The Suit on the Set
Brennan, Booth, and Christine have traveled to LA to be on the set of Bone of Contention, a full-length movie being made from Brennan's book of the same name. The stars, Cherie Redfern and Blaine Conway, are playing the fictionalized Brennan and Booth - Dr. Kathy Reichs (true to the name-flipping conceit of Bones) and Andy Lister (rather than Andrew Ryan, the love interest in Reichs' Brennan books). The set is awash in fancy, blinking things and is emblazoned with WISK, the Washington Institute for Science and Technology.
Brennan is initially upset at the revisions to her screenplay, but she and Booth settle in to watch the filming. When Redfern as Reichs says something along the lines of, "The victim has penetrating trauma to the chest bones followed by a massive cardiacal eruption. I could extract the medial epicondyle..." then breaks open the chest cavity, Brennan loses it and complains about the mistakes in the science and dialogue. Mandy Oh, the VP of production, insists they have a consultant on staff to keep the science on track, but Brennan quickly finds out it's Doug Philmore, the Canadian forensic podiatrist from S06E17 (one of the better episodes from last season). Philmore is doing his best, but he is also chagrined that the director, Jocko Kent, doesn't care about the science.
As a new body is being swapped in for the one Redfern broke, a stench pervades the air. Brennan and Booth quickly realize it's a real body, then get permission (from the VP of production and head of security, because no need to call the LAPD, folks!) to solve the murder mystery. The victim was a man in his mid 40s, and based on the state of decomposition, he had been dead around 90-120 hours. According to Philmore, the set is a fully functioning laboratory because it would cost the same as a prop lab... because all movies have a prop budget of tens of millions of dollars in equipment and supplies?
The profusion of perimortem bone damage to the victim's arms and torso, along with the skull damage, suggest he was attacked in some manner. The jagged edge of the costal margin of the left 7th rib suggests his cause of death was a punctured aorta. The actor playing the Hodgins character inserts himself into the investigation, since he has a doctorate in botany and microbiology from UC Berkeley. Foliage on the victim's shoe is Laurus nobilis (bay laurel), common in California. Brennan lets Dr. Barry Summers consult and run tests on Hodgins' behalf.
Angela's facial reconstruction is quickly identified by Summers as Hansen Stephens, the head of the studio. His head has traces of brass and foliage on it, suggesting he was killed with or near a sprinkler. Booth questions pretty much everyone: Stephens' assistant, Mandy Oh, Blaine Conway, and Liam Toynen (the screenwriter). They didn't do it, even though Mandy's car had some foliage in the bumper and she's a racist troll.
Two shards of aluminosilicate, or fragments of a cell phone screen, are found embedded in the metacarpals by Dr. Philmore. Angela goes to the data backup service again and finds texts Stephens sent to Cherie, whom he was sleeping with. But she was also sleeping with Jocko and Fernando, the junior groundskeeper (also a movie producer in Mexico). Philmore's reconstruction of the footprints from the scene suggests that Stephens was running from someone or something. Based on the pattern of injuries on Stephens' bones, Angela narrows down the kind of vehicle that hit him to something with a small turning radius.
Brennan and Booth are hanging out outside Cherie's trailer, where there is a giant bush shaped like an elephant, when they realize the elephant's trunk has been repaired since Stephens' death. The golf cart of the groundskeeper, Valerie Rodgers, matches the small turning radius, and she confesses immediately to running down Stephens, who was unrepentant that he mauled her prized pachyderm topiary.
And it turns out that Dr. Summers was in a movie with Dr. Saroyan years ago called Invasion of the Mothersuckers, making her the female Blacula.
Forensic and Plot Comments
- Brennan didn't note how she determined the victim was male or in his 40s. Boo. Plus, the plot was so self-aware that there was not much to make fun of this week...
- I don't buy in any way that it's just as expensive to make a fake lab as set up a real lab. Mass specs are not cheap, my friend.
- I do buy that someone with a doctorate in botany would be in the movies. PSA: Students - academia does not pay well. At all.
- For all its snazziness, Philmore's footprint replicator thing didn't do much - it was dismissed by Brennan off-screen.
- How did Rodgers get the body to the prop room? Why didn't she quit her job and leave after she killed someone, rather than returning to the scene of the crime for a couple of days? I guess she is supposed to be psychotic or something.
- "Learn how one tibia can topple an Empire!" I have got to steal that for the title of my next conference paper on pathology in the Roman Empire.
- Dr. Summers noting that acting, his first love, won out, "kind of like a methicillin-resistant staph infection."
- Conway/Lister's belt buckle says Kooky. Cute.
- Jocko: "I thought it was a film shooting. I'm not used to real things."
- Saroyan, Sweets, Angela, and Hodgins get blown up while picnicing at the Washington Monument in the trailer for Bone of Contention. Awesome.
- The whole Saroyan storyline was silly, but I actually met my husband during a screening of Blacula, so I'll allow it.
- Loved all the little bits of meta-commentary...
- Brennan complained that they changed the name of the Jeffersonian to WISK. (I've always thought it was weird that they changed the name of the Smithsonian to the Jeffersonian. Then again, the Smithsonian was named after a rich Brit who never set foot in the US. Jeffersonian is a much better name.)
- Liam Toynen: "Stephens paid me buckets to write crap" like this movie.
- Brennan, to Philmore: "I'm glad that your foray into another pseudo-profession like film consulting hasn't dulled your scientific acumen."
Forensic Mystery - C. Vague handwaving about facial reconstruction identified the victim. Most of the clues to his killing were interesting, but it was infuriating that they all came sequentially (which is necessary for the plot of the show) when most of them would come at once in a real investigation (e.g., finding two phones, finding the cell phone in the metacarpals).
Forensic Solution - B+. There were a lot of interesting techniques being used. If you can suspend disbelief about the presence of a fully-functioning lab on a movie set, then the majority of the forensic work was quite good.
Drama - B-. There weren't a lot of stakes to the killing of Stephens. I could have done with fewer red herrings, but the point was that there were plenty of people who could have and would have killed the guy. No one would believe that Booth would move to LA. And the Saroyan storyline was just episode filler.
Meta-Commentary - A-. I said last week that I was excited about the possibilities this episode held for reflecting on itself. And I was not disappointed. Brennan bitched about the poor science in the movie, which is a fictionalization of her book, which was a fictionalization of her work, which is a fictionalization of Kathy Reichs' work. Her catty remark to Philmore about consulting was pretty delicious. If only they'd mocked how quickly forensic work gets done on TV, they'd have gotten a full A from me.