Bones, it seems, is imitating the decline of its sister procedural on Fox, House, very closely. I don't mean ratings decline, and I certainly don't mean decline in the eyes of its hardcore fans — quite the opposite. I used to follow both shows pretty closely; they were my kind of procedural, not taking themselves as seriously as the furrowed brows on other networks. Now, maybe the reason both these shows feel kinda tired these days is just that they're getting old and that's what happens, but both shows' frustrating insistence on bringing their will-they-won't-they romances into the foreground really killed the vibe for me.

I'll stop talking about House, cause I'm here to talk about Bones. I used to love this show! Then they added John Francis Daley, and I loved it even more! And honestly, I might be wrong here, but I really don't remember this show ever giving that much of a shit about whether Brennan and Booth were going to hook up. Sure, they had some chemistry, but it never felt like everything hinged on the burgeoning romance. But as things went on, show creator Hart Hanson decided, perhaps inevitably, to start hyping it up. I don't know if this was an edict from the Fox execs or because of clamoring from fans online, but to me, it corresponded with Bones suddenly getting a lot less fun to watch every week.

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Here we are for the sixth season premiere, and not only are things no better, but hell, they've barely even budged on the Booth/Brennan stuff! Yep, it looks like fans are in for endless teasing, where they keep almost getting together, then decide against it at the last minute, then act totally baffled when another character brings it up to them. Last season's "game changing" finale had the Jeffersonian bunch break up to pursue various interests — Brennan went to Indonesia with intern Daisy to look for the missing link; Booth headed to Afghanistan to train the locals to fight insurgents; Angela and Hodgins got back together and went to Paris; Sweets became a shitty pianist and grew a shitty beard.

It's one of those "game changing" finales that meant absolutely nothing, because the first episode is one of those "let's get the gang back together!" deals where everything is status quo again after an hour. It almost feels like Hanson used the "one year later" plot device just so he could reset on Booth and Brennan, after concentrating on their deepening relationship a lot last year but having them decide not to go through with it.

I assume Bones is going to get better after the opener because they'll be back to the old formula, but watching "The Mastodon in the Room" was pretty painful. I don't know what was more ham-fisted: the excruciating hijinks of Brennan and Daisy fighting off Indonesian guerrillas with shovels, Daisy in her underwear, or Booth tensely dealing with an insurgent who puts a gun to a kid's head. Luckily, that's about all the overseas action we have to deal with before fun U.S. Attorney Caroline Julian gets everyone back to D.C.  to help save Saroyan's job because she can't crack a case and she doesn't understand internal politics at the FBI or something.

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Watching every character vaguely pretend to consider whether or not to take their old jobs back is about as boring as it sounds. The two cases, a missing kid and a skeleton that turns out to not be the kid's, are routine Bones stuff but because it ends up being two cases, neither really gets the attention they need for us to be emotionally invested in their conclusions. Still, this is Bones, and it's got a nice ensemble that's always meshed very well together, so even under these circumstances, that was nice to see.

One of my other problems with Bones around the time I stopped watching it every week was why it inexplicably split up Angela and Hodgins after spending like, three seasons laying the groundwork for them to be happily ever after. The show has always felt impulsive that way, such as the revelation that Zack was a serial killer's assistant a few years back; it does things more because things have to be done even if they don't really make sense. Angela and Hodgins splitting up seemed to happen just because otherwise then their characters wouldn't really have much to do. Well, they're back together now, so I'm glad they righted that wrong (they can never really fix Zack, sadly) and Angela's pregnant, so that gives them something to do, and it's just about as unoriginal as them breaking up.

But I know what you're all clamoring to find out — are Brennan and Booth going to end up together or not!?!? Well, it looks like we're gonna keep getting our chain yanked for now, cause Booth has some lame blonde journalist girlfriend in Iraq (although she may just be a fake excuse so that Brennan isn't uncomfortable around him). And Brennan is playing dumb as usual: when Angela says she's sorry Booth fell in love, she replies, "Why, are you in love with Booth?" Ah, the saga continues.

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Stray observations:

Cute ending to the episode to explain the title and give a knowing wink about the elephant in the room with Booth/Brennan.

Emily Deschanel just letting her hair down was sexier than Carla Gallo shedding her clothes, and that's no insult to Carla Gallo.

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"So, did you meet anyone special?" "You mean, did I have sex with anyone."

Booth and his girlfriend are serious "as a heart attack." "Well, heart attacks are very serious." "Yes, very serious."