'Bones' Season 9 premiere: Could the secret in the proposal end the Booth-Brennan relationship?

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"Bones" Season 9 dives right into the relationship drama and icky murder in the premiere. Booth ( David Boreanaz) and Brennan ( Emily Deschanel) may still be together -- but love is on the rocks, thanks to the nefarious interference of Christopher Pelant last season.

Can love survive? Can murder disgust us even more? All questions from "The Secret in the Proposal" are revealed here.

The trials of love

Booth shares his troubles with a heretofore unmentioned ex-military friend named Aldo (guest star Mather Zickel). Aldo, it seems, was once a military chaplain and Booth's confessor. That was before Booth confessed to killing lots of people, making Aldo not like God so much.
Instead of being a priest, Aldo now runs a bar. Considering how empty the bar seems to be every time we see it in the episode, the fellow might want to consider a return to his earlier calling.

Anyway, Booth is really upset because he can't tell Brennan why he won't marry her. And he can't find Christopher Pelant. This means that, if Booth re-proposes or lets it slip why he's saying no, Pelant will kill five innocent people. Brennan isn't liking any of this but of course can't express it very well.

She just thinks Booth might be cheating on her -- the couple has reached, in her opinion, the normal state at which partners either come together or start roaming around to find new mates. Brennan is concerned about the roaming.

Her concerns do seem valid, especially when Booth stays out all night, not answering his phone, and then leaves behind evidence of time spent at a bar. Fortunately, Brennan is the proactive type who just goes to the bar instead of sitting around and expecting the worst. She finds Aldo (and no patrons, because apparently no one else goes to this bar).

Naturally, Aldo reverts to counselor mode and points Brennan in the right direction. Seeing as he knows Booth's totally legitimate concerns, this is actually helpful. Brennan goes home ready to give the relationship a chance.

This time, however, Booth totally needs to be the one to propose. That's fair.

The case

Because this episode of "Bones" is as much about relationships and set-ups for later Season 9 episode, the case of the week isn't too in-depth. A very smushed man is found in a zillion pieces in a hotel's air-conditioning system. It's about as disgusting as you would expect.

The detectives first trace the man to his office, a fairly dull, city-planning division of government only notable because everyone rides bicycles to work. A bike-loving boss and a suspiciously evasive secretary give us our first suspects.

But all is not what it seems. The boring job is actually just a front for the murder victim -- he worked for the CIA, a secret that gets out rather quickly when Booth meets up with an old friend, Danny ( Freddie Prinze, Jr.), who is now an agent.

Despite her lawyer mother's attempts to keep all silent, the evasive secretary eventually reveals that she was involved in the spy stuff too. It's just that her job made everyone think that either the victim was taking advantage of the woman. Or that she was a call girl.

The secretary's mother thinks the second option was real. Thus, we get a rather entertaining scene of a woman trying to guzzle a beverage before being carted away.

Still, she isn't the murderer. The murder weapon is a specifically shaped object, kind of like a pump found on a bicycle. It's the bike-loving boss who is the killer! Apparently, he had been thinking that the victim was taking advantage of the beloved secretary and snapped.

The rest

There is little to no forward movement on the Pelant case in the episode, just a lot of people talking about it. Also, we get to have paranoid looks at every form of electronics (at least one of which declares the time to be 4:47) -- Pelant could be spying via any of them.

Hopefully, there will be a break soon.

Sweets and Caroline are both concerned about Booth and his emotional state. Cam thinks Booth really needs to man-up and propose again. Angela pretty much hates Booth for breaking Brennan. And Hodgins just wants to play with his science toys. He maybe should pay a little more attention to his wife, however, since something is definitely brewing there.

The verdict

How does the beginning of "Bones" Season 9 compare to what has come before? For the most part, this is a pretty good installment of the series. Not perfect, sure. But okay.

The big issue is the unpleasant coldness that has to exist between Booth and Brennan here. "Bones," as a show, has always risen and fallen on that relationship. When -- good or bad -- the two are clicking, the show is great. Otherwise, it struggles.

Since both parts of the couple are trying to make things work, "The Secret in the Proposal" is hardly a failure. It's just rough going at times. But since the couple ends the premiere on a happy note, things are looking good for the rest of Season 9.

Photo/Video credit: FOX