Bones - Season 7, Episode 13 (Review)
The Past in the Present
The season finale refocuses on Christopher Pelant, a brilliant but sociopathic computer hacker from Episode 6. Pelant had been under house arrest and devoid of the internet because of previous charges of wire and computer fraud. He is also a suspect in two unsolved murders, so Booth, Brennan, and Miss Julian testify at his parole hearing to keep him at least contained in his house. As the hearing closes, Booth and Brennan each get a call about a murder in the woods - and their ringtones have been changed to howling wolves.
In the wildlife refuge, a couple whose GPS led them astray found a body. Brennan notes that the victim is male and that the lack of billowing on his auricular surface indicates he's in his late 30s. Hodgins estimates the man has been dead for two days because of the presence of Mycetophilidae eggs. The healed fracture Brennan notices in the man's left humerus is significant - it transects the medial epicondyle at the trochlea, and she recognizes the man as Ethan Sawyer, a friend from graduate school whose arm Brennan set when he broke it on a ski trip. (Sure, she's not a medical doctor, but her name is Bones, after all. She can do more than set bones on a table. Oh wait, no, she can't.) Brennan immediately suspects Pelant, as she had enlisted Ethan's help with the Pelant case, even though Ethan was committed to the high security ward of a mental hospital for being delusional schizophrenic.
At this point, Brennan should take herself off the case because of her close connection to the victim, and also because she'd compromised the Pelant case by taking counsel from an outside source - and a crazy one at that. But she doesn't. Wendell examines the body and finds tooth marks on the zygomatic from five or six different wolves. Saroyan notes hemorrhagic staining around 50% of the bite marks, which meant that Ethan was still technically alive when the wolves started eating him.
In a strange bit of editing, we return from commercial unsure of where Booth and Brennan are or what they're watching. Seems they're watching some sort of interview with Ethan Sawyer, and he's talking about needing to kill the demon, and it's explained that the demon is Christine. So in 15 seconds of confused exposition, suddenly Brennan has a motive for murdering Ethan, a motive on which the entire rest of the trumped-up case against her seems to hang. Due to a computer glitch, Ethan was transferred to a less secure area of the mental facility and walked away. Brennan had seen him a couple weeks before, and he had given her an old math textbook as a gift.
Angela checks the video surveillance from the mental hospital, and the tape has been doctored to make it look like Brennan was visiting Ethan the night he died. There's apparently no paper record of visitors to the secure ward of a mental hospital - sign in sheet, photocopies of ID, wardens' recollections - just time-stamped security footage. Angela asks Brennan if she has an alibi for that night, but she claims she doesn't. As in, Brennan never says what she was doing - was she at work? At home nursing her infant? Eating dinner with Booth? Seriously, someone must have seen her that night.
Wendell finds the tip of a needle in the C7 vertebra. Saroyan extracts it, and Hodgins finds a trace of an anesthesia called curare that was used in the 1940s. It's not made anymore, so you'd have to distill it yourself, from Chondrodendron tomentosum. Hodgins has some of the plants, but Brennan had asked him for it because she was studying a tribe in western Colombia that used it to poison their darts. You know, in the copious spare time she has while being the best forensic anthropologist in the country and a new mom.
At this point, Brennan is preposterously still on the case. She finds a series of cut marks on Ethan's skeleton. Booth meanwhile claims that all evidence for the case goes through him. He gets a mysterious phone call seemingly from Brennan, saying she was being held by Pelant. Booth breaks down the door and beats up Pelant, who calls the police by taking off his ankle monitor. And finally Miss Julian removes both Brennan and Booth from the case, turning it over to Lt. Flynn, FBI Special Agent in Charge of Creepy Stares. Angela, Wendell, and Saroyan look more closely at the cut marks, which cross minor arteries. The killer severed them to entice the wolves with the scent of blood while Ethan was alive but immobilized. Saroyan concludes that since Pelant has no training in circulatory anatomy, he couldn't have done this. Because she's forgotten how he disassembled and reassembled a human body in episode 6. And that even a moderately intelligent person can read a book on the topic.
Booth's harassment of Pelant gets him paroled, apparently. He makes a bomb and plants it in Booth and Brennan's house, in place of their usual alarm clock. Flynn questions Sweets about his profile of Ethan's killer, and he is forced to admit it fits both Pelant and Brennan. Sweets is now off the case too.
Angela hacks into Pelant's email, credit card records, and library account and discovers through the latter that he checked out over 80 books in the past month. Flynn gets a warrant to search Brennan's car and house, but can only do the car because of an error in the warrant for the house. Hairs in the trunk match Ethan's. Miss Julian is going to arrest Brennan but is giving her a few hours before doing so, to let her get her affairs in order. Brennan remembers the quote Ethan wrote in the book he gave her: "Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night; God said, 'Let Newton be,' and all was light." (Alexander Pope) Booth sends Hodgins and Saroyan to Ethan's room at the mental hospital, where they find a triangle of secret code written in Ethan's saliva on the wall, revealed through black light. Angela has an a-ha moment after talking to Brennan, who's at Christine's christening with Booth and Max. She hypothesizes that Pelant was uploading viruses through the RFID codes in the library books. When the books were scanned, the viruses deployed into the system and eventually got to the internet.
Angela tells Miss Julian about this, but she's also off the case, since Pelant managed to wire money to her from Brennan's account. After the christening, Booth goes to get the car, but Brennan hops into the one Max brings her. She decides to make a run for it rather than being arrested for Ethan's murder. Because that's what any normal, rational scientist would do: run from the law, rather than trust in her colleagues to solve the case. And we're supposed to believe it because of the sad-eyed baby in the back seat.
Aw, sad-eyed baby is soooooo sad. The pathos. It hurts my ovaries.
- Loss of billowing is one of the characteristics of the auricular surface we use to assess age. But using the auricular surface requires looking at multiple features of it, not just billowing. And there are better ways to estimate age - auricular surface is not going to narrow the age range down to "late 30s."
- Why does Brennan think she's a medical doctor who can set a break? Especially a very uncommon break to the elbow, a joint that requires good range-of-motion?
- In one of the music video montages (seriously, why were there so many, when the rest of the plot was so rushed?), Brennan is looking at the skeleton on the light table, and the humeri are reversed (or maybe just upside down? Hard to tell).
- Nice callback to Angela's fancy taphonomy-remover program, previously used in episode 9 (which was by far my favorite episode of the season to hate on).
- I asked a Geek about the computer stuff...
- Can someone remotely switch ring tones? Yes, quite feasible if it's a smart phone, especially an Android phone. Random bit of scariness: If someone hacks your Gmail password, they can install programs, read your email, and do other nasty stuff to your Android phone. So maybe change your password now, mmm 'k?
- Could viruses be embedded in RFID stickers? Maybe, but this is getting closer to the fractal nonsense from episode 6. These RFID stickers are generally static, so you're just reading a number, not actual computer code. But if you've written your library system especially badly, it could work, as through SQL-injection attack. Still pretty unlikely.
- Why would Pelant be up for parole if he was a suspect in two unsolved murders? Seriously, no one's checking in on him for any reason? And how does harassment from an FBI officer give him immediate parole? Why does Saroyan completely underestimate him if he's a crazy genius?
- Why are we just now meeting Ethan Sawyer, and why does he just happen to be a crazy person committed to a mental asylum whose odd fracture Brennan fixed because they were besties in grad school? Oh, right, because it's convenient for the plot. And by convenient, I mean convoluted.
- Why did it take so long to remove Brennan, Booth, and Sweets from the case?
- Why didn't the mental hospital have any other records of visitors to the super-secure ward?
- Why doesn't Brennan have an alibi for the night Ethan was killed?
- Angela is suddenly a better computer hacker than Pelant? "Irony," explains Angela. "Convenient plot point," say I.
- Why are Saroyan and Hodgins looking for a triangle? I have no idea where that came from. At least they found it.
- Why is no one else at the christening? Those don't usually happen at a completely empty church.
- Why would Brennan want to run? It's not like she's minutes away from getting the electric chair. She'd probably post a giant bond and be put under house arrest or surveillance or something. Isn't the evidence against her all circumstantial, or at least evidence that can easily be planted?
- Finally, why does Booth's hair get lighter every episode? And why is Ryan O'Neal obsessed with that Members Only jacket?
Forensic Mystery - D+. No mystery here. Brennan ID'ed the victim at the scene. And seemed to know who killed him. Immediately.
Forensic Solution - B-. Auricular surface billowing isn't great, but theoretically a fracture could be distinct enough to ID someone. Immediately?
Drama - C- (plot) / A- (drama). So if you read all my comments under plot points, you'll see that this was a wonky, messy, underdeveloped plot. Every new thing out of anyone's mouth in the second half strained credulity, and I had to just accept it and move on to the next contrived plot point. But ignoring all the plot holes, the hour of television was suitably dramatic - there was a fight scene, a kissing scene, a rogue FBI agent scene, loads of people freaking out, and a not-without-my-baby final voyage into the sunset. Plus, a literal ticking time bomb, set to go off some time in August, I guess. I have to ding the drama grade, though. The Bones writers generally handle the serialized serial killers quite well - Gormogon, Gravedigger, Broadsky - but they missed an opportunity this season to put Pelant in another episode or two, which made everything really rushed in the finale.
Welp, that's it, folks! Join me in the fall for the season premiere and resolution of the cliffhangers from tonight's episode.