(Wendell), Emily Deschanel, and David Boreanaz, this Bones episode wins the award for most emotional overall delivery of the season, taking second place to the wedding episode, “The Woman in White,” only in the category of ‘Killing the Most Trees for the Manufacture of Kleenex.’
So successfully balanced are the story lines of the songwriter and the squint in “Big in the Philippines” that one could easily miss the subtle juxtaposition of the disparate lives of Colin Haynes and Wendell Bray. Though both are on the brink of a life full of promise, one can’t help but see the stark contrast between a nearly broken man alone in the world and the clean cut Bostonian wunderkind and top scholarship-earning squintern who was raised by a village (figuratively) and is currently surrounded by the support and affection of the Jeffersonian family. So, when Wendell gets the chance to sit it out or dance, we hope he dances.
Brennan, aided by Wendell who arrives on the MedicoLegal platform with his left forearm fractured and casted, notes the victim’s tibias and fibulas (the lower leg) are shattered and there’s been severe trauma to the ribcage which we later learn is from a fatal stabbing followed by the gruesome destruction of the ribcage to retrieve the murder weapon’s broken-off knife blade. Ew, that’s cold …
Over lunch, Booth shows Brennan a video of Wendell fracturing his radius during a hockey skirmish. Watching the circumstances of the break, Brennan suspects something more was responsible for the weakening of Wendell’s bone. Later, Brennan eschews protocol, looks at Wendell’s medical file, and sees lesions indicting the presence of Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer with a mere 10% survival rate if it spreads to other areas of the body. Wha–?
A bloody napkin in the victim’s pocket leads Booth to Lebemi’s Bar where the bartender, Joe ‘I’m-a-tool’ Martucci (Robert Baker) recognizes the victim as Colin Haynes, a regularly performing singer-songwriter at the bar. Martucci directs Booth to Haynes’ Crackerjack box-sized apartment where superintendent Kara O’Malley (Jamie Anne Allman), takes them to the deceased’s crib.
Haynes’ meagre possessions reveal him to be an old school hard-core country music aficionado (with a soft spot for Back In Black) who wrote his lyrics on a manual typewriter and recorded his songs on a compact cassette tape player. Noticing a collection of unpublished love songs among the detritus, Booth and Sweets deduce Haynes was in love, but with whom? Among the dust motes they also find a suspiciously ripped-up check for $1,000 from BoarHog Record and Publishing.
Harriet ‘Stick-With-Me, Kid’ White (Kay Lenz), the proprietor of the floundering BoarHog Record and Publishing Company is surprised by the discarded royalty check but shrugs it off. Later we learn Harriet ‘I’ll-Rob-You-Blind’ White has used her own name to register Haynes’ songs, allowing her to receive licensing fees and royalties for his work. What? In short, she was collecting on the proceeds from sales of Haynes’ music abroad!
Brennan tells Booth about Wendell’s Ewing’s sarcoma and its dim prognosis without aggressive treatment. They are both devastatingly stunned. Confident that she is not wrong in her diagnosis, Brennan and Booth decide Wendell needs to know the truth. While working at the lab, Brennan floats in a cloud of devastation, unable to stop staring at Wendell.
Sweets and Booth return to Haynes’ apartment and are surprised when a man flees on foot to the fire escape. Booth, in hot pursuit, shoots the guy’s bicycle dead, rendering intruder Adrian Lingao (Jon Jon Briones) defenseless and suicidal over the loss of his idol, Colin Haynes. A little dramatic, but we’ll go with it. Besides, we all know how passionate fans can be about their favorite artists, right?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Lingao is from Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, where Haynes’ music is legendary. Linago only recently learned of Haynes’ whereabouts through a geo-tagged performance video circulating on the internet. Linago sought out Haynes to bring him to the Philippines where Haynes would finally reap the benefits of celebrity which would make him a wealthy man. That’s why he didn’t need no stinkin’ $1,000 check!
Next, Wendell meets a preternaturally calm Booth and an emotionally overwhelmed and tearful Brennan at the diner where they break the news about his cancer. Receiving the news, Wendell’s expression is that of a man clinging to the edge of a roof by his teeth. Wendell goes on walkabout to clear his head after Brennan gives him a referral to the world’s best oncologist.
Booth and Sweets learn Haynes was secretly in love with Kara ‘Don’t-Know-A-Good-Thing-When-I-See-It’ O’Malley. She and Haynes had shared one disastrous date immediately preceding his murder. They also learn that someone matching Martucci’s description answered O’Malley’s door in his boxers and signed for a package containing Haynes’ plane tickets to the Philippines.
Back at the Jeffersonian a numbed Wendell, outwardly calm despite the sheer terror gurgling below the surface, recognizes three parallel abrasions on the ribs which Brennan later concludes are from the three crowns on Martucci’s wrist watch. The watch marked Haynes’ ribs when Martucci reached into Haynes’ chest to retrieve the broken knife blade after killing him in a jealous rage. Case solved.
Sweets tells O’Malley about the love songs Haynes’ wrote for her. Someone has to mourn him, Sweets explains. Unsaid and hanging in the air is an awareness that many, many people would mourn Wendell’s passing if he merely gave up without a fight.
So many indescribable, compelling scenes. Such moving portrayals by Terry, Deschanel, and Boreanaz. What made them magical was their brevity; the eloquence (especially Booth’s) and judiciousness of their scripting. Filled with silent exchanges of fervent indefinable sentiments, furtive glances, and emotive body language, these portrayals subtly and exquisitely conveyed the shared pain, fear, and affection between the three when they were together, and each pair when alone.
These are are the scenes: 1) Brennan telling Booth about Wendell’s cancer, 2) Brennan and Booth meeting with Wendell to deliver the news, 3) Brennan and Booth talking at home about God testing us, 4) Wendell visiting Booth to ask “Is it worth it?” in reply to which Booth delivers a soulful plea for Wendell’s future wife and children, 5) Brennan and Wendell agreeing that they were, that they are, a good team, 6) Booth and Brennan at home in the final scene being joined by Wendell who tells them he’s going to fight for his life; them committing to support him in whatever happens next and Brennan crushing Wendell to her chest, and 7) Brennan and Booth dancing very slowly in the foyer to Charlie Worsham’s song, Love Don’t Die Easy.
Wendell’s cancer diagnosis, as a plot device, provides the impetus for Brennan and Booth to explore the meaning of their own lives and to rely on each other in a way they haven’t so far as a couple. They are no longer simply a married couple, parents, colleagues, and friends, they are a two person force committed to doing whatever necessary to get one of their own through the frightening experience of fighting the toughest battle of his young life. If anyone can bring together the best minds in medical science to assist, it’s Dr. Temperance Brennan. If anyone can help Wendell see the purpose behind the pain and find a reason to fight, it’s Agent Seeley Booth.
Marriage. Sex. Parenthood. True love. Grief. Some of the most satisfying, fulfilling, and devastating human experiences defy human understanding unless experienced first hand. These experiences come bearing gifts. In one outstretched hand: joy, satisfaction, humility, pain, fear, a full heart. These we receive and experience without question, but the treasures of the other hand—discernment, grace, perspective, and appreciation—we have to actively choose and repeatedly seek with determination. How? By learning to dance to the music that’s playing … and sometimes, as Booth and Brennan agree, we dance that dance very, very slowly.
Catch Bones next Friday, January 24th at (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) for “The Master in the Slop.”