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Bones: The Proof in the Pudding

Everything that Bones got wrong last week they got right this week with an episode that cut back on forced humor and meandering subplots. It presented a compelling mystery that involved all of the principals in meaningful ways and advanced their characters. In other words, it was a return to the Bones of old and the Bones I love. The tone was pitch-perfect. Yes yes yes yes yes! Now you got it, writers. This is how you do it. All you need to do now is keep up the consistency and I’ll do nothing but gush praise like a drooling idiot.

The episode opens deceptively low-key. Brennan is buried in work (like usual) and Booth comes by the lab to give her a pizza, as he knows she won’t eat unless he impresses the concept upon her. After failing to convince her that he can see an image of Michael Jackson in the pizza (she doesn’t know who Michael Jackson is), Booth departs for the weekend. Almost immediately after he leaves, a trio of Men in Black arrive and lock down the Jeffersonian and everyone in it.

These are bad Men in Black, nowhere near as charming as Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The head honcho is Mr. White (which really must be a reference to the part in Men in Black when K gives J the alias of “Dr. White”) and he’s played by Judging Amy and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles vet Richard T. Jones, who specializes in portraying sullen authoritative types. He presents everyone with a skeleton and informs them that no one will leave until they determine the cause of death…but they are forbidden to identify the body. It’s a matter of national security he says, but being imprisoned against their will leaves everyone understandably vexed.

It’s a solid, tightly-structured setup that forces Cam to really take responsibility as the leader of the team and forces Brennan and Sweets and Angela and Hodgins to work together to identify the cause of death. There is no intern this week and I can’t say that I minded. The other great thing about the plot is that it finally gives Hodgins something to do that isn’t Angela-related. Hodgins has always been a conspiracy nut and monosyllabic government stiffs in suits with a mysterious skeleton has conspiracy written all over it. When he and Brennan uncover evidence that points to the possibility that the skeleton is that of John F. Kennedy, Hodgins’ Conspiracy-O-Meter skyrockets and he nearly hyperventilates to death.

Booth meanwhile is going nuts himself, nuts that his people are trapped in this bizarre and tense situation while he remains separated and powerless to help. He turns to his loser boss Hacker for help and the guy initially proves to be about as useful as soup on a stick (again, what happened to Booth’s original boss from season one, I liked him a lot more). So Booth does what he does best: he acts with his gut and breaks into the lab prison. Initially he tries to get through the doors by hand, but the suits have booby-trapped them. Booth’s natural response is to shoot through the glass, walk in and calmly wait for the suits to tackle him. It’s a really funny, enjoyable moment that is classic Booth. This is what I keep saying: Booth and Brennan are naturally funny characters. The writers just need to provide opportunities for them to be themselves and the humor will flow naturally. They don’t need to artificially manipulate the plot to set up blatant gags for them to be funny and hit us over the head with quirky music beats.

There are several funny moments in this episode, and they’re funny because they feel natural and come out of the character interactions…moments like when Brennan concocts insanely intellectual mumbo jumbo to distract Mr. White so that the team can put their plan into action. We also get some allusions to Booth’s sniper past (which I have long been hoping for) and the surprising revelation that he is a descendant of John Wilkes Booth…a fact he swore Brennan to secrecy on and is deeply bothered by. He also gets to do some shooting and kick some ass. No matter how many times you see it, watching twits get what they deserve is always satisfying.

The other highlight of the episode is that when Brennan determines that the skeleton was killed by two shooters, it almost shatters Booth’s soul. You see if the body is really Kennedy and Kennedy was killed by two shooters and not just Oswald, it means that the government Booth believes in and idealizes so deeply lied. If they lied about that, they could have lied about anything, including the reasons they gave him for killing the near-fifty people he sniped. Brennan makes an incredibly sweet, surprising and selfless choice late in the show in order to protect Booth. It’s one of the best moments of the season and probably the whole series.

The B storyline involves a pregnancy test that Cam finds. Initially she thinks it belongs to her adopted daughter Michelle but is relieved to discover that it belongs to someone in the lab. Although the B storyline ends up involving the Angela/Hodgins will they/won’t they thing considerably, it didn’t bother me because it was dealt with earnestly and in the spirit of progressing their relationship. It wasn’t just Angela calling people Sweetie and smiling with those gargantuan teeth and flirting. It’s a very solid episode and I think true Bones fans will be able to appreciate the difference between the quality on display here and what we got last week (and too often in the fourth season).

Season 5, Episode 12: The Proof in the Pudding (originally aired January 21, 2010)

For more on Bones, click here.

Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox

Photographs courtesy of Fox and IMDbPro

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