November 17, 2011

Bones - Season 7, Episode 3 (Review)

The Prince in the Plastic

Episode Summary

Two antiques dealers are scrounging through a trash dump for treasure when they stumble across a body wrapped in plastic.  The Jeffersonian team determines that the sun probably fused the polyethylene plastic to the body like a sausage casing, trapping the moisture and decomposing tissue.  Brennan, Saroyan, and Daisy drain the package before cutting it open to reveal the body.  From the skull, Brennan determines the victim was a female, and the state of cranial suture closure indicates she was in her 30s.  She was also buried with a Prince Charmington doll.

Hodgins doesn't get any bugs or larvae, but decomposition puts the victim's time of death at about two weeks prior.  Daisy looks into the skeleton and notes that the victim had remodelled perimortem and postmortem injuries, including compound fractures to the 7th thoracic vertebra, spine of the right scapula, posterior aspect of the humerus, and anterior aspect of the left ulna, suggesting she was beaten.  Further, she had healed fractures of the patellae, femoral necks, pelvis, and most of the ribs that likely occurred when she was a child.  Brennan notes bilateral Colles' fractures of the radii that occurred perimortem, indicating the victim fell before her death.  Based on some skin traces on the plastic, Angela discovers that the victim is Debbie Cortez, who was reported missing by her brother.

Booth and Sweets bring in the brother for questioning.  He explains that Debbie and their parents were involved in the crash of a small plane when she was 9.  She was the only survivor and spent a year convalescing from her injuries.  Booth also visits Debbie's work, a toy company called Dillio, where she was a vice president in charge of toy development.  He questions Bianca (Morgan Fairchild!), who owns the company, and Lawrence, a VP who was jealous of Debbie's success.

Back at the Jeffersonian, the team finds a small piece of metal lodged in one of Debbie's vertebrae.  They reconstruct Debbie's position at death, finding that she was likely face down on concrete when she was struck.  Based on Angela's reconstruction, Brennan guesses that Debbie wasn't hit by a bludgeon that someone was wielding, like a bat or a 2x4, but may have been hit by something quite large that caused all the perimortem fractures at once.  At Dillio, Booth and Daisy discover a partly damaged door in the prototype lab and traces of blood on the floor, guessing that Debbie was killed when the door fell on her.  The shard of metal in her vertebra is the same as in the door, which was propped open with a car jack.

Daisy does an autopsy on the Prince Charmington doll, which leads her to notice that his leg had been ripped off.  This doll was a collector's item and was worth around $10,000, plenty of motive for murder.  Angela discovers that Debbie has been emailing with someone about selling stolen toys on eBay.  The IP address is traced to her brother, who admits to stealing and selling the toys but denies killing his sister.  He recognizes the Prince Charmington doll as the last thing their mother gave Debbie.

Hodgins finds a piece of the victim's nail and some glue attached to it.  There are epithelial cells between the nail and the glue, which are DNA matched to Brock Vorback, who plays Prince Charmington in real life.  He and Debbie were in a relationship that they kept secret from Bianca, who didn't like workplace dalliances, and Debbie was planning to leave Dillio.  But Hodgins also discovers the material that caused the chemical burn to the Prince Charmington doll: lead sulphate from a car battery.  He does an isotope analysis of the berber wool fibers, which indicate the material was made in Modena, Italy - specifically, a trunk liner for a Maserati.  Booth and Brennan confront Bianca, who owns a Maserati, and find traces of blood in her trunk.  Bianca explains that Debbie's leaving would have caused Dillio's stock to drop.  When she confronted Debbie, she tripped and fell and the door came down on her.  But Brennan points out that Debbie didn't die immediately - she was suffocated, and Bianca didn't try to help.

On the drama side of the episode, Sweets wants to get licensed to carry a gun, but Booth isn't sure he's cut out for it.  Sweets puts in time at the shooting range and eventually passes a test, gaining the respect of Booth.  Angela spends the episode talking about baby toys - first trying to get Brennan to play with dolls, then trying to put together a walker for Michael.  Brennan ends up going to the toy store with Angela and Michael, and she picks up two foam-ball-shooting guns, rounding out the episode playing with Booth in his apartment.  While I appreciate when TV shows have thematic elements and call-backs, the toy/gun/toy gun subplots were all too neatly tied together.

Forensic Comments
  • Cranial sutures are a terrible way to tell age at death.  They usually return an age that's too old.  Brennan should have confirmed with the pubic symphysis.
  • Yes, Daisy actually notes that the victim had "remodelled perimortem and postmortem injuries."  I rewound and listened to it three times.  Perhaps the script read "unremodelled" and Carla Gallo just flubbed the line and no one noticed (except me)?
  • Daisy doesn't describe the location of the victim's fractures very well. For example, "posterior aspect" of the humerus is the whole back side of a very large, very long bone.  
  • If Debbie's fractures at age 9 had remodelled, it is weird that Daisy could tell they were specifically "impact fractures."
  • What kind of isotope analysis would tell you the source of berber wool fibers?  I guess perhaps Sr, if it's in sheep's wool, but isotope values are not nearly precise enough (or unique enough) to source organic material.
  • Angela is skilled at reconstructing bodies and other three-dimensional objects, but she can't put together a baby walker?  That's just weak writing.  Also, doesn't Brennan know Chinese?  Why didn't she help Angela put together the toy?
Dialogue
  • Is it just me, or is the new Bones title sequence really weird?  And rather cheesy.
  • I'm with Brennan - playing with dolls is weird.  (I never got the hang of it and have no clue what I'll do when my daughter wants me to do something other than put her doll to bed.)
  • I'm also with Brennan on the charms of the mixed-breed plush dogs: I could see using them to demonstrate genetics somehow.
  • Lawrence, the Dillio VP, told Booth that "my wife and kids were in Florida with their inlaws."  Did he mean "with my inlaws" or "with my parents"?  
  • Brennan's baby's calcaneus is kicking her spleen.  (Been there, probably described it like that, actually.)
  • At the end, Brennan is reading "The Childrearing Habits of South Asian Tribes in East Indian Literature," which is a cute take on the titles of cultural anthropology books and a fitting book for Brennan to be reading.
  • It still strikes me as odd that Booth calls Brennan "Bones" and that Angela calls her husband "Hodgins."
Ratings
Forensic Mystery - C.  Fingerprints ID'ed the victim quickly.  She was clearly important and powerful, so there was no real mystery about why someone would want her dead.  The brother, boyfriend, and other VP were obviously not the murders.  The special guest star clearly was from the minute her name flashed in the credits.

Forensic Solution - B-.  The forensics were more or less reasonable, although cranial suture closure is a crappy way of figuring out age.

Drama - C+.  I didn't like the writers' attempts to beat us over the head with toys and guns this episode.  But I did like the way Brennan was written today; she wasn't too robotic and was just the right amount of social awkwardness, cluelessness, and anthropologist.

Next week: Clark and ischial tuberosities (which Brennan pronounced wrong in the brief preview)!

6 comments:

petoskystone said...

One of my daughters' godmothers used her stuffed toys for dissection. Anne has always been interested in how things work on the insides...she also sewed them back up when finished ;)

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that body really smell when it was brought to the lab and Bones cut the plastic open? Just saying .... And no special ventilation system or masks?

Sheena said...

Brennan speaks Chinese but she doesn't read it, from what I understood from the boneless bride episode when she calls in an expert to read the inventory notebook the guy had written.

Kristina Killgrove said...

@Anon - yeah, they never wear masks on the show. It annoys me each week.

@Sheena - I didn't realize she doesn't read it. She's definitely spoken to people in Chinese, and I thought she had artifacts or other objects with Chinese on them in her house.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I have been asking myself why they never use masks. Probably because it would be difficult to identify the characters. But a exhaustion system for the lab would have be really important and even cool to watch. In college I attended Museum Studies. Love your blog. Take care :)

merlen hogg said...

Hi Kristina,
I loved reading this piece! Well written!

Merlen Hogg
betongbehandling

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