Sunday, August 30, 2009

Guest Episode Review - #121 "The Woman in Limbo"

Time for the final Bones Season 1 Episode review: The Woman in Limbo! If you want to start at the beginning here are my Season 1 Bones Reviews from last summer:

# 079 - "Pilot" - My Review
# 101 - "A Boy in the Tree" - My Review
# 102 - "The Man in the SUV" - My Review
# 103 - 'The Man on Death Row" My Review
Guest Reviews so far:
# 103 - 'The Man on Death Row" - Meryl
# 104 - "The Man in the Bear" - ForensicMama
# 105 - "A Boy in a Bush" - Bekka
# 106 - "The Man in the Wall" - Jeni
# 107 - "The Girl in the Fridge" - Jenny
# 108 - "The Man in the Fallout Shelter" - Emma
# 109 - "The Woman in the Car" - Milky
# 110 - "The Woman at the Airport" - Robyn
# 111 - "The Woman in the Tunnel" - Winona
# 112 - "The Superhero in the Alley" - Ellynne
# 113 - "The Woman in the Garden" - Kate
# 114 - "The Man on the Fairway" - sai
# 115 - "Two Bodies in the Lab" - DaLiza
# 116 - "The Man with the Bone" - Emma
# 117 - "The Skull in the Desert" - em-jay
# 118 - "The Man in the Morgue" - kate
# 119 - "The Graft in the Girl" - pua
# 120 - "The Soldier on the Grave" - Kaitlynd
# 121 - "The Woman in Limbo" - Jenny
This review was written by Jenny.

Season 1 list - Complete!
Season 2 list - Time to start submitting them ALL ASAP!

~*~ ~*~ ~*~
The Woman in Limbo

“The Woman in Limbo” is the first episode of the series that really focuses on Brennan’s family history. We heard tidbits about it in the Pilot; we learned even more about the context of her parents’ disappearance in “The Man in the Fallout Shelter”; we saw Brennan ask Booth to take a look at their file in “The Man on the Fairway”. But this is the first time a whole episode deals with her past; as one might expect, major developments and revelations ensue.

This is therefore the first time we get to see her brother, Russ, played by Loren Dean. I have to say I really like this actor-I think he does a great job. What’s more, the scenes he has shared through the seasons with both Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz are very close to the top on my list of my favorite acting moments of the two leading actors, especially David Boreanaz. I would love to see him back on Bones again-soon.

For me this is probably the best of the four finales we’ve seen so far, in that I feel it took Bones to the next level as a TV show, making it more than just a procedural with likeable characters, setting things up for the wonderful Season 2. Every time I watch it, I recognize and respect Hart Hanson’s talent as a writer and I remember how I felt the first time, the suspense, the catch of my breath at each twist and revelation.

This episode is, obviously, about Brennan. It revolves around her just like everybody (Booth, the squints, Goodman) revolve around her at the beginning of the episode, wanting to attract her attention, asking for her help, trying to monopolize her:
Zack: What’s up, buttercup is an amusing, rhyming, linguistic meme. This is the latest Jane Doe from Limbo.
Booth: How about this for an amusing rhyming linguini. See ya later, alligator.
She is the head and heart of her team, the Queen Bee of the hive. She deals with everything [well, almost, apart from Goodman’s Syrian, Hittite or Egyptian :)] efficiently and confidently. The things she’ll have to deal with on a personal level, however, will put her self-confidence to a test.

Brennan and David: “You read her manuscript?”

Remember David, the guy Brennan met online in “Two Bodies in the Lab”? It seems the two of them have been ‘in touch’ since then and Brennan has trusted him with the privilege of reading her second novel before it’s come out-what’s more, she won’t extend the same honor to Booth. They are comfortable with each other, but up to what extent? That’s not really defined; so it has to bother Booth, right? ;) Well, it does! When left alone, the two men circle each other like lions.

Brennan and her parents’ story: “I thought that when it was confirmed I’d feel relief, but…”

We already know from previous episodes that Brennan’s parents disappeared just before Christmas of 1991. Now we learn that Christine Brennan was a bookkeeper and Matthew Brennan was a high-school science teacher… or so their daughter thought. After a somewhat more thorough investigation, Booth finds out that these people didn’t actually exist before 1978. The family members were living under assumed identities.

Now why would they do that? There were some good reasons, it turns out. The parents’ names were in the NCIC database; their real names: Max and Ruth Keenan. They belonged to a crew of armed bank robbers, although they had their personal, more intelligent, more “con their way in” style. They had to change their IDs and hide after they left the crew, to keep their family safe.

That’s not the only revelation, though. According to the file, Brennan’s mum was buried improperly, without a casket. After his usual soil and particulates examination, Hodgins ascertains that Christine Brennan was actually buried in 1993. What were the parents doing those two years in-between? Everything so far seems to indicate they abandoned their children that Christmas, making sure no one hears about them since.

Well, not exactly; they left something behind: their car was found in a rest stop 1000 miles away. It turns out there was blood in that car, not only from the mother but also from a man who isn’t the father. It is Vince McVicar, a hit man of the crew, the same man who turned in the evidence that sent the rest of the crew to jail. Working together, the squints find out that it was him that caused a fatal wound to Brennan’s mother, after the parents left to drive him away from their children, to keep them safe.

All those revelations, coming the one after the other, have their toll on Brennan; everything she believed in about her parents, everything she remembers about her life with them, before losing them, is put to a test. What’s more, she finds out her parents were criminals; like those that she and her partner are trying to put away every day.

Booth: You’ve been thinking that your family is made up of liars and criminals. And that makes you feel lonely. […]
Brennan: What were your parents like?
Booth: […] my dad, […] he was a barber in Philadelphia and my mom, she wrote jingles for a local advertising agency.
Brennan: So they didn’t go out at night after you were asleep and rob banks?

And on top of that, up to certain point everything seems to indicate that they abandoned her. Her mother went to a Harrison Ford movie two years after she left her! If everything she believed about them until now was a big fat lie, how can she still believe that they really loved her?

Brennan and McVicar: “What kind of person could use this on a human being?”

Vince McVicar was not another bank robber of the crew; as Booth puts it, he used to “bash in people’s heads”. After cooperating with the police, though, he is in Witness Protection; maybe he’s trying to leave it all back. When Booth and Brennan find him, he looks like a peace-loving, hard-working pig farmer. But what is a pig farmer doing with two concealed weapons?

Brennan: Three. .22 in the small of his back.
Booth: .22. I’m always right.
Brennan: No you’re not.
Booth: Yes, I am. Bones, will you put the gun down?

Hmmm… Anyway, when Brennan tells him who she is, he claims him and Ruth Keenan were in love and left together, meaning to go back and take the kids with them some time later, but Max found out; so Ruth’s injury and a somewhat matching one on his forehead was the result of Max’s anger. Brennan believes him. Everything she knew so far has been turned upside down, so why couldn’t this be true as well?

She’s lucky that nobody else, especially her brother, believe him. With the help of Booth and the squints, they check McVicar’s weapons. It’s her who finds out the truth, though: McVicar hit her mother with the same spring-loaded captive bolt stunner that he used on his pigs. The man tries to cut a deal, promising to tell her the whole story if they let him go. But, now that she finally knows the truth, she can be confident again:

Brennan: I’m pretty persuasive. I’ll put you away. […] I found out what happened to my mother, I will find out what happened to my father, too.

Something he says creates some new doubts, though:
McVicar: […] Two people know what really happened that night. Me and your father.
Brennan: You killed him before you attacked my mother.
McVicar: Then how did I get this scar on my head?

Brennan and Russ: “Marco”. “Polo”.

All we know about Brennan’s brother so far is that he abandoned her some time after her parents left, which resulted in her entering the foster care system. We now learn that his life wasn’t really settled, either: he’s on parole for processing stolen cars. Booth finds him working as a mechanic in a theme park in North Carolina. He is reluctant to go to D.C. and face the situation at first. It seems things have finally started to settle down for him; he has a job, he sees a woman and he loves her two girls, as we find out later.

Nevertheless, there he is, walking through the sliding doors of the Jeffersonian one morning; putting his sister’s mind and emotions in turmoil. She doesn’t want to see him, but Booth convinces her that he can help them in the investigation. That doesn’t mean she has to be polite with him, though, does it?

Even that dry, distant manner that he talks to him in seems too much, however, when she finds out that her brother knew about their real identities all this time. He betrayed and deserted her, just like her parents. She slaps him hard on the face, something that she’s been “wanting to do for years”, as Angela half-seriously, half-joking says.

She still loves him very much; we can see that in the way he talks about him to her friend, about how important he was to her back then:

Brennan: I worshipped him. You know? God, he was so cool. Everyone knew I was Russ Brennan’s little sister. I wasn’t cool or pretty, so being his sister – You know that game, Marco Polo? I’d be sitting in class, and I’d hear out the window “Marco!” It’d be Russ, checking in on me and letting everyone know that I was his little sister.
Angela: Did you “Polo”?
Brennan: Yeah. Sometimes it’d be the only word I said all day – “Polo”.

And, as it turns out, Russ had a very good reason to keep that secret from her: their father told him that if he ever talked about it, he would be putting his mother and sister’s lives to danger. But Brennan doesn’t know that yet; and the wound can’t heal that easily:
Russ: Tempe, that theory explains why mom never came back for you during that year and a half before she died.
Brennan: What’s your excuse, Russ?
Russ: You’re the one that left me. You needed someone to blame. You chose me. […]

I tried, Temperance. You wouldn’t talk to me. You still wouldn’t be talking to me if mom’s bones hadn’t shown up. And I kept trying. Every year. Every year, on your birthday. You’re the one that gave up! You turned your back on me and you made yourself a new family.

He’s right. I can totally understand her, but he’s right. And she sees it now, too. After the truth comes out, she goes to find him in that same theme park that Booth did. Apologizing is not her forte, but no one can say she doesn’t try. She craves for the chance to live with him again, even for a few days; and it turns out that’s something they have in common and which they can start from again.

Brennan and her “family”: “Nobody’s leaving unless we figure out what happened to your mother”.

This is the last time we get to see Goodman (fingers crossed it’s not the last of the whole series). As I’ve said before, he really feels like a father figure for the rest of the team to me; a father firm but in no way authoritative who, even though he doesn’t want to show it too much, has deep respect for and is very proud of his children. He is the boss, he has to make sure work gets done (especially the identification of that Syrian, Hittite or Egyptian :D) but one can see how much he really cares. Even though he can’t understand Brennan’s behavior at the beginning, even though he knows he is not the one who can offer her the help and comfort she needs, he is concerned and tactful and understanding.

The same thing, alas, could not be said about Zach, at least not at the beginning. He loves his professor; he cares about her, that’s for sure. But he never had to deal with relatives and face their grief before or it never touched him that much. He can’t understand how much his careless words when he reads the file can hurt her. It takes him a little more time to adjust to the fact that she is, on this occasion, one of the victim’s loved ones. But when he does, he is really sweet and he puts all of his mind and efforts to find out as many things as he can to help solve the case. He knows that this is what he can offer; and he does it with remarkable devotion.

Hodgins lets himself kind of slide in the background, this time; he too knows that he is not the one to offer Brennan the support and consolation she needs on this occasion. He generously offers what he can, though: the facts and the truths that his science can tell him. What’s more, he does it as gently as he can. And he knows that (even if he needs Angela’s help to find the courage) what Brennan appreciates most is sincerity:

Hodgins: We decided to tell you the truth. And this is the truth.
True to character, he is the one that mostly provides this episode’s funny one-liners:
Booth: I need the room, guys.
Zack: The whole lab? For what?
Hodgins: It’s a cop way of saying “Get lost”.

Booth: We got 20 hammers, a dozen hatchets…
Hodgins: Man loves his blunt instruments.

Angela, of course, is much more personally involved. She might not understand the reason of her friend’s awkward behavior from the very first moment, but she is there whenever Brennan needs her: she offers to drive her home when she’s devastated at the beginning. She’s there when Hodgins tells her his findings. She’s there when Brennan needs someone to talk to, after the revelations become too much to handle on her own. She offers her help when Booth asks her to talk to Russ in the hope of finding a suspect; and she does much more that sketching:

Angela: You know, your sister is my best friend, so when she says you can’t be trusted, I trust her.
Russ: This is you being charming? Does Tempe really hate me that much?
Angela: Russ, she loves you. It’d be easier if she hated you. Hate is a lot easier to deal with than love. Especially, disappointed love.

Of course that doesn’t mean she has less than the other squints to offer when it comes to solving the case; she also helps with the identification of the weapon. She always is Angela, though: even in the middle of all this, she*has* to praise Booth to her friend ;):

Brennan: Wouldn’t you get in trouble for that?
Booth: Well, we’ll find out. [leaves]
Angela:You know what? Sometimes, he is just – Huf.

Brennan seems somewhat reluctant to open up to them at first. But the attention and devotion with which they all deal with the situation touches her deeply. For a moment or two, you’d think maybe she didn’t really expect them to be like that or maybe she thinks she doesn’t deserve it; but she is moved:

Brennan: Everybody… thank you. I… thank you.

Brennan and Booth: “I know who you are”.

Angela might be Brennan’s best friend for years, but it seems that, in less than a year, Booth has managed to gain access to certain things even she hasn’t. He’s the first to understand Brennan’s actions upon seeing the woman’s face. And he seems to know exactly what he needs to say and how he needs to act on every occasion: talking calmly and soothingly (“Temperance… go home”), pushing his way into her life when she tends to close up (“I was driving by. I saw the lights. I thought you might like some Wong Fu’s”), reassuring (“We’re going to find out what happened to your mum. Ok?”), discreet when he feels she’d want him to be, telling her it’s ok to feel lonely in the middle of this, letting her drive as a reward “for totally pissing off a hit man”. And playing a major role in the development of his partner’s relationship with her brother. When he finds Russ, when he asks for his help, it’s mostly her that he has in mind. That shows in the way he treats him; it’s not the same way that he’d treat any other ‘important witness’ on any other case. Perhaps he has already decided to help the two of them be brother and sister again.

There is something that he can’t understand, however, and it bugs him: why would Brennan not let him read her book, when she has let David do so? He seems to think about it so much that he asks Angela about it-not that he gets that much of an answer from her!

Of course the case itself is top priority as well. He does everything in his power to find out the truth: from supervising the FBI techs’ work on the abandoned car to finding the agent that was assigned to the parents’ case to “playing hardball” with Witness Protection; to being overly protective of her against McVicar:

Booth: You got two ways to look at this. One is, you score a private chat. The second one is, you attack her and I’ll drill you through the forehead.
McVicar: How could I possibly attack her?
Booth: I’ll decide what is and isn’t an attack –like say, a hiccup.

None of these words, however, can say as much about their relationship as this simple ‘not-exactly-B&B’ exchange when Brennan talks to Angela about Russ, which I have to admit I really have a soft spot for:

Brennan: […] mom and dad disappeared and Russ took off. Suddenly, no one cared where I was. I miss that. Someone caring where I am all the time.
Booth: [from downstairs] Bones? Bones! You up there? Come on. Let’s go. Chop-chop. I found the Agent that was assigned to your parents’ case.

And of course how can one forget the first hug, when Brennan breaks down emotionally, long before the “guy hugs” came in the picture?

Through the whole episode, Brennan doesn’t seem to openly acknowledge how much his behavior means to her. She willingly accepts it, of course; but we never hear her thank him, like the squints. Sometimes, though, an action can say more than a million words; and a picture is worth 1000 of them:


Brennan and Temperance
: “I’m Dr… I’m Dr. Temperance Brennan”

The things that happen in this episode shake Brennan to the core. The next few moments after she sees her mother’s face in the Angelator, she’s not herself: she dashes on the platform without zipping her card, setting the alarm on; she rushes to her office, throwing disorderly all the files on her side desk on the floor; she touches one of the artifacts, a worn belt with a dolphin buckle, with her bare hands; and the memory of the woman that was wearing it rushes into her mind.

And it’s not the only one. From flashbacks and pictures, we can see that her life before the disappearance of her parents was happy; the life of a kid that felt loved at all times, for one thing. But it seems she can’t even be sure about any of that any more. At first, she tries to push everything on the back of her head, to focus on the work and compartmentalize, as always; but that proves to be harder and harder to do.

What has always amazed me is how, in the middle of all this, she doesn’t forget her role as a professor. She doesn’t need Zach to tell her that the cause of death is a subdural hematoma. But she wants him to learn, she wants to teach him the most out of everything; even though, at the same time, she has to use all of her willpower to keep her composure at the sight of her brother coming into the lab, towards her.

But as new truths come to light, there comes a moment when she feels that not a single thing which she had based her life on is still standing… so she can’t help falling:

Brennan: My name is Brennan. I’m Dr. – I’m Dr. Temperance Brennan. I work at the Jeffersonian Institution. I’m a Forensic Anthropologist. I specialize in identif – in identifying – in identifying people when nobody knows who they are. My father was a science teacher. My mother was a bookkeeper. My brother –I have a brother. [in tears] I’m Dr. Temperance Brennan.

Booth: I know who you are. Hey. I know. It’s okay. Shh, it’s gonna be alright.

All she needs to go on is the truth; when she finds it, she can be herself again. In her apartment, chinking bottles of beer with her brother and Booth, she smiles again. Until…

Answering Machine: New message recorded today. 3p.m.
Temperance? You have to stop looking. You have to stop looking for me right now. This is bigger and worse than you know. Please, stop now.
Booth: Who’s that?
Brennan: That was my father…


*The episode was awarded a Genesis Award for Outstanding Dramatic Series for portraying the brutal conditions of pig slaughtering, in 2007.
Screencaps from Beyond Bickering and Bones Fans Online.

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