Bones - Season 7, Episode 6 (Review)

Well, folks, I seem to have completely missed the fact that Bones was new last Thursday. (And by "last" I mean the 12th.)  It was the first new episode since early December, was supposed to air in mid-December, but was bumped to mid-January.  And the show is on hiatus again (it's a disjointed season because of Emily Deschanel's real-life pregnancy).  So, apologies for the oversight.  Here's your surely long-awaited review...

The Crack in the Code
Episode Summary

At the Washington Monument, a skull and spinal column are found at the base of a statue of Abraham Lincoln, on whom the words "Where is the rest of me?" are scrawled in human blood.  Based on blowfly eggs in the eye orbits, Hodgins puts time of death at 2 days prior.  Brennan notices something odd about the vertebral column: the vertebrae are out of order, yet all the associated ligaments have been reattached with a kind of string made out of human guts.  The killer is clearly leaving a message: one for the public and one for the Jeffersonian team.

Back at the lab, Brennan notes that the small skull and nuchal crest indicate the victim was a Caucasian female, and the incompletely erupted wisdom teeth put her in her early 20s.  Serological analysis shows that the blood at the scene, in addition to the victim's, comes from five other people, so Saroyan rushes a DNA analysis of it.

Booth finds videotape from the monument, but the killer used a laser pointer to wipe out the video.  Sweets thinks the killer is highly intelligent and very good at killing people.  They bring in Sam Sacks, a night janitor who has a raging nicotine addiction and history of crime.  He didn't do it, but he knows where the blind spot on the camera is (which never seems to come into play again).

Wendell and Hodgins try to figure out the code in the rearranged vertebrae, which start off with C1, T9, C2, C5, T1 (which has both transverse processes removed), T7, C4 (with the right transverse process removed), but they get nowhere, even though Hodgins' grandfather was a codebreaker under Admiral Nimitz.  Angela gets no hit in the missing persons database from the facial reconstruction, but Saroyan finds out that all five blood samples are from FBI field agents in the DC office.

Booth checks out the officers, but they are all alive and had all donated blood two weeks prior at an FBI blood drive.  He and Miss Julian get harassed by Ezra Krane, a reporter at the Washington Standard, who seems to know more than he should about the case.  After re-canvassing the scene, Booth finds a homemade laser pointer made out of an off-brand Altoids tin, a diode from an old DVD player, and a switch from a toaster.

Brennan decides to run a strontium isotope analysis on the victim and finds that she was from Denmark.  Wendell finds a particulate embedded in the anterior portion of the T4 vertebra, as well as hairline fractures on the neural arches and pitting on the vertebral body, which he and Brennan think are consistent with a high velocity injury.

Sweets and Booth go through Miss Julian's records of high-IQ people the FBI has arrested and zero in on Christopher Pelant, a socially-marginalized computer geek who once took down the Senate's website and the Department of Defense's network.  He was put on house arrest after multiple charges of wire and computer fraud.  Pelant's house, though, has no computers save an old one with vacuum tubes, and he's on house arrest.  His ankle monitor pings the company every 38 seconds.  Pelant calls himself a "hacktivist" and insists he broke into the DoD network in order to expose the lack of security in their system and that the company that set up the network got the contract through corrupt, shady dealings.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Hodgins and Angela finally figure out the code in the vertebrae.  By reducing the vertebrae to numbers (and then reversing the string, I guess?), they get 20166 (571) 418-5247 3117 C 353 5291 - which is a zip code, phone number, address of the Justice Department on C street, room number, and pass code.  When Booth and Sweets check out the location, they find the rest of the victim's body in addition to a box of files about the FBI's CI (confidential informants).

The bones from the Justice Department show pitting and microfractures to the posterior of the ribs and the sternum - basically, damage to the front and the back.  Hodgins notes that the particulate had camphor residue on it, which may have been from fireworks, but his experiment with Wendell - in which they load a wetsuit with meat - backfires.  Booth meanwhile tracks down Sophia Berman, head of IT at a local hospital, whose father committed suicide in front of her because he was defrauded by Daniel Kassudo, one of the FBI's CIs.  She puts Booth and Sweets back on the trail of Ezra Krane, the reporter.

Brennan's contacting of the Danish embassy yields a hit for a missing person: Inger Johannsen, who was housesitting in the area.  Booth and Sweets check out the house and find the jacuzzi full of blood and offal, with the words "This Won't Stop" written on the side of the pool.  Based on the remains in the jacuzzi, the murder occurred Sunday night.  Miss Julian tells Booth to bring in Ezra Krane for questioning, and he has no alibis for the time of the murder or the placement of the remains in the monument.

Angela decides to scan Inger's bones to find out more about cause of death.  After scanning the images, her computer program computes trajectories of the projectile consistent with a gunshot, but not with a bullet.  Soon, Angela's computer notes "System Failure", and a bunch of stuff catches fire.  The weapon, Hodgins finds out, is similar to a bang stick, which divers use to ward off sharks.  Angela's computer, on the other hand, was brought down by malware that shut off all the fans, causing her computer to overheat and catch fire.  Since Angela hadn't downloaded anything to her computer, only uploaded it, she thinks that the virus may have been in the bones somehow.  Wendell didn't find any computer chips, but Brennan brushes the edge of the ribs with edicol dye and notices a fractal pattern etched into them.  The Jeffersonian team goes back to suspecting Pelant, a computer genius who doesn't need a computer to bring down $1 million worth of computers.

Booth and Saroyan are called to the scene of another murder: a victim hanging upside down from a flag pole.  Powder burns at the base of the skull are consistent with a bang stick.  The victim's wallet IDs him as Ezra Krane, and he's been dead under 4 hours.  Booth instructs that the body be brought to the Jeffersonian, but the coroner's van with Metro PD escort was diverted to the Medical Examiner's Office, where the body was supposed to be transferred to DC Memorial Hospital, where there were records waiting noting the autopsy was complete and infectious tissue was found.  Once autopsies are complete and there's infectious tissue, Saroyan explains, the body is cremated.  So Wendell gets stuck sifting through cremains for clues, while Hodgins finds out from a swab at the scene that there was thallium dioxide in the skull wound, likely from an old vacuum tube.

Booth and Sweets bring Pelant in to the FBI for questioning.  He admits to the murder and notes that his fractal bone program was not a virus but a worm.  There's no evidence, though, tying Pelant to the crime - his ankle monitor shows that he was at home at all times.  The episode ends with Pelant back at home, clearly planning his next move - that seems to involve Booth and Brennan - and our heroes finding a skeleton of a house formerly owned by a criminal.

Bad Things - So Many Bad Things - Wrong with This Episode
  • So, the forensics this week weren't horribly bad, but the police work was terrible and the computer parts hysterical.  Let's start with forensics...
    • How does one reattach all the vertebral ligaments in a dead body?
    • The size of the skull and the nuchal crest alone cannot give anyone an ancestry estimation of Caucasian.
    • Sr isotopes are not some magic bone-GPS device.  They cannot tell you that someone came specifically from Denmark.
    • As usual, the radius and ulna are switched from standard anatomical position in the lab.
  • The police work is... odd.  
    • A person confesses to a murder, and the FBI can't do anything to him?  Not even, like, make a cop watch his house for when he escapes?
    • Most annoyingly, Pelant is billed as an evil computer genius.  And yet thinks that no jury would believe he could get around his ankle monitor?  Seriously?  The ankle monitor is his only alibi.  Freaking House got around his ankle monitor in one of the first episodes of the season, and he's just an evil doctor genius.
  • And for the computer part, I spoke with my very own resident computer genius (otherwise known as my husband), who laughed at the following ridiculous bits:
    • A fractal etched into bone sounds pretty snazzy, but this would not harm any computer in existence.  There is no way that a picture of something could magically form a virus or worm and harm a computer (unless the picture itself, that is, the .jpg file or whatever, was corrupted).  But Angela's taking a picture/scan of bones could not infect her computer.
    • Computers don't catch fire if they overheat.  A processor might catch fire, but microprocessors are very, very small and make very, very little fires for a second or two before melting.  There's no way Angela's computer would have been set ablaze (even if the whole fractal-in-bone thing were plausible).
    • He did like the idea of MacGyvering a laser pointer and suggested the Bones writers used the first google hit for "homemade laser pointer."  I want to know why Pelant couldn't just, you know, order a laser pointer from Amazon.  I think felons can still have laser pointers.
    • And he pointed out that the best way of getting around an ankle monitor is to have it affixed to your prosthetic leg. :)
    • Also, I learned that "hacktivist" is a real word.
  • I always like conspiracy-theory-Hodgins.  This episode: the Vatican, John Wilkes Booth, and Admiral Nimitz.
  • Brennan: "When the Dani of New Guinea defeated the Umumi(?) tribesmen, the Dani valued the huts of their vanquished enemies as a symbol of their mightiness."
  • Brennan: "I don't know anyone smarter than I am."  (And yet she then talks about "primitive hunters" - I know some ANTH 101 students smarter than that, Brennan.)
  • Sweets: "You did it, but you couldn't have done it.  That's quantum indeterminacy."  (Husband: It is not.  It's not even a proper paradox, although it's closer to a paradox than to quantum indeterminacy.)
  • Pelant: "Trying to make the system secure, we make it more complex; but the more complex we made it, the more insecure we really are."
Forensic Mystery - A.  I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for serial killers, especially the "clever" ones.  This episode was chock full of interesting tidbits, and everyone had something to do. Sure, the writers threw many more red herrings than necessary, but I'll allow it.

Forensic Solution - B-.  Points deducted for handwaving about Sr isotopes and Caucasian ancestry.

Drama - B+.  There was too much going on most of the time for any drama to kick in, until the end when it's revealed that Pelant is setting his sights on Booth and Brennan next.  But points were taken off here because the FBI is being stupid for not monitoring Pelant, so it's their own fault if Booth gets in trouble.  

Let's hope the rest of the season includes more of this evil-genius-computer-hacktivist.  I'd love to mock some more ridiculous computer nonsense.  In the meantime, you'll find me in the bioarchaeology lab, carving a Mandelbrot into a manubrium.


Auz said…
I thought Booth found the laser pointer in the blind spot.

And I assume Pillant couldn't order one from Amazon becuase of the whole banned from computers and the Internet thing :)

The bone carving scanning that caused a virus is completely insane though. Anything even remotely possible - like, say, drawing an exact square - would stumble on what resolution the scan was at or what angle the bone was held.
Anonymous said…
" I want to know why Pillant couldn't just, you know, order a laser pointer from Amazon. I think felons can still have laser pointers."

Echoing what Auz said, but also, if you remember, Pillant has tons of parts to random things in his house. So he had all the pieces to create a 'hidden' lazer pointer himself.
Anonymous said…
Everything you pointed out I was very upset with when I watched the episode. My goodness if Pillant is such a super hacker he could have written a program that tells the monitoring system every 38 seconds the unit is still on his leg. Then the fractal code, that was absurd. I can't remember where I read that the next show will be the last, Brennen and Booth disappears (or shes kidnapped by (?), I guess the "Blue Moon" curse is still alive? I Hope not but 7 seasons and Emily a mom now. The cast members including David are working in movies or The Finder? All conjecture on my part but I feel Bones has come to the end of its life-too bad I really enjoy it.
Anonymous said…
Hi, just found your site after searching for the plot of the latest Bones episode, and I'm glad I found it.

You really clarify scientific details (which TVs highly lack) in a very concise way. I love reading the background on the methods they used in Bones, especially how they're not 100% correct.

Btw, I'm a Math BA and the only thing a fractal was able to do to me was give me a Math High.

Hope you'll write more of these clever reviews! =)
Pasi said…

I'm a year or two late BUT ...

"A fractal etched into bone sounds pretty snazzy, but this would not harm any computer in existence. There is no way that a picture of something could magically form a virus or worm and harm a computer (unless the picture itself, that is, the .jpg file or whatever, was corrupted). But Angela's taking a picture/scan of bones could not infect her computer."

I have to dispute this. If your software is badly written, malformed input can be used to run malicious code on your computer. Data from scan is really not that different from say, a video file from the internet. And if your video player was vulnerable, cleverly constructed video file could be used to trigger, for example, a buffer overflow and then do nasty things.

It's far-fetched but it is viable. At least far more viable than a lot of the other computer stuff in the show.
Unknown said…
I found this link after bones s10 e22. So I agree to what @Pasi said in that it is feasible however unlikely. So a scanner or camera takes data from light it receives. Now in essence, you can write a program on that, but it would have to be binary code, and be an enormous amount of 1's and 0's. But think punch cards. The idea is essential the same thing. (Sorry I am trying to explain a very complicated thing as simple as possible).
As for computer set on fire due to overheating. That is a very destined possibility, even the most accurate computer related thing they have yet done. It is however not as simple as microchips overheating as you stated. So lets do a bit of overclocking. Push the vaultage up by .2 and tweak the frequency. Now they clearly run a mainframe there, thus multiple computers connected to form one whole. By the looks of it, They run all the computers in the mainframe from one power supply. So if literally burning the micro chips out (I have done so in the past, set a whole motherboard on fire) is not enough, you actually drain the power supply, now I have had many occasions where I had to fix computers that had their power supply catching fire due to overloading. Appreciate your comments on the things they did wrong, but for me, as a multimedia specialist, There is reason behind this. I you ask, I will explain this theory in more detail.
Anonymous said…
I'm about 8 years too late, but maybe someone still reads this :D

Am I the only person here, who thinks it's absolutely ridiculous that 1.Brennan would love the ruin Booth wants to buy and
2.They could get it fixed and renovated within 6 weeks (they mention before, that her due date is in 6 weeks) with help of an intern?
Also, as far as I remember, don't they end up living in a super modern, huge villa?

I'm not a scientist or highly educated, but even for me, Bones is just full of WTF moments every single episode. I still love it though, that's why I'm rewatching all the seasons a second time now, always followed by your review of an episode :)

Also, as a new mom myself, I can confirm that the pregnancy, birth and child-related scenes are just incredibly bad and super unrealistic. It's like you said, it seems like none of the writers has children.

Anyway, Thank you so much for these reviews, I enjoy reading and learning from them! :)
Anonymous said…
lol same here,

just saw the episode for the first time and I am completely baffled at the nonsense policework. I can go with the usual oddities (though this season already strechted it pretty far) but this totally broke my immersion... and now I am looking here if I maybe just missed something... seems not... damn...

In that last interview Pelant basically admitted writing that code on the bone and therefor somehow circumventing his ankle monitor! They have him on tape, how can they not use that? How can that ankle monitor log still hold as an alibi?
They have evidence tying him to several murder cases and reasonable cause he tampered with his ankle monitor and then they just let him go? Why is he not observated?
Couldn't they come up with a better way to build up a new villain?
Sry... just had to rant for a bit xD

But there is one good thing: I found this blog and I will check out more reviews and your other stuff.

Keep up the good work

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