Bones - Season 6, Episode 12 (Review)

The Sin in the Sisterhood

Episode Summary

Booth and Brennan are traipsing through a massive corn field, attempting to find the rest of the team so they can investigate a possible homicide. Based on the state of decomposition and the height of the plants, Saroyan estimates that the person has been dead at least four weeks. Brennan estimates the individual as a male in his early 40s. She declares the case a homicide investigation as she notices a bullet wound to the sternum; specifically, it passes through the gladiolus and the true ribs. There is no bullet and no clear exit wound, but Saroyan thinks that the victim was shot at close range.

At the Jeffersonian, Wendell estimates based on the entry wound that they're looking for anything from a 9mm to a .38. Brennan finds a (presumably healed) clay-shoveller's fracture to the C7, indicating a life of hard labor. Anterior wedging of the mid-vertebrae (thoracic) indicates he spent a lot of time in a seated position; Wendell suggests he was a farmer who baled hay and drove a tractor. Muscle attachments indicate repetitive movements, and there are stress fractures at the radiocarpal joints. The victim frequently supported his weight on his upper limbs and engaged in a back-and-forth motion with his body; Brennan suggests that he had a lot of sex. Hodgins identifies some traces of Solanum tuberosum, the common potato, suggesting the murderer used a potato as a silencer. At some point, they get a possible ID on the victim: Ed Samuel, a farmer who lives in rural Virginia.

Booth and Brennan visit the victim's home and speak with his wife. Based on what Brennan sees in a photograph - three toddlers 18 months and younger in a family without a history of multiple births - she first suspects that the children are developmentally stunted but then realizes that the family's true secret is that Ed had three wives who were sisters: Marianne, Beth, and Carol. They talk over this development with Sweets, who notes that polygamy is only practiced today in the US by fundamentalist members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Brennan suggests that polygamy makes a lot of sense anthropologically, particularly in response to adverse socioeconomic conditions, such as a skewed male-to-female ratio. Booth is predictably unswayed but makes the point that jealousy is a powerful feeling and thinks that the Samuels' home life may not have been very happy.

Booth goes to talk to the sisters' father, Dan Lambert, who is ok with his adult daughters' choice of lifestyle. He suggests Booth talk to Pete Mill, a pecan farmer who lives nearby. Pete did not approve of the Samuels' arrangement and even went so far as to scratch "plig" into Beth Samuel's car. Pete rants to Sweets about the sanctity of marriage and boasts about the arsenal of guns he owns.

Back at the Jeffersonian, the team cannot figure out what caused the abnormalities to Ed's mandible, but they were caused by neither cancer nor pesticides. Wendell finds a perimortem bruise on the frontal curve of the right iliac crest. The posterior aspect of the seventh rib is the likely exit wound, and Brennan and Wendell note that the particulates in the exit wound indicate the bullet struck a hard surface upon exiting the victim. Hodgins identifies the earlier particulates as the anthers of Carya illinoinensis, or the pecan tree, and the later particulates (from the blowback) as pecan that had gone through a unique digestive process that basically fossilized it. And Saroyan ran isotope tests on the mandible, which came back with a higher than normal level of radium.

Booth meanwhile learns that Marianne Samuel filed for divorce from Ed six weeks prior, citing irreconcilable differences. Ed was having an affair with a graduate student, Heather Lakefish, who worked in a lab that did research on pesticides and who was tutoring Ed's son Jasper in chemistry. The lab did have radium salts but Heather noticed the box of them was missing. Booth and Brennan head to the victim's house, where they find the missing tin of radium salts. Carol says that she took it. During interrogation, Carol admits to having given Ed some radium salt, but only a little bit and only on occasion. Since she was trained as a nurse, whenever Ed was sick he would stay with her. She poisoned him to get more time alone with him.

Hodgins does an experiment to see which of the locally produced livestock would create a pecan that seems to be fossilized. He feeds a variety of species pecans and then harvests their feces. The digested pecan particulates, he discovers, were the result of dehydration and compression from being passed through the gizzard of a turkey. Angela figures out that the victim was actually on the ground when he was shot, and Brennan deduces that the murderer was kneeling on the victim's groin and aiming a potato-silenced weapon. These pieces of evidence lead Booth to Ed's father-in-law, Dan Lambert, who runs a turkey farm. Hodgins sweeps the pen for metal and finds the bullet. The FBI finds the gun off-camera in Lambert's septic tank. Lambert admits to Booth that he killed Ed when he found out about his affair; he felt that his three daughters should have been enough for Ed.

Forensic Comments
  • I usually do these comments in order, but I have to lead with... fractures of the wrist (nevermind we never get specific bones) indicate the victim had a lot of sex? Because he did it every single day in the same position (which, not to be indelicate, appears to have been doggy-style or, as Brennan more judiciously notes, primate-style)? This is beyond the realm of plausible.
  • Back to chronological order... OB boyfriend guy has a patient who is 6.5cm dilated and he tells Cam the baby will be coming "any minute now"? The Bones writers are apparently all childless. Full dilation is 10cm, and after that it can still take many, many hours for a baby to actually come out. The patient was in active labor but still not close to transition.
  • Booth asks if corn is a vegetable or a grain, and Brennan insists it's a grass. Well, yes, but cereals and grains are all grasses. So Booth was being more specific and Brennan more general.
  • I didn't know anyone called the corpus/body of the sternum the "gladiolus." But there it is on wikipedia.
  • Apparently archaeologists are also prone to clay-shoveller's fractures - those of us who use pickaxes, that is.
  • There were several instances of overly general anatomical terminology: the entry wound was to all the true ribs, or a specific one?; mush-mouth rather than specifically saying what was wrong with the mandible; mid-vertebrae rather than thoracic; muscle attachments, which we all have, rather than specifically anomalous ones; stress fractures at radiocarpal joints rather than the specific bones; frontal curve of the iliac crest rather than... well, I'm honestly not sure what that means, but there should be an anatomical point of reference better suited for this purpose than frontal curve.
  • As usual, in the layout of the skeleton on the lab table, the ulnae were both laterally positioned. Maybe if I email the show, someone will fix it? It's really starting to bug me.
  • Heather, the grad student having an affair with Ed, was tutoring his son in chemistry. Brennan noted that Ed had 11 children in 8 years. Can 8-year-olds learn chemistry? And before you say that the 11 kids in 8 years happened years ago, remember that Carol is currently pregnant. And that Ed and Marianne met in high school. But didn't apparently start having kids until 8 years ago, when they were in their 30s. Seriously, this chronology makes no sense.
  • Bonus points for using the word kinesiology.
  • Finding the bullet and the gun at Dan Lambert's farm doesn't exactly make an air-tight case against him. Presumably his daughters were at the farm often and had access to his guns and his turkey coop; there is reasonable doubt as to who committed the murder. Lambert was too quick to confess.
  • My first reaction to the news that the Samuels were Mormon was "in Virginia?" but then I remembered that on our frequent family trips from VA to NJ, my brother and I would vie to see who could spot the "Disneyland Castle" first.


Let's start with the good, shall we? When Booth and Bones are walking through the corn field, she is explaining nixtamalization, the Aztec method for preparing kernels of maize for consumption. I'd never heard this term, but the middle part clearly has the root word for "tamale." Polygamy is (was?) widespread in Papua, New Guinea, and Brennan notes this as a comparandum for what the Samuel family is doing. When Booth and Brennan are discussing polygamy and Ed Samuel in the car, Brennan notes that "human beings are more complex than anthropological tropes; what might work for one culture is an anathema to another." And the humanifying of Brennan continues until the end of the episode, when she notes that love is when your brain is "confused by chemical messages travelling through your limbic system."

And now for the bad dialogue. Booth tells Cam that she deserves someone great. So of course he advises that she should... stick it out with workaholic OB guy, because what she deserves is apparently to go out and get a guy who can't be bothered to pay attention to her. Great advice, Booth. I would have gone for DTMFA. In the car scene mentioned above, Booth wonders about a ding he hears from Brennan's car. Oh, it's the automagic cruise-control-disengage-you're-too-close sensor on her Prius. End scene, cut to... yup, a commercial for Prius. Barf. Also ridiculous was the end of that scene, where Booth gets Brennan to say things like "bonehead" and "doofus" and "asshat." Apparently you can say "asshat" on primetime television.


Forensic Mystery - C. There was apparently no mystery surrounding who the victim was. I honestly don't remember how they figured out who it was, but they certainly never confirmed it was Ed Samuel through dental records or DNA analysis. Good thing every episode of Bones ends before the case is tried in court. There also wasn't a mystery about how he died: it was a bullet to the chest. The question of who killed Ed Samuel was decent, though, as the angry farmer, the angry sister-wives, the angry mistress, and the angry father-in-law were all good candidates.

Forensic Solution - B. There wasn't too much for the team to do this week. Wendell did a good job with the little screen time he was given, and Hodgins shined at identifying particulates that did eventually led to the murderer. Angela and Saroyan did relatively little. I did like, though, that some of the tests seemed to take a long time: we didn't get results of the particulates or the isotope tests of the mandible until later in the episode, which felt a bit more real-time than normal.

Drama - C. I really can't give any episode without Hannah lower than a C. She brings the drama in every episode to a whole new level of suck, so I'm not looking forward to next week's very special Bones. At any rate, I didn't know Cam was still dating dumb OB guy, but the storyline was innocuous at best and sexist at worst. There were some will-they-won't-they hints between Booth and Brennan at the end of the episode. The drama about the forensic case, though, was alright. As noted, the murderer could have been anyone. But there was absolutely no sense of loss from any of the sister-wives, so it seemed like they didn't care that their husband had been killed, which was weird.

Next week: Booth proposes to Hannah? OMGwtf4realz???!?1?111?1?1


Anonymous said…
Mormons are NOT polygamists..did you not hear Sweets say that when they were talking about it at the diner?
Of course not all Mormons practice polygamy. They didn't even when it was an accepted part of the religion and when it was legal to do so. Sweets said in the cafe that polygamy is still practiced in the US today but only by some fundamentalist members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. You can google for news stories about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS church, for example, to illustrate what has been done in the name of extreme, fundamentalist Mormonism.

All religions have their fundamentalists, and this Bones episode decided to exploit Mormonism, presumably because of the popularity of HBO's Big Love.
Anonymous said…
I so enjoyed the anthro talk about polygamy. I love it when she talks cultural.
PJ said…
I just discovered your blog and I am really enjoying it, I am an EMT and a biology major preparing for law school. Medical dramas, legal dramas and whatever Fringe is are fun to pick apart and identify inaccuracies or fallacies. I would like to suggest that perhaps the popularity of "Big Love" has less to do with this episode than the likelihood that two "Mormons" are going to be running for the presidency and it has been found necessary by the writers to reinforce stereotypes among the viewership they target.
PJ - I didn't even think of the political-Mormon connection. But Bones airs on FOX and I doubt they'd be allowed to mock potential Republican candidates (although I guess FOX and FOX News are two different channels, sort of?).
PJ said…
Do you think it could be coincidence that in the week Mitt Romney appears on Letterman and John Huntsman resigns his ambassadorship there is a highly rated television program that focuses on Mormon polygamy? My favorite moment of the last campaign was when Romney pointed out that he was the only Republican candidate that has only been married once. It is interesting that this culture so readily accepts divorce and remarriage, or a single person being promiscuous, but not an individual who will commit to multiple mates simultaneously.
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