September 30, 2013

Bones - Season 9, Episode 3 (Review)

El Carnicero en el Coche
Episode Summary
Two tow truck drivers argue over who gets to tow a burned-out car. One cedes the job to the other, however, when the first one notices a dead body in the car.  The Jeffersonian team is called to the scene.  Based on the supraorbital ridge, Brennan thinks the person was male, and the prominent malar and intermediate nasal spine suggest Hispanic.  They find a meat cleaver on the floor and ask to bring the whole car to the Jeffersonian, as the seat and metal have fused around the bones.

At the Jeffersonian, Wendell is helping with the case.  He notices an open fracture to the right parietal just above the squamosal suture indicative of sharp trauma.  However, there's no evidence that the cleaver was used on the victim. He then revises his estimation to be projectile trauma; the heat of the fire enlarged what was a small bullet hole. Hodgins, in deconstructing the car, finds a bullet jammed in the roof support.  He also finds the VIN of the car, which belonged to a Mr. Middlebury, whose only alibi is that he was trying to buy cocaine for a lady friend and who is never mentioned again. Further examination of the skeleton reveals fracturing to one of the patellae perimortem; Wendell suggests it may have been from a crowbar or club. Meanwhile, Angela uses the skull and factors in heat and length of time the car burned to come up with a positive ID: Jamie del Campo, a member of the Estrellas Locas gang. del Campo is known as "el Carnicero" -- the Butcher -- because of his propensity for cutting off his victims' head, hands, and feet and scattering them around town. They also find a pair of diamond earrings and a curious indentation on the anterior surface of C1.

Booth enlists the help of Sweets to go talk to del Campo's girlfriend, Maria Alvarado.  Maria denies having anything to do with del Campo. Sweets recognizes her son, Javier, from the community center at which he has been working, after Booth almost shoots the kid. Back at the FBI, they learn that the gun that killed del Campo was a Rossi snubnose .38. Gangs use so-called "library guns" where someone checks one out and returns it, as this muddles the chain of evidence for police and FBI. The only local gang not shot by this gun is the 520 Mafia. Booth and Sweets go talk to Curtis Martin, their leader. During their porch chat, a couple Estrellas Locas drive by shooting at them. Booth and Sweets get down, and Martin kills them with an unlicensed semiautomatic.  Booth disarms and cuffs him, then brings him into the FBI. But Martin denies that the 520 Mafia had anything to do with del Campo; rather, he says that one of the Estrellas was talking to police.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Brennan and team finally figure out the cause of death.  Although Wendell found what looks like a second bullet entrance wound, there was only one shot.  The bullet nicked the C1 and winged sideways, exiting through the parietal and making it look like an entry wound. The shooter was in front of and below del Campo. The Jeffersonian then gets the head of a seventh victim killed with the same gun: Adrianna Garcia. A bullet entered her parietal and killed her. Kerf marks on her decapitated head suggest a heavy blade. Miss Julian suggests that Garcia was sleeping with del Campo, but del Campo and the other Estrellas found out that Garcia was talking to police. The fracturing to Garcia's right zygomatic matches the fracturing on del Campo's patella, meaning he kneed her in the face hard enough to break his kneecap and her cheekbone.

Booth thinks he has put two and two together, assuming that Maria killed del Campo when she found out he was sleeping with Adrianna Garcia. She denies this, and Sweets decides to talk to Maria and her son, Javier, together.  He gets a quick confession out of the kid: Javier was terrified that del Campo would kill him and/or his mother.  So he followed him to where del Campo was going to burn the car and said he was there to collect the library gun. del Campo handed it over, and Javier shot him. Then apparently got him into the car and set it on fire, then did something with the gun, I guess, since Javier claims not to know where the gun is.  He leads the FBI to someone named Anna, the gun librarian, through a cell phone call.  Booth shows up and catches Anna and some other Estrellas trying to get rid of the evidence.  Everyone wants Sweets back thanks to this case, but he wants to stay at the community center a bit longer, to help kids like Javier.

  • Forensic
    • Supraorbital ridge is fine for a rough assessment of sex.  I still think attempting to work out Hispanic ancestry from the skeleton is poor forensic anthropology. (And why do they use the lesser-known term "malar" when discussing the ancestry, but "zygomatic" when talking about the fracture? Strange.)
    • So del Campo's patella looks like it was smashed by a crowbar or club.  Turns out, it was smashed by someone else's face. I'm not buying that there is a similar amount of force at work in those two scenarios... Nor that the Jeffersonian team could "match" fracture patterns from his patella to Garcia's cheek.
    • The ID was made using facial recognition software? On a thoroughly burned skull? Not, say, dental records?  Angela is truly a miracle worker, as always.
    • I suppose the two entry wounds thing could have been caused by a ricocheting bullet, as Brennan suggests. Bone warping from the fire could certainly have caused changes to the skull that preclude easy identification of things like cause of death.
    • Oh man, peeling Adrianna Garcia's face off was super gross (and something the Bones prop people love doing from time to time), but it left me yelling at the TV, "Why are you not wearing masks, people?!?!"
  • Plot
    • If Middlebury's car was only in the area for a short period of time (enough for him to get money out of an ATM), how did del Campo plan to steal it?  Or did he just plan to steal a car in the general area? I'm wondering how Javier knew where to find del Campo if the heist of Middlebury's car was a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing.  Also, why was he going to burn the car?  Did he cart Garcia's dead body around in it?
    • Speaking of the car... how did Javier get del Campo's body inside the car?  The trajectory of the bullet suggests Javier shot up at del Campo, so they were probably both standing.  If del Campo had been sitting in the car already, Javier would be able to shoot him point-blank.  This means that Javier had to move del Campo's body into the car and then set it on fire. Sure thing.
    • And speaking of the gun... what did Javier do with it?
    • Maria has Anna's cell phone on speed dial. Because of course you have your gun runner's number on speed dial under her real name.
  • Dialogue
    • “Anthropologically, neighborhood gangs are just another warrior culture; when threatened, they respond the way any nation-state would. Even their graffiti is similar to what one would find in an early Etruscan settlement.” -- Brennan.  (So, while there is some evidence of Etruscan graffiti, it would make way more sense to refer to Roman graffiti, along the lines of what we see at Pompeii. I guess Etruscan sounded cooler to the writers?)
    • "That’s like thinking a young Spartan male could refuse to join the army.” – Brennan
    • “Anthropologically, he’s been conditioned to hold the gang even above his own family” - Brennan.  “With all due respect to anthropology…” – Sweets
    • “Toasts originally evolved because of fear of poisoning; the clinking causes the liquid to spill into the other person’s…” – Brennan
  • Bones Style Watch!
    • Nothing much this week other than Sweets' sweet jean jacket! Wow, is there any way to make John Francis Daley look like an adult?

Forensic Mystery - B+. Pretty interesting this week, as burned bones make for difficulties for the Jeffersonian team.

Forensic Solution - C+. The ID was made on a burned skull using facial recognition software. Lame.

Drama - B. Fairly solid episode, actually, with enough action that I mostly forgot about all the inane plot holes.

Next Week: Pelant is back!  And it seems to be some sort of Phantom of the Opera plot ripoff.  Might be interesting, though.  (And I hope to get this posted at a reasonable time, but I'll have a 6-day-old, so we'll see...)

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XXXIII

Here is September's Roman(ish) bioarchaeology news...

New Finds and Excavations - Human

Iron Age Hillfort massacre (via Daily Mail)
Skeleton and tomb of Etruscan noble (via Discovery)
New Finds and Excavations - Animal
Horses from a Thracian
chariot (via Daily Mail)

Follow-ups and Updates

  • 4 September - Scavi archeologici a Vagnari (  Bioarchaeologist Tracy Prowse talks about her ongoing excavation and research at the site of Vagnari.
  • 19 September - Three-dimensional field recording in archaeology: an example from Gabii (Archaeology of the Mediterranean World). Rachel Opitz, the lead topographer for the Gabii Project, writes about all the cool digital models they're making at Gabii. I tried a few months back to print out one of the digitally modelled graves, but it just ended up being a big pile of plastic.


September 28, 2013

Who Needs an Osteologist? (Installment 6)

Hey, kids!  It's time for another round of Who Needs an Osteologist?  Today's example comes from a photo in the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, showing the "African" woman found in Fairford, England, a week or so ago.  (NB: So far, I haven't seen any sort of official report of just how the forensic anthropologists determined she was "African" - hence the scare quotes - so I'm taking this report with a grain of salt.)

Now remember, to play along at home, all you have to do is identify in the comments section everything that is wrong with the layout of this skeleton...  And... Go!

(Image from the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard)

If you missed them previously, here are other installments of Who Needs an Osteologist?

September 23, 2013

Bones - Season 9, Episode 2 (Review)

The Cheat in the Retreat
Episode Summary
King of the Poo
A couple of animal control officers capture a bobcat eating human remains out of a dumpster. Judging by the debris collected by the bobcat to cover his find, Hodgins estimates the body has been there for at least 6 hours. Brennan notes that the state of decomposition means the person was dead for 6 to 12 hours before the bobcat found the remains. Puncture marks on the head of the humerus suggest the bobcat severed the arms. Hodgins finds the skull in a tree, put there by a bobcat, along with some poop that falls on his face.

At the Jeffersonian, the team -- although mostly Vaziri this week -- notes the extensive fracturing to the bones suggestive of blunt trauma.  Incomplete ossification of the (medial) clavicle puts age in the early 30s. Vaziri starts calling the person "he" although no forensic analysis is done to figure this out. This individual has areas of dense bone around the pelvis and spine, as well as calcification of the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (of the knees). Brennan diagnoses this as skeletal fluorosis, which is rare in North America. She suggests that cases of it would be reported to the Department of Public Health.

Meanwhile, Booth magically gets an ID from some unknown source: Adam Pak, a management consultant of Korean ancestry. His wife Emma didn't report him missing, since she thought he was on a business trip to Thailand.  Hodgins finds traces of agricultural lime on Adam's clothing, and Chironomidae from the Nematocera fly family coupled with highly acidic soil magically point him to Native American tribal land in Virginia.  It turns out this area is being used as the New Dawn couples' retreat, so Booth and Brennan decide to go undercover in case the killer is still at the retreat.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Vaziri attempts to figure out how Adam was killed.  He finds hemorrhagic staining on the inside of the frontal bone and well as perimortem fractures to the skull, ribs, pelvis, and proximal ends of the femora.  Brittle bones from fluorosis would account for the severity of the fractures, but it also means it's difficult to tell what hit him and with what force. Based on the angles of the fractures in the left femur, Vaziri thinks that Adam was hit from two directions at once, perhaps by two assailants. Most of the damage is confined to his upper femora and his pelvis, though.  There is some additional fracturing around the alveolar bone of Adam's upper two front teeth, suggesting they were pulled or yanked out. The teeth also had some oak bark lodged in them.

Booth and Brennan visit the retreat as Tony and Roxy, where they meet up with Cliff from Cheers, who is obviously the killer because, hello, guest star!  But they sift through a lot of red herrings first: Kelly, Adam's mistress, got a huge payout from a dead boyfriend.  Emma, Adam's wife, is anxiety-ridden, but she has a good alibi for the night of the murder. Shaman Little River has a string of priors under the name Jeremy Brewster, but he's just a fraud, not a killer.  Initially, Brennan thinks that part of the obstacle course killed Adam, but the fracture patterns don't match up.  Hodgins then magically traces the living oak to the southeast corner of the reservation, where there is also agricultural lime. Booth and Brennan, who mysteriously haven't been kicked off the property even though they have no jurisdiction, find the tree with Adam's teeth still stuck in it and see tire tracks up to the tree and red gravel from the Paks' house.

Brennan goes back to the lab and rechecks the skeleton.  Apparently Vaziri missed a piece of metal embedded in the back of one of the bones.  The particulate, according to Hodgins, is a chrome alloy, but a specific kind that hasn't been used in car manufacturing since 1970. Brennan realizes that a vintage car struck Adam, and she remembers that the Schumachers (Cliff from Cheers and his wife) drive a 1969 van.  In an extensive Dirty Dancing reference (which I thoroughly appreciate, I have to say), Brennan and Booth figure out what happened.  The Schumachers frequent these couples' retreats, even though they don't need relationship help, in order to steal house keys from other participants and rob them while they're at the retreat. The Schumachers went to Adam's house but realized he had a wife (who heard them skulking around and called the security company). When they got back to the retreat and tried to return the key, Adam caught them.  They conked him over the head and thought he was dead, but then he woke up and tried to run.  So the Schumachers ran over him with their car. They are unapologetic.

Also, Saroyan's identity has been stolen.  This is obviously Pelant's doing, but curiously no one mentions it as a possibility, even though Hodgins refers to his money having been stolen by Pelant.  Sweets is unhappy in his job, as he feels he's not using his skills appropriately.

  • Forensic
    • So the age-at-death estimate was fine.  But there was no forensic attempt to figure out sex or ancestry.  Booth just confirms Adam was a man with Korean ancestry.
    • The diagnosis of skeletal fluorosis seems reasonable, but I never did figure out why it's in the plot.  Just to complicate the assessment of cause of death?  We don't find out why Adam had the condition.  Also Brennan suggests that cases would be reported to a public health department, but I've never heard that to be true since it's not like it's a communicable disease -- anyone else out there know one way or another?  I can only guess that Adam's fluorosis somehow related to his job and travel, but... yeah, I got nothing.
    • The Jeffersonian team sure took their time arriving at a conclusion of death by car, considering the fracture patterns were more or less confined to the pelvis and hips.
    • Oh, and the body layout in the Jeffersonian, as usual, has the ulna lateral to the radius rather than vice-versa.  But it feels cheap to point this out, since they literally never lay out the body in proper anatomical position.
  • Plot
    • Again with the fluorosis.  Did I just completely miss the point of this diagnosis, which was repeated over and over again, other than the more-severe-than-normal fracturing?
    • I liked the Dirty Dancing reference and didn't immediately see it coming.  Cute.
    • Saroyan's identity theft troubles will resurface and be pinned on Pelant.  Not sure why Pelant is bothering with this, though, rather than following through on the threat he made to Booth.
    • Oh, and Angela can now add "forensic accountant" to her ginormous list of jobs she can do because she is the world's bestest hax0r.
  • Dialogue
    • Brennan, echoing my thoughts: "You can't sweat out toxins. Sweat lodges can cause kidneys to retain water, preventing your body from eliminating toxins."
    • And Brennan lapses into Latin again.  I got most of it, as her pronunciation was much better than last time, but it doesn't seem to be wholly grammatical: "O manes maiorem, Kelliae, os rogo ut ad nos veniatus os apperite ex cor..."  Which I take to mean something like, "O, ancestors of Kelly, I ask that you open your mouth and tell us..."  Anyone want to improve on my Latin transcription here?
    • Angela to Sweets: "You're a tight-ass geek boy."
    • Brennan, on Sweets: "I thought he was a psychologist because he had substandard math skills." Poor Sweets got dumped on this episode.
  • Bones Style Watch!
    • That blue-white-black dress Saroyan was wearing when arrested/returning to the lab is to die for.

Forensic Mystery - C+.  I'm only giving it the plus because the fluorosis is still a mystery to me. Otherwise, the plot was telegraphed pretty far in advance.

Forensic Solution - B-. Nothing majorly wrong this episode, but there was a distinct lack of forensic anthropology going on, particularly in identifying the victim.

Drama - C. Sucks for Saroyan that her identity was stolen. But meh for drama.  Sucks for Sweets that he doesn't feel fulfilled in his job.  But meh for drama.  

September 16, 2013

Bones - Season 9, Episode 1 (Review)

And I'm back for a ninth season of Bones.  It seems kinda weird reviewing a fake show about crime and death in D.C. in light of today's very real, horrific shooting at the Naval Yard, but I suppose I'll press on. I've got my near-beer in hand, so here goes...

The Secrets in the Proposal

Episode Summary
Season 8 ended on the sort-of cliffhanger of the Booth and Brennan relationship -- Brennan proposes to Booth, only to have Pelant threaten (Booth) that he will kill a bunch of innocent people if they go through with it.  Booth backs out, and Brennan is confused.  The premiere picks up in real time, three months later, as Booth and Brennan have been having a rough time.  Booth confesses this -- and the real reason he broke off the engagement -- to his friend/former priest/bartender, Aldo Clemens

A call comes in about a body at the Lightfoot Hotel, discovered in the air conditioner's giant heat pump. Brennan identifies the right shoulder from fragments of a proximal humerus and the supraspinous fossa of the scapula.

Booth talks to the hotel manager, Mr. Gough, who admits there is no security footage because it's the kind of hotel that caters to illicit sexual encounters.  Gough finds the room of the person who didn't check out, although he was given an assumed name.  Brennan notices the smell of vodka on the drapes -- which look out directly over the A/C heat pump -- and finds traces of blood with a black light.  They take the whole heat pump back to the Jeffersonian.

In the lab, Hodgins finds pieces of a cell phone and wristwatch, while Daisy finds a fragment of skull containing the inner ear -- and an artificial stapes.  The serial number on the implant gives them the name Jonas Sidell, an accountant at the State Department working on understanding European traffic patterns, according to his boss, Ted Norman.  Angela discovers from Sidell's cell phone records that someone from the Transportation Accountancy Office texted him 22 times on the day of his death.  She calls the number back and gets Lily Thorn, the receptionist.  Booth brings her in to the FBI for questioning.  Even though her mother, a hot-shot lawyer, is with her, Lily insists she did not sleep with Sidell and did not kill him either.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Daisy and Hodgins rewire the fan of the heat pump to blow the remaining bits of Sidell out, so they can look for cause of death.  Brennan and Daisy reconstruct the skull from a ton of bitty pieces and note two blunt traumas to the left and right temporoparietals, which makes sense with the height of the blood spatter at the hotel room.  They also notice healed butterfly fractures to the ventral aspect of the ribs, probably the result of a shockwave from a bomb (which also explains the prosthetic stapes needed to fix Sidell's otosclerosis).  Angela reconstructs the last thing that Sidell's printer spit out using laundry detergent instead of ink at Hodgins' suggestion -- it is a photograph of a man and a woman in bed at the Lightfoot.

Meanwhile, Booth and Sweets go back to Sidell's apartment and find it completely cleaned and nearly stripped.  Sweets gets a roundhouse kick to the stomach from Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Booth chases after him, only to realize it's his old Army buddy, Danny Beck, now with the CIA.  Sidell was also CIA, with the State Department accountant job as a cover.  Booth then brings in Heinrich Gloeckner, a German businessman in town to deal with a consulting contract regarding pumps and dams, his company's specialty.  He was shown the printed photo of himself having sex by Sidell (going by the name John), who was working with Lily (going by the name Melodie) to blackmail Gloeckner.  But Gloeckner left before Sidell was killed. In fact, it seems that Sidell's CIA work had nothing to do with his murder.

Saroyan examines a piece of Sidell's flesh that had a bandaid attached.  It was a basic cut, but Brennan identifies the piece as from his jaw, which squares with a bone bruise he had on his mandible, but notes that it happened several hours before his death.  Magic particulates in the wound are from rose oil, which is found on high-end leather goods.  Booth fingers Lily's mother for this, as she spotted Lily at the Lightfoot and assumed Lily was working as a call girl. Marianne Thorn admits to hitting Sidell with her briefcase but denies having killed him.  

The Jeffersonian squints finally figure out the implement used to kill Jonas Sidell: something long but flexible.  Booth remembers first meeting Ted Norman, who denied that Lily had anything to do with Sidell's death and who had a very nice bicycle with a flexible lock.  Norman immediately admits to killing Sidell.  He thought that Sidell was using his position to unduly influence Lily into the sting/blackmail operation they had going on.  He confronted Sidell and ended up killing him in a fit of passion, while trying to protect Lily's honor or reputation.

Freddie Prinze comes back and tells Booth he could come work for the CIA if he wanted to.  Pelant comes back in the form of an above-range FM radio and notices Brennan put her trust in Booth.  They are happy again, which means Pelant is not.

  • Forensic
    • I really have very little to work with this week.  Seriously, there was no attempt to use the bones (which looked pretty damn complete considering they went through an industrial-grade fan) to figure out age-at-death or sex, since they already had a prosthesis with a serial number.
    • The artificial stapes was odd looking, but I can't find any good pictures of what it's supposed to look like.  
    • The skull reconstruction was pretty hilarious -- of course they found every single teeny little bone fragment except the ones that were pushed inward from the blunt force trauma.  Convenient.
    • Brennan says the butterfly fractures on the ribs were on the visceral surface, but we generally say ventral instead.  (Also, identifying butterfly fractures on bones that basically went through a shredder?  Really?)
    • Laundry detergent in a printer will make a "ghost" of the last image?  (I honestly have no clue, but it seems far-fetched.)
  • Plot
    • It could have been my wonky TV tuner, which was not happy about recording Bones in high-def tonight and kept cutting out the sound briefly, but the plot was a total mess.  I think Booth and Sweets went back to Sidell's apartment (not sure why?) only to find it had been cleaned out (by the CIA, I guess?) or was still being cleaned out by Freddie Prinze (who I assume will be back, since that's a pretty damned high-profile guest star to miserably under-use).
    • What exactly was Sidell doing?  Seems he was using his CIA connections to find and blackmail random businessmen, with the help of Lily as sex-bait. But I could be wrong, since there was absolutely no attempt to ascribe a motive to Sidell.
    • So after Pelant, like, tried to kill Booth, Brennan, and most of D.C., no one thought to sweep B&B's house for bugs or anything?  I can't wait to find out how he hacked their FM radio to spy on them.  I'm sure he managed to turn it into a videocamera just by using spyware or something else completely made-up.
    • And... Freddie Prinze, Jr.?  WTF?  Also, he has grey hair.  I feel officially old.  I feel like we'll see him and Aldo Clemens again soon.
  • Dialogue
    • The heat pump is the "world's biggest body blender" according to Hodgins.
    • "This sequence doesn't end well unless something disrupts the pattern." - Brennan, seemingly channeling Pelant in comparing her relationship to an escape sequence.
    • "It's cruel and unusual punishment not to let a woman finish her martini after the day I've had." - Marianne Thorn.  (Damn straight.)
  • Bones style watch!
    • Brennan's blue blazer made her look like a realtor or flight attendant.  
    • Booth's facial hair just looked dirty and made me want to scrub his face. 
    • Daisy and Saroyan both need new hair-dos.



Forensic Mystery - C-.  No anthropology was used to figure out the victim's age-at-death or sex.  The cause of death was pretty boring too.

Forensic Solution - B-. They figured out who the victim was super easily, thanks to the prosthesis. Didn't make for particularly interesting television, though.

Drama - D.  Oof.  Is it just me, or was there no drama in this episode at all?  The forensic plot was so confusing that I didn't have time to care about it.  And the Booth and Brennan plotline is... well, also hard to care when they've clearly been attempting to work on their issues for the past three months.  I feel like coming in at the outset would have been much more interesting, to see the fallout first-hand, than to start the season in medias res.

September 5, 2013

Archaeology... for the Ladies

I was browsing a European archaeology supply website this morning, seeing if there's anything I need to order before my spring osteology courses, and came across the Battifero Women's Archaeology Trowel for £13.99.

Think about that: a trowel just for me!  Who knew that after nearly 20 years doing archaeology, I had been using the wrong kind of tool this entire time.

I am unfortunately too far gone with pregnancy brain at this point (27 days!) to put together a coherent, snarky post that draws together themes of feminist archaeology ("What this awl means" anyone?) and the pinkification of, well, everything from hammers to Bic pens (the latter has a fantastically sarcastic review section, if you've never read it).  So I'll just leave you with a meme and suggest that you get your snark on in the comments section.

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