James Aubrey is generally one of those polarizing characters for passionate fans of Bones. Those who view him as a direct replacement for Sweets have been decidedly against his rapid acceptance and acclimation to the team. Then there are also those who absolutely adore him, and feel as though he is even better than Sweets. My take is a bit different. I love Lance Sweets. I love James Aubrey. Aside from their similar appearance and the fact that one came in when the other went out- they are completely separate and unique characters. Their relationship with the team, especially with Booth, are so distinct and disparate. But similarly, they both found a true home with this group of people. This season, Aubrey’s journey continued, relationships blossomed, he made professional advances, and a healthy volume food was consumed.
I was one of those people who welcomed Aubrey from the beginning. Yes, Sweets’ death was both unexpected and gut-wrenchingly tragic. He will never be replaced. And I truly mean that. But it is erroneous to assume that Aubrey was there to effectively replace Sweets. Just like John Boyd was not there to replace John Francis Daley. Had I not been on board with Aubrey from the start, he would have surely won me over during the gambling arc last season. This man went above and beyond the call of duty to help Booth and Brennan in any way he could. Granted, he had known them for a while at that point. But he is so inherently good. And he expects nothing in return. He has grown to care about Booth and Brennan so deeply. He made attempts to protect Booth from himself, both before and after the relapse- trying to prevent him from any source of temptation. He was there for Brennan and Christine when they were threatened while Booth was in Iran. I suppose you could say that any decent colleague would do the same. Perhaps. But I can name another ten instances off the top of my where this man has gone well out of his way to aid a member of this team in his short tenure.
Though season 11 was only Aubrey’s second on the show, I still feel as though he had been on our radar for far longer. He certainly made quite an impression from the start. By the time we get to the season 11 premiere, he has taken over Booth’s old job. While I would never want anyone to “replace” Booth, someone had to fill his former role. Booth voluntarily retired from his job. Who better to head up the department than Aubrey? This may sound contradictory to my feelings on Arastoo replacing Brennan. But I’ve already said that I agreed with Brennan’s assessment of the situation- in a couple of years Arastoo could surely head up a major forensic lab like the Jeffersonian. Aubrey is younger, yes, but he already had the necessary experience. We met him when he was sent to tail Booth in 10×01. Stark and Sweets trusted him to work that case. Brennan gave Aubrey her own (hard to achieve) seal of approval. And at the end of last season, Booth tested Aubrey to ensure he was up for the challenge. I was more than satisfied- aside from the fact that this job really belongs to Booth in my eyes. I always knew it was too early for his retirement. Though, who can blame him after the year he and Brennan had. Anyone would have done the same- and far sooner.
So Aubrey had already taken over Booth’s position by those first few hours of season 11. Unsurprisingly, he made it his mission to locate Booth. Alive. This was a man Aubrey looked up to. This was a man who gave him a chance. This was a man who welcomed him into his family. It was not just about finding “Agent Booth.” It was about finding his friend, his brother, the husband and partner of another friend- a man who would do anything for anyone in his life. And thankfully, Aubrey, Caroline and the Jeffersonian team ultimately got to Booth before he was killed.
Following Booth and Brennan’s decision to return to their jobs, Aubrey still found himself occupying Booth’s office. It was a little awkward, as Aubrey had made it his own- complete with a mini fridge, of course. Though, there was really nothing to feel badly about. For all anyone knew, Booth was finished with Major Crimes forever. While Booth was struggling with the aftermath of Jared’s death, Aubey made a decision to relinquish his fancy new office. He didn’t feel as though it ever truly belonged to him anyway. It was such an emotional moment. It took Booth by surprise, for sure. Aubrey eventually found himself another office. This was Booth’s. I am hesitant to say it “always will be” since I do not know what the future holds.
Throughout the season, Caroline informs Aubrey a few times that she believes he is going places. She also claims people were starting to take notice of his exemplary work. Aubrey admits to Booth at one point that he would like to eventually run for office. This is a man with both ambition and confidence. But he is also a realist. His goals are achievable. Additionally, he will never step on those who helped him get to where he is. He could have easily made a case for himself to keep Booth’s office and continue his reign over the division. But to him, that was Booth’s job. He still had so much he could learn from working with this man. They help each other. Everyone on this team looks out for one another. They grow together. They evolve together. When one of them is down, the rest are there to pick that person back up again. And Aubrey has helped more than a few of them over the past two seasons.
One of the most literal instances of Aubrey saving another member of the team was when he recognized the bomb in the body at the scene and pulled Hodgins out of the way. Without Aubrey’s quick thinking, Hodgins would not have survived. Yes, Hodgins suffered possibly irreparable damage to his spine. But thanks to Aubrey, he still has his life. He can go to work every day and do what he loves. He can go home and be with his wife and child every night. It’s not perfect. It’s not ideal. But it is still a full life. Aubrey gave him that. He is a hero.
I cannot speculate where Aubrey’s career will take him. The teases we have received relative to the s12 finale have just thrown all preconceived ideas down the drain. I cannot even begin to predict where the show will ultimately take these characters. But I do know that Aubrey will remain true to himself. He has “dreams,” as he mentioned very early on. But he also has heart. And that means he will put the good of the team before himself.
We saw a hint of a spark between Aubrey and Jessica Warren towards the end of the previous season. They fallaciously referred to themselves as Booth and Brennan 2.0. I vehemently disagreed with that assertion. Though, please do not mistake what I am saying. I do love the two of them together. Yes, they are an FBI agent and a forensic anthropologist, but the similarities to Booth and Brennan really stop there. They are their own lovely entity. They are unique. And I have been rooting for the two of them since Jessica ordered everything on the menu when they first met for their “date” at Founding Fathers.
In season 11, we learn that Jessica and Aubrey have been spending an inordinate amount of time together. But they have yet to cross that line from friends to something more. They have been binge-watching Battlestar Galactica together which honestly sounds like a series of pretty decent dates to me. But I have been a notorious binge-watcher from a very early age. Shocking, I know. Jessica appears to be quite frustrated by the purely platonic arrangement. But anyone could see Aubrey was interested in her. They have an undeniable connection. While investigating the death of a United States Senator, Caroline requests that Aubrey investigate Jessica. But he was unconcerned as he “knows” her. He did, however, find some possibly incriminating blemishes on her record. Not incriminating in the sense that she was actually in the wrong. But she was a member of Greenpeace, and was present when a bomb went off. She claimed the police reports would show that the organization had nothing to do with that bombing. And she also partook in drugs on a tour with Phish. While some would not bat an eye at these “offenses,” Aubrey seemed discouraged. However, Jessica makes no apologies. She is who she is, and she is content with her colorful past and present. It’s something I really admire in her. She questions whether Aubrey can forget the conversation ever happened. For the time being, it doesn’t seem as though he can. I already talked about Jessica’s perspective here. But from Aubrey’s, I don’t believe his surprise was actually related to Jessica’s past dealings. If he knows her as well as he says he does, he would know exactly what kind of person she is. She’s exuberant, she’s exciting, she’s unpredictable. He knows all this. In the end, she’s a genuinely good person. She and Aubrey fit well together. And here, he was forced to make the decision between Jessica and moving up in his career. I never really presumed that Jessica would be a threat to his advancement, but he obviously did. Caroline was the one to put those thoughts into his head. Now, I love Caroline. She’s fantastic and I wish she was a series regular. To her, it was a matter of ensuring that Aubrey stayed on track. She told him he had a bright future and he needed the “right” kind of woman. I have a hard time believing Jessica would be a hindrance to his career. At the end of the day, she would have the support of the most prestigious members of the Jeffersonian. And I think that would count for quite a bit in Washington.
In the end, Aubrey realized it didn’t matter to him. He was disillusioned by dirty politics, and began to second guess his desire to pursue a career on The Hill. Jessica assured him that he is one of the good guys. And she knows that as long as someone like Aubrey is in the government, there someone truly looking out for the country- and for her. Aubrey brings up the fact that he held her past against her. He doesn’t feel that it was right, nor was it a reflection of his feelings for her. “No one’s perfect. Especially not the guy who is forcing me to eat pigeon.” But Aubrey tells is simply trying to expose her to the “finer” things in life by taking her to eat this “delicacy”. He then assures her that she will not vomit. “Well, you seem very certain of yourself.” “I am. I’m also pretty certain about you.”
I really enjoy this couple. I have been rooting for them since there were only rumblings of a possible relationship. Each romantic pairing is really unique on this show. I’ll go back to my position on “Booth and Brennan 2.0.” There is no such thing. Booth and Brennan are their own entity, entirely. That goes for Angela and Hodgins, Cam and Arastoo, Sweets and Daisy (aw), etc. They are all different. So their relationships are different. I know there were some parallels made to Booth and Brennan in the next episode. It was a nice throwback for sure, but this couple can definitely stand on their own.
We find out that Jessica visited Aubrey in the hospital (twice) after he was wounded in an explosion. But we do not see the two of them together until some time later. Apparently their relationship had yet to advance very far since their shared pigeon meal. They still had not engaged in their first kiss. There were a few awkward moments during this particular episode. And the two of them were seeking advice from their coworkers throughout it. Ultimately, they determined that this relationship they seemed to be embarking upon was unlike anything either had ever been a part of before. It was special. So they were unknowingly dancing around making that final leap. Aubrey admits he built up their first kiss so significantly that it ended up scaring him. “I mean, normally, I’m really good at this kind of thing.” “You know what that tells me? That what you and I have isn’t normal. It’s more special than that.” Jessica understands. And they are both on the same page in terms of where they believed their relationship was eventually heading. I’m not going to use a quote from Booth and Brennan’s own story. Because that is their own. But I’ll just emphasize the word “eventually.” The two of them part ways that night, with plans to see each other again the next day. At that point a car nearly hits Jessica. Aubrey pulls her out of the way and their “eventually” happens a bit sooner than anticipated. And for them, it was perfect. There are no templates for these types of things. You cannot plan that perfect first moment. But for these two, I think it was everything they hoped it would be. For them, “perfect” was inevitable because of the way they feel about each other. I hope they can find a happy conclusion.
In season 10, we discovered that Aubrey was harboring a painful secret. This is unsurprising since most everyone on this show has hidden something about their past. His father was a stock-trader who was arrested for a Ponzi scheme when Aubrey was 13. Instead of facing the consequences and paying for his crime, he fled to Croatia. This left a young Aubrey broke and alone with his mother. Yet another instance of a character having to grow up before he or she was ready- a running theme throughout this show. Aubrey and Brennan bonded over the pain of parental abandonment. Though, as Booth pointed out to his wife, Brennan’s parents left her to keep her safe. They had no idea that Russ would have ran off soon after. Aubrey’s father cared more about himself than his son. It’s a starkly different scenario.
This season, that was a twist in the story. Aubrey’s father comes up yet again during an episode. On their way to visit a victim’s place of business (he was a private investigator), Karen Delfs mentions to Aubrey that she did her research on his father. She knows about the fraud and how he fled the country. She wonders if Aubrey knew the victim. Aubrey admits that he did not know much about his father’s business dealings. However, he did “tag along” at times. I have to wonder what their relationship was like prior to finding out that his father was a crook. Since Aubrey mentioned last season that he was the one that helped take his dad down.
Aubrey uses his extensive knowledge of the inner workings of P.I.s to uncover a secret file room at the victim’s office. After bringing the files contained there back to the FBI, Karen discovers Aubrey’s father’s file. But Aubrey has no interest in reading it. It’s in the past. She continues her attempts at persuasion throughout the case. By the end of the episode, Karen informs Aubrey that the file in question was started six months prior. Meaning: Aubrey’s dad has been in the country all this time. And to top it all off, he has been investigating Aubrey. There was no more mention of this during the remainder of the season, so I have to wonder if it’s something they will address in season 12. I imagine so. Aubrey deserves this closure. The past is something that never truly goes away. This is something Brennan said to him when we first learned about his father. The pain is still there. It’s a part of him. And while it will never go away, he can still find some resolution. Some semblance of peace with his past. We shall see.
There is so much to learn about this man. But that is always the issue when it comes to an ensemble-esque show, such as Bones. The other characters have had years for us to get to know them. They had the time to develop slowly and carefully. Though I sometimes forget Aubrey has not been a staple in the series for very long at all since the writers have (of course) done such a superb job of developing him in the short time he has spent in the Bones world. We know he has ambition, we know he has a past, we know he can love and be loved, we know he has a sense of humor despite his painful past, we know he will do anything for those he cares about, we know he is kind and generous, and we know he loves food. I’d say that’s pretty damn impressive for someone coming into a show in season 10.
I look forward to seeing this man again next season. I am curious to watch what he will eat. I am curious to see how his relationship with Jessica has (or has not) moved forward, and I am excited to see how he makes his next mark on our world.
I am not ignoring the end of filming. I had most of this scribbled down before last week. Before we had to endure all those painful goodbyes. I am not ready to talk about it yet. I am not ready to really process that reality. So for now, let’s just anticipate the new season, which will be here before we know it.