November 3, 2011

Bones - Season 7, Episode 1 (Review)

Welcome back, Bones fans and anti-fans!  When we last left our team of Squints and Goons, the writers had decided to uncharitably kill off my favorite character - Vincent Nigel-Murray - and decided to end the will-they-won't-they dynamic between Brennan and Booth by having them sleep together while grief-stricken, which of course involved unprotected sex, which of course resulted in a baby.

The premiere episodes of Bones are always more focused on the drama than on the forensics (see last season's premiere review for an example), so let's jump right in to this seventh season, abbreviated because of the real-life pregnancy of Emily Deschanel...


The Memories in the Shallow Grave

Episode Summary

A group of paintball players stumbles on a dead body eroding out of a shallow grave.  The team is called to the scene, and Brennan notices from the pelvis that the deceased was a female in her late 20s or early 30s.  Hodgins finds Megaselia scalaris, better known as coffin flies, which means she's been dead about a week.  Brennan thinks that the woman was killed by sharp trauma from a weapon that went through her mouth and into her brain.  Back at the lab, Wendell and Saroyan further inspect the victim's soft tissue for evidence of trauma, and Hodgins finds beetles in the brain that may have eaten particulates on the weapon, which was likely sharp and metal.

Before defleshing the body, Brennan and Wendell scope out the other trauma to the victim: blunt force injuries that occurred to the clavicle, acromion process of the scapula, and frontal bone about 6 months ago, based on the state of remodelling.  Hodgins discovers that the victim was lying in linseed oil and reveals that the beetles show she had been taking Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety medication.  Angela's quick facial reconstruction gets a hit in the missing persons database: Claire Sorrano, whose husband filed a report 6 months ago and then a couple weeks ago.

In talking to the husband, Sweets and Booth learn that Claire had amnesia and was in a fugue state, a dissociative disorder that can last for months, after which the person recovers earlier memories but generally does not remember what happened in the fugue state.  The victim's husband also reveals that she was being treated by Dr. David Yasrik, a specialist in neurocognitive disorders.  Yasrik tells Sweets and Booth that another patient, Trevor Kwan, was obsessed with Claire, since he'd lost his wife in a plane crash and suffered from aphasia.  Booth discovers linseed oil in Kwan's violin case, and Hodgins determines that something made of canvas was removed from the grave before Claire was buried, but there is no evidence to tie Kwan to the crime.  Kwan suspects the victim's husband.  Charges of abuse filed by Claire against her husband appear damning at first, but because of her amnesia, she would get confused and attack her husband, thinking he was a stranger.

At the Jeffersonian, Brennan shows Saroyan the spiderweb fractures on Claire's frontal bone and notes discoloration along the seam of the fracture.  The injury was actually perimortem, on top of an old head injury, so the particulates in the wound could help them identify the murder weapon or the murderer.  Wendell re-xrays all the bones and notices a bullet fragment lodged in a long bone.  Claire was shot, but the injury was not life threatening and happened about 4 months ago.  Saroyan suggests that the bullet was not fully removed by a non-specialist, leading the team to think that Claire may have been on the run from the law during her fugue state.  The striations on the bullet help Angela find the gun that fired it.  The gun belonged to a homeowner who found a man and a woman breaking into his home in WV.  The cops arrested the man, Ricky Duvall, who ended up in a halfway house.  Meanwhile, the particulates from the perimortem trauma to Claire's skull reveal a special kind of paint manufactured in Germany for the German military.  Hodgins suspects the murder weapon was a field spade whose other end is a 175mm saw blade.

Booth goes to visit Ricky Duvall, who knew Claire as Brenda and encouraged her to rob the house in WV with him.  He also told her about his secret stash of money in Hamilton State Park - $80,000 in a canvas sack.  Sweets and Booth pore through Dr. Yasrik's records of Claire's treatment and notice that he has no notes about her fugue state.  He's also jotted down codes related to gambling, leading Booth to suspect that Yasrik may have found out about the cash and killed Claire.  Although Yasrik's bank account does seem to turn over quite often, suggesting he had a gambling problem, there is no solid evidence to tie him to the murder.  Brennan thinks it's important to xray the paintball splatters at the crime scene and finds what she's looking for: a piece of gum underneath the splatter.  The impression of the teeth in the gum match the dental records of Dr. Yasrik.  Booth arrests him, and Yasrik admits that he did so much for Claire, she owed him that money.

On the drama side of things, Booth and Brennan are splitting their time at one another's houses.  This produces tension, which is not helped by Brennan's pointing out that she makes a lot more money than Booth.  By the end of the episode, after a lot of pregancy-related talk about emotions and hormones, Brennan and Booth decide to get a new place together and start a family.  Generally, I'm cynical about these sorts of sap-fest plots, but there's just something endearing about two damaged people coming together and trying to make a better life for their child.  Aaaaand now I sound like a Hallmark card.  Onward!

Forensic Comments
  • Overall, a solid episode.  The age/sex estimation is reasonable, the team did good work identifying all the blunt trauma, they reasoned out the type of weapon that would have been used to make the injuries, and they figured out time of death and pertinent information about the victim through entomology.
  • I wasn't so happy with the hand-waving about "particulates," which is always a bit lazy of a convention on the part of the writers.  Also, why would there have been "particulates" in a perimortem wound on a skeleton that had already been fully defleshed?  Did they deflesh it by boiling?  Using dermastid beetles?
  • I'm surprised that the team couldn't tell from the soft tissue and bone that the murder weapon was serrated.  It should leave different marks on both the tissue and bone than a non-serrated blade would.
  • The gum in the paintball is a little silly.  Why would a murderer leave behind gum with possible DNA and dental indentation in it?  This man is a doctor, he's not dumb.  And is a partial dental impression really enough to convict a person?

Dialogue
  • I kind of liked Brennan's discussion of the matrilocality/matrilineality of the Iroquois.  Wonder if it'll come up in a few months when the baby is born?  I'm guessing the kid will either be a Booth or will be a hyphenated Brennan-Booth, but it would be pretty cool if she gave it her last name.  (Anyone notice that Booth called the baby "him" at one point?)
  • Hodgins and Angela brought their baby to the lab, which was lame, but Hodgins at least got to call Michael a "very small bipedal primate from the Hominidae family."
  • Also interesting is the way the writers are going all out to talk about pregnancy in a medical, anatomical way.  Generally, the overuse of clinical terms for no good reason (e.g., when Brennan talks to Angela, for example) annoys me, but in this case I like that, even though many of the usual pregnancy tropes are present, they're at least given proper terminology.  For example, Hodgins mentions that Brennan is producing chorionic gonadotropin.  Seriously, in what other show will you hear the words "chorionic gonadotropin"?


Ratings
Forensic Mystery - A.  The victim actually had quite a good back story, which was revealed little by little to the team, just as her past was revealed little by little to her through her work with Dr. Yasrik.

Forensic Solution  - A-.  Other than the imprecise "particulates" and the discovery of them after defleshing, the episode seemed pretty solid on forensics.

Drama - B+.  I didn't hate the Booth-Brennan tension; it absolutely makes sense for these characters in this situation, and it was nice to see the tension resolved by mutual understanding that each of them had rough childhoods and are scared rather than stubborn.

Next week: murder at a competitive eating championship!


Like my Bones reviews?  You'll love my new research!  The Roman DNA Project seeks to study the genetics of people who were buried in Rome during the Empire.  It also needs your help, so please click through and provide some financial and/or moral support.

The faster I raise money, the sooner this notice goes away.  It's like an NPR or PBS fund drive, but instead of a lame tote bag, you get pictures of real Roman skeletons!

2 comments:

petoskystone said...

I will say that they don't REQUIRE a solid slam dunk case because in these kind of shows they ALWAYS confess lol.

I love Bones and words can't describe how excited I was for this!

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice that they never explain the original reason Claire had amnesia? Starts off seeming so important then they just kinda ignore it....Also, why did the doctor treating Claire use a (hard to come by?) German field shovel to kill her? Why wouldn't he just be digging with a regular one?

Other than that I liked it well enough.

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