‘Bones’: Just Don’t Call Him Shorty

I’m not normal, I’m extraordinary.

— Bones (Emily Deschanel)

The Bones Season Seven premiere finds Booth (David Boreanaz) and Bones (Emily Deschanel) beginning their new life together. Now visibly pregnant with Booth’s child, Bones approaches their relationship and family plans with her trademark rationality. Whether dealing with her own hormone-induced mood swings, their living arrangement, or their marital status, Bones’ instinct is to use reason to make decisions. She wants to be cool and clinical, like she is solving cases. But Booth wants her emotion and empathy to rule the day.

In presenting these seeming opposites, the new storyline repeats the series’ longstanding formula, Bones as both unique and typical. What’s changed is the manifest effort to domesticate her: while the show celebrates her extraordinary high-achieving rationalism, it nevertheless chastises her when she tries to apply her reason to relationships. (In this, it recalls Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, those ancient primers of extraordinary women’s corrections.) Bones, for all its philosophical discussions of what’s “normal” or not “normal,” again treats Bones as a charming eccentric whose difference only serves to reinforce them for other people.

In the seventh premiere, “The Memories in the Shallow Grave” (airing Thursday, 3 November), Booth wants them to buy a house together. Bones, predictably, thinks anthropologically. Citing her own paper on the Iroquois, she lectures Booth that in that tribe, the men moved in with the women. “But we’re not the Iroquois,” Booth points out.

She presses onward, describing how that tribe was matrilineal: women owned property and managed society. Besides, she argues, since she’s more rational and — no small thing — has more money than Booth, Bones thinks she should decide where they live (read: her apartment). She’s shocked when Booth replies, “You know what? We’re family, Bones. Even you should know what that means.” While granting Bones the ability to contextualize their tensions culturally, the narrative nevertheless chastises her insensitivity to her vulnerable male, and by the way, re-naturalizes what “family” means.

Bones becomes a problem Booth has to solve. His solution comes in the next episode, “The Hot Dog in the Competition” (airing Thursday, 10 November), where he convinces her to switch roles and adopt his point of view. Again following the show’s oft-repeated formula, he prompts her to express emotion and she then treats him and others more sensitively. The simple binary of their reason versus emotion, rationality versus passion dynamic is only exacerbated by the pregnancy. Yes, we get it: this is what would happen if Spock hooked up with Kirk.

Even as it wrestles with these familiar themes, the series expands the roles of supporting characters. Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) have their infant son Michael in daycare at the Jeffersonian, and Angela keeps sneaking him into the lab to see Hodgins, against boss Cam’s (Tamara Taylor) wishes. The baby proves irresistible: Bones watches and learns, Angela urges her to overcome her fears, borne of her own negative foster care experiences as a child.

The new season also introduces a new character, Cam’s new lab intern, Finn (Luke Kleintank), a troublemaking 18-year-old who completed his undergrad degree while in juvy and will have his Ph.D. by age 20. He’s got a thick North Carolina accent, red hair, and a Carolina Mudcats baseball hat (not the Durham Bulls, too cosmopolitan a minor league baseball reference). Hodgins keeps calling him “Opie” to put him down. In turn, Finn calls Hodgins “Thurston.” Is this a 1970s Disney movie?

When Cam asks Finn why he’s so smart, he replies, “Some people are born with a knack for shootin,’ some singin,’ I’ve got a knack for thinkin,'” Asked why he was in juvy, Finn says, “A few mistakes when I was a sprout, but now I’m as honest as the sunshine on the back of a honey bee.” When discussing a case with Cam, Finn says he found “something here that is as odd as my cousin Bobby,” then insists he should have realized a key fact in the case because he “grew up eating barbeque.”

“Not ain’t, isn’t,” instructs Hodgins, “This is the Jeffersonian, not a fishin’ hole.” Finn comes back: “Excuse me, sir, but elocution was not on my application. And it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else here how I talk, so I’m gettin’ the feelin’ you’re just doin’ it to make me feel bad, ’cause I’m different than ya, which right now, is makin’ me feel pretty glad.” The lesson is obvious, but Finn goes on, “Just because we speak different, don’ mean we can’t understand one another. After all, we both speak science. And that’s all that’s important in here. Right?” After he exits, Cam punctuates the showdown: “Oh, snap!”

Still, and as always, doing good work earns a team member respect. When Finn discovers key evidence, he and Hodgins establish “an understanding,” where they can trade friendly insults. When Hodgins says, “Quick, what’s a Southern colloquialism for shock and amazement?” Finn answers, “Well, hack my legs off and call me ‘Shorty.'” Hodgins laughs, “Well, Shorty, we got ourselves some evidence.”

As Hodgins’ prejudice is apparently solved by the end of the episode, it looks like we’ll be stuck with the one-dimensional Finn. I’m bored and offended. Good trick, Bones.

RATING 5 / 10