Bones - Season 8, Episode 1 (Review)
Greetings, Bones fans and h8rs. I’m back for another season of reviews (quick apologies for the delay in this post - I was otherwise engaged last night). I’mma try not to be too hard on the season this year – I mean, I will call out the scientifically sketchy, weird, and flat-out wrong things that make it into the script. But Brennan deserves a bit of slack: after all, it’s pretty great that a show about a female scientist is starting its 8th year on the air.
The Future in the Past
Last season ended with a dramatic cliffhanger: Brennan was being framed for the murder of her friend Ethan Sawyer by an evil computer genius, Christopher Pelant. Unsure whether she'd ever be able to clear her name, Brennan took off with baby Christine and the help of her ex-con father, Max. Cue new(ish) theme music, with more medical-sounding doo-doos.
This episode takes place three months later. Brennan has terribly fake blonde hair, and baby Christine, who isn't more than - what, 4, 5 months old? - is already saying "dada." Angela, Hodgins, Saroyan, Booth, and Sweets are all still trying to crack the Pelant case. Clark Edison has replaced Brennan and is doing a reasonable job of it, even asking the team to document their findings (which they apparently dislike because they're poor scientists). Special Agent Flynn is also back to continue to be cranky at Booth.
Brennan has done some detective work on her time off, with the help of Max: they discovered that Pelant's high school guidance counselor went missing his senior (junior?) year. She was a runner, so they searched the woods in fictional Pitt Meadows, VA, and found her (super fakey skeleton) body, which Brennan excavated and pedestalled like the pro that she is. The Jeffersonian team finds the body, after Brennan calls in a tip while disguising her voice. They also find a flower, which she and Angela have been using to communicate during her disappearance.
At the Jeffersonian, Clark notices the high nasal bridge, which suggests Caucasian, and her sternal rib ends put her at 35 to 39 at time of death. Her pelvic inlet shows she never gave birth. The woman is ID'ed (not sure how) as Carole Morrissey, Pelant's high school guidance counselor. Sweets pulls up Pelant's recommendation letters for Stanford and, using linguistic analysis, realizes that the one from Morrissey was written by Pelant, just before she went missing. Angela, meanwhile, does some handwaving computer stuff and gets Miss Julian reinstated to the case because she showed her digital signature was forged (and she therefore didn't give Brennan money).
Clark is less successful in figuring out cause of death and the weapon that was used. Saroyan notices staining on the trabeculae of the sternum, there's trauma to the back of the head, and a swab of the area comes up with red agate, a rock. So this requires a visit from fugitive Brennan, who sees deep nicks on the 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae, as well as injuries to the 3rd to 5th lumbar verts. More importantly, Brennan notices injuries consistent with Morrissey's being strung upside down and gutted: tearing of cartilage at the knee (lateral femoral and tibial condyles) and torn cartilage at the talus and medial malleolus. The body is almost wholly skeletonized, and yet the small bits of flesh that remain after 10(?) years are the ones that give manner of death. Interesting. Red agate was what Morrissey struck her head on before being strung up.
Hodgins gets results back from the swab of the vertebrae: tamahagane, or Japanese steel. Brennan suspects that the murder weapon was a Japanese sword that Pelant's father brought back from the Pacific theatre during WWII. Although Clark thought Pelant had used something heavy, since he was just 16, he was actually a very heavy teenager, around 200lbs, so he could put a lot of force on a light object. Booth gets the sword from Pelant's family, and Clark shows that that weapon matches the sharp trauma to Morrissey's cervical vertebrae. Pelant is taken into custody with this evidence.
Angela meanwhile figures out the triangle of code that was on Ethan's wall - the edges of the triangle represent the three sides of Pelant: the base is his rebirth into innocence, one side is his secret murderer persona, and the other side is his guilt(?) and his desire for someone to kill him. With some more computer handwaving, the symbols along the edges morph into a sooper secret code, which happens to plug into some program somewhere that somehow shows that Pelant digitally altered the surveillance video outside Ethan's asylum. Brennan is no longer a suspect in Ethan's murder.
The whole gang retreats to the Booth-Brennan manor to celebrate and apologize to one another. Special Agent Flynn excuses himself to take on domestic terrorism. Clark gets shuffled off to an archaeological dig somewhere for some reason. But as B&B are "making up" on a washing machine's spin cycle (yes, really), they get a call - Pelant has managed to erase his identity and is claiming to be Basam Al-Fayad, an Egyptian citizen. As he leaves the FBI with his Egyptian consulate escort, he hands Brennan a marigold - indicative of pain and grief. Brennan tosses it, but as the elevator doors close, Flynn stoops and picks it up. Dun-dun-dunnnnn!
- Never good when they assess ancestry from the skeleton. Especially from one small part of the skull. Sure, high nasal bridge suggests European nose. But I need more than that for a positive ID.
- Similarly, pelvic inlet suggesting a nulliparous woman? I've never heard this, to be honest. I have heard that the pubic symphysis can show scarring from childbirth (with the idea being that the relaxation and subsequent reformation of the cartilage there results in minor damage to the bone), but I thought this was largely discredited... or, at best, the research is inconclusive on whether it's possible to tell parity from skeletons.
- They did this on another episode, so I've complained about it before, but the show's pronunciation of malleolus always gets me - I've never heard anyone say it that way, even if the dictionary says it's an acceptable pronunciation.
- Why did Brennan talk about Pelant's knees? She was going on about how he used to be heavy, which has long-lasting effects on the skeleton, especially at the joints. Sure, it's true, but it was kind of beside the point.
- How was Morrissey positively ID'ed?
- How did Booth find Brennan at the motel? Or, I guess, she found him. But still.
- Did we ever get more information on the flower code? Is it some well-known code? If not, how did Pelant crack it?
- Was there any point to the "three sides to Pelant" mumbo jumbo from Sweets? How did Ethan know about that? Why did Sweets just then decide to pop into the Jeffersonian to give Angela the clue that she needed?
- Ugh, so much Angela computerish handwaving this episode. At least it was vague, though, and not just outright ridiculous like last season's finale and "Crack in the Code".
- "She is quite brilliant." Nope, still not buying that your infant can talk (although it's possible).
- "Then you have trust issues stemming from... I dunno, a bunch of psychological crap." Self-aware Sweets is quickly becoming my favorite character.
- "I love serious archaeological work!" I guess this is goodbye, Clark. Have fun on your improbable Jeffersonian excavation in some obscure part of the world attempting to answer some unstated research question.
Forensic Mystery - A. I wasn't expecting another dead person to figure in to a season premiere that had a lot to get out of the way. But it was worked in pretty nicely to an already busy episode.
Forensic Solution - B-. Decent forensic work for the Morrissey case. No explanation for how they actually confirmed the ID, though. Bad computery mumbo jumbo work for the Pelant side of the case, though.
Drama - B+. This episode had all the elements of a truly good Bones episode, but there was just way too much going on at once, which made the Brennan-Booth reunion stiff and awkward, and the Brennan-Angela reunion not quite as sweet as it could have been. I am excited that Pelant will figure in to later episodes, and Agent Flynn is pretty sketchy himself. Could be a good season!