February 10, 2011

Bones - Season 6, Episode 13 (Review)

The Daredevil in the Mold

Episode Summary

The team is on site on top of a building at the Navy shipyard. A skeleton lies on the ground, covered in a mustard-colored mold that Hodgins notes is aggressive and pathogenic. Brennan determines that the decedent is male, in his early 20s. There are large dents in the roof as well as drag marks, indicating the body had been moved. The stairs are only accessible from the inside, so the question is, how did the body (and, presumably, the killer) get up there?

At the Jeffersonian, Hodgins thinks that he's found a phylogenetic mold, possibly deuteromycota; it's something that definitely didn't originate on the roof. Fisher, the intern of the week, has x-rayed the bones while Hodgins figures out what the mold is and notes that nearly every bone has at least one fracture - many are healed, but some are fresh breaks. Brennan says that at least 120 different bones show evidence of breaks. She, of course, is most interested in the antemortem breaks which, if they can be correlated with medical records, would identify the victim. Hodgins runs some more tests and concludes that the remains were devoured by a myxomycete mold from the protista kingdom; namely, Hodgins finds that the victim was covered in dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica). Hodgins also discovers the exoskeleton of a chimney swift bedbug. Fisher suggests that they may be able to track the victim's whereabouts based on a bedbug outbreak app. Hodgins and Fisher discover that outbreaks of chimney swift bedbugs were reported in a series of hotels that also had outbreaks of mold. Before the Health Department could pick up the infested mattresses from the hotels, a group of BMX bikers stole them.

Armed with Angela's reconstruction of the victim (and Angela for some reason), Booth and Brennan head over to the local bike park. The bike park operator claims not to recognize the sketch, but Brennan stops Dorky Biker, who identifies the victim as D Rot, the nickname of Dustin Rotenberg. A second biker, a female mechanical engineering student at GWU, designed a ramp for Dustin to jump from rooftop to rooftop in the Navy shipyard. D Rot was trying to get sponsored and so was taping himself doing outrageous stunts on his bike. The bike, which was worth quite a bit of money, wasn't found at the scene. To recover the bike, Booth uses a tracker named Noel, who locates the bike in the possession of a kid named Orlando who sells fake IDs for cash. Orlando simply found the bike in the Navy shipyard, though.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Fisher has identified cause of death. After he separated the antemortem breaks from the perimortem breaks, he noticed anterior wedge fractures to the vertebrae below C4. The victim died from internal decapitation when a blunt force to his chin snapped his neck and killed him. Brennan asks Angela to perform a postmortem on the bicycle that Booth recovered. By looking at the non-oxidized scratches on the bike, Brennan thinks that Angela should be able to re-create what happened to the bike during the stunt. In all of Angela's reconstructions, she can account for all injuries except the internal decapitation. This injury was almost certainly caused by someone else, meaning D Rot was the victim of a homicide. Hodgins meanwhile finds a tooth while sifting the mold. Saroyan suggests that the discoloration to its enamel was the result of taking tetracycline. Fisher does a radiocarbon analysis of the tooth and finds that it comes from an individual 23 to 24 years old; the victim was 20, so it's not his.

Booth calls in for questioning the Dorky Biker, whom they talked to earlier, as his medical records indicate he was on tetracycline for his acne and he is missing a tooth. He laughs off the suggestion that he murdered D Rot, though. They were competitors, but they bonded when they each knocked out the other's tooth. D Rot had Dorky Biker's tooth, and vice versa.

At the Jeffersonian, Fisher examines the fracture to the mandibular condyle and finds a piece of glass thread in it. Hodgins finds identical slivers of glass in the mold scraped off the victim's body. Angela meanwhile goes back to the BMX park to talk to Female Mech Eng student. She finds out that D Rot didn't use a building-to-building ramp but rather a ramp that FME designed to launch him from the ground to the roof. In order to accomplish the jump, D Rot would have had to have been going 40 mph, which suggests he was towed by someone else. Hodgins guesses that the glass found in the victim's mandible and in the mold is actually fiberglass, the kind that is found in casts. Practically everyone at the bike park has a cast, but the force of the blow to the victim's mandible suggests he was kicked rather than punched in the face.

Booth hauls the bike park operator into the FBI and interrogates him. BPO was amped up about D Rot's jump but got upset when he didn't make it. BPO climbed up a rope ladder to the roof and tried to talk to D Rot about the stunt and his injuries. D Rot got mad and hit BPO, grabbing him by the balls. BPO lashed out with his foot and ended up kicking D Rot in the face and killing him.

Forensic Comments
  • As usual, age and sex were glossed over. Brennan is shown fondling the anterior maxillary teeth when she estimates the victim was early 20s and male. Unerupted or partially erupted posterior teeth (third molars/wisdom teeth) could place the individual in his early 20s, but she'd have to figure out sex from skeletal elements covered in layers of mold.
  • I don't think "phylogenetic" means what the writers think it means. But since deuteromycota seem to be a bit of a taxonomic question, perhaps the writers were trying to convey that their place in the traditional Linnaean (phenetic) system is confusing?
  • Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, so it's used for much more than just treating acne. I'm not a doctor by any means, but I thought that the enamel discoloration cause by tetracycline was when the teeth were growing, either in the womb (for the baby teeth) or during the first 12 years of life (for the permanent teeth). I doubt many kids start serious acne treatment before puberty, so it's unlikely that Dorky Biker (why don't we get any names in this episode?) had tetracycline discoloration on any of his teeth from acne treatment.
  • Fisher definitely says he does a "radiocarbon analysis" on the tooth. Is this something other than radiocarbon dating that I'm not familiar with? C14 dating is not going to give you such a precise age. It has a margin of error of, like, 100 years. There are, however, patterns of growth in dental enamel and patterns of occlusal wear that may be able to help narrow down an age.
  • The tooth that Dorky Biker hands Booth looks like a worn-down molar. There's no way a 20-year-old guy would have molars that worn.

Dialogue


The Good (or at least The Amusing): Brennan made a hilarious classical reference in one of the opening scenes: "Pliny the Elder thought eating fried canaries would alleviate a hangover." Wikipedia tells me this is a True Fact (tm). Digging a bit, though, Wikipedia refers to a Forbes.com article, but I can't find an authority for this piece. I checked my go-to source for all things classical philological, Perseus, which has both English and Latin versions of Historia Naturalis, but there's nothing on canaries (just one reference to the Canary Islands) or owl eggs (which the Forbes.com article notes is another remedy). This is going to drive me crazy until I find out where Forbes (or others) got this idea. As one of my classically-minded friends commented, though, "My rule of thumb is that anything preceded by 'Pliny the Elder said that...' is a) hilarious and b) most likely really wrong." Another funny bit was when the team was discussing how the body got on the roof, they suggested a "fallen angel" and of course the camera lingered on David Boreanaz.

The Bad: Neither David Boreanaz nor John Francis Daley can apparently play drunk. The opening scene was just painful. And I can't even begin to say just how offensive the "Tiffany's" trip scene was. It's not like the writers were lampooning the saleswoman's insistence that the men buy the biggest engagement rings, because Booth goes ahead and does that (and Sweets decides to hold off because he can't afford it). Booth is called a "wonderful man" simply because he buys the biggest diamond ring he sees (without any consideration to what Hannah would want, in a bit of foreshadowing). Sweets says that if he's so hung up on the cost of an engagement ring, he's not ready for marriage. Because all every woman wants is for her man to be so reckless with money that he spends more than he can afford on a gaudy bauble. If he doesn't get the biggest, bestest ring to symbolize their incredibly special bond, he's clearly a chump. And Hannah. Oh, Hannah. She claims she didn't lead Booth on (into an expectation of marriage) and, even though Booth is a hopeless romantic and likely blind to her insistence she doesn't want to get married, I don't believe her. At least she's gone. Maybe.

Ratings

Forensic Mystery - A-. I actually liked this episode (drama aside). The mystery was interesting, from the mold to the bedbug to the injuries to the cause of death and identity of the murderer. Could have used a bit of back story on the victim, though.

Forensic Solution - B+. Hodgins was on fire this week, identifying mold and bedbugs. Fisher was alright, but he didn't really have much to do but record fracture patterns. Brennan glossed over age and sex. Very little stood out this week as terribly poor forensics except for the fact that Fisher used C14 analysis to figure out the age of a tooth.

Drama - D. As I said last week, any episode that features Hannah has to get lower than a C for the drama grade. She's a terrible character and not a very good actress either. The proposal scene is painfully awkward and fraught, and Hannah handles it very poorly. Brennan's subsequent scene with Booth is similarly awkward and fraught, but it's unclear why. Booth's soliloquy at the end is weird: supposed to be drunken? Supposed to leave the door open for a relationship? And the Sweets-Daisy angle was dumb, particularly since Daisy wasn't actually present in the episode and we haven't seen her for many episodes.

I don't have high hopes for next week. Even though Hannah is gone, it's a very special Valentine's day episode.

12 comments:

jacob said...

nice reviews. :D
any chance you'll be writing reviews, in the same format, for the rest of the series (i.e., the episodes from seasons 1-5)?

Bone Girl said...

I've considered reviewing old episodes. If I have time this summer, I may work backwards. But I can't promise anything. Glad you're enjoying them, though. :)

David M said...

Great reviews :) I really enjoy them! Can human bone after the 1940's be radiocarbon dated? I thought the fallout from various nuclear blasts disrupted the carbon isotopes and gave false and misjudged readings. Cheers!

GoGators1983 said...

Based on what I know about fungi, there is no such thing as a "phylogenetic mold". Also, "deuteromycota" is a general term for unclassified members of the kingdom Fungi that don't have an identified sexual stage. Slime molds are VERY different from true Fungi, that is why they are in a different kingdom. The whole "mold" line of forensics wasn't too good...

Stretch Marks said...

I really enjoy that movie. I was reading it with full concentration. And the way you expressed the whole review is great. I like the whole things which you have shared.

Anonymous said...

there's a scene there that Cam, calls Fisher, hodgins. when fisher was wearing earphones and dr brennan was calling him.

Debibo said...

bonegirl, just stumbled across this today and have to say it's great "stuff" (clearly not specific or pertinent enough but a compliment nevertheless) ;)

keep writing. i look forward to more reviews. your own anthropological spin on it is refreshing as well (can gender really not be determined from the mandible alone?).

Bone Girl said...

@David M - As far as I know, C14 dating can be used up to the present... but since there's a standard error of around 30-50 years, it's not particularly useful to do it on recent (i.e., forensic) remains.

@Anon - I didn't even notice Cam calling the wrong name. Good catch!

@Debibo - You can estimate sex from the mandible alone. In fact, forensic anthropologists often publish new articles about figuring out sex from some new bone or fraction of bone. Some of these techniques, though, are more accurate than others. For example, if you have the front portion of the pelvis, you can be 95-99% accurate about the sex of an individual. If you have a pelvis and a whole skull, even better. In forensics and bioarchaeology, though, you don't always get the whole skeleton. That's why we need a variety of techniques for identifying characteristics of an individual. If only the mandible is left, we'll use the mandible to estimate sex.

The problem I have with the show Bones is that, in spite of the fact that they have the entire skeleton every single time, Brennan only ever uses one or two anthroposcopic (visual) traits to estimate sex. She never measures the bones, she never uses multiple techniques, and I don't think she ever uses what is widely considered the most accurate technique: looking at the pubic symphysis of the pelvis (the Phenice method). I know, it's TV, but I'd still like the writers to make a nod to the fact that estimating sex, age, cause of death, etc., takes multiple methods and can't be done at a glance. The Doctor in the Photo was the worst this season - Brennan figured out her height and weight just by looking at a skeleton in a tree!

Kristine said...

@Anon - your comment made me go watch the episode again! Brennan asks Mr. Fisher, "How long will Hodgins be with the bones?" When he doesn't answer because he's wearing headphones, Cam yanks them off and repeats: "Hodgins - how long?" She's asking Fisher about Hodgins, not calling him by the wrong name. Which would have been a really weird mistake. I can't believe the show is on three-week hiatus again. This is torture! Looking forward to seven consecutive episodes and more great reviews.

Amy said...

Based on your this review and your previous reviews, it doesn't seem like you actually like the series that much. Do you? Or do you only watch it to criticize?

Kristina Killgrove said...

Amy, I do like the series when it's presenting good forensic work. Some of my favorite episodes of this series (and I have watched all of them) were in Season 6 - the episode with the slave ship was good from a dramatic standpoint (and ok from a forensic one), and the episode where there's no power in D.C. was perhaps my favorite of all time. When the show gets too bogged down in superfluous drama, though (like the whole Booth-Hannah storyline, which is just a pointless hindrance to the will-they-won't-they dynamic between Booth and Brennan), it annoys me because I think viewers of this program are smarter than that.

Anonymous said...

phylogenetic mold?? do they check anything? phylogenetic refers to relationships ie: you can create a phylogenetic tree of bacteria to see how closely they are related to each other...

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