversations became repetitive a long time ago and I'm only on the 4th season. There are 5 seasons of identical character-defining proclamations to go.

Their case ties into Brennan's personal contretemps. A reality tv host, Bill, has been found dead. He framed cheating spouses by having a beautiful woman lure them into a hotel room, video-taping them as they became amorous and then "busting" them on camera, revealing that the whole thing had been a set up and their infidelity was now proven. Bill's murder contained so much malice (he ended up having his body dumped in an outhouse) that his killer was probably one of the angry men he entrapped. Sweets watches tapes from Bill's show to see which one of them fits the profile of a savage killer.

As Sweets describes the mentality of a cheater, Brennan objects. She doesn't think the urge to have more than one lover is wrong or unnatural. Sweets wonders how Booth feels about Brennan dating. Even looking at Sweets as their therapist, considering all the past sessions they have had and the many times he has asked this same question in a different form, I simply don't understand why we're still getting scenes like this. If Sweets had never been created -- and he's growing on me now, but sometimes I still wish he never existed -- the audience would have asked what Booth's true feelings were without prompting from a psychiatrist. It's best just to have Sweets working on their cases and to stop have him commenting on Booth and Brennan because his doing so is just a reminder of how dumb the show thinks it's audience is. Moreover, presenting their relationship as something to be analyzed week in and week out, is a barrier to its being something that viewers simply enjoy.

Ironically, the writers realize this in a subplot. They bring in Daisy, Brennan's newest assistant. It would be comical if Brennan continued to get a new one each week, just like having Murphy Brown's secretarial temp change each week became a running gag on that sitcom, 25 years ago. Anyway, Daisy is so eager to please Brennan, her hero, that she can't stop preening and emphasizing her own skills, to make herself more attractive to Temp, who barely notices her -- or would have it appear so. Daisy chatters aimlessly to Jack and Cam trying to convince them how alike she and Brennan are and what a good fit they will make. The fact that she has to say it, proves that her conclusions is entirely wrong. Camille dryly advises Daisy not to talk so much and to leave an air of mystery. Daisy is intelligent, but tries too hard, lacks perception and cannot see that the very traits she boasts of so often, along with the boasting itself, are the ones Brennan will find the least attractive.

Although, she definitely helps them break the case, Daisy is summarily fired. But not onscreen. We learn that Daisy's a done deal casually, in passing at the end of the show, making it all the funnier. Bones, Hodgins and Cam never discussed Daisy together. They never talked about how their residual feelings for Zack may have motivated them to give Daisy a harder time either. Daisy rubbed them all the wrong way, for reasons the audience can consider on it's own. We didn't have Sweets analyzing why the squints rejected her (although he doesn't, not after she flatters him). We know enough about them and their past and Daisy's obnoxiousness is so patent, that the inherent conflict between them does not need to be voiced. I wish this was true in the main plot as well.

Many of the problems in Daisy's pushy, perky personality are symbolic of the show's flaws in general.

Booth and Brennan get Noel, a stalker from a past episode, to help them track a suspect. It's strange because since this guy has focused on Brennan before, you'd think they'd want to steer clear of him, rather than encourage his perverted tendencies. I mean, I guess in the past they made him seem more dangerous than he actually was, just so we'd suspect him as the villain, but even so, his obsession is not exactly harmless. Why wouldn't they just put a detective on the trail, rather than paying a weirdo 50 to follow someone? Booth cautions him not to zero in on Brennan again, but actually a cautionary word is not enough to deter a true psycho. It's funny, but too screwy for a show that is actually supposed to be a drama with humorous elements and not a surreal comedy.

Talking with Cam and Angela, Brennan and the women discuss how men think they're the only ones who can be interested in seeing more than one person at a time. They always have to sympathize with male feelings and Angela notes that you end up cradling them and telling them, "don't worry, it happens to everyone". That makes me wonder how she and Hodgins are coping since her ex came to town. They don't seem awkward when they are in scenes together. On the other, they don't interact and seem at ease either.

Learning that Brennan is going to meet her platonic suitor for dinner, Booth leaps at a chance to interrupt their meal. He takes Sweets with him to the diner to interrupt them. Of course, Sweets has to ask if Booth knew Brennan would be there. Not only is the question unnecessary, but I think Booth already told Sweets that Bones had a date back at work. So, Sweets should have had express knowledge of the rendezvous, if not implied.

Booth grills Jason lightly. Has he ever been married? No. Does he have children? Well, Jason said he'd never been married, how can he have children, he asks of Booth? Sweets interjects that Booth has a child and has never been married. Of course, Booth doesn't seem self-conscious about this fact and maybe it would have been funnier if he was. Hard to say. The people on this show often say invasive things to each other that get no reaction and you wonder if the "joke" was supposed to be that they don't respond. For instance, when the squints get too personal with Booth and Brennan. The thing is, if they don't care, then it's not really too personal is it? But sometimes they will care. They'll say, "mind your own business" one week and spill all of their pillow talk the next. Sometimes, they're embarrassed. Sometimes, they're completely indifferent.

After meeting him, both Booth and Sweets quickly conclude that the reason that Jason is satisfied with only a platonic relationship with Brennan is because he is gay. He consumes fruit tarts, mint tea and listens to Coldplay. Does Brennan need any more proof that Jason is a homosexual they wonder. Coldplay. The mens' jocularity combined with the effortless way Bones both ignores their taunting, while providing seriously responses to comments which don't deserve them is quite charming. Emily plays several layers at once. She's nerdy and unaware one second, sexy and vain, the other. Over-confident, insecure. The transitions are quick and seamless and when an actress can do that, then you don't need to broadcast them.

Why does the fact that Jason enjoys her company without sex so strange, Brennan wonders. How can it not be, Booth counters and looks to Sweets for affirmation. 'Well, you are very hot,' Sweets comments. He is embarrassed by his schoolboy candor. Booth gives a look that says, "I wanted back up, but not that kind. Way to expose yourself, buddy." Brennan changes the subject. It's so smooth and enjoyable you wish all the scenes could work like that.

When the case is solved we learn that the killer was not a stranger that Bill busted. It's a jealous co-worker who wanted to get back at Bill for dating the guy's old girlfriend. Brennan too feels the sting of jealous lovers.

Mark and Jason run into each other at work. Mark wonders why Brennan never wanted to do anything with him outside of bed. Jason wishes they had a more intimate relationship and is insulted when he meets the brawny Mark, because Temp never gave him the chance to stimulate more than her mind. And what is Booth in all of this, both of them demand to know. Booth insists that he is just the business partner, nothing more. "Gay Jason" dumps her and after a failed "outside" date between Mark and Brennan, Mark breaks it off too.

In their therapy session with Sweets, Brennan says that maybe monogamy isn't so bad at all, if it reduces the frequency and pain of being dumped. Booth consoles her and Sweets wonders if they often discuss their private lives with one another, again a question he's already asked. Are we supposed to forget all the discussions Sweets had with them last year?? Booth says he just has to counsel her, because she has bad taste in men. True, she does. Brennan says that she sees nothing wrong with being open about her sexual life. (Not this week anyway. Next week, she'll be complaining that her privacy is invaded). Sex is a natural physical urge. She wonders why should she be as secretive as Booth is? He never discusses his lovers, but she assumes that he has them. Booth replies that he does ok. Sweets says that they use each other as surrogates and that makes it harder for them to form outside relationships with third parties.

Booth asks Brennan if she'd like to go to dinner to cheer up. She agrees. Sweets wants to go too. They retort that they use each other as surrogates and that makes it hard for them to form outside attachments, so he's out in the cold. Nice.

Left alone, he calls Daisy and says that now that she's no longer working with them, would she be interesting in going out on a date. Well-played.

There's some nice blocking when Booth and Bones go through doorways. They both try to go at the same time (meaning he's not letting her through first as a woman and she doesn't expect to get through first as a woman, but demands immediate entry as his equal -- or better). The door frame can't fit them both and they end up almost colliding. This happens twice during the episode and will give me cause to watch their entrances more closely in the future.