I feel as though I am running out of ways to effectively introduce this episode. This is the fifth installment of my 12×11 series of posts, and I believe I have said everything in the previous four. Fantastic episode. Compelling story. Incredible structuring. Etc. It all still applies here, and then some. If you initially watched this episode in real-time, the suspense following each character’s act was not nearly as extreme as I am making it out to be in these recaps. Because you only had to make it through a short commercial break. But the way I’ve been re-watching and writing these posts, the time between acts truly intensifies those feelings of anticipation and fear (even knowing what happens already). By the end of each act, the stakes have risen even higher. And by the end of Brennan’s act, it was difficult to imagine how everything would culminate in the final moments of the episode. We already know how it will end. We were treated to that in the first few seconds. It ends the same way it began. With a literal ticking time bomb. But where do we pick up after Brennan’s story fades to black? How will Booth’s story get us to that explosion? And what are the key elements to be revealed in the final act to set up the events in next episode?
We’re brought back to Brennan and Angela’s toast to friendship. After commenting on the strength of the beverages Hodgins has been mixing that evening, Christine comes running up to their table. She wants to show off her new veil, which Cam let her wear at the very beginning of this episode. “Mommy, mommy, look!” Angela tells Christine how adorable she looks. Because she does. I say it every time, but Sunnie was so perfectly cast. Angela suddenly gets distracted by a craving for a (third) piece of cake, and sets out to alleviate said craving immediately. Craving? Hmm. Oh right, we as an audience already know. But Brennan doesn’t. Not at this point. For something that they were trying to keep under wraps, Angela has certainly let a few hints spill out.
Christine is on Cloud Nine playing dress up, and informs her mother that she is now a bride. “Well actually, in the United States marriage is illegal under the age of 18. But you are very beautiful.” Brennan as a mom is everything I ever hoped it would be. But also, so much more than I ever could have imagined. Most mothers probably just tell their child that she looks beautiful in a wedding veil. And they leave it at that. Brennan wants to ensure that Christine is not under any delusions that she could legally get married that evening…or for the next decade+. Perfectly rational. But she also understands that kids will be kids, and that imagination and play are important to a child’s development. So she compliments her daughter.
Booth has given his phone to Christine so that she could take pictures “just like Auntie Angela.” Christine instructs Brennan to “smile” as she quickly snaps a photo. Then, she proceeds to skip off back into the crowd.
Angela returns with a rather large piece of cake. It must be really good cake. She actually ran into Booth during her quest for dessert. And she lets Brennan know that he does not look very pleased. We will not know exactly what Avalon said to Booth until his segment, later in the episode. For good reason. But it’s easy to assume that whatever he heard from the psychic is affecting him now. “I hope everything went alright with Avalon.” “Well I’m sure his aura is as clean as it’s ever been. That was sarcasm. I don’t believe in auras.” Bless you, sweet Brennan. Angela is well aware of the sarcasm and just smiles. Actually, I do applaud Brennan’s correct use of sarcasm here. She’s come a long way…
After a deep breath, Brennan decides that it is probably time to “collect my family.” This line affected me greatly. I’m not completely certain as to why. But this tends to happen relatively often with this show. My brain begins to wander, and I start imagining Brennan finding each member of her family, one by one. Locating Hank, who actually should be with Booth at this time, if I’m not mistaken. And then finding her little budding photographer. There’s a reason it consistently takes me twice as long to get through an episode as a normal person. I rewind, pause, and stare, and rewind, pause, and daydream. And the picture which formed in my mind here was overwhelming and beautiful. Brennan and her family. Because she has a wonderful family now. Once upon a time, she had no one in her life. Now her life is full of love. And her immediate (remember, there’s more than one kind of family, and she had a family long before she had a legal/blood family) family is going to go home together after the reception. Hank will fall asleep in the car, and Christine will enthusiastically recount her entire evening to her parents. Upon arriving home, Booth and Brennan will put the kids right to bed, and then head off to sleep themselves. Perhaps Booth will watch a little television. But Brennan has an early morning, and she wants to be rested. And it’s all so incredibly normal. And so very domestic. But because it’s Brennan and Booth, it’s absolutely the most extraordinary thing in the world. I’m fascinated but every second of their lives.
Angela protests against Brennan, as she wants to go out on the dance floor with her one more time. “No the kids have to go to bed (because she has more than one kid), and I have to be up early for Zack’s trial tomorrow.” The friends embrace, and that’s that. I’m a bit melancholy, since we only have one more scene left at the wedding reception. It was a bit like coming home each week.
The next scene opens during the closing statements at Zack’s hearing. Zack announces that he is uninterested in providing a closing statement for his case, as he wants to “let the evidence speak for itself.” That seems to worry Brennan. And if I’m not mistaken, Caroline looks somewhat surprised as well. Before the judge can say anything, Brennan jumps up. She would like to say a few words on behalf of Zack, if he refuses to do so himself. I’m going to include her entire statement below. Because I want to dissect and discuss.
If the prosecution has no objections? I usually speak about forensic evidence, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about Dr. Addy’s character. Working for me, Dr. Addy assisted in incarcerating over 50 murderers. Even while he was institutionalized, Zack attempted the impossible: to find a cure for Dr. Hodgins’ paralysis. Now, it’s true he made mistakes, but I still believe in my heart that the world would only benefit from his return to society. Thank you.
It’s not an exceptionally verbose speech by any means. But to me, it was yet another reminder of this character’s journey: Where she was when we first met her, where she was when Zack left the team, and where she is on this very day. Something that has been a constant as it pertains to Temperance Brennan is that she always has and always will speak about forensic evidence. She loves her work. She’s passionate about it. That will never change. But for Brennan to volunteer a character testimonial in a courtroom was still a bit out of the ordinary. We have witnessed her making more than a few emotional speeches and toasts about her friends and family during the course of the show. She has even given a couple eulogies. But this is a court of law. The evidence should be enough. The evidence should dictate the outcome of the case. Feelings shouldn’t matter. Sharing qualitative observations relative to Zack’s character is merely anecdotal. But that’s all in a perfect world. And the world is not perfect. That was something Brennan learned all the way back in season 1 during The Girl in the Fridge. The jury wasn’t responding to her very complex scientific testimony. But it took a turn for the better when Brennan was basically coerced into discussing her own distressing past. She included a more simplistic description of what happened to the victim, and what she must have gone through leading up to her death. The team won that case. And Brennan began to understand that perhaps the facts and evidence weren’t quite enough when dealing with that human entity.
Brennan included a factual statement where she noted the number of cases Zack helped the team to solve. But tidbits like how he worked to find a cure for Hodgins’ paralysis- those were anecdotal. Zack adopted a new identity so that Hodgins would never know that his old friend was the one trying to help. Zack didn’t want any credit. He just wanted Hodgins to feel some semblance of hope. That speaks volumes about this man’s character. But Brennan knew it would be an effective statement to make. She takes a page out of Booth’s book in 11×15 when she speaks about Zack making a mistake.
You see, Dr. Brennan represents this Bureau and its values more than any agent that I have ever worked with. I mean, sh-she made a mistake. Look, we all do. And we all are gonna make mistakes in the future, and we should be able to make those mistakes. We should be able to learn from them, grow from them, and be given a second chance. I mean, will Bones here ever punch anyone again? I-I-I can’t say, but you should give her a chance to try.
When you look at it, Zack made a mistake. Yes, it was far more serious than punching a murder suspect. But his current sentence certainly did not fit the actual crime. He should have been serving time as an accessory. NOT as a murderer. At the end of the day, Zack did not kill anyone. It was a gargantuan mistake on his part to even get involved. And I’m sure if he was given another chance in the outside world, he would definitely not make the same one again. Or maybe he would. But he deserves the chance to try. Because the fact remains that he is not a murderer. He’s a good-hearted man who was seduced by the idea of being a part of something bigger.
The line that struck me most here was Brennan expressing that she was speaking from her heart. Well, the surprise came more from the fact that she actually admitted she believed something in her heart to be true. There was no qualifier here. No “not literally” or “metaphorically, speaking” tacked onto it. She believes Zack will make significant positive contributions if released back into society. Sure, she has enough actual experiences and evidence to back up those feelings. But she is a bit older and wiser than she was so many years ago. She has really learned the importance of feelings, of letting herself feel. She’s learned more about people. And every so often, she will admit that a gut feeling isn’t so outrageous. So Brennan goes off what she knows to be true to guide her: Zack didn’t kill anyone, he’s brilliant, he worked hard to find a cure for Hodgins, he broke out of the institution to help his friends: once to help them solve a case, and another time to save his old mentor. It’s hard to deny that he still was involved in a terrible act all those years ago. But did he really have a choice? Was he fully in control of himself? Caroline seemed to think it was a stronger personality taking advantage of a weaker one. But one thing is certain, Zack is not a killer at heart, as Sweets discovered years before the rest of the team. And it does truly make a difference that Zack did not physically end someone’s life. He actually cannot take a life. We witnessed that in the season 12 premiere. He had a chance to kill the doctor, purely in self-defense. But he couldn’t do it. The punishment should reflect the actual crime here.
Brennan has always seen something special in Zack. Probably saw some of herself in him as well. She has fought for him in many different situations over the years. It broke her heart and her trust when she thought he betrayed her. She couldn’t understand why he did what he did. And it was difficult for her to move on. But she finally knows the truth now. And this one last time, she would give it everything she has. Facts and evidence are important. But Brennan understands now that there is always that human element involved in cases. Humans decide the outcome. And even the most objective human has a touch of irrationality. So she puts face on the defendant, so to speak. She fleshes out his character for the judge. She makes him more than just a number in a stack of case folders. It can only help here. It’s not rational, especially Brennan claiming to speak from an organ. But she has learned throughout the years that speaking from the heart is a real concept. Though a heart can not literally speak, she knows she doesn’t need to clarify that it’s figurative. Everyone knows what “from the heart” means in this context. Including her. The judge is a human, presumably with the capacity for understanding and sympathy. Character witnesses help cases. And paired with all the “COMPELLING EVIDENCE” the team has presented, my hunch is that they just won this case with her words.
The judge ends up overturning the conviction and life sentence. Although Zack will still have to serve the 13 months left on his sentence for assisting a murderer. But what’s a little over a year in the grand scheme of things? He’s still young. He has ample time to rebuild his life. Before Zack is taken back to the institution, he asks for a moment with Brennan. She is still a bit distraught and apologizes for not being able to make the entire ordeal go away. But Zack is more than willing to serve that time. “Thirteen months is nothing compared to what I was facing.” Astute conclusion. As Caroline passes them, Brennan calls for her attention and thanks her. “Without you, none of this would have been possible.” Zack is perplexed.
She tried to keep me in prison.
I disagree. She argued against your innocence, but she mentioned our “compelling evidence” 19 times. She did what she had to do to keep her job and undo your conviction.
Sometimes, not often, I underestimate you, Dr. Brennan.
If I haven’t yet mentioned a thousand times before that Caroline Julien is the best…I’m saying it now. Caroline is truly incredible. An amazing character. She leaves the courtroom, and Zack thanks Brennan once more. They hug, and that’s a wrap on Zack. This wasn’t necessarily something I was thinking about during the first viewing of the episode. Zack could have still shown up again as far as I was concerned. But going over it now, I see that it was his final moment. That’s it. Ultimately, it was nice to finally get that closure. This was a loose end hanging in the balance for the better part of a decade. When Sweets died, it seemed as though the secret he kept for Zack died with him. No one would ever know. It took a mentally ill doctor to set this entire thing in motion once more. Had Bones not been given a season 12, and had there not been an opportunity to finish this story, it still would have been fine. As Pops said, “life is just a lot of loose ends.” Life can be cruel. And as Brennan says, closure is an illusion. Sometimes, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But most of our characters were given their own happy endings, so it only seems appropriate that we finally got closure on Zack’s story. And unless my eyes deceive me, their hug and Brennan’s glance as she watches Zack walk away- it was in slow motion. As if the show is telling us, this is your goodbye to this character. Though I’m sure in the Bones universe, Brennan will see Zack far more frequently now.
At the lab, Arastoo has likely found cause of death. But Brennan tells him that cause of death is irrelevant here. They already know who the murderer is, but they don’t yet know why Kovac chose this particular man with whom to escape. Arastoo posits that perhaps it was because of the victim’s strength. Brennan takes pause for a moment and then notifies Arastoo that she would like him to leave the bone room. She is not angry with him, but she needs time alone. So often, we have seen Brennan do some of her best work in solitude. She can focus on the bones and only the bones. And this is usually the time when she has an epiphany of some sort. Brennan picks up the mandible (This show has taught me so damn much about bones. I can now identify a good percentage of bones by just looking at them…) and is definitely struck by something she sees.
In her office, Brennan is looking at a series of x-rays. The camera pans down to the group of family photos on her desk. The picture Christine drew for her, Christine and Parker, Max at her wedding, the night Christine was born, and some imposter child posing as Hank. No, but seriously, who is that baby?! This is her family in photos. It’s beautiful. But this moment is also heart-crushing. THIS is what is ultimately at stake if the team cannot solve this case soon. She has already lost one person in this group. She will not lose anyone else. This man would never touch her family ever again.
Cam enters Brennan’s office and offers to help her while she waits for tox screen results. But Brennan only needs more time. She claims there is something that she is missing. She sees it, but she also needs more time to understand what exactly it is that she sees. Booth rushes in, and something tells me it isn’t a casual visit. Brennan wonders what he’s doing there, as he should be working the FBI side of the case. Before he answers, he tells Cam that he gave her purse to Arastoo. She wants to ask more questions about the purse, but Booth desperately needs a moment with Brennan.
Brennan informs Booth that it’s not a good time to talk. It’s imperative that she keep her focus. “I just needed to see you, that’s all.” Something seems off to Brennan about his words, and she immediately inquires about Hank and Christine. They are still at the FBI. And they are perfectly fine and safe. Booth just got worried about Brennan. And it obviously has something to do with his conversation with Avalon. Brennan assures her husband that she can take care of herself. He gets that. He knows that. We all know that. Booth has never been much of a believer in Avalon’s trade, even right up to the point when he was walking outside the reception to speak with her. But something she said obviously hit a nerve. It had to be something big. Catastrophic, even. Booth begins to tell Brennan the details of his conversation with Avalon, but she interrupts him. Incredulously she asks, “you’re here because of Avalon?” But it’s not all to do with the psychic. “We’re missing something here.” He starts nervously telling Brennan that he selected two cards from Avalon’s deck. He was probably incredibly skeptical until he turned over his cards. He was just humoring Avalon so he could get back to the party. But he knew he couldn’t afford to ignore any signs. And what he saw seemed to convey a pretty significant message. He could not take the chance that it was merely coincidence. Brennan is initially unconcerned with what Booth found. Nothing else could be that important right now. “Booth, I don’t have time for this. The man who killed my father, who-who killed Aldo, who went after our children, he is out there.” Her voice is frantic.
Booth understands what Brennan is feeling and why, but he also implores her to listen to him. He pulls the cards he drew from Avalon’s deck from his jacket. And in that moment, my stomach sank. Booth had randomly selected the Temperance card and the Death card. Could the message be any clearer? “You are in danger.” Booth is spiritual in his own right, though he has never been one to believe in the supernatural outside the confines of his religion. But this has clearly rattled him. If he ignored even the smallest of omens during this time, no matter how crazy it seems, he could never forgive himself if something happened. This is a life and death situation. And in Booth’s mind, it’s all happening because of him. Even though we know that he is not actually to blame. But that’s for another post. Looking at the cards was enough to shake Brennan’s composure as well. She stares at Booth with a uneasy look on her face as the scene fades out.
These few Brennan-centric minutes were full of touching and emotional moments. As well as some shocking ones. Brennan shared another scene with Angela and Christine. She defended Zack’s character. And with the (major) help of Caroline Julien, he was ultimately exonerated. While not a perfect ending, it was as nice an ending as this character could have.
The way this act concluded was about as intense as the end of Angela’s. But for a different reason. Last time, Hodgins, Angela, and Brennan came to the realization that Kovac was building an extremely powerful explosive device. This time, it was Booth’s revelation which served as the shock to the system. Brennan is ready to shrug it off at first. There is nothing Avalon could say that would make her take the psychic’s words seriously. Or so she thought. But when Booth finally turns over those two tarot cards, the message could not be more explicit. Neither of them really believe in psychics. But pulling the Temperance card and the Death card. How can you not at least take a step back and consider just how dangerous this situation could get? There is nothing to lose by heeding the warning from the cards. Worst case scenario, you overreact to a situation. But ignoring them? Who really knows how the universe works? Maybe some psychics are real. Maybe the universe truly is sending us these signals, and its our choice whether to listen. Either way, the next few moments in the continuation of this scene will be chaos.
This episode only gets darker and more dire heading into Booth’s installment. The stage is completely set now, but there are still a few key pieces that we do not yet know. Primarily, the details of the conversation Booth had with Avalon. We can infer that danger is looming, and an attack is imminent. What happens by the end of the episode will be nothing short of explosive. Quite literally. So take a breath. And get ready.
Back in two weeks with the next post and a plan for the next couple months!