The Body in the Bag
The episode opens with 20-something Brody going to surprise his lover, Paisley Johnston, in the shower at her lavishly-appointed house. He finds the shower running, steam everywhere, then slips and discovers a decomposing body that looks like Swiss cheese. At the scene, Brennan suggests that the bore holes in the necrotic soft tissue are a function of the high water pressure. Booth notes that the water meter suggests the shower had been running for three days, and Saroyan says the water heater was set at 105 degrees. From the remains of the sacrum, Brennan decides the victim was female, and from the pubic surface she estimates early to mid 20s for age. The skull indicates the victim sustained a Le Fort fracture, which caused her facial bones to fragment; many were then washed down the drain. Because of a severe hair clog in the drain, Hodgins thinks that he can recover the bones using a drain snake. Through poor communication, Booth is standing directly over the drain when Hodgins dislodges the clog, and bone, tissue, and fluid spray all over him, Brennan, and Saroyan.
At the Jeffersonian, Dr. Edison concludes that the victim died from an epidural hematoma resulting from a depressed fracture to the occipital bone. However, there's still a large chunk of occipital missing, so Edison cannot figure out the weapon that was used. Additionally, much of the skull "south of the eye orbits" is missing, so finding a conclusive ID cannot rely on dental records. Edison does find, though, that the victim had mild scoliosis.
Meanwhile, Booth and Sweets check out Paisley Johnston's not-very-veiled Facebook page. Sweets diagnoses her with a narcissistic personality disorder, and they note the prominent pictures of her chinchilla Chichi on her page. Sweets interviews Paisley's friend Nicole, who had recently defriended her because of a gift of a knock-off Chanel purse.
Back at the Jeffersonian, Edison and Saroyan are still trying to confirm that the victim was indeed Paisley Johnston. Her driver's license says she was 5'4", but so are many women. Apparently the height Edison gets from the femur doesn't match the rest of the skeleton. Scoliosis wouldn't affect the length of the long bones, and the only explanation Edison can think of is that Asians have shorter femora in proportion to their bodies than Caucasians. Paisley Johnston is not of Asian descent, so Edison and Saroyan conclude that the victim was someone else.
Hodgins finds a piece of paper with Chinese characters on it in the drain. From this, Brennan deduces that the victim had a special Taoist fu, or charm paper, to help her scoliosis. She and Booth track the paper scrap to Ming Tsao, who made it for his fiancee, Jenny Yang. Ming was upset with Jenny, who had started to run with a bad crowd: one full of spoiled, rich, American women like Paisley and Nicole. He points them to Mama Liu, whom Jenny worked for. When Booth and Brennan tell Mama Liu that Paisley sent them, she leads them immediately to a store room filled with knock-off designer accessories, and Metro Police burst in to arrest her. The lead in the case, Eric Anderson, tells Booth and Brennan that counterfeiting perpetuates child labor and can lead to terrorism, etc. Brennan notes that "status symbols are signifiers of the position one has in a social network," which is why counterfeiting designer goods is so lucrative. Jenny Yang had tipped off Metro Police to Mama Liu's operation.
Back at the FBI, after Sweets delves into both Jenny's and Paisley's Facebook pages, he realizes that Chichi the chinchilla has low-jack on her collar. This leads Booth to Paisley, who was holed up in a hotel drinking and taking pills. She had no idea why Jenny was dead in her shower. Paisley suggests that they look for the camera hidden in her teddy bear, which she suspects her boyfriend Brody may have taken from the scene.
Meanwhile, Dr. Edison is reconstructing the skull. He determines that Jenny was killed by blunt force trauma to the occipital. The bone fragments were likely jammed into her brain, killing her. Brennan points out that the depressed fracture has lines radiating away from the point of impact, meaning the weapon had a low mass and impacted with great force. A hammer or baton would fit, but the angle of the blow fits better with the theory that the victim was picked up and smashed downward, probably onto one of the fixtures of the shower.
Brody brings the teddy bear cam to the FBI, and Sweets and Booth realize that it captured Jenny Yang having sex with someone whose face we don't see. Angela tries to measure the man's legs in the hopes that they can get an ID. Edison has identified some extraneous bone that turns out to be rhinoceros horn, a male aphrodisiac. Ming Tsao admits to having given Jenny the rhino horn but insists he did not kill her. Brennan measures his lower leg, to compare it to the one on the video. The leg measurements don't match either Ming or Brody. From the video, Angela isolates the images from all the reflective surfaces in the room. When she creates a composite, the face that is reconstructed is Eric Anderson's.
Booth confronts Anderson at the FBI with the news that the team at the Jeffersonian has placed him at the scene of the crime, having sex with the victim on the night of the murder. Anderson comes clean. He and Jenny grew close as she was his informant on the Mama Liu counterfeiting case. On this particular night, Jenny took him to Paisley's house and expressed reservations about her role in bringing down Mama Liu. She asked that Anderson arrest Paisley instead. When he refused, Jenny threatened to tell Anderson's boss that they slept together, which would cost him his job and his family; so Anderson killed Jenny Yang.
- Necrosis happens to the tissue of living people (premature cell death), so I'm not sure why they refer to the victim as having "necrotic soft tissue."
- If Brennan had the pubic symphysis (which they changed to "surface" for some reason) for figuring out the age at death, she could have also figured out sex. The Phenice method is much more reliable than the morphology of the sacrum.
- The shower drain was clogged so badly that it trapped bone and adipose tissue, but the shower didn't back up and overflow the bathroom? Does a water meter really give you a daily report of water usage? I'd imagine Booth could tell that the recent water consumption was higher than normal, but can you pinpoint days?
- Dr. Edison would be more likely to use proper anatomical-directional terms and say that the victim was missing the skull "inferior to the eye orbits."
- If Hodgins could recover teeny tiny pieces of bone from the skull fracture, why didn't he come up with any of the roughly 32 teeth that the victim would have had? Where the heck did the teeth go? When Edison reconstructs the skull, there is definitely a maxilla, and there is a mandible when he and Saroyan are looking at the skeleton on the table.
- Scoliosis is a pretty complicated condition; a variety of factors could very well have caused the femur to have a slightly different morphology, which would throw off stature estimates. Not sure why Edison dismissed this so quickly.
- Tonight in "Bones made me learn something, damnit": I was incredulous about the whole "Asians have shorter femora" statement, particularly because Edison uses borderline racist terminology (like calling the victim "an Asian") and thinks the plural of femur is femurs rather than femora, but apparently this is done in forensic anthropology. A recent article (and some follow-up research), though, suggests that it's possible to discriminate African-American ancestry from European/Asian ancestry using this technique; it doesn't suggest, though, that you can tell European from Asian ancestry. I guess it still makes some sense; I often teach about Allen's Rule, after all (and will be again in a couple weeks).
- As always, the prop people need to switch the radius and ulna to reflect anatomical position (in which the radius is lateral); this error was made in the scene between Saroyan and Edison.
- Apparently, all Brennan needed to determine ancestry was a possible inconsistency in femur length. No one bothered to do any other measurements, look at any other morphological characteristics of the skull, or do DNA analysis. Seriously, why don't they ever do DNA analysis on this show?
- I don't understand how the Le Fort fracture was caused. The victim was killed by a downward thrust to the back of her head. Are we to assume that the murderer let her fall or threw her down so hard onto the shower floor that her face fractured? From the angle of the body in the shower, I guess it would have to be a Le Fort III fracture, with impact at the zygomatic.
The Booth-Hannah-Bones love triangle is annoying me greatly. Really, Booth would discuss it openly with Sweets at the FBI gym? And then tell Hannah everything? The less said about this plot line, the better. Similarly, although I like Hodgins and Angela, I can't be bothered to care about where they live or how much pudding she eats or how often they ultrasound their baby to watch it high-five Angela's uterus. The Hodgins-Angela-fetus love triangle is similarly bland. I am also hoping Dr. Edison goes back to normal at some point.
Brennan had some good lines tonight, though, notwithstanding her ineptitude at reading social cues in Hannah's behavior. She made a good anthropological point about status with the counterfeited bags (the exact same point I made a few days ago in my intro class, when talking about the Nacirema), and she bragged about her high tolerance for alcohol, like any good anthropologist (well, maybe it's just us archaeologists). Even though she misread Hannah's signals, Brennan was a basically normal - yet still endearingly awkward - person in this episode, and that pleased me because it pretty much describes every anthropologist I know.
Forensic Mystery - A-. It took me a while to catch on to the cop as the murderer, as I was sufficiently distracted by the fiance and the counterfeiter, and keeping Paisley missing for so long added to the drama. There was a lot going on in this forensic plot; I'm surprised they managed to squeeze any subplots in there.
Forensic Solution - B-. Ruling out a missing person as the victim based on one long bone measurement and an assumption of ancestry is just poor forensic science. If we assume, though, that there were other tests done to come up with positive IDs (DNA, or finding teeth), the rest of the forensic work was pretty interesting.
Drama - D. Not one but two love triangles were the primary dramatic focus this episode. Boo.
Next Week: Gravedigger returns!