“The Secret in the Proposal” – Bones

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 2.45.47 PMA relatively strong season opener from the team at Bones, if a little tepid in places. A slow (and more or less insignificant) case served a dual purpose. First, to give the characters something to do while we focused on the main story of Booth and Brennan’s suddenly tense relationship. This case was a prop to allow us to see how the central couple’s dwindling happiness affected the lives of those around them. It allowed us a realistic glimpse into the ‘choosing sides’ aspect of any relationship ‘failure’ (although Booth and Brennan have not failed yet) – Angela’s fierce protection of Brennan, Hodgins’ and Cam’s more tempered desire to give Booth the benefit of the doubt. Second, the case was clearly seen by the writers’ room as a means to bring in an integral character in Freddie Prinze Jr’s Danny Beck, a CIA agent whom we will discuss a little later.

But the case always felt almost an afterthought to the rest of the episode. Out of three possible killers (chosen by us out of the usual line-up of red herrings), it was the very first and for the exact reason we thought. Confronted with a predictable, ‘there because it has to be’ case, it was the narrative licks centering on Booth and Brennan that made us glad Bones was back. The FOX show has always excelled at painting human relationships, and we were pleased to see that that hasn’t changed over the hiatus. The fallout of Season 8’s finale was always going to create problems for the writer’s room – how would they show a disintegrating Booth and Brennan without losing their audience – but it was handled with aplomb. A believable and fractious situation was painted from the very opening, and the closing scenes (while reassuring for fans) hint at anything but a happily ever after. Booth and Brennan may be back on track, but that doesn’t mean the trouble is at an end. We can expect more drama from the couple’s disengagement. Brennan’s ‘trust’ won’t change that.

The real foreshadower of what we can expect from the rest of the season came right at the end – that flickering, changing digital clock. And Pelant. That single shot of Brennan forgiving Booth while the kitchen clock flashes from 7:35 to 4:47 and back presages a Pelant-heavy revenge-based season. Without doing anything, without breaking Pelant’s rules, Booth has subverted Pelant’s desires. A repaired relationship between our leading pair is likely to push Pelant to more drastic measures.

And that’s where Freddie Prinze Jr comes in. Danny Beck, an old army buddy of Booth’s, is likely to become a recurring role this season, mostly because of his two-pronged offer to Booth. Firstly, and most significant to this current season’s probable plot development, his insistence that the CIA ‘owes Booth one’. Why Booth didn’t immediately leap on this is unclear, but it’s more than likely that this favor will be redeemed in the form of some help on the Pelant case. Beck and Booth teaming up to find and catch (and kill) Pelant seems unavoidable.

Other new character, Aldo (Mather Zickel, House of Lies, Arrested Development)  – another army buddy of Booth’s (an ex army-chaplain and current strip club owner) and personal favorite of ours – is likely to be drawn into this. He was given too much screentime in this episode to be relegated to a ‘once-off’ appearance. Expect to see much more from him over the coming episodes.

The second aspect of Beck’s offer to Booth comes as a job offer: “You know there’s always a place for you with us, if you ever decide to leave this… cute little job you got here.” Could this season see a dramatic change to format? If Pelant is caught, Booth may have a huge decision to make – stay in the FBI, or join the CIA.

But the episode was not all prescience and good scripting. Its most awkward moment came in the form of some bizarrely ‘winky’ dialogue, shoe-horned into the mouth of the unsuspecting (and unlikely) Hodgins. “Ooh, I hope we got Sleepy Hollow on the DVR.” Huh? Aside from the fact that this is the first implication ever that Hodgins is a TV fan, we’re fairly certain that, were he to watch anything from this season of new shows, he would be far more interested in drama The Blacklist, or nerd-bait Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The odd insert seems even more ridiculous when delivered in the (clearly irritated) deadpan of TJ Thyne. This is gross pandering at its finest. No, that’s not a good thing.

But if that’s the worst thing about this episode – and it was – then we can count “The Secret in the Proposal” a success. Hopefully FOX’s self-referentialism will stop here, allowing us to focus on the far more important plot without having to cringe away from our screens. This season has a lot of potential. We’d hate to see it squandered. – K

Quoteworthy:

“God is a myth.”

“Oh, I don’t think so. I think he’s a bastard.” – Brennan, Aldo

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