In Appreciation of Sweets: A Tribute to the Baby Duck

GORDON GORDON: He wants what we all want. He wants to find out his place in the world. BRENNAN: We can find a permanent place for him. Right?

I keep expecting to see Sweets in Booth’s doorway. He should still be sharing fries with Angela at the diner or carrying a box of files into the FBI conference room. Something’s off without him, and it’s sudden and unsettling and unreal in a way that real loss tends to be.

I don’t usually come to Bones for a realistic experience of grief. I’m in it for the redemption stories, the people with messed up lives who’ve found work worth doing. Sweets was a damaged kid. Lance Sweets, psychologist, boy genius, shipper, and Star Wars aficionado, was abused, then adopted at age six by an elderly couple, who died within weeks of each other just before he started at the FBI. He found his purpose through their kindness. “They gave you a good life,” says Gordon Gordon, “and that’s why you believe that people can be saved by other people with good hearts.”

bones sweets smile

It feels wrong that his son will never get to learn that from him. Sweets’s death is a little bit more senseless than I’m used to from this show, but I don’t feel the need to debate the fact that it happened. John Francis Daley has big things coming, which is great, and he needed the time off, so real life stepped in and made Bones a little more real than it normally is. I’m fine with that. The team’s grief has been well written and well handled. I’m just here to remember the baby duck.

Because while Sweets’s son will never get to know him, he will grow up with the biggest, smartest, most wonderful extended family. And while Sweets will never get to know his son, he did get to know Booth and Brennan. Brennan got it right away: Sweets was alone when he met her and Booth, and he imprinted on them as only baby ducks do. She didn’t hesitate to take him in and protect him. Remember when Sweets asked Brennan if he could call her Bones in moments of shared camaraderie? He needed so much to be a part of the inner circle. (“You liiiiike us.”) I love his early seasons for that. He would never admit it, but he was adorably desperate for B&B’s approval.

bones sweets chair

Sweets brought something light to this show at a time when it was really needed. He poked brains and asked the hard questions. (“Point of investigation: How do masters find their apprentices? Not on Craigslist. I checked.”) He played the Titanic theme on a hypothetical piano. (“Even not hearing it, I hate that song.” “Not the way I play it.”) He had the most convoluted and perfect metaphors. (“No, you’re the gay neighbor boy. Your love is the party wagon. Grayson is the tree. I’m Hodgins.”) Best of all, Sweets came to work excited every day. (“This is how we roll. Right guys?”) Like Angela, Max, Caroline, and pretty much anyone with eyes, Sweets saw something between B&B as soon as he met them. Unlike everyone else, he had a professional obligation to talk to them about their relationship, which he promptly made unprofessional because they were so cute and they were his duck parents and he could not help himself. He was just supposed to help them function as FBI partners, but then he watched them struggle to explain who they’d be to each other if that partnership were taken away. (“So that’s clear, then. We’d have coffee. I mean, that’s our relationship. Coffee.”)

Sweets was the audience. He saw Booth and Brennan’s relationship, he articulated it, and he made them articulate it to each other. Even when he wasn’t around, B&B used Sweets as an excuse to have conversations they otherwise wouldn’t.

BOOTH: You know, I can see how Sweets would get confused.
BRENNAN: We both did tell him how we felt about each other. In the past.
BOOTH: In the past.
BRENNAN: And we’ve both thought about it. He knows that.
BOOTH: It?
BRENNAN: Sleeping together. It would be odd if we didn’t.
BOOTH: Right, so we’re talking about this now?
BRENNAN: We seem to be.

Sweets gave Booth and Brennan a place to talk about things that they hadn’t talked about with anyone. He made them acknowledge their brokenness and use it for good. Without Sweets, I’m not sure Booth would have been able to sit down with Brennan and burn a wish to be with her later, once he took the time to heal. I’m not sure Brennan would have been able to face her fear of loneliness, take a chance, turn her world upside down, and tell Booth that she didn’t want to have any regrets. Sweets pushed them. He pushed everyone. It didn’t always turn out well in the short term, but in the long term, they needed his nudging.

bones sweets booth brennan perfect

Cam came to Sweets when she needed a professional sounding board; she wasn’t his boss in the same way that she was everyone else’s, so she could open up to him when her hands were tied. Hodgins came to Sweets when he was afraid of his own anger, only to receive confirmation that his coping mechanism (“OF HATE”) was completely natural. Angela came to him sometimes to talk things out, but mostly she did the counseling, encouraging him with Daisy like he encouraged Booth and Brennan. Sweets and Daisy were all over the place, but in the end, they made each other grow up. (“I just want to say that I don’t want to spend any more time away from you than I have to.”) She’s going to be a great mom, and their son is going to hear so many great stories about his dad.

bones sweets daisy kiss

Sweets stepped it up so much over the years. He learned that people are more than questionnaires. He became a part of the family as he cared for Christine and helped Brennan move. He was field certified as an FBI agent. Sweets died fighting for himself because he wanted to make Booth proud. It’s huge for Booth to accept responsibility for another person, but he found eventually that he didn’t have to take responsibility for Sweets anymore. One of the last things Booth did for him was to shake his hand as an equal, and Brennan honored his memory by acknowledging what he taught her years ago: that she wasn’t alone.

“Sweets is a part of us. Our lives, who we all are at this moment, have been shaped by our relationships with Sweets. Each of us is like a delicate equation, and Sweets was the variable without which we wouldn’t be who we are. I might not have married Booth or had Christine. Daisy certainly wouldn’t be carrying his child. We are all who we are because we knew Sweets. So I don’t need a God to praise him or the universe he sprang from because I loved him.”

Despite everything that happened to him, or maybe because of it, Sweets was smart, insightful, and good, and he believed that other people were good too. He was killed helping his friends, and he used his last words to tell them that the world is a better place than they think it is. Not bad for a baby duck.

11 comments

  1. Aaaaand now I’m all verklempt again. I thought I was over it, but nope, I’m all emotional now, thanks to you! Sigh. You really captured everything that was good about Sweets, and why he mattered, point blank. I think his importance often gets lost in all the fandom squealing, but you’re so right — he really was their safe space, whether or not it was professional of him. (Oh God, here come the feelings.)

    Thanks so much for this — truly, it’s wonderful.

    1. Thank youuuu!! I totally agree–there was this tendency for fans to debate how professional he was as a therapist, but since when was this show about that? It’s about people and their relationships, and Sweets made a difference in so many of those.
      FEELINGS.

      1. I admit once in a blue moon I’d pull a “what the hell are you doing, Sweets?” just because that’s what I majored in once upon a time, but for the most part, I ate it up, because like you said, this show was never about strict professionalism or realism. Sweets’ first scene was him acting as a de facto couples’ therapist for Booth and Brennan. That said it all — he was the audience! So indulge with him, silly fans! He got the front-row set to everything we ever wanted! (Well, not *everything*, ahem, but you know what I mean.)
        (Really, the greatest unsolved mystery is whatever became of Mrs. Ross and her daughter from “Blackout in the Blizzard.” I bet they would thank Sweets, too! Or they’re in prison. Whatever.)

        FEELINGS indeed! You gave ’em to me.

      2. Ahhh his “Blackout in the Blizzard” sweater is so life affirming for me. (“Don’t you find it odd that Mrs. Ross is dressing you up in her dead husband’s clothes?”) I love that he couldn’t help but try to mend every relationship he came across. So perfectly Sweets.

      3. YEEEESSSSS! To Sweets trying to fix every relationship he came across. Sometimes I would think he’d do that because he was so grateful to have been “saved” as a kid by his foster parents, that he had this insatiable need to “fix” everyone else he came across who was hurting, the way he had been. I’m probably putting too much thought into this, but it’s why for the most part is at-times ingratiating need for the team’s approval or to let him help them didn’t bother me, because he desperately wanted to pay it forward in some sense.
        Or it’s late and I should just sleep.

      4. I’m super with you on all of that, so carry on with your sleepless wisdom. It’s like Gordon Gordon said: He believed people could be saved. He wanted to give back.

  2. I love everything this post chooses to be – great job, truly! This is such a wonderful writeup of how important Sweets was to the show, and particularly, how he impacted Booth and Brennan and the rest for the better. So well said.

    This gave me a lot of feelings and reaffirmed what I know: I’m going to miss him so, so much. And so will the characters.

    Again, thank you for such a wonderful tribute. :’)

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