March 17, 2011

Bones - Season 6, Episode 16 (Review)

The Blackout in the Blizzard

Episode Summary

D.C. is blanketed by snow on the heels of an ice storm. A body is found near an I-295 overpass by the police, and the D.C. medical examiner sends the body to the Jeffersonian for identification. Brennan complains that she wasn't allowed to survey the scene, but Saroyan reminds her that the blizzard would have compromised the scene within minutes anyway. As the team starts studying the body, Brennan and Sweets help Booth salvage a row of seats from Veterans Stadium, which are being thrown out across the street from the cafe. Just after they have wrangled the seats into the elevator in Booth's apartment complex, the power goes out around the city, sending them into a blackout.

Death investigation waits for no one, so Hodgins identifies the victim as female and puts time of death around 12 days prior. Wendell looks at the pubic symphysis to estimate the woman was in her late 20s or early 30s. Hodgins finds a tick on the victim; however, it's one he's never seen before. He figures out that the tick is Hyalomma impeltatum, which is a vector for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), and the massive amount of blood found on the victim suggests she was infected. Wendell finds perimortem fractures to the C5 and C6 and concludes that the victim was strangled manually, face-to-face. Brennan suggests that, if the victim coughed up blood as she was being strangled, the killer could be infected with CCHF. Further, with a 10- to 12-day incubation period, the killer may very well be infectious himself. Suddenly, the Jeffersonian is also plunged into a blackout, just as they realize they need to find the killer to avert a possible CCHF epidemic in D.C.

Without power, the staff has to use all the resources at their disposal in the Jeffersonian. Saroyan pulls an old wall map and shows the geographical distribution of CCHF. Wendell reports that the discriminant function analysis of cranial measurements suggest that she was at least partly Native American in ancestry. Angela is needed to do a facial reconstruction so that they can send it to passport control, on the assumption that someone of Native American ancestry wouldn't have been born in the CCHF-prone areas but would have been a frequent traveller, possibly for work. There is no match through passport control or missing persons, though. Brennan wants to take a look inside the bones, but without electricity they have no xrays. She points Wendell to a back issue of Medical Physics Quarterly, in which an article on electrostatics and triboluminescence details how to produce the equivalent of xrays with scotch tape, photo paper, and a vacuum atmosphere. Wendell and Hodgins find foreign objects embedded in the left femur, which seem to be shrapnel, and the state of bone remodelling suggests the injury occurred around four years ago. The metal that they extract seems to be ridged, like a coin. Hodgins cross-references the coins with the exhibit in the Global Cultures section of the Jeffersonian and dissolves them in hydrochloric acid, finding out that they were Russian rubles. The combination of time since injury and Russian coins used as shrapnel in an IED points Booth to the conflict in Chechnya. Microfiche of the news from four years ago tell Angela that an American was injured in an IED blast in Chechnya: Ann Marie Weston, age 28, who worked for the Alliance for Human Dignity and was most recently in Albania. Wendell meanwhile defleshes the bones and finds perimortem injuries to the cortical surfaces of the right radius and ulna. Brennan suggests that he do a penetrant test by soaking the bones in dye in order to bring the injuries into better focus. There are regular scratches over the surface but also deep linear gouges, regularly spaced. Booth thinks the victim may have broken through security glass, the kind used in prison, which has wire mesh embedded in the glass.

Angela recovers the victim's SIM card but can't find a matching phone to put it in. She's worried that she'll fry the phone if she attempts to charge it, so Wendell suggests they build a battery out of potatoes, which he steals from the cafeteria. He connects hundreds of them in a series to increase voltage and then in parallel to increase amperage. This works, but Angela is only able to get the last incoming call's phone number. Booth gets a trace on the number to a building near Hill and 27th. He and Brennan break apart the stadium seats, which allows them to escape through the ceiling hatch of the elevator. At the address, they find security glass in several basement windows, and one of the panes is broken. One woman appears at the window, and then several more. A man appears outside, coughing and sputtering, and manages to disarm Booth. Brennan hits him with a piece of wood, and he collapses on Booth. The Albanian man, Turik Grazdani, seems to have trafficked in women, promising young girls in Albania jobs in the U.S., and then selling them into slavery. He also has CCHF. Saroyan reports that the CDC will track down anyone Grazdani came into contact with, so that the CCHF can be contained. The girls in the basement will testify against Grazdani, but it is pretty clear that he killed Weston, who likely found out what he was doing and was attempting to put an end to it.

On the personal drama side of things, Angela and Hodgins are both carriers for LCA - Leber's Congenital Amaurosis. Although LCA affects 1 in 80,000 people, it's an autosomal recessive disorder. Because both parents are carriers, the child has a 1 in 4 chance of getting both copies of the recessive gene and having the disorder, which causes blindness. Hodgins sweetly suggests that he will learn to play the piano - in case he can't teach his child to look through a microscope - and that Angela should learn to sculpt - in case she can't teach the child to draw. And Booth and Brennan take a look at their relationship both in and outside of the elevator, spurred on by Sweets. They both agree that they are attracted to one another but also agree to wait until the time is right for both of them to be in a relationship with one another.

Forensic Comments
  • I am going to take some credit for this awesome episode of Bones and suggest that the writers read my past reviews and realized that they could do better. A few minor points...
  • It was around 70 degrees in D.C. today. Sure, the writers can't predict the weather months in advance, but this episode probably should have aired weeks ago.
  • Why is someone in D.C. throwing out seats from a stadium in Philadelphia?
  • Why doesn't an important forensics lab in the national's capital have a generator?
  • It's unclear why either Angela or Hodgins would have been tested for LCA (I don't recall it being a normal test during pregnancy, and it seems to be a diagnosis and test applied only after a child is born with vision problems). Did one of them know of a family history? I guess they're both geeky enough to have had genetic screenings for the heck of it?
  • The victim was mentioned as being part Native American, but her ancestry was never brought up again. Seems odd to have mentioned it in the first place (although I guess it was to make a point that she was American and not of foreign birth?).
  • I didn't find an article in Medical Physics about xrays and triboluminescence, but it's well known that sticky tape can be used in this way. The Skull in the Stars blog post linked to above is an excellent summary.
  • When Hodgins and Wendell were using the scotch tape xray machine, they are shown with a humerus. When they talk about the foreign objects they found, they mention it's a femur.
  • Otherwise... wow, they finally mentioned discriminant function analysis! Although I'm not sure how they did it without electricity and a computer running FORDISC. The pubic symphysis is the right choice for age. And even all of the harebrained things the Jeffersonian team did to mimic xrays and other analytical procedures seem to have fairly solid science behind them. This is what Bones should be every episode!
Dialogue

Booth's need to have the seats was kind of lame. But hey, from my internetting, it seems like the sixth game of the World Series on Tuesday, October 21, 1980, was a pretty good one. Hodgins' anger and sadness at his test results were reasonable, but why would Angela be mad at him? She's also a carrier.

Ratings

Forensic Mystery - A. There was mystery about who the victim was, who killed her, and why... and there were questions about the origin and spread of a deadly virus to boot.

Forensic Solution - A. Blackout, deadly virus, inability to rely on ridiculous and unrealistic technological crutches = well-rounded and dramatic forensic science.

Drama - A. Again, the virus pushed a solid episode over the top. I was even invested in the other main dramatic plot, the genetic testing of Angela and Hodgins, because I would probably have been inconsolable had I gotten news like that when I was pregnant.

Well, Bones writers, you have sufficiently impressed me. I may even watch that episode again (while not taking notes). I have extremely high hopes for the next episode, though, when Booth and Brennan visit the (knock-off of the) Body Farm. Don't let me down.

4 comments:

avery said...

i'm glad i chose to read some reviews of this week's episode of bones because i have found an actual smart fan of the show. all i've seen so far are fans because of the leads' chemistry. you, you care for the science in the show. i pretty much love you. thanks for writing. count me as a new fan of yours :)

Bone Girl said...

Aw, thanks! Glad you've enjoyed my reviews. Personally, I don't particularly like Emily Deschanel as an actress, so I've never gotten invested in the will-they-won't-they dynamic of Brennan and Booth. But Brennan is - as far as I know - the only anthropologist on television today, so I am a fan of the show... just a very critical fan.

KirstenQ said...

I am so happy to read this blog! My husband and I love the show and we are usually talking through the whole episode wondering if half the things they talk about are true.... now I can find out. :) Our friend Marty tipped us off to you....

Bone Girl said...

Thanks, Kirsten! Always glad to meet new readers of the blog (and critical fans of Bones). I can't say that I'm an expert in forensic science, but I can say that I've learned a lot about new methods and techniques by watching the show.

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