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Bones EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Nathan on Brennan Embracing Her Mother, The Unknown and More

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SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading right now if you are yet to watch last night's major episode of Bones, "The Shot in the Dark."

The terrific hour was a prime example of how this Fox series remains strong well into Season 8, as fans clearly knew Brennan wouldn't die... yet the tension of finding out who shot her and why had us all on the edge of our seats.

In response to the dramatic events, TV Fanatic jumped on the phone with Executive Producer Stephen Nathan to ask all the key questions about this week's thrilling installment, as well as when the evil Pelant is going to show up again...

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TV Fanatic: Why was it Brennan who had to get shot? And why now?
Stephen Nathan: Well, I think you know this season we’ve been wanting to just learn a bit more about our characters and Brennan’s past; her childhood especially, her adolescence, has always been something of a mystery. And it has revolved around the fact that her mother disappeared and was killed when she was a teenager. And we wanted to find a way to deal with that and also have Brennan reconnect with her mother. So since her mother is dead... I figured ‘why not kill Brennan?’

TVF: How did you guys decide what we would see when she’s with her mother?
SN: What we wanted to do was to make it as normal and as real as possible, just with a hint of something not being quite right... we talked about everything. Should we set this in a place where there’s no furniture, there’s no props and it’s really just this other worldly place? And that seemed wrong because you wanted Brennan to go home. You wanted her to embrace her mother.

You wanted her to really be back where she was when her life turned, when her personality was turned. And so we opted for just that very subtle sense that there’s light coming through the windows, and we can’t really see outside. And when we do see outside that’s when it’s an unrecognizable location. And it seemed without the normal feel of that home, the emotional life of this story wouldn’t have the same impact.

TVF: Talk to me about how this experience might change Brennan’s faith, if it will. Will we actually see her in future episodes think about things differently?


SN: Everything with Brennan takes time and her mother told her to not live so much in her head…when she was 15 her mother said, ‘You have to be more practical. You can’t be so romantic and spontaneous.’ And that was to protect her because she knew what was coming. But now her mother is saying ‘live for the moment. Feel more.’ And I think the fact that Brennan has had an experience that she can’t easily explain away is going to alter her perception of the world.

I think she might continue to try to find reasons why this occurred, but there is an element of the unknown. There’s something that she can’t explain, that will gnaw at her, that will force her to accept the fact that there are unknown things, which affect and change our lives in a very dramatic way. And I don’t know for Brennan whether that will mean that she will entertain the notion of a God. I don’t think that’s a natural extension for her. I think she can still remain the same character but still embrace the fact that there are things that she can’t explain.

TVF: Talk to me about how this experience might change Brennan’s faith, if it will. Will we actually see her in future episodes think about things differently?
SN: Everything with Brennan takes time and her mother told her to not live so much in her head... when she was 15 her mother said, ‘You have to be more practical. You can’t be so romantic and spontaneous.’ And that was to protect her because she knew what was coming. But now her mother is saying ‘live for the moment. Feel more.’ And I think the fact that Brennan has had an experience that she can’t easily explain away is going to alter her perception of the world.

I think she might continue to try to find reasons why this occurred, but there is an element of the unknown. There’s something that she can’t explain, that will gnaw at her, that will force her to accept the fact that there are unknown things, which affect and change our lives in a very dramatic way. And I don’t know for Brennan whether that will mean that she will entertain the notion of a God. I don’t think that’s a natural extension for her. I think she can still remain the same character but still embrace the fact that there are things that she can’t explain.

TVF: I would’ve sworn that this would be a Pelant episode…
SN: No. That’s too predictable. There are other bad guys out there.

TVF: Was that a big talking point or did you know early on this wouldn’t be a Pelant episode?
SN: No. We always knew this would not be a Pelant episode. We don’t want Pelant to get that close to Brennan. Now, he probably will but not in that way, and not in this kind of an episode. If Pelant were involved, it would have kicked the balance of the episode away from that real emotional connection, not only between Brennan and her mother, but between Booth and Brennan in this episode, because that was a very strong story for the two of them as well.

TVF: Why was it important for Brennan and Max to have a nice moment?
SN: I thought it was very important because it was our way to see how wonderful a family they were. They all shared in this experience, the mother, Brennan and Max. And we see Max go through so much in all these years, and now to see him just for that moment remember and feel what that family was and what it meant to him. It humanized him in such a way that I got to tell you, I just thought Ryan was unbelievably great.

TVF: Talk to me about Booth and Brennan having that big fight in the beginning. They argue all the time, but this was a big fight!
SN: It was a very rare occurrence you know, but again we want to make them real, a real couple you know. And real couples fight and misunderstand each other and say things they regret, and then to put them in a situation where what if those were the last words they said to each other? How awful would that have been? So it just kind of raised the stakes for both of them in this episode.

TVF: How did you come up with the blood bullet?
SN: It was Dave Thomas, who wrote this episode. And he brought in this story, and he had done tons of research on it, and he just you know Dave’s great. I mean he’s amazing, and he’s also going to be a guest on the next episode we’re shooting.


TVF: So no Pelant in this episode. When will we see him again or at least his mechanisms?
SN: We are working that out now. We hope that the last episode will be focused on a story that Pelant will figure quite heavily in. You might not see him a lot, but his presence will be known.

TVF: That’s even worse, Stephen.
SN: I’ve got to keep you paranoid.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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I knew it. "Ghost in the Machine" was just the beginning. Verifying that, in the Bones universe, ghosts are as factually real as the psychic powers used to sense them. I was hoping that episode was just a fluke, a failed attempt at something different. This episode has confirmed that it was not. What the hell is going on with this show? This is supposed to be a show about scientists doing science, and Brennan's character being a believer in facts and evidence over faith in anything supernatural was central to this theme. This so-called epiphany goes against the very point of her character. More than that, as MatchooW pointed out, it blatantly perpetrates the worst misconceptions about atheists: That not believing is the result of something 'being wrong' with the person; that atheists are cold, emotionless people who live unfulfilled lives devoid of any kind of warmth or happiness; that Brennan's non-belief has somehow limited her in her life, despite the fact that she's one of the most renowned and successful experts in her field. In the end, this episode, like so many before it, but particularly "Ghost in the Machine," was nothing more than sloppy storytelling, lazy writing, and propaganda, plain and simple. And though I'm an atheist, I'm less offended by the (oh-so-common) prejudice against non-believers and more offended by the sheer absence of logical character behavior and progression. Get the fricken fairy tales out of this science show!

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Enjoyed episode,Brennan was always a genius,but teenagers sometimes are not rational! Christine's home, books, DUCKS, some baby blocks, her chunky necklace,the dolphins, memories,past,present and future. I miss Daisy, I thought Sweets and her were great, annoying at times but you need those characters in these type of shows, and Daisy sometimes had the best lines. The case itself was weak, from the start the killer was easy to pick,but the blood bullet was great, Hodgins as always shines. Emily and David and of course Mr O'Neil were wonderful. Special effects, especialy seeing Hal opened up on table, UGH,good. Overall another good BONES show and always looking forward to the next. Oh, CAM and Booth, lovely to see good friends and hugs.

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Bones was always a genius, she however didn't apply herself to study as a teen. Losing her parents, right after her mother told her what she did, is what changed. I sometimes wonder how people can dismiss the trauma of both parents going missing and focus on the last words a mother says to a child, alive.

Sue ann

@ Keith Vlasek You are so dead on in your comments regarding bullying. And the bullying dished out to a genius-level child is particularly cruel. It can even be lethal. And hiding it from their parents ... you are so dead on.

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Besides my over-the-top comment, here's a more serious take: Remember the reunion episode? The implication in that episode was that she was bullied by her fellow students like always (but, of course, her solitude may have been re-enforced by a maternal comment at 15, sure). But, when people are constantly bullied, first they hide it from their parents, which begins their isolation, and then they learn defense mechanisms from very early on, such as avoiding attention (like not meeting anyone's eyes and walking away from any group having fun) and withdrawing emotionally (my nickname was "Ice") while being vulnerable to kindness, such as from a janitor, and over-thinking any human contact and finally submersing in some interest, by which one can redefine and re-imagine one's self--often schoolwork, which garners teacher attention.

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her part of the "mystery" of Brennan.

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It's my understanding that Brennan was already a genius at 15 and took things literally. Her mother's advice didn't "change" Brennan into a genius-that's pretty absurd. Her mother's advice that she "not feel" so much was a catalyst for Brennan to close herself off since these were the "last words" of her mother-to be more practical and use her brain. Over time she became more and more closed off and no longer knew the "reason" for her "behavior". I think her scenes with here mother gave her a bit of insight to some of the reasons she may have become the person she did-not allowing herself to "feel", not being "spontaneous". I don't think the fans expect this insight to "explain" Brennan's personality, but just to give a bit of clarity to how these traits began and through years of "habit" defined her character. Bones fans already know that Brennan uses science/rationality as a way of "protecting" herself from being hurt/abandoned. I think this episode was a good way of trying to decipher the "mystery" of Brennan a bit more.

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I loved this show. It was so good to see Brennan see her mother and be able to tell her father a secret only he and her mother knew. I thought the bullet would be nighitrin. I was surprised it was blood. The whole cast was great.

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So, the reviewer nailed it. Nathan thinks that a 15 year old can completely change their personality at another's suggestion and study and become a genius all of a sudden. I guess somebody needs to take all the 15 year olds in America aside (or in the world, for that matter), and turn them all into geniuses.

Bones Quotes

Bones: My IQ is quantifiably higher than yours.
Booth: You know what, you're the brains of the outfit.
Bones: You have your strengths, Booth.
Booth: Well, I try
Bones: Trying is one of your strengths.

Angela: Justice is so...
Camille: Unjust?

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Bones Music

  Song Artist
Fearless Fearless Cyndi Lauper iTunes
The world is The World Is... Matthew Ryan iTunes
Song Rain Or Shine Matthew Perryman Jones