The hundredth episode is one of those milestones in television that some shows fall over themselves to celebrate, putting on big extravaganzas with lots of stars, and others barely acknowledge at all, aside from making sure to put out an above-average installment. How I Met Your Mother did a big, out-of-character musical number, while Lost's "The Variable" was just a great hour of TV, without any lame guest stars like Blink-182, who appeared on The Simpsons' 300th. That show's 100th, on the other hand ("Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song") is one of the best episodes of anything, ever.
I'm getting distracted. The reliably light, funny, clever procedural Bones did another standard for its 100th: the flashback episode, where we see how the gang got together, often a chance to revive wacky hairdos or costumes. Bones didn't do that, taking a much more drastic approach — it revised the backstory of Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth's will-they-won't-they romance, seemingly shutting a door on the possibility by the end of the episode, but also making several broad winks at the audience throughout at the silliness of the whole 'will-they-won't-they' concept.
The premise of the episode is that Lance Sweets (John Francis Daly) has written a book about the partners therapy he's put Brennan and Booth through the last few years, concluding that the two are in love but have never acted on it, which drives their work chemistry, or something. But the pair admit to him that he doesn't know the full story about their first case together, which they go on to recount, while Sweets consternates loudly and slaps his head a lot.
I’m only a sporadic watcher of Bones at this point, but I remain a big fan of the show, which I admire for doing procedural crime drama without being grossly dark and grim. The chemistry between Brennan and Booth has always floated there, but I never really thought of them as destined to be a couple until the third season, when Sweets was introduced and they really started to play up the concept. Sweets is a fidgety child prodigy/psychologist very endearingly played by Daly, aka Sam Weir. He acts as a sort of audience voice at times, challenging Booth and Brennan on their obvious sexual attraction and wondering why the hell they aren’t doing anything about it.
At this point, Booth seems to have acknowledged that he’s in love with Brennan; she’s skeptical. All that drama’s a little tiring, so it’s great that "The Parts in the Sum of the Whole," directed by David Boreanaz, takes us back to a simpler time, when Booth was just a hotshot FBI investigator and Brennan examined bones from centuries ago with her team of weirdos, including Zack Addy (who the show got rid of with that weird serial killer plot that never made sense and which they clearly regret deeply) and Hodgins, who’s a moody jerk because he hasn’t gotten laid yet.
Booth enlists Brennan to be an expert on a cold case of his, where he figures a federal judge for the suspect; she’s happy to help but things quickly get wacky, with Brennan clocking the judge because she thinks he’s a jerk and getting thrown off the case. Eventually they bust him, but that’s not too important. All our favorites are here: Cam, who wasn’t introduced until season two, is shoehorned into some scenes with Booth at the FBI; sassy prosecutor Caroline Julian shows up to snap at everyone; and Angela, who’s some street caricaturist Brennan barely knows that she enlists to do victim sketches (and extremely cool flip-book murder reconstructions).
Most importantly of all, the flashback establishes Booth and Brennan’s professional relationship: he’s emotional and relies on his gut instinct, while she’s aloof and analytical. It’s nothing revolutionary, but their banter makes the show’s weakest episodes watchable. They’re almost too cute and flirty in this episode, which was freaking me out, because I remembered a little more friction at the show’s start. "I’d ask you out if I could," Booth simpers.
As we move along, things get plenty interesting: to fire Brennan for striking a judge, Booth goes and gets her good and drunk so he can work up the courage. He shows off his first wacky tie to her, having taken her advice to show signs of individuality. And they like, totally make out, and almost go home together, but Brennan changes her mind at the last minute. "You're afraid when I look at you in the morning I'll have regrets?" Booth asks. "That would never happen," she shoots back.
After that, the burgeoning flirtation deteriorates as the case comes to a c lose, with their chemistry leveling off to where I remember it being early on in the show. "You're a cold fish!" Booth shouts. "You're a superstitious moron!" she replies. The team breaks up before it even began, and they don’t officially get together til a year later, hence the misunderstanding, they tell Sweets. They’re very kind and soothing during the therapy scenes, as if they’re telling viewers, "don’t worry about it, it’s just a TV show."
Sweets, like I imagine many of the Booth-Brennan shippers who have agonized over their relationship for years, is scandalized that this twist is being thrown on his lap. At first, I felt it was puzzled by the approach too, but I quickly realized that it was actually brilliant, because it’s more like how real people behave. They’re consenting adults! So they get drunk and hook up once, then don’t talk about it after that, who cares? Sure, they’re really falling for each other at this point of the show, but that makes sense too.
Things get sappy at the end with Booth kissing Brennan and asking her to love him back, with her shutting it down, taking a rational point of view about their work life. It’s another typical stall tactic that week-to-week watchers of the show will probably roll their eyes at, as I did. But the concept at large, and the execution of the flashback in general, worked originally enough that I’ll forgive the writers for backsliding to will-they-won’t-they.
Booth has a Barney-from-How I Met Your Mother-esque gambling problem: "Since I always won, it wasn't a problem."
Zack, re Hodgins: "He needs to get laid. That means engage in coitus." Sometimes the show goes too far in making its characters seem like Martians. But I guess we're throwing back to times when they were even weirder shut-ins.
Brennan: "I don't follow current events past the industrial revolution." Why is that really hot, for some reason?
Brennan objects to Booth’s "bones" nickname for her. "I could call you shoes, because they are so very shiny," she retorts.