May 14, 2012

Bones - Season 7, Episode 13 (Review)

The Past in the Present
Episode Summary
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.

Comments
  • Forensic
    • 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.
  • Plot
    • 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?
Ratings
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.

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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ok, so it's been about a year since Brennan and Booth got together, right? And it's only now that she says that she's with him for more than the fact that he knocked her up? Cool. I would have thought this would have come up earlier (like, maybe before they bought a house together), but whatever. "Bones" stopped making sense to me a long time ago, and I'm only sporadically hate-watching now.

You touched on many of the plot holes that bothered me, and I'm sure there were many more that I didn't catch. Also, if they're so sure this guy is doing bad things, why not have someone watch him? Like, to see if he's leaving his house? Surely an FBI agent like Booth would be able to arrange for some kind of surveillance. And why did knowledge of the circulatory system matter? Couldn't you just slit his wrists or something to draw blood? And why was he cutting deep enough to mark the bones? If he was trying to frame Brennan, surely she wouldn't be stupid enough to leave evidence like that. I feel like I could go on and on, but yeah, this episode really annoyed me.

Kristina Killgrove said...

Yes, that reminds me: if Brennan were to kill someone, she would know of many better ways to dispose of the body, particularly ones that would leave little or no trace. Scoring the bones and leaving the body for the wolves is a crappy way to dispose of evidence.

Bryce said...

As far as I can tell, Bones ran not because she avoided the rational notion that her scientist friends were competent enough to prove her innocence but because Pillant had already proven his ability to manipulate computer systems to do what he wants, shown with his transferring of Sawyer to a minimum security ward to allow his escape. Bones is indeed rational, and she saw that her incarceration would allow Pillant the opportunity to control her fate through his manipulation of the Department of Justice or Department of Corrections systems. She knew she was safer on the outside than she would be in custody or even simply in the system.

Of all of the plot holes, that one at least makes the most sense :)

Great blog btw!

Steven A Thomas said...

It is not common for christenings to happen in an empty church, but it does happen. I've personally been to one where I became a godfather to a young baby girl. Sometimes they are conducted in the afternoon with just close family and/or friends. Depending on the person, that might just be a couple of people.

The rest of the episode is horrible. The science, especially the computer science, was bad. So much of what Pillant did, computer-wise, is possible, but it's not only unlikely but almost impossible to make it untraceable.

And it's always convenient how the team suddenly becomes irrational when it's convenient for the plot, especially Bones. Every step they took to protect Bones and hide the facts actually made her look more and more guilty. And the fact that she didn't recuse herself the very minute she became a suspect only destroyed her credibility even more.

This show has seriously jumped the shark. The characters no longer behave according to their long-held characterizations. Bones is irrational. Booth has no problem with her completely different personality. Angela became stupid. And there seems to be no sign of improvement.

petoskystone said...

I didn't watch this episode as the episode introducing Pillant was beyond stupid...the writers & producers not only jumped the shark, they rode them rodeo-style. I didn't expect it get anything but worse when Pillant showed up again. This synopsis confirms it. Ugh! Time for Bones to bow out.

Anonymous said...

What is Bones all about?

Science? Forensic Science/Anthropology? Murder mysteries/complicated cases being solved by brilliant people?

No.

If a brilliant scientist (who reads several books on the subject of raising children which includes how children are brought up in different cultures) says things like:

1. I don't know what is play (And plays like an idiot with a doll)

2. Brings home a gun that shoots soft balls to play with a daughter who is not born yet.

3. Decides that dissecting a frog will be an activity of fun for a child.

4. Suggests that the family search the woods behind their house for dead animals to cut up as an activity for family bonding ...

... the writers are telling us not to think but to just watch Bones with a silly grin and get entertained.

Bones is all about Booth's six seasons of long wait for sex with Brennan in the guise of wanting to solve crimes. He was just indulging her with cases, you see, to get into her pants. In between he loved many as he waited for his only love. Remember the episode in which he reassures Bones that one can love many but there is only one love that lasts and is most important? Did he propose to another woman called Hannah after he this? He did. ;) He removed his shirt here and there and made many teenagers all over the world crazy about him and ... never forget, very happy!

Deschanel as one among the many producers has some power. She must be using it to eliminate sex scenes with Boreanaz. So when with her Booth gets to only peck Brennan - hence the weird kisses happen - especially after her marriage and real life baby. The audience want more. They wait & wait.

Well, didn't poor Booth wait for this too?

Christine is a precious gift Brennan gave Booth after one episode in which they have sex - just one. Does it matter if only two people attend the christening? Look at the way Booth grins when he is holding his precious baby for christening. I grinned too. I was delighted for Booth. He not only gets a baby, he gets the permission to baptize the baby. Two gifts. No. Four gifts. She allows him to sex her. She honors him by living in the same house. Remember the episode in which she struggles to give Booth "our" place? Poor, poor guy.

Precious baby from a duffer of a brilliant scientist who forever makes life difficult for Booth, but he loves it.

Do we want reality? True crimes? Real crimes? A science class? Just facts?

Or do we want entertainment?


Who cares if in reality Pillant cannot do half of the things he does as this deadly bad guy? It is fun to watch him add some tension to the Booth & Bones romance. ;)

Bones is for grins.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of the stuff here, and disagree with some, but I definitely agree with the fact that this season of Bones was nothing short of horrible. I couldn't even bear to watch most of it.
On the other hand, this particular episode at least made an effort at giving us a story that doesn't entirely revolve around the main character making a fool of herself.
As for a couple points, I think I have the answers. Someone's already remarked on why she ran instead of placing trust in her friends. Another thing I think I can address is why Cam made the comment on his lack of anatomical training. I'm almost 100% sure that what she meant by that wasn't that Pelant COULDN'T have done it, but that a jury would find it more likely that Brennan, with her extensive anatomical background, would have done something like that, and so the information wasn't beneficial to the case against Pelant, and was probably detrimental to Brennan's.
Yeah, just something I thought I would try to address.

lily said...

I just want to know what they did to David Boreanaz's hair...

Philo said...

>And how does harassment from an FBI officer give him immediate parole?

Pillant was up for parole, and looked like he was going to get it until Booth showed up with a pile of (circumstantial) evidence and said "this is the guy who did that stuff, I swear on my badge."

So, as usual, we trust the cop to be 100% legit and err on the side of caution - Pillant keeps his ankle bracelet.

...until the same FBI agent kicks in Pillant's door and beats the crap out of him for no apparent reason. Now we go back to "Maybe he's got something in for this guy, and we shouldn't trust his word so much."

So - innocent until proven guilty, Agent Booth, and Pillant gets his parole.

Anonymous said...

@lily: If you are wondering about the hair color - David Boreanaz's hair must be graying. He is coloring it and perhaps his hair stylist is choosing lighter hair colors.

@Philo: Booth said, "Pillant is a person of interest in a couple of murder cases."

Booth has a strong reason to want to thrash Pillant. He loves Bones and wants her safe at any cost.

Does Pillant get parole after this because Booth attacked him? Or did he tinker with his ankle monitor & come out to place the bomb in Booth's home - like he must have when he committed the previous murders? Or did the court go through his files and decide he was innocent after all, especially when all evidence is now beginning to pile up against Bones?

Hmm. Does it matter?

Anonymous said...

Is it Christopher Pillant or Pelant?

Wikipedia spells it as Pelant.

Monica B said...

I'm confused about why they're making such a big deal about the security footage with the messed up date (when Bones visited her friend in the mental ward) when the person from the mental ward says that guests also have to check in??

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