He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother: Bones “Heiress in the Hill” Review
Emotional upheaval, non-prodigal generosity, self-mutilating greed, and social enlightenment.
Friday’s episode of Bones, “The Heiress in the Hill,” uses the case of a vainglorious twenty-six year old heiress to spotlight the universal struggle of avarice versus altruism, while simultaneously calling attention to the crippling disease of mental illness and providing insight into the character of several regular players. Fantastic, emotional, endearing. Classic Bonesology.
Hold on a minute. Before continuing, something must be said about two major calamities avoided this week. First, Brennan’s personality backslide from “The Master in the Slop” did not carry forward into this episode. Thank you, Bones Fairies.
Second, Booth did not succumb to Sweets’ interpretation of the sniper’s angst over Brennan’s sizeable cash advance as insinuated in the previews. “The Heiress in the Hill” put an end to the anxious-hearted Booth who twice allowed Sweets’ opinion to trump his own in matters of the heart, leaving him utterly alone and in a whole mess of hurt. #ThatIsAll
At first blush, the heavy-hitting issues in “The Heiress in the Hill” appear to be the dissolution of familial mythology by Hodgins’ discovery of an institutionalized sibling and Booth’s grapple with the magnitude of Brennan’s wealth. Upon finer inspection, however, a deeper significance emerges. The heart of the tale reveals itself through the details and, at times, what is left unsaid. Unmistakable, however, is the valiant theme of brotherhood.
The episode opens with Booth finding a $75,000 advance check from Feiffer-Listman Publishing for the paperback sales of Brennan’s last novel, Bones of the Lost. Brennan asks Booth to deposit the check, but he cannot as they have yet to co-mmingle their funds. Though Brennan’s practicality prescribes joint checking accounts, it’s insinuated that Booth is the one dragging his heels on the financial front. What’s that all about?
The sober tone of Hodgins’ subplot commences when he is visited by Dr. Lawrence Rozran (Robert Picardo) from Sandlewood Home, the in-patient mental health facility that, unbeknownst to Hodgins, has been home to his secret elder brother Jeffery for nearly forty years. Gone with Hodgins’ millions is the trust fund supporting Jeffery’s care, so arrangements now must to be made for alternative and continued care. As the only living heir (other than Jeffery) the responsibility falls on Jack’s shoulders. What will he do and how does he handle the news?
The skeleton of Heiress Lauren Frank arrives at the Jeffersonian MedicoLegal lab mutilated, doused in lye, and sunk inside a slab of dirt. The game, as they say, is afoot.
Angela uncovers that the victim, daughter of Highpark Software magnate Steven Frank (John Getz) has used her father’s encryption software to schedule a series of faux-kidnap texts designed to terrorize her parents into coughing up $3 million (or was it $10 mil?) so she can escape her tortured life of opulence as a spoiled little ‘permachild’ and run off with her Spanish tutor and lover, Mauritzio Rivas (Assaf Cohen). Once identifying Lauren Frank as her own kidnapper, two questions remain: how did she die and who was her accomplice?
The squint on deck is Mr. Colin ‘We’re All Going to Die Anyway’ Fisher who, together with Brennan and the Avengers, establishes that Lauren accidentally infected herself with tetanus by cutting off her own toe with a rusty fingernail clipper–Yow!–and was dosed with an elephant load of Penicillin which sent her into an allergic seizure severe enough to fracture her palms, heels, and the back of her head. The allergic reaction and the infection, my friends, is what ended Lauren Frank. That, and her own special brand of stupidity.
So, who was the accomplice? None other than Buddy Coleman (Joey Capone), the dog walker from Hoofers Woofers Veterinary who, coincidentally, looks a lot like he could have been Hodgins’ baby brother. More skeletons in the Hodgins closet? No. But Coleman will certainly be hidden from view as he pays his dues to society for conspiracy to commit fraud, destruction of evidence, illegal disposal of a dead body, and anything else Booth can throw at him. The defense rests.
As the Booth-Brennan relationship has evolved, so, too, has each partner individually. Though much is said about his influence upon Brennan, not much is said about hers upon Booth. The subtleties of Booth’s metamorphosis have been overshadowed by the softening of his mate’s more blatant oddities. From the show’s inception, Booth’s saucy nature and physical allure have made his character easily lovable despite his flaws. However, under the influence of Brennan’s steadfast loyalty and love, Booth has evolved from cocky, acerbic, mildly self-absorbed lone ranger to confident, privately vulnerable, dynamic leader and partner. Agent Booth, you’ve come a long way, baby, and you have the world’s most beautiful squint to thank for it.
In “The Heiress in the Hill” Booth shrugs off Sweets’ suggestion that Brennan’s significantly larger income is emasculating. Season nine Booth is more likely to be proud of Brennan’s accomplishments than intimidated by the fruits of her labor. What did I tell you? Booth’s lack of focus on the disparity between their incomes demonstrates the degree to which Brennan’s love and indomitable faith in him have sanded away the sharp edges of the idealistic natural order of things he’s always clung to.
An alternate explanation for Booth’s malaise touches upon something more deeply ingrained in Booth’s psyche. Booth faces the realization that through marriage, he has the potential to become something he’s always despised – a person of wealth and means. What is not shown in its entirety on screen is the cathartic release Booth undergoes as he discovers that wealth needn’t be anathema; and privilege needn’t be divisive.
Unencumbered by conventional archetypes, Booth embraces the mantle of stewardship and listens to his heart (That’s always been Booth’s super power, btw), which tells him to take care of those he loves. This is what is shown on screen when Booth’s metamorphosis is furthered through his effortless delivery of his and Brennan’s offer to help Jack and Angela pay for Jeffery’s continued care. Though Hodgins doesn’t accept their help, it is clear that the couples consider each other family.
Booth proposes investing the money in The Wounded Warrior Project. As a veteran himself, Booth seeks to support the physical and mental recovery of his brothers in arms who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and combat/operational stress.
It was disappointing not to see more done in regard to Booth’s involvement with The Wounded Warrior Project and/or his own experiences as a veteran. Now that Bones has been officially renewed for a tenth season, perhaps a Booth-centric episode will materialize to fill this gap. By the way, did you notice that Lauren Frank’s remains were found at Antietam Battlefield Park where The Bloodiest One Day Battle in American History occurred? Brothers in arms, I tell you.
Though the discovery of Hodgins’ parents’ deception was a mind-numbing shock for the entomologist, the scripted reaction powerfully portrayed by TJ Thyne elevated the experience from tragic to transformative. Bones rejected the hackneyed trope of the disenfranchised, simpleminded sibling versus the outraged, privileged one. In its stead, they offered unmitigated grace in the message that it is never to late to love.
Amazingly, not once was Jack Hodgins angry with his parents (who were obviously very loving to both of their sons) or resentful towards his brother. In regard to dismay over not having known of Jeffery’s existence before, Jack’s only concern was that he hadn’t had the opportunity to love the guy.
Finally, through Jonno Roberts’ portrayal of Jeffery Hodgins, a man who suffers from psychitzoaffective disorder, and through the continuing character development of recurring squint, Mr. Colin Fischer, endearingly played by Joel David Moore, Bones makes it clear that mental illness is as real as any other life altering disease.
Jeffery was portrayed as bright, creatively gifted, and engaging; harmless to himself and others. One can imagine many compelling discussions between the Hodgins boys once Jack learns how to manage their interactions without incident.
In the development of Fischer’s character, the brilliant scientist who has never allowed his bouts with mental illness to define him, we see a functioning member of society who benefits the world with his expertise. His words about medical and (we can assume) pharmaceutical support were inspiring—Sometimes the looney bin is the right place to be, and I was grateful for it—and enlightening—Sometimes people look at you in there like you’d done something wrong rather than just having a disease.
Whether the mental disorder is a lifelong ailment like schizoaffective affective or bipolar disorder, an occasional bout or chronic clinical depression, or a situational and ongoing battle with PTSD, they are each as genuine and legitimate as diabetes and arthritis. Their wounded are deserving of our respect.
Bones’ principled message in this episode can perhaps be best described in the words of the 1969 song by The Hollys:
‘The road is long with many a winding turn, no burden is he to bear, we’ll get there, for I’m strong enough to carry him. His welfare is my concern. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother … ‘
Be he a blood relative, a brother in arms, a fellow neighbor, or your best friend’s husband … his welfare is your concern. This was Bones’ message in “The Heiress in the Hill.”
Bones returns in March with new episodes.