Bones - Season 8, Episode 17 (Review)
The Fact in the Fiction
A former investment banker-turned-farmer stumbles across a dead body while aerating his field to grow kale. The bones are heavily scavenged by coyotes, based on the three-cornered puncture marks, but presence of Nicrophorous americanus and its larvae give Hodgins time of death of 5 days ago. Flattened anterior and posterior aspects of the femoral neck lead Brennan to suggest the victim was an Hispanic male.
At the diner, Brennan is confronted by a young man with a head wound, ranting about the thing he has for her in his bag. Booth whips out his gun, the guy slides the bag across the floor, and a bloody head wrapped in plastic rolls out across the diner floor. The guy is not a crazy, though, but the new intern, Dr. Wells, who tracked the coyotes to a den 6 miles away and retrieved the skull of the victim. Wells is quirky, with a PhD in physics, master's degrees in astronomy and wildlife ecology, and is two credits shy of a master's in forensic anthropology; he has also passed the bar. Brennan complains that wrapping the skull in plastic could have compromised the remains because of condensation, but Wells had already calculated how much time he had before condensation started affecting the remains. Upon examination, Wells finds no cutmarks to the gonial angle of the mandible, the underside of the chin, or the cervical vertebrae, which means the head was most likely removed postmortem by scavengers. They note a strange glow emanating from the inferior nasal conchae.
The glow came from glow-in-the-dark paint, which they traced to the still-unnamed victim's brother's body shop. Alex Garcia identifies his brother, Benji, from... a facial reconstruction? He may also have reported him missing? Their mom is dead and their dad took off years ago; Benji broke up with his girlfriend Courtney around the time of his death. Courtney denies killing Benji, as she loved him, but he only had eyes for his truck, a tricked-out '59 El Camino like the one his dad used to own. Benji was smart, Courtney mentions, interested in time travel. Courtney's alibi checks out, though. Wells meanwhile finds a perimortem 20-mm contusion to Benji's occipital bone and slight scoliosis of the spine. There is also an incomplete perimortem fracture of the right anterolateral tibia and fibula.
Angela finds that Benji was talking a great deal with Professor Scott Hunter, including using his login information on the Collingdale University server, and had numerous files on his computer about time travel. Booth and Brennan go talk to Hunter, who has a prior record of electrocuting a student, which is how he lost his job at the university. Hunter denies killing Benji, accidentally or otherwise, but Brennan finds plenty of equipment in his home lab that could have electrocuted Benji. They bring some of this equipment back to the Jeffersonian so that Hodgins can run some experiments and see if the current could have caused the fracturing to the anterior and posterior aspects of sternal ribs 9 and 10 and the anterior aspects of vertebral ribs 11 and 12. After some goo splats Hodgins and Wells, they realize that electrocution was not what killed Benji.
Booth and Brennan go in search of more clues using Benji's phone records and tracking of his ATM withdrawals. He also borrowed money from Hunter on the night he was killed. Hodgins' spectroscopic analysis of the soil found on Benji's body points to serpentine soil, the kind found at a strawberry farm in Rockville. B&B search the area and find a barn with Benji's car in it. They also find another dead body -- rugged nuchal area on the cranium and convoluted sutures suggest Hispanic male, and the sternal rib ends suggest mid to late 40s. Booth thinks it's amazing that the body is basically the same as Benji's, only 20 years older, because of course there are no other Hispanic males in D.C.
The second victim suffered a single gunshot wound to the inferior right thoracic region. This is also what Hodgins and Wells conclude killed Benji, after getting Saroyan to shoot a gelled-up thorax. Judging by skin marbling and slippage, Saroyan estimates that the second victim was also killed 6 days ago. This man also has a roughly 20-mm contusion, but to the frontal bone. Brennan and Wells find a comminuted fracture to the right patella of the second victim with evidence of remodelling, as well as slight scoliosis. Wells thinks this could be evidence that Benji travelled through time, but Saroyan presents the DNA results: the man was Felix Garcia, Benji's father. Injuries to the two bodies suggest that Benji was standing in front of Felix, their heads knocked together, and they were shot by the same bullet.
Alex Garcia admits that he told Benji his father was dead, since he was a deadbeat and a junkie. Booth finds one of Felix's drug dealers, who happens to be Sidney Giran, a man who works at Alex's body shop. Sidney denies killing Felix, but he did inflict the kneecap damage with his tactical baton, as striations on the bone show, because Felix owed him money for heroin. The perimortem injury to Benji's leg, though, was made with more force and at a 45-degree angle. Sweets and Booth return to the body shop to question Alex, who is working on a car with scissor doors. Booth thinks that Alex was upset that Benji found out his father was alive and killed them. Alex admits the whole thing: Felix returned and asked them for money. Benji was going to give Felix his entire college savings, so Alex followed them to the barn at the strawberry farm. He shot at Felix, but Benji jumped in the way to protect him. Alex ended up killing them both.
- There is a suggestion that flattening of the femoral neck can suggest African-American ancestry (platymeric index), but I'm not aware of any clear skeletal indicators of Hispanic ancestry. Also not sure why the flattening of the femoral neck would give Brennan any indication of sex.
- The introduction of the new intern was just stupid. Brennan does complain about how he presented her with forensic remains, but not nearly enough. There is no excuse for bringing remains in to a diner, compromising their integrity and the case itself.
- They never actually obtain a positive ID on the victim. They track the paint in his nose to a body shop... and somehow know that it belongs to the victim's brother... who confirms it with... a facial reconstruction? This was really sketchy.
- As for the second victim, a rugged nuchal area does generally suggest male, although I'd want pelvic confirmation of that one cranial feature. Convoluted sutures, though, are largely an ancestry marker for Asian heritage. Many Latinos, of course, have Asian heritage because that's where Native (North/South) Americans came from, but this means the complicated suture is not specific to Latinos.
- I don't know about you, but if I were confronted with a job candidate who had four degrees in four wildly different subject areas, I wouldn't be itching to hire him. I'd be questioning his sanity and ability to think clearly. A PhD in physics and a law degree don't make one qualified to do forensic anthropology.
- Not sure what "two credits short" of a forensic anthro master's degree is. I mean, after coursework, you have to take comps. And write a thesis. Plus, aren't all the other interns either PhDs in forensic anthropology or PhD candidates in it? Why is the Jeffersonian bothering with master's students?
- Why doesn't Brennan get to pick her interns? Seems weird to have Saroyan decide who gets to work closely with her... Also, she has bad taste, since all the interns are beyond arrogant and all (except Daisy Wick) are men.
- If Prof. Hunter was fired from Collingsdale University over two years ago, how can Benji access their servers with his login? Universities in my experience are all too happy to take away your email/library/server access the minute you graduate or quit.
- Where did Saroyan get the DNA comparison from? That is, was Felix's DNA on file somewhere? Not clear how they IDed him, even though it was clear from the plot that the second victim had to be the first victim's father.
- "On the island of Vanuatu, you could be cannibalized for disobeying your tribal chief." "And you could be forced to give your child to my clan to settle this petty conflict." "You're familiar with the Vanuatu?" "My knowledge is vast, which is why I'm here, right? So don't try to cherry-pick facts to win an argument." -- Pretty much what I want to say to Brennan every week.
- "Theoretical physicists can be pretty weird..."
- "Since you have a degree in complicated systems and imaginary numbers..."
Forensic Mystery - B-. This episode was fine. The mystery was ok; it was pretty obvious that the two victims were related, and that the time-travel thing was a very bad red herring.
Forensic Solution - B-. Again, a fine episode. The osteology was reasonable, except for the Hispanic ancestry thing. The victims were never positively IDed from dental records or DNA (unless Felix was), which was disappointing. Cause of death was pretty reasonable.
Drama - B-. Nothing to get too worked up about. The new intern is obnoxious. Booth wants to mine meteors. Everyone discussed where in time they'd go back to, and Angela and Saroyan would go back to have sex with Angela's ex-husband (because of course?).