The Bod in the Pod
The episode opens with the Jeffersonian team on the beach inspecting a plastic pod full of decomposed human remains. Brennan waxes on about all the fecal coliform bacteria and chemical contaminants in the ocean. Although she initially claims she can't "determine gender" of the remains by looking through the pod, she shakes it like a Magic 8 ball, and the skull floats up so she can see the angular eye orbits and large mastoid process, which suggest the deceased was male.
Back at the Jeffersonian, Hodgins and Vaziri mention the deceased was a Caucasian male, although no one ever explained how they did ancestry determination. The body is sealed in some sort of organic, multilayered polymer. Hodgins uses a laser cutting tool to open up a small hole in the top then decides to sniff the contents of the pod. He passes out because the remains decomposing in an anaerobic environment produced loads of carbon dioxide.
With the head removed from the pod, Brennan notices blunt force trauma to the posterior plane of the occipital with rough-edged abrasions. The upper and lower central and lateral incisors have been smashed out. There are wood splinters in with the body. Hodgins discovers that the pod itself is simply normal plastic sheeting. The body, wrapped in plastic, was exposed to direct sunlight. The heat, combined with the bacteria and lipids, created a catalyst that hardened the plastic. Vaziri estimates the age of the deceased at early to mid-40s based on the auricular surfaces of the ilia.
A stamp on the lumber brings Booth and Brennan to Lumber for Less, where the manager, Renee, is upset to learn that Lucky (aka Charles Milner, whom she identifies based on Angela's facial reconstruction) is dead. They had been lovers. Lucky was a crime scene clean-up professional. Renee points to Lucky's wife, but the wife had no illusions that Lucky was faithful. Booth and Sweets bring in Davey, Lucky's stepson, for questioning. Sweets thinks that the mother-son team of Lucky's widow and her son are the likely murderers. Davey, though, points them in the direction of Melvin Carville, a crime-scene-clean-up competitor.
Meanwhile, Angela is trying to figure out a murder weapon. She thinks it might have been one of the clean-up tools, and based on the serrated marks on the skull and blunt trauma to the mandible and maxilla, she identifies a wrecking bar-style tool that Davey, Lucky, and Melvin all had. Sweets interviews Melvin, who claims that he and Lucky were going into business together and that he didn't kill him. Of course, when the FBI requests to see all the tools, there's blood all over Melvin's and Davey's tools are wiped clean. Hodgins runs an "isotope" comparison of the pod plastic with the plastic sheeting that Melvin and Lucky both used; it seems to have been Lucky's plastic, which suggests he was killed at a job he was working.
The last job Lucky was working was a home invasion of an elderly woman; the murderers thought she had a lot of money stashed away but didn't find it. Lucky won the bid for the flooring estimate, because he was sleeping with Renee from Lumber for Less. Brennan thinks that Melvin is the killer, but she has no evidence, so she has the Jeffersonian team comb the old lady's house. She finds nothing, Melvin walks, but then Brennan gets an idea in the middle of the night - run a hair dryer over the cement floor, and blood will appear. The blood has four relatively dense areas, which Brennan thinks are from the murderer cleaning up while on his knees (and feet). One of the four dense spots is perfectly round - the result of the murderer having an artificial knee.
Booth brings Melvin in for further questioning. He explains the knee print and confirms that Melvin has an artificial knee. Brennan presents a bag of cash that was found in Melvin's house. Turns out, Melvin wanted to get the bid on the old lady's house because he thought there was still cash squirreled away somewhere. He was right, and he didn't want to split it with Lucky. So he killed him.
- You don't "determine gender." You "estimate sex." Brennan should know better.
- There was no indication where the determination of Caucasian came from. I mean, it was before they even took the skull out of the pool of fluid. At least angular orbits and large mastoid are reasonable for identification of the deceased as male, and auricular surfaces can be used to get a rough age-at-death. As always, multiple methods for assessing demographics would be nice.
- They seemed to have made a positive ID from a facial reconstruction. No DNA? Dental records? You know, the normal things we do to make a positive ID?
- No self-respecting scientist would stick his head in a vat of unknown goo and inhale deeply. I'm beginning to think the writers don't like Hodgins very much. Also, I didn't get the anaerobic environment explanation. That type of environment usually preserves bodies quite well, but here it left it liquefied. Because it was enclosed?
- The evidence for perimortem trauma was kind of confusing. I gather there was blunt force trauma to the back of the head, but also to the front of the jaw? And then there was sharp trauma... from the implement used to make the blunt trauma? There was so little information about the assessment of trauma and cause of death.
- Would one really "compare isotopes" from the two plastics to see which one was used to wrap the body? Wouldn't you use a mass spec to find molecules or elements, not isotopes?
- Today's non-murder side plot was all about romance. Specifically, the budding Vaziri-Saroyan romance. Which seems reasonable, I guess. Vaziri reads her love poetry in Farsi. (Anyone know Farsi and can speak to whether it made sense and/or was good?) Oh, right, and Vaziri is a political exile from Iran because of some poetry he wrote when he was a teenager.
- Angela and Hodgins rekindle their romance on the roof of the Jeffersonian, by reading poorly-translated Farsi. Eh. Guess the writers thought they needed something to do.
- And Sweets is still living with Booth and Brennan. Not romance, per se, but apparently his childhood home life scarred him more than just on his back (which the writers forgot about a couple episodes ago when Sweets was shirtless), and he's dragging his feet trying to find a new place to live.
- You know it's a boring/drama-heavy episode when there are musical interludes.
- This might as well go in the "plot" category... I so so so very desperately want Saroyan's gorgeous cream-colored sweater, the one with the cut-outs and buttons down the front. Stunning. I want it now.
- "I'm laughing because murder would be inappropriate for a toddler." - Brennan, on writing a children's book
- "You are my carburetor." - Hodgins to Angela
- "... then what are these knuckley things in the middle of my legs?" - Melvin on knees
- Booth: "Knee prints are just as unique as fingerprints." Melvin: "The hell they are." (Thank you, Mr. Murderer, for saying what I was thinking.)
Forensic Mystery - C+. Far too much forensic hand-waving, not enough actual science in tonight's episode. The deceased was IDed just as the opening credits ended.
Forensic Solution - C. Again, hand-waving. Lasers! Isotopes! Gender determination! I do not think those words mean what you think they mean.
Drama - C+. The drama of the murder mystery was pretty terrible. But I'll bump this grade up because I don't mind the Vaziri-Saroyan drama at all. They seem fine for each other... both have names that are difficult for me to type. Overall, a thoroughly boring, mediocre episode.