Only Bones would celebrate Valentine's Day by killing its titular character. Granted, they bring her back to life within minutes and set everything to rights by the end of the hour, but still it's an interesting twist. Even more interesting is watching the writers bob and weave between the land of the living and the dream realm where Brennan (Emily Deschanel) interacts with her dead mother, Christine (Brooke Langton).
This isn't the show's first time around the block when it comes to moving between dreams and reality, but up until now that territory has belonged solely to Booth (David Boreanaz). He is the religious one of the pair and over the course of 8 seasons has had near-death encounters ranging from hockey with Luc Robitaille to a deadly romp in a submarine with his dead army buddy. And there was the time he slipped into a coma and constructed an entire alternate reality around Brennan in which they were married and expecting a child long before they'd faced their true feelings about one another.
So how does one sell the idea of an über-rational, atheistic scientist encountering a long-lost relative when her heart stops beating during surgery? For this show it begins by returning Brennan to her childhood home where her mother awaits, softly chuckling about her daughter's stubborn streak when the scientist tries to leave. The second time Brennan returns to the dream she's reminiscing about the furniture from her her childhood, but still maintains her trademark clinical detachment, attempting to rationalize what's happening physically to cause the hallucination.
The turning point comes over tea and the remembrance of the last time Brennan spoke with her mother. Much like her final interaction with Booth before getting shot, her last memory of her mother is an argument; one she seems exceptionally reluctant to re-live, even in a dream. Apparently the younger Brennan had a crush on a boy - Scott Morrison - and as teenaged girls are wont to do, she'd begun to change who she was to please him. Concerned for her daughter, Christine confronted young Tempe, advising her to stop thinking with her emotions and use her brain. Brennan had swatted her mother's tender touch away, but she never forgot the advice.
Brain and heart. These two concepts have been at the core of the show's essence since its inception and from the beginning Booth has been the heart of the partnership while Brennan provided the brains. In another poignant episode focused on her parent's disappearance, Booth urges Brennan to use her heart and mend fences with her father for the hurt he'd inflicted over the years. And she has, working slowly at rebuilding the trust until she finally entrusts Max (Ryan O'Neal) not only with her own life, but with her daughter's as well. But she has still retained her outer shield of rationalism.
Discovering that it was this final fight with her mother that caused her internal shields to be raised explains a good deal of how Brennan came to be so distant from her feelings; why it's taken so long for her to let her guard down. At the same time, it offers hope for the future. Brennan's coldness isn't a result of her genius brain or some form of Aspergers but rather is a young girl's best attempt to please her mother, assuage her own guilt, and protect her battered heart.
As for the other, non-Brennan, parts of the episode they are equally well-written and well acted. Clark (Eugene Byrd) is the correct fit in terms of interns for this episode and the rest of the ensemble shines as well. The scenes between Brennan and her mother are rivaled only by those between Brennan and her father, and the chemistry between Deschanel and Boreanaz has never been better. The case itself is somewhat reminiscent of season 3's "Intern in the Incinerator" and season 5's "A Night at the Bones Museum," but with enough differences that the concept isn't wholly cheapened. All in all a solid outing for the veteran show and a good way to open up new avenues for character growth.
Bones airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX