I was traveling and out of town much of the week at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the Palaeopathology Association conferences, talking to real anthropologists about real dead people. So I had little time for Bones. Next week, my snark will be on time, I promise...
The Bump in the Road
Although it's only been one week in real time, this episode of Bones takes place 6 weeks after the birth of the Brennan-Booth baby, Christine. Apparently the Jeffersonian has a really crappy maternity leave policy because Brennan is going back to work already. (And the baby is at least 3 months old, but that's what TV-babies look like.) Booth tells Brennan it'll be ok - the baby will be nearby at the Jeffersonian's on-site daycare if she needs her. Which, yeah, they'll be seeing one another, like, every 2 hours.
Anyway, a family on a road trip hits what they think is a dead animal. It's a person. The Jeffersonian team is on site to scrape up the victim with spatulas. From the small femoral head diameter, Brennan thinks the victim was female. The victim's head was also separated from her body.
Back at the lab, Finn Abernathy (whose fake southern accent has gotten better over the hiatus) notes abrasions on the bones that look like the victim was dragged down the road. Based on the maximum length of her fibula, she was between 154-161 cm tall. Taking into account her gracile frame and small muscle markers, Finn estimates her weight at 54 kilograms. Hodgins and Finn identify diesel and truck-grade lubricant on the victim, suggesting she was dragged by a semi.
Over at the FBI, Special Agent Shaw is back. She discovers that the victim was dragged over a weigh station by a truck and traces the vehicle to Fields Market. The driver was Alan Bates (incidentally, the name of a kid I grew up with), who didn't kill her and didn't even know he'd dragged her. Booth and Brennan visit him, and the victim's head is still in his undercarriage. Speaking of undercarriage, he wears hot pink panties.
The Jeffersonian staff keeps working on an ID. Angela and Hodgins find papers stuffed in the victim's bra. Using Angela's video spectral comparator (fancy!), they realize they're coupons. Hodgins reasons that the pollen the woman inhaled before death could lead to her ID, so they blow out the nasal cavity, making it the episode's biggest gross-out moment (heck, the season's biggest gross-out moment). Remarkably, Hodgins traces the pollen to the American chestnut, and the nearest farm is in Hagerstown, Maryland. Apparently the victim's husband owns it.
The husband notes that his wife, Barb, was an extreme couponer. She had gone to Fields Market in Frederick, MD, to do some shopping and didn't come back. Booth and Brennan head to the grocery store, where the manager, Chad, and the carpal-tunnel-having cashier, Crystal, are prime suspects. Once Angela finds that Barb was trading evil emails with someone named DealDiva, Booth and Brennan track her down. But DealDiva, Rhonda, has an air-tight alibi for the night, provided by receipts from her couponing binge. Her metal coupon box fits the shape of the wound on the victim's frontal bone. However, Brennan finds a chip of aluminum in the skull, so it's not the box.
The victim's husband was also stepping out on her, but he didn't kill her, and a quick check of his tools confirms there is no murder weapon among them. Hodgins, Brennan, and Finn then note a small puncture wound to the victim's skull, with what turns out to be purple ink in it. Brennan remembers that the grocery store manager, Chad, was using a purple pen to mark expired coupons and was writing on an aluminum clipboard. He confesses to hitting Barb, but notes that she ran away. However, since she hid under the truck, and then accidentally got her hair caught in the gears, and was dragged to her death, he is to blame.
Also, Finn dates Michelle. Saroyan forbids it. Finn dumps Michelle. She cries to Saroyan. Finn comes back and refuses to break up with Michelle. In sloppy parallel structure, Brennan gets Christine to sleep but refuses to put her in her crib because she misses her so much.
- Diameter of the femoral head is a quick-and-dirty way to estimate sex, especially if the remains are incomplete or fragmented, but it's not the most accurate. It's always weird that Brennan never revisits her estimate after the team reconstructs the skull or gets more fragments of pelvis into the lab.
- Maximum length of the fibula is just about the worst measurement on which to estimate stature (some would argue that the tibia is worse). I get that the remains were fragmented, but even an arm bone would be more accurate than the fibula.
- Estimating weight is dicey. It's even less accurate than estimating stature. And to come up with a precise 54 kilos - which just happened to be within 3 pounds of the victim's real weight - is unrealistic.
- Why didn't they ever estimate the victim's age?
- Making the "dead head" sneeze seemed excessive and unnecessary. They could just open up her nasal passages with a scalpel. It was impressively gross, though. I'll give them that.
- Why doesn't the Jeffersonian ever run tests in parallel? I mean, they brought in Hodgins to swab the victim's skull fracture at least 3 separate times. Why didn't anyone notice the puncture wound and purple ink when they were finding the aluminum and the v-shaped notch? They would have solved the case much faster if they'd been paying attention.
- The writers are a bit confused about how to handle a nursing mom (as are the wardrobe people, it seems). The way they wrote the opening scene, I assumed that Brennan wasn't nursing, since it sounded like she wouldn't see her daughter all day, when in reality, at 6 weeks, she'll be nursing that kid every 2 hours or so. Angela also asks Brennan why she doesn't miss her kid more - a kid she gets a picture of every half hour and whom she sees every 2-3 hours. There were some shots of Brennan holding the baby in a nursing-like position, but the baby was always asleep. So kudos for talking about nursing, but the director could have done more to make it clear that Brennan is nursing. Which is where the wardrobe people come in - that really ugly calf-length dress Brennan was wearing at the end of the episode? Yeah, not nursing-friendly. She was wearing a button-down in at least one scene, though.
- Finn's accent is better. I still hate the character. I also hate the shoehorning in of the whirlwind romance between Finn and Michelle.
- Saving 10 cents on three tapiocas is a crappy coupon. Actually, do they even make 10-cent coupons anymore? That seems like a shockingly small amount of money.
- Wait, is it true that the grocery store manager could be tried for murder? I get that he shouldn't have assaulted the woman, but hiding out underneath a semi seems pretty stupid. Would he be getting charged with felony assault? I'm unclear on the police work/law here.
- Angela's kid was born when Brennan found out she was pregnant, so he's close to a year old. Kids that age are at least crawling if not cruising around, not content to gurgle and coo in a file drawer.
- Soooooo, Brennan is obsessed with getting organic baby wipes for her kid, but she picks up Huggies? I am the least crunchy-granola person I know, and even I used cloth diapers for my kid. Maybe it's supposed to be a daycare thing...
- I am kind of interested in next week, since the writers may address Brennan's concerns about post-baby body... even though I'm not convinced the character would give a crap and, as an anthropologist, she'll know very well that she shouldn't expect to be anywhere near her pre-baby weight/figure for months, especially while nursing. Perhaps we'll get some addressing of post-partum depression in there, though? Anyway, the post-partum period is being written better than the pregnancy and awful, awful delivery episode. We never got any of this with the Angelodgins baby.
- "Crystal's been working here since before carrot was a juice." (I found this clever, to be honest.)
- "Even the Norse warriors were crossdressers." (Maybe true, maybe not.)
Forensic Mystery - C. It took a while to ID the body, which meant the team had to use some actual forensic work. But the mystery was solved in a clunky fashion, and we got no information about the victim that would lead us to care even a tiny bit about her.
Forensic Solution - B. Although some of their methods were odd (making the head sneeze) and their results lucky, for the most part it was solid forensic work. Strange that they never estimated the victim's age, though.
Drama - C-. Too much screen time for interpersonal relationships (Finn-Michelle-Saroyan; Booth-Brennan-Christine; Booth-Shaw) meant not a lot of time could be devoted to the CotW (corpse of the week).