November 11, 2010

Bones - Season 6, Episode 6 (Review)

The Shallow in the Deep

Episode Summary

The gang at the Jeffersonian is tasked with identifying the skeletons from a recently found shipwreck, namely that of the Amalia Rose, a (fictional) slave ship bound for New Orleans. They happen to have the ship's manifest, which lists age, race, and "degree of color," in addition to the slaves' names. Brennan finds the skeleton of a male child under 10 years old, around 130cm tall, with a mixture of Negroid and Caucasoid features, and Angela IDs him from the manifest. Daisy notes that the skeleton she is working on has a well-defined symphyseal rim and partial ectocranial suture closure; this individual was a female in her 40s who stood about 5' tall. Dr. Saroyan, however, has found a skull with pink stuff attached. Brennan notices immediately that there has been penetrating trauma to the cribriform plate (of the ethmoid) and the palatine bones, meaning this person was punctured through the mouth, as if by a large fishhook. The condition of the cartilage in the skeleton tells her that the person had not been dead for more than a month.

While Hodgins attempts to ID the pink organism, Brennan finds abrasions to the pisiform of one of the slaves, indicating he or she had been manacled. The xrays of the murder victim, in the meantime, indicate he (presumably they identified sex, but I can't recall it) was only about 20 when he died (based on lack of epiphyseal closure of the proximal tibia), and injuries to the zygomatic arch, the mandible, the right ulna, and the left tibia indicate he had suffered multiple, repeated injuries to his skeleton at a young age - the team suspects child abuse. When Angela regresses her facial reconstruction, they find a match - Liam Maloney. It seems, though, that the victim had stolen someone else's identity - Mike Caspar's.

While Booth and Brennan go to check out the Caspars, Daisy identifies another slave from the ship: 25-year-old Hany Beaufort, whose first name also happens to be the same as Dr. Saroyan's great-grandmother. Hodgins finally is able to identify the organism: osedax mucofloris, literally the bone-eating snot flower. Once he and Daisy clean the bone, they note significant abrasions to the anterior surface of the long bones. Booth and Brennan track down the victim's friend, who works on a "cougar cruise," and are led to the red herring of maggots (resulting from a smuggled Sardinian cheese, casu marzu). The cruise captain, however, identifies the woman that Liam was last seen with: Claire Caspar, the wife of Mike, whose identity was stolen by Liam. Claire eventually admits to killing Liam, although it was sort of accidental - they struggled, and he went overboard. As he crawled up (and scraped himself to the bone on the barnacles), she tried to help with the fishhook, but he called her old, so she stabbed him.

The episode concludes with a reception at the Jeffersonian for the new exhibit chronicling the Amalia Rose, which includes Angela's charcoal facial drawings and Dr. Saroyan's reading of the manifest.

Forensic Comments
  • Why must they always attempt to estimate sex from the remains of children? The first slave ship ID was of a 10-year-old boy.
  • Daisy's guess that the woman whose skeleton she was working on was in her 40s when she died may be reasonable based on the lipping of the symphyseal rim and some degree of suture closure (although no one relies on the latter for an age estimate, as it can vary substantially), but in actuality, she'd need to give a score and a range based on more than just one reference point (especially for ectocranial suture closure).
  • Brennan notes abrasions to the pisiform in another slave skeleton. First, a pisiform was recovered from a shipwreck two centuries ago? Those things are dinky! Second, Brennan decides the person was manacled based on some abrasions on the pisiform? If slavery were that easy to identify in the bioarchaeological record, we'd have found some Roman slaves by now. (However, I've apparently been pronouncing pisiform wrong, as the dictionary agrees with Brennan's PIE-si-form rather than my PIH-si-form. And the Latin doesn't even back me up this week.)
  • Angela's facial reconstructions are pretty good this week - in that they look like actual facial reconstructions and aren't dead ringers for the victim. Good use of age regression techniques too.
  • Hodgins' weird pink worm was recently discovered and feasts on dead whale bones. Sooo, there was a dead whale in the Atlantic near the D.C. coast and no one noticed? Or there were multiple dead whales, since presumably the organism has to find another dead whale after it eats the first.
  • It's also been bugging me that there was an incredibly well-preserved shipwreck so close to the D.C. coast and no one had found it before.
Dialogue

The Angela-Saroyan dialogue was good at times, but with an episode that also had to tackle a recent murder victim, their emotional responses to the slave ship got short shrift. Angela at one point said, "One person gets killed, it's murder; a million people get killed, and it's history." It reminded me of a quotation from a Native American (I honestly can't find who said it, but if you know, tell me so I can properly attribute it - I think I got it from Skull Wars): "If you desecrate a white grave, you wind up sitting in prison. But desecrate an Indian grave, you get a PhD."

Otherwise, Brennan spouted a lot of medical/anatomical terminology this episode, especially when explaining to Booth why his joints crack and pop all the time (bubbles - or "gas" - in the synovial fluid). Daisy was particularly wooden in her delivery of her lines, and I usually like Carla Gallo as an actor. In spite of her character's flaws, I do like the Sweets-Daisy pairing (perhaps because it delights the geek in me to pair Freaks and Geeks with Undeclared). However, the less said about the extremely squicky and ill-conceived Saved By the Bell reference, the better.

Ratings

Forensic Mystery - C. The guy was killed with a fishhook and easily IDed. It felt like the show was spinning its wheels for quite a while, especially since Sweets had a whole bunch of lines that were kind of pointless. (After all, Brennan was also in the foster care system, but there was absolutely no mention of that.) There wasn't enough time to build up to a good forensic mystery because of the time spent on the shipwreck.

Forensic Solution - C+. Everything about the forensic case seemed reasonable, even the facial reconstruction (for once). But it wasn't particularly interesting, and the interesting part (the pink worm) was not very realistic.

Drama - B-. The forensic drama was practically nil, as there was absolutely no sense of danger, and really only one red herring in regard to the murderer. There was some drama in the slave ship, though maybe that was only in my mind, as I was eager to find out where the writers were going with it. They could have (should have?) given this kind of story its own episode. I know the formula is to focus on the recent murders, but Angela is right, this one is pretty interesting too and the people who died are no less important.

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Update (11/12/10) - I occasionally check my blog's stats, and I noticed that at least 50 people have arrived at this post in the last 24 hours by searching for Amalia Rose victims/slave ship/manifest. For an episode that pushed the slave ship to the B plotline, it sure generated a lot of interest! I renew my suggestion that the writers do at least one episode a season on an "ancient" murder - there is clearly interest in this from the Bones-watching public!



Update (7/11/11) - Sgt. Richard Wells wrote in to tell me that I was right in remembering a quote from Skull Wars.  On page 210, Walter Echo-Hawk is quoted as having said: "If you desecrate a white grave, you wind up sitting in prison. But desecrate an Indian grave, you get Ph.D."

13 comments:

Heather Turner said...

So glad I found this blog!

I think this season of Bones is turning into a real vomit-fest. The forensic side of things lack suspense in nearly all the new episodes- and the cheesy love stories are taking over.
Its like the writers don't really know which characters to develop when. I thought last season was quite good, but this one is horrible.
There was way too much going on in this episode and not enough mystery solving.

Bone Girl said...

Hi, Heather. Glad you like the reviews. You're even harsher on the show than I am! I didn't think that was possible. :)

Anonymous said...

You guys have completely missed the point. The modern murder was the secondary plot line, thus it was simple. The ancient murders, and the, just oh so casual, dismissal of a group of people by history was the point of this show. Even with just a similar name to a past relative, the emotions of loneliness, anger, confusion, and longing for family are all thrust to the surface. This is, at minimum, a difficult emotional state to handle. I can say this, because of recent firsthand experience. I recently discovered a family lineage. Even though it was only two documents, the emotions, that Dr. Saroyan displayed, were almost exactly the same as I felt at that moment of discovery. Even though one document was a slave count with age, sex, and race (Negro or mulatto) only, there was a 13 year old mulatto male on the list, and it was my great, great, great grandfather. On top of all the emotions, it was a moment of saying hello to my great, great, great grandfather, even though I will never know his name. Most people will never understand that, and that is ok. I just wanted to give my take on this particular episode, because it hit directly home (it was a beautiful episode to me). And yes, I was trying to see if that was an actual slave ship or something made-up for the show.

Bone Girl said...

I still don't think that the slave ship was the main plot. If it was intended to be, then the lab staff were being very poor forensic scientists. All they did with the skeletons of the slaves was figure out age and sex (and that one was manacled, apparently). They didn't do Sr/O isotope analysis to figure out where each of the slaves came from. They didn't do C/N isotope analysis to learn about their diet. They didn't look at musculoskeletal markers to identify activity patterns. They didn't mention diseases present (and many of them would have had evidence of scurvy, rickets, or iron-deficiency anemia after an ocean crossing). Etc, etc. Considering how thorough the team is in figuring out the life of a recent murder victim, you'd think they'd use at least half of those techniques on the historical skeletons. Especially for a museum exhibit. I think it was poor writing in an attempt to have two plots, not an effort to bring attention to historical bioarchaeology.

Anonymous said...

Is no one bothered by the fact that many had surnames and almost all the first names were English origin? It is my understanding that surnames were not used by slaves until after the Civil War. if that is not correct, I would be interested to know.

Bone Girl said...

I wondered about the slaves with surnames too, but I figured I didn't know enough about nomenclature to pull that out as a problem with the episode.

From what I know, most slaves in America didn't have surnames until after emancipation, when many took their former master's last name. But maybe it's possible that slaves in Africa were named after a slaveholder or slave trader? After all, the British (and French and Portuguese) had been in western Africa since about the late 15th century and there was a slave trade between Africa and Europe prior to the transatlantic one.

But I'll echo Anonymous above that I'd be interested to learn more about names and whether this detail in the episode was based in historical fact.

(Or, it's possible we both misinterpreted the chronology and path of the ship. If it was later in the slave trade, perhaps the slaves on the Amalia Rose had been in the country for a generation or two and were simply being moved from D.C. to New Orleans rather than being moved from Africa to the east coast.)

Chellie said...

I was also curious about the surnames and it was a search about the basis for this story line that led me to this blog. I also share the opinion that these slaves were being relocated to New Orleans. If the ship and its occupants had been the primary story I would have been very satisfied with this episode. I found the last few moments with Cam, the ship and the wonderful images from Angela to be very moving.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert on pre-Civil War slavery, but you can find newspaper ads for runaway slaves with surnames that go back to the early 1800's. Also, I'm pretty sure the idea was that the ship was carrying existing American slaves from the DC area to New Orleans. The US had some fairly stiff penalties for anyone caught transporting slaves from Africa to the USA after the 1790's (I think); and a law passed around 1820 seems to have reduced the international trade substantially. Which isn't to say it wasn't still going on, just at greatly reduced levels. Although the episode doesn't make it clear, both the angliczied names and the far more prevalent domestic trade in slaves makes it seem likely that the writers intended to imply that the ship was carrying American slaves.
And I agree, this was by far the more interesting and moving plot line; it certainly had enough substance to carry the whole episode.

onix said...

I think the tradition to name slaves after their 'owner' is standard practice long before emancipation. however that they would have that of africa seems doubtfull. however the story is not about a transport directly from africa i figured, especially because they apparently already had had european owners (and btw weren't they partly mulatto?)

about the pisiform, ofcourse i agree, i doubt if any pisiform bones are known from shipwrecks, however the joke could be is bone girl in pea see form (or pea seaform). and
that is rather funny.

Bruce in England said...

What didn't add up was that, at the end, when the lady was reading out the names of the slaves, when she hesitated over the one (?Beaufort) who she was supposedly related to, well, how could she be related if the slave had died?!

Bone Girl said...

Saroyan's (great?-)grandmother was named Hany (or possibly Hany Beaufort), but I thought it was clear that the woman on the manifest wasn't actually her grandmother, just a similarly-named woman.

It is still possible that was actually her grandmother, though. The ship was transporting slaves within the US, so it's possible Hany had already had kids and was being moved. Slaves were often separated from their partners, siblings, children, etc.

Anonymous said...

Historian of Australia... I agree with the suggestion that the slaves were being moved from one State to another. Something rarely mentioned about slavery was that the actual slavers were arabs, who raided african villages and then on-sold the poor souls to the highest bidder.

az said...

Angela quotation reminded me of a phrase by Joseph Stalin : "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

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