The Family in the Feud
A yokel is out hunting for truffles, but the giant pig finds a dead body whose eyes emit a scary red glow. The Jeffersonian is dispatched to the scene, and Brennan guesses that the person was a Caucasian male based on the large and projecting mastoid process, broad chin, and high nasal root, and from the porosity of the ulna, she guesses the man was about 80 years old at death. Hodgins identifies the weird glow as the result of railroad worms in the eye orbits; they can glow green or red to scare off predators. Although Brennan infers that the man was killed by penetrating trauma that caused a lot of blood, none of the highly trained FBI agents bothers to look for a bullet near the body.
Back at the Jeffersonian, Brennan and Saroyan disagree on the man's age at death. Brennan is still insisting 80 because of the porosity (indicative of osteoporosis and aging), but Saroyan thinks 40 because of the robusticity of muscle attachments. Both stick to their assessments, even though porosity is a crappy way to tell age from bone (as it could be affected by disease) and robusticity is a crappy way to tell age as well (as the person could have been unusually fit or weak). Brennan doubles down on stupidity, insisting that carbon dating the bone will give her the most accurate result. Fortunately, the man had six toes (polydactyly), so he was easy to identify based on hospital records (I think?) as Tug Babcock. Neither the polydactyly nor the surprisingly robust frame is ever mentioned again. Daisy finds that Tug was shot from the left side at a range of about 15 feet, and the bullet nicked the fourth lumbar vertebra before inexplicably shattering the right half of the pelvis.
The immediate suspects, based on the Babcocks' assertions, are the Mobleys, who have had a long-standing feud with them. Actually, there are only two Mobleys, it seems, some older dude and a young girl stereotypically named Sue Bob. Another suspect is Dennis Timmonds, who had a contract to dig for copper on Tug's land after he died. Mobley is initially ruled out, since the casing and bullet (which Angela had to go out with a metal detector to find embedded in a tree) aren't a match for his gun, and Timmonds is dispatched quickly too.
Daisy reconstructs the shattered right pelvis and finds a 2mm bore hole with little remodeling, likely from a bone biopsy done just days prior to Tug's death. Saroyan runs some tests and finds out that Tug was suffering from osteogenic chondrosarcoma. At stage 4, it was widely metastatic, and he had just weeks to live.
Brennan takes the bullet and casing home, as Daisy and Angela found bone dust not matching the victim's in it. She can't figure out why there is "tunneling" in the bone, and Hodgins thinks it looks archaeological, so she sends it off to be carbon dated. It comes back within hours, during a smoothie-klatch among the women of the Jeffersonian, as being 120 years old. Bone dust was packed into the ammunition - bone dust from Stonewall Mobley, the great-great-great-grandfather of the current Mobley guy. He commissioned the bullets from what I presume is a large stash of Stonewall's bones that have been lying around for over a century. Mobley admits to having the bullets, but they were taken by Claire Babcock when she came to destroy the half of his house that was encroaching on the Babcocks' land. Since Claire was Tug's lawyer, she stood to lose a lot of money if the feud ever stopped. They search her house and find the bullets and her gun, which she insists she can't shoot. Brennan suggests she'd have an injury from the recoil, and she does, but it's only circumstantial. Hodgins gets a warrant to test Claire's clothes for truffle spores, and he finds them, placing her at the scene in the right time-frame. She confesses.
In the B plot, Hodgins and Daisy work together to figure out why the truffles he collected taste like ass. Turns out, a nearby stream is contaminated by all sorts of nasty heavy metals and has been since the 1800s. And yet people trolled the area for truffles that tasted like ass for over a century? The Mobley-Babcock feud didn't start because one had poisoned the other - they had accidentally poisoned themselves by drinking tainted water.
In the C plot, Christine was kicked out of the Jeffersonian's daycare purely so Ryan O'Neal would have something to do. Brennan gives her father chance after chance not to screw up, but he keeps doing so. In spite of her expressed desire to get Christine a nanny and have one-on-one tutoring in the Montessori or Waldorf styles, she goes with her deadbeat felon of a father. 'cause blood is thicker than heavy metal-riddled water. (I have to say, though, a multilingual, multicultural song time is not too much to ask.)
- As usual, the assessment of sex could use a few more markers than just the mastoid (which is larger in males). I'm not sure what "broad chin" means; not specific enough.
- A high nasal root is one of the features of the skull that can suggest European ancestry. But I'd been pretty happy that Bones hadn't gotten into the whole "race" debate this season.
- Railroad worms are usually found in orchards, not forests with truffles.
- As noted, porosity of bone - of one bone, no less - is a terrible way to estimate age-at-death. Sure, our bone density tends to decrease with age, but any number of things could make bone more or less porous.
- If the cancer was so widespread that Tug's pelvis could shatter, someone should have seen evidence of the cancer in the bones, not just the hole from the biopsy needle.
- Dear Bones Writers: First, carbon-dating tells you how old a bone is in chronological time, not how old the person was at death. Second, you can't carbon date forensic remains; they are too recent. In sum, carbon dating tells you when a person died (provided it was 50+ years ago) but not the age at which the person died. Having Brennan assert she could tell the man's age with accuracy is just dumb, dumb, beyond dumb. At least the bone dust in the bullet could actually be carbon dated.
- Why wasn't the polydactyly mentioned again? In a plot about a family feud, you'd think there would be a big reveal about this genetic trait - Tug Babcock had it, and Sue Bob Mobley had it too - gaaassssp, they are related! Way to squander an awesome sixth toe on the victim's ID.
- Booth tells Brennan to stay back at Mobley's house because "I don't want Christine to lose both parents." Yeah, so, you'd think the FBI would have rules against parents being partners because of exactly this scenario.
- Brennan just looks through bone dust at home with her super powerful microscope while waiting for Max. Like ya do, 'cause chain of custody isn't a biggie and there's no way she'd compromise evidence in a murder trial.
- Oh, I forgot to rag on the accents. They were horrific. Actually worse than the fake accent of the intern... I don't have the energy to look up his name. Anyway, if you're going to make people do "hick" accents, at least make them all do the same "hick" accent. Those were all over the place.
- So why do people hunt for truffles on land that's poisonous and makes truffles taste horrible? Who buys those truffles?
- Why doesn't Brennan's front door have a peep hole? Why does she just unlock and open it without asking who's there?
Forensic Mystery - C. I was excited about the weird worms and the polydactyly, but the writers disappointed me by dropping the ball on the latter.
Forensic Solution - D. Taking off a lot of points here because of the ridiculous Brennan/Saroyan fight in which they both came off looking like idiots who should take a remedial osteology course.
Drama - C. Again, I was excited to think that there was going to be a big twist related to the feud, but there wasn't. The Brennan-Max subplot lined up nicely with the inter-family feud, but I still found it hard to believe. And I still think Brennan and Booth kissing looks weird.
Next Week: Bones gets all meta as Brennan's book (whose protagonist, you may recall, is conveniently named Kathy Reichs) is made into a TV show. I'm actually looking forward to this, in a weird way.