, I'm trying this again. Sorry it took me so long to reply, but I spent about twenty-five minutes last night composing a thoughtful and considered response to your message, which the board then decided to eat. After that, I was so disgusted I had to go offline in order to keep from throwing my computer across the room. Anyway...
You brought up some interesting points in your post, and there were some things you mentioned that I hadn't thought about. I appreciate your taking the time!
As far as the shift in tone and humor on the show goes, I don't think it would bother me so much if the goofy stuff was just occasional, but they seem to go for the obvious joke all the time now (Booth has a fake mustache! Monkey poop!) whereas before the humor was more character-based and subtle. I think part of the reason I looked so dimly on the beer helmet and rubber duckie thing in Pain in the Heart was that I knew how that episode was going to end up, and how tragic and wrenching it would be. That being the case, the whole bathroom scene was jarring and just rubbed me the wrong way. It's entirely possible that if I had been completely unspoiled, it wouldn't have bothered me at all. I didn't know that DB was initially opposed to it, so that's interesting.
I think there should be a lot more of Brennan in the lab, too. As much as her foot likes to live in her mouth when she's out in the field dealing with people, that's one place where her empathy and commitment did show through, at least in the beginning. The way that she could relate to the dead more than to the living was sort of poignant and made her a more sympathetic character. I don't have a problem with the social awkwardness per se, because who among us hasn't been socially awkward at one time or another? What sticks in my craw is that she so often crosses the line between awkwardness and downright don't-care snottiness. To me, it's not believable that no one would ever, ever call her out on that kind of behavior. In the earlier episodes, I don't know how she made it through the day without getting socked in the face by somebody's grieving relative.
Your comments about Booth's rudeness were very perceptive, too. It used to be that when he had problems with someone he was dealing with in the field based on their lifestyle choices, sexual proclivities, whatever, it was later shown that his issues stemmed from his religious beliefs or something personal he had gone through, and we saw him trying to overcome that. Now, he pops off and says something shallow or insulting, and it's "Oh, that's just Booth."
Brennan has definitely become all Booth, all the time, which I'm sure appeals to a certain fan of the "B/B 4EVA OMG SQUEE!" variety, but I found their relationship more entertaining when the relationship was somewhat contentious. Now I feel like, if their feelings for one another are that deep that she respects his opinion above all others and can't go an entire episode without collapsing into his arms for whatever reason, then, that being the case, it doesn't make sense that they, as two ostensibly grown people, have never actually sat down together, after four years of the same rigmarole, and attempted to hash out the attraction issue. That doesn't ring true.
As far as the Hodgela mess is concerned, I freely admit that my adoration for the character of Jack tends to affect my perspective about the events leading up to their breakup. At this point there's very little he could do that I wouldn't find a way to rationalize. I'm just that forgiving. It's a sickness. I went into more detail about it in the post that I wrote over in the J/A relationship thread, but basically it's just that I feel that if they had "trust issues" as the writers put it, her actions merit more distrust than his do, with the whole GraysonGate thing. I'm still trying to figure out what hideous sin Jack was supposed to have committed.
Sweets...oh, Sweets. I like Sweets. The main issue I have with him is that the writers handled his character's integration into the cast really sloppily. They just sort of dropped him in, with no real purpose other than to moderate the B/B therapy sessions and to be mocked therein. I do wonder why he has such a role in the interviewing process. I could see him being behind the glass, prompting Booth to ask certain questions and whatnot, to gauge a suspect's mental state, but if Booth never needed a psychologist to do interrogations before, why would he need one now?
I also get your point about the fact that everybody's loved ones can't be involved in the plot all the time; obviously there are other stories that need to be told. I just think it's lazy writing when not only is there no personal development for anyone except B/B, but other peoples' outside lives aren't even referred to in passing. And I can't believe that Parker was nowhere around when Booth was being diagnosed/preparing for his surgery. Booth has always been shown to be a devoted father. A scene with his son should have been a foregone conclusion. It just shows how far they've gone with the whole "B/B against the world" thing.
Anyway, that's my response (to your response).