“I don’t understand. If you have a useful talent, why are you an actor?”
So! We’ve got an actress playing a film actress playing Kathy Reichs, who’s based on a book character written by a TV character who’s based on the ACTUAL Kathy Reichs but named after the actual Reichs’s book character.
I think this episode collapsed under the weight of its own meta-ness.
That’s a shame, because I was so looking forward to this. The movie adaptation of Brennan’s novel is finally in production, which we’ve all been waiting for since B&B first ventured to Hollywood to drive convertibles, meet up with Penny Marshall, solve crime, and smack talk plastic surgeons. Season one’s “The Woman at the Airport” is a tight salute to everything that makes Booth and Brennan tick. Brennan wants to say the victims’ names out loud. Booth wants to arrest the bad guys. That’s why they work so well together—they care. Bones is always at its most appealing when Booth and Brennan are sure of what they do and why they do it, when they stare down suspects with confidence and don’t take their crappy excuses but still hold their hands when they cry. We see that from them all the time, but it’s especially obvious in Hollywood, where they stand out as real people driven by real empathy (who like their faces just as they are, thank you very much).
This time, though, we don’t just have real Brennan and real Booth on our hands. We have movie Brennan and movie Booth, not to mention the actors who play them. It’s a premise just begging for tongue-in-cheek comparisons, and the writers seem more than willing to poke fun at their own show. As a parody, it works. As a satire—and as an episode of Bones, a show that thrives on the likeability of its characters—it fails. Satirizing the show but honoring its characters only works if they’re set in contrast: the more absurd the movie set, script, and actors appear, the more we appreciate Booth and Brennan. “The Suit on the Set” continually blurs that line, teasing show business only to turn around and admit Hollywood’s appeal.
We open on a comically bad trailer for Bone of Contention, which our team is watching on repeat, apparently unaware that it’s horrible. Meanwhile in Hollywoodland, Booth is shotgunning donuts and Brennan is upset by mistakes in the script. Cardiacal is not a word! But when a body turns up on set, threatening to shut down production, Brennan’s disillusionment is no match for her apparently lifelong desire to make a movie. She begs Booth to let them solve the case, because she’s wanted this for so long, and is he really going to “let one little decomposing corpse get in the way of that”?
Really? Brennan cares about the victims more than this. Compromising Brennan’s empathy means compromising our sense of her character, which this episode in particular cannot afford to do. I’m not saying that Brennan must be distraught over every death, but she never treats dead bodies as obstacles to her own happiness. I do, however, love her cute begging and the way Booth is powerless to resist it. I’m easy that way.
Booth turns on his charm smile for the producer, and they’re in business. Naturally the lab set (which is nuts and has a green-screen monorail) is fully functional, because it was cheaper to rent real equipment than build replicas. Wouldn’t this have been infinitely more fun—and the Hollywood world infinitely less livable—if the on-set equipment were all fake, and B&B had to break out their old-school investigation techniques?
Instead Brennan is stuck working with Dr. Filmore, maligned podiatrist and movie consultant, in the fake bone room, which, nobody bothers to mention, is where Candy Land characters go when they die.
Back at the Jeffersonian, Hodgins is not playing nice with his movie doppelganger, Barry Summers, who turns out to be an actual scientist. He and his useful, Hodginsy doctorates join the investigation, bringing out Jack’s anger management issues. Hodgins is on fire when he’s hostile to new guys. He’s so protective of his partnerships.
Angela is quick to support her husband, reminding him that nobody can do what he does. So naturally, Dr. Barry Summers CAN do what he does. I thought the goal of this episode was to make us appreciate The Real Team? That being said, Fake Hodgins is great, and he should come back to play again. New squintern please?
Plus, HE HAS A SECRET HISTORY WITH CAM. They were in a movie together, which Hodgins and Angela are justifiably desperate to find. Even though I don’t appreciate when Booth and Brennan solve a murder for less than honorable reasons, I do LOVE when this team takes time away from work to focus on what’s really important: old 70s vampire movies starring your boss. Invasion of the Mother Suckers is something I must see immediately. A donut is something Cam must see immediately.
The victim turns out to be studio head Hanson Stevens, whose name and face are what would happen if the creative minds behind Bones were forced to share a body. I’m starting to think that my obsession with this show is working to my disadvantage; I can’t tell the difference between inside jokes and common knowledge. Doesn’t everyone know that Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan are the executive producers? Like, everyone should know this!! Maybe fewer people will know that Stephen Nathan’s daughter owns Huckleberry Café, so the running bit about Booth’s donut infatuation makes more sense to me. All signs indicate that David really is in love with those donuts. Booth loves the classics. When the head of security on set offers him a job, he considers it. Working at a film studio, Booth could provide more money for his family at lower risk, and he did say as early as episode six that when he goes on vacation, he thinks about never coming back.
Then again, this isn’t a vacation anymore. Booth interrogates the actors, and they all act like those fake versions of actors who show up on TV shows. Sherri Redfern, aka alt-Brennan, sleeps her way up the ladder (does Brennan find this unfair or anthropological? I want to know!), and alt-Booth Blaine Conway is full of himself. He forward rolls into his interrogation and into my heart. Witness the following exchange:
Booth: So, Mr. Conway.
Conway: Blaine, dude, Blaine. We’re both FBI, right?
TELL HIM BOOTH. Hands down my favorite Booth moment of the night. He’s so firm and dismissive. Booth loves the FBI. Booth just loves the FBI and I love that he loves it.
Booth loses interest in Hollywood as soon as he goes into cop mode. Things start to turn during that exchange with Blaine, but when the security guy tells him that it’s a great job because “nobody asks any questions,” Booth just wrinkles his nose, rolls up his sleeves, and never looks back. Booth likes to know that rules are being upheld. He’s so sure of himself when he questions the director. Booth could turn a bouncy house into his interrogation room and make it intimidating. When he’s asking the questions, you’re on his turf.
Jocco the director looks like a solid murder suspect. He admits that people only like him because he’s rich and famous, and Brennan tells him to his face that he doesn’t have any other attractive qualities. Truth-telling Brennan is my everything. Jocco’s innocent, though, because the topiary lady did it. She had all the markings of a killer: marginalized character with zero screen time and a belief that leafy animals are her friends. Only Bones could make a topiary artist creepy.
Case closed, Booth and Brennan can now go home and relive Cam’s movie career, but first they have to remind each other why home is Washington, DC, and why they do what they do.
“You’re my partner. Always.”
Awwww. They love working together.
And then a backdrop ruins everything.
No. Never again please. This is everything that’s wrong with this episode. If our characters are so authentic and genuine, why are they in front of a cheesy movie backdrop? Booth and Brennan, and, to a certain extent, all of the Squints, buy into the Hollywood mystique. They want to make movies. They want to be in movies. They consider living in LA. They treat movie sets like real interrogation rooms and working labs. And when they do, they make that crazy movie world a little less laughable, and they act a little less like themselves. This episode backs away from what could have been clever mockery and settles instead for self-indulgence.
What’s that mean?
Is Booth “The Suit on the Set”? He has been wearing a lot of suits lately. Booth is at his most Boothy when he puts a leather jacket over a tight t-shirt and calls it a uniform. It’s telling that he rediscovers his love of the FBI after ditching his suit.
Love that chorus of NOs when Cam begs everyone to turn off the movie.
“He made me sleep in a kennel with his dog when he went on vacation.”
Brennan’s “uh-oh” about Mandy Oh is so cute. “Hahaha. Ya get it?!”
“The ice palace is stupid! Stupid!”
I give this one four out of ten dancing phalanges, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Should we see any of these Hollywood characters again? How many donuts would you devour during Bone of Contention? And who should star in the Mother Suckers sequel? My vote’s on Michael Fassbender.