Bones fans have been waiting for this double feature for what feels like an eternity. The promised undercover episode, “The Cowboy in the Competition,” is an enjoyable ride, as I mentioned in my teaser earlier. Picturesque, humorous, and beautiful; this farce has the added bonus of the brief inclusion of fan darling Agent James Aubrey.

Then comes “The Doom in the Boom,” which has frozen the blood running through my weary veins. Aubrey getting turned into Swiss cheese was enough to make me stop breathing throughout the first half of the episode, but the penultimate scene with Hodgins lying on the floor, eyes dead and body motionless, was a draft horse kick to the gut. Mama mia, what the …? How the …? I mean … gasp. 

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Boys Need Their Toys in “The Cowboy in the Competition”

Earlier this season, Booth’s eyes were popping out at the prospect of a jet ski for Christmas. Now, he’s drooling over a brand new motorcycle. (What is it with boys and toys and pretending to be cowboys? I swear it’s coded into their DNA along with the “jump up and touch the awning” gene. I tried like hell to keep toy firearms from my toddler son only to find him fashioning a grilled cheese sandwich into a .45 when he was seven-years-old. At 13, my little man has a full arsenal of Nerf guns and spongy ammunition. I’m telling you, this combat impulse is a dingleberry on the southern quadrant of the Y chromosome.)

Even highly evolved Booth, Aubrey, and Hodgins are not immune to the giddy prospect of riding into town on a horse, clad in leather, a ten gallon hat and a pair of Tony Lamas. Great fun. And who doesn’t enjoy some Boothy manliness perched on a mighty steed? If that doesn’t Giddy-Your-Up, I don’t know what will.  

Brennan Springs A Little Excitement on Booth

Brennan’s concern for Booth’s need for excitement is the impetus for her inclusion in the undercover operation at the O.K. Corral. It starts out that Seeley “Big River Buck” Booth will go it alone, then Temperance “Wild Card Wanda” gears up to join him, hoping to add some exciting unpredictability to their routine domestic life. When Brennan shows up, however, she pretends that she and Booth have never met, providing for some fun male competition over her affection. (I would have preferred they had gone as a couple, but perhaps then we would not have gotten the dance floor lip lock, so I’m going along with it.)

It’s Killing Time at the O.K. Corral

“Slow Burn Stanley” Bellridge, a pasty thirtysomething accountant last seen alive at Frontier Games, has been missing for over a month along with his $10,000 prize for being the fastest draw in the west. Frontier Games is ranch that hosts a monthly gathering of cowboy role-players who dress-up and compete in a series of shooting and wrangling games. It looks like Stanley’s booty put a big bullseye on his belt buckle. 

At Frontier, Booth meets owners Fancy Pants Franny and High Card Luke who admit that Slow Burn Stanley has been missing since he took home the $10,000 purse the previous month. We also meet the horse who ends up being a suspect in the murder along with Fancy Pants and High Card later. When Brennan surprises Booth with her presence at the saloon, we meet Marshal Glen Gold Dust (Andy Milder) who takes a liking to Miss Wild Card Wanda. Then we meet Railroad Heiress Sweet Rose Sandy and Kentucky Loco Bo, who brings up the fact that everyone is happy Stanley is out of the picture. Each of these characters are suspects along the way, and one of them is actually the killer.

Booth’s Get-Up-And-Go Seems to Have Got Up and Left

Booth gets his first crack at the shooting range competition and sucks like the winds across the mighty Red River Valley flatlands. He seems surprised at his crappy performance, but later tells Brennan he was pretending. Brennan totally kicks ass when it’s her turn at the wheel, thus beginning a true private contest between the crime-fighting, love-making duo. Of course, that’s all part of Brennan’s plan to add some excitement to Booth’s life. That, and a little flirting with Sheriff Glen (who is as adorable and as sweet as an apple pie, by the way, and my favorite guest character of the episode). 

Half way through the episode, Buck’s shooting and wrangling leaves Brennan’s in the dust. Both he and Sheriff Glen beat Wanda’s times, leaving her coming in third place, until a fist fight over Wanda’s attentions disqualify both cowboys from the whole competition. Competitive Brennan is thrilled. Booth, however, disagrees that she won. The banter is kinda charming, but not as endearing as it has been in past undercovers. It makes me wonder if the somber happenings of the next episode are bleeding back into this one. That may sound crazy, but there it is.

Brennan and Booth Are a Little Blah, But Aubrey Owns the Episode

One of the funniest things in “The Cowboy in the Competition” is the stuff the shooters scream out before they start shooting. That, and their terrible accents. As an undercover couple, Brennan and Booth have been funnier, but I love their clothes and Brennan’s curly long hair. Oh, and Brennan’s “I’m Wild Card Wanda, baby!” exclamation to Booth. What’s missing is the hilariousness with which Booth usually gets to display in his role as Buck. I love crazy Buck and his sassy interactions with Wanda, but the split-up of Buck and Wanda steals something from the joy of this episode for me. That’s what you get for setting the bar so high, Bones Fairies. 

The funniest scenes are unquestionably Aubrey’s. He’s back to eating a ton of food on screen. He’s blissing out over the possibility of riding a horse and pretending to be a cowboy. The scene with him strumming the guitar and waxing romantic absolutely killed me. And the poncho he wears to Frontier … holy belt buckle, Batman. As I said in my teaser article, Aubrey is the embodiment of Bill Watterson’s imaginative grade-schooler Calvin from Calvin and Hobbs. John Boyd somehow manages to deliver a brilliant, genuine, amusing, colorful character without becoming a caricature. Instead he’s totally lovable and infinitely believable. Somehow he’s not as much sidekick to Booth as an equal, though very much the junior partner. Does that make sense?

Cam Decides to Buy a Ticket on the Sebastian Railway

Things are heating up between Cam and Sebastian (Gil Darnell), who has fallen for our brilliant milk chocolate goddess. She’s enjoying the sex, but is skittish about committing. A single woman shouldn’t have to live a celibate life if she doesn’t want to, but sexing it up with someone else so soon after almost marrying Arastoo just feels wrong. 

Cam chokes when Sebastian asks her to go for a walk around the reflecting pool. It’s clear that she’s thinking about all the times she and Arastoo did that very same thing. Later, in a touching exchange about knowing what it’s like to lose a love, Daisy gently and thoughtfully tells Cam that it takes time and courage to move on, otherwise we shrink a little bit inside. In the end, Cam decides to take that walk with Sebastian. I have mixed feelings about this. Arastoo’s abrupt exodus still troubles me, and why did that have to happen so soon after I finally got on board with their romance? Grrrr! However, we’ll see exactly why this little B plot line is on the fast track when Arastoo arrives in “The Doom in the Boom,” if you’ll pardon the foreshadowing.

Daisy Totally Rocks the Empathy Card

I have always been a Daisy Wick fan, even during her obnoxious insecure days, because I see a bit of myself in her character. She’s become one of my favorite interns as she has matured over the last eight seasons. According to IMDB, “The Cowboy in the Competition” is Carla Gallo’s 29th episode since her debut as Daisy in season 4. The great thing about a long-running series like Bones is that we get to see the more minor characters develop over a credible time period. Daisy’s relationship with Sweets has done a lot to put Daisy in situations where she has been able to demonstrate her progress as well as Gallo’s acting prowess. I have to say I’m thrilled to see this continue even after the Sweets arc is complete. Actually, I could write an entire article about how Bones has masterfully delivered deep, meaningful subplots for their interns. One more reason why Bones is the best stinkin’ show on television. 

The Victim Dies 2000 Deaths By Horse Ride

It turns out that accountant and victim Stanley discovered that Frontier owner High Card Luke was embezzling money from his wife, Fancy Pants Franny. When Stanley confronted High Card, he got a knuckle sandwich for his troubles. To top it off, High Card Luke was having an affair with Sweet Rose Sandy with whom he had purchased a horse and ranch property using the stolen cash from Fancy Pants. After Luke punched Stanley, Sweet Rose got Stanley alone and shot him, then tied him up and hefted him onto the back of a horse. Then she galloped off to the body dump site, knocking Stanley’s head against her stirrups 2000 times and causing thousands of micro fractures to his skull. 

Booth’s Favorite Routine: Bath, Lotion, Stories, Snuggles

Back at the Mighty Hut 2.0 Brennan and Booth have a final discussion about Papa Booth’s purported need for excitement. However, Booth, like a lot of happy family men, says he loves their routine. (Remember, “I love every day?”) What can be better than the beautifully magical domestic patchwork of immunization appointments, field trip permission slips, and the nightly bath, lotion, stories and snuggles routine? Personally, I think these things make fathers feel more manly than anything else in the world ever could. They love to know that the little boy inside themselves (the one who blisses out over the scent of motorcycle exhaust and the tightness of dried mud on their skin) is alive and well inside them still. 

Hodgins Puts the Kibosh on Making a Million Babies With Angela

For a while now, Angela has been making noises about being ready to expand their family (and her own waistline along with it). During the course of the episode this is a meager yet recurring theme. Hodgins has a little “Come to Jesus” meeting with Angela and reveals that he feels their family is perfect as it is. He doesn’t want any more kids. (What? That’s completely out of character for Jack ‘I’d-Marry-You-Twice-If-I-Could’ Hodgins. What the hell is going on?)

My initial thought when I heard there would be a major upset with Angela and Hodgins at the end of the fall half of the season, I though it was going to be Angela wanting travel around the world with Sebastian while pursuing her art. Granted, that’s a little far fetched, but we have heard of Angela’s thwarted art career and her desire to leave blood and gore behind many times before. Sebastian, being more inclined to bed Cam, threw me for a loop and dashed all thoughts of that hypothesis. Now that Hodgins has had a lobotomy change of heart about making those millions of babies with the woman of his dreams, I’m thinking it might put an end to their marriage, but executing such an extreme storyline would be as ill-fitting as the ugly stepsisters man-foot trying to get into Cinderella’s glass slipper. Worse, actually. 

Never did I expect what finally happens in the second half of Bones‘ 11th mid-season finale. Speaking of which, let’s talk about that now. 

Hodgins and Aubrey Are Blown Up In “The Doom in the Boom”

At the scene of a body dump discovered by two teens and Dirklund, a crime scene stringer and photojournalist (all three which appear to be douches), Hodgins and Aubrey are blown up when the grossest, maggot-infested, corpse since Hodgins’ botfly experiment, ends up being a body bomb. Four officers are killed in the explosion, but Aubrey is rushed into surgery with his back ripped open from the explosion and survives. Hodgins, whom Aubrey protected from the bomb blast, appears to have survived unscathed. Unfortunately, as many a Grey’s Anatomy fan can attest, sometimes it’s the ones who look unscathed on the outside who have been fatally wounded on the inside. Though there are hints throughout the episode that something is wrong with Hodgins, the final four minutes of the episode are no less of a shock.

Arastoo Arrives and Cam’s Jaw Drops Off the Platform

Arastoo flies all the way from the ends of the earth to get to the Jeffersonian and help out with the case. Cam is stunned and all of their interactions throughout the episode are fabulously executed as extremely awkward since Cam has so recently given Sebastian the green light. Cam doesn’t even want Arastoo in the lab, but Brennan needs him. Later we learn that Arastoo has yet to land a job in forensic anthropology. This seems extremely odd since the man has worked under the top forensic anthro-scientist in the world. So, what gives? Has he gotten into some legal trouble? Is he just not trying? Does he have a fatal disease? Brennan offers to assist in Arastoo’s job search, but he turns her down. Curiouser and curiouser.

The truth doesn’t come out until the very end, and not before Hodgins, in his awkwardly uncomfortable way, lets it slip that Cam has been dating the photojournalist. Arastoo takes the news in stride, but come on, he has to be as shocked as we all are that Cam has so readily changed the sheets on her bed. Arastoo plows forward anyway, explaining that he’d lied about his job prospects. He has been offered a position in Germany but has realized he doesn’t want to go anywhere if he can’t have Cam with him. Ignoring the fact that Cam is semi involved, Arastoo asks her to take him back. We don’t get an answer from Cam because they are shockingly interrupted by a blood-curdling scream. I guess we’ll have to wait until March (?) for the answer to Arastoo’s proposal, assuming that’s what this is. 

Aubrey’s Magically Swift Recovery and the Introduction of a Behavioral Analyst

Aubrey’s wounds scared the crap out of me. I could barely breathe until I saw that he was okay. The right side of my brain kept telling me that it would be un-Bones-like for Aubrey to be killed off. It’s too cliche, especially after what happened to Sweets. Bones is nothing if not surprisingly original (at least within the franchise) in their plot twists and turns. The left side of my brain kept muttering, “but I love Aubrey, they can’t get rid of him so fast!” Imagine my relief when the man wakes up. Whew. However, his quick escape from the hospital defies reality. Who helped the man get dressed and how is he even vertical considering all the painkillers coursing through his bloodstream? Oh, right, this is make-believe. I’m willing to let this reality-bending situation go, because I love me some Aubrey and there’s a lot of other stuff going on in this episode. 

Speaking of which, “The Doom in the Boom” introduces us to Behavioral Analyst Karen Delphs (Tonja Kahlens). She’s a bit strange, but who isn’t on this show? She seems to be completely disorganized, even ditzy, but she has mad skills in the analysis department as well as in the interrogation room. She’s not aggressive, but she’s direct, and I like her. There seems to be a little chemistry between her and Aubrey, but I believe he’s spoken for. Aubrey calls Mackenzie a real life Clarice Starling (Did you catch that? It’s from The Silence of the Lambs). Hopefully we’ll see her again when the season resumes in March (What say you, FOX? About Starling, er, Mackenzie, as well as the date of Bones‘ return?)

The Victim Is a Decorated Cop

The victim’s artificial knee identifies him as 10-year veteran police officer, Gulls. He was killed elsewhere, then dumped in the parking lot as the bearer of an amateur pipe bomb. Delphs puts her skills to work and identifies that the killer is a planner who has trouble with authority of all levels and is targeting cops. Gallo seems to have been targeted because of his recent and highly publicized arrest of the head of La Serpiente, an El Salvadoran gun-running operation. With the mob boss in jail, Julian Molina, his second in command looks mightily guilty, but he alibis out. 

Another suspect is the crime scene news stringer Dirklund we saw at the scene of the crime. It turns out that he had been stalking Gallo and saw him go into a dark alley. He took video footage of the alleyway, but wasn’t aware that he’d captured the feet of the victim and his assailant who where hidden behind a dumpster. Dirklund is innocent because there’s no way he would have not taken advantage of an opportunity to video the killer with his victim.

Victim #2 is a Security Officer Killed with a Skateboard

Another suspect is a rejected wannabe officer, Scott Laurette, who currently works as a security guard at an empty processing center filled with asbestos insulation. Unfortunately, Laurette alibis out because he’s found dead at the processing center, killed most likely by the same miscreant that took Bomb Boy’s life. Wounds on the corpse point to there having been two killers who carried the dead body together. The weapons which felled Laurette were a gun and a waxy skateboard. This leads the team back to the two teenagers at the body bomb site. Booth and Aubry catch the little miscreants in their bedroom assembling more bombs and hiding the guns. Douche bags.  

It turns out that the leading psychopath was the son of an abusive cop who beat the poo out of the kid and his mother. The second kid was just along for the ride. The two kids had freaked out when Laurette yelled at them for skateboarding at the abandoned processing center. High on their own misdeeds, the two started a plan of attack against all authority figures. They were found at the crime scene because they wanted to see their story unfold. This gels perfectly as earlier Delphs had noted that Gallo had been targeted because he was a big hero in the news. The boys wanted notoriety.

Caroline Refuses the Little Creeps the Satisfaction of Notoriety

Offered the names of the two devils from hell, Caroline declines, citing a reason that unfortunately comes from the pages of real life news in America. These boys wanted to become famous for their crimes. After the massacres at Columbine High School back in 1999 video footage of the two criminals showed them excited over their anticipated notoriety. Since then there have been several waves of “No Notoriety” campaigns begging the press to deny mass murders the attention they seek. Unfortunately, newsmongers regard compelling news as a ticket to boosted ratings, so who knows if they will ever get behind this movement to remove the allure of notoriety as a motivating factor for (especially) young killers.

You and Me and Baby Makes Three Million

Angela can’t believe she and Hodgins are always so lucky. Not so fast, Angela. Later Hodgins has back pains, and, well, then there’s the complications later. But before we skip all the way to the end, there is some good news. This latest brush with death has completely changed Hodgins’ mind about making lots of baby Hodginses with Angela. This was predictable, but nonetheless a relief. Finally we’ve got our Jack back. Until …

Hodgins Is Paralyzed For Life

I will never get over the image of Hodgins lying on the floor motionless, eyes staring blankly forward, or the sound of Angela’s scream piercing the antiseptic air of the lab at the Jeffersonian. Hodgins collapse on the floor as the result of a delayed epidural hematoma choking his spinal cord. We are left to crawl through months of hiatus waiting to find out if Dr. Jack Hodgins will ever walk, work, or reproduce ever again. Damn you, Bones. Damn you!

What will happen next? Will Brennan’s omnipotent medical reputation and unlimited financial resources bring Hodgins a miraculous cure? Will Hodgins have brain damage as well? Will he be able to return to work in a wheel chair? How thorough is the paralyzation? Maybe this is the beginning of the Bones series finale storyline. If so — seriously — what happens next?

Bones returns in the spring on FOX. 

(Images courtesy of FOX)

Catherine Cabanela

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV