Those of you who spent the summer months pining for a quick end to the overdrawn Christopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds) arc in the Bones Season 9 premiere, “The Secrets in the Proposal” are probably in a corner somewhere banging your head against a wall or heading for the exit to leave the madhouse for good. If you’ve got the patience to stick it out for the long haul, however, things might not be so bad after all.

The fact is, though Pelant’s influence is woven heavily throughout the episode, Leeds doesn’t appear on-screen aside from the flashback sequence at the beginning of the episode. Setting aside any arguments as to whether the character has run its course, this is as solid an opener as the show has had in the past few years. It reminds the audience where the show has been, reveals what the current state of things is between leads Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel), and sets the course for the remainder of the season.

In keeping with the standard set over the last several seasons, the case serves more as a foil for what’s going on in the characters’ lives more than an actual mystery for the viewer to solve. So the crime scene is just as disgusting as ever, but is meant to emphasize the chilly air that’s blown down between Booth and Brennan since he reneged on their engagement in the final moments of the Season 8 finale. The investigation turns up a secret life that the victim’s boss knew nothing about, just as Brennan knows nothing of the secrets Booth keeps. And in the end the killer’s motive is to take action on behalf of the woman he loves, leaving one to ponder if Booth will do the same with Pelant if given the opportunity.

“Secrets”is also a blend of old and new characters in the Bones universe. Veteran guest star Patricia Belcher returns as spitfire prosecutor Caroline Julian and Carla Gallo reprises her role as the annoyingly chipper Daisy Wick. But it’s from the new kids on the block that we get an idea of where the show might be headed this season.

For starters, there’s Danny Beck, a CIA agent brought to life by Freddie Prinze Jr. The chase scene in the bus yard between Danny and Booth is filled with just the right amount of tension and the reveal that Danny’s one of the good guys is one of the better plot twists. Even more intriguing is the invitation he extends to Booth. Not only offering him an opportunity to join up with the CIA, but more importantly letting him know he’s got a “Get out of Jail Free” card that the CIA will cash in for him should the need – like, say, to take out Pelant – arise.

More importantly, the episode introduces us to Booth’s former priest, turned bartender, Aldo Clemens (Mather Zickel). For years the show has focused on title character Dr. Temperance Brennan, revealing how her past has influenced not only the success she now enjoys as a forensic anthropologist, but more importantly how it has affected her personal life. Fans have eagerly followed her journey from aloof scientist with no social skills to speak of who hid from her vulnerabilities in order to protect herself from further hurt, to a woman willing to extend grace both to herself and others and risk being hurt for the sake of love.

Beginning with the introduction of Booth’s mother last season and continuing with Aldo Clemens here, the spotlight is being shifted away from Brennan and onto Booth. This could be a very good move for the show to help keep things fresh in its ninth year, as well as draw in new viewers. Bones has consistently crafted strong, female characters but the same cannot be said of the men.

Sweets (John Francis Daley) is the resident young prodigy who works well as a sort of surrogate younger brother for Booth, but certainly not his equal. Hodgins (TJ Thyne), meanwhile, is the resident conspiracy theorist, but is still more a scientist at heart than anything else. He and Booth have come to have a mutual respect and trust for one another but they connect more because their significant others are BFFs.

In Aldo we have something of the relationship Booth had with another bartender who knew him from his soldier days. While Mather Zickel is about as far from Heavy D as you can get, both are actors of a calibre that can hold their own against David Boreanaz on-screen. Both have a worldly-wise aura about them that matches Booth’s without turning things into a pissing contest.

Both are believable as men who a former sniper, turned FBI agent would come to not only for advice but friendship as well. Aldo also serves as the voice of the audience, questioning and pushing Booth in ways that Brennan cannot and providing a perspective on how Booth’s past informs his present that has heretofore been lacking.

The shift toward Booth-centric story lines and the possibility that Booth might end up having to kill Pelant outside the bounds of the law (along with the tenuous trust Brennan must keep to convince herself that Booth is acting in their best interests despite how things appear) give even the most hesitant viewers a reason to stick around just a little bit longer and see what else the ninth season of Bones has in store.

Bones returns next Monday with “The Cheat in the Retreat” @8pm on Fox.