November 26, 2013

Bones - Season 9, Episode 10 (Review)

The Mystery in the Meat
Episode Summary
A teenage bully takes a kid's beef stew lunch and starts eating it in front of him when he realizes he just bit into a human tooth.  Other kids in the cafeteria find recognizable bits of human as well -- an eyeball, an ear.  Booth, Brennan, and some of the Jeffersonian team arrive at the school to check it out.  Saroyan picks through the stew to find bits of human meat, and Brennan assesses based on the gonial angle of the mandible and wear on the right central incisors that the victim was a 40-something male. The victim's flesh shows signs of marinating, and the bones suggest he was cut and crushed--processed like meat.

Booth and Brennan go to check out Tryon Foods, the company that supplied the canned stew to the school. The head of research and development, Susan Lauderbach, shows them around and confirms that the 6cm pieces of the victim suggest he went through their meat processor. Since there were no pieces of clothing found and since there is no bruising along the incision line, Brennan thinks he was fed into the meat processor after he was killed.

At the Jeffersonian, Daisy and Wells are getting on each other's nerves. They are finding fragments of bone in every can of stew Tryon sent them. Brennan exhorts them to work faster, as Angela needs a complete skull for a facial reconstruction. Daisy finds an area of remodelling on the anterior aspect of the frontal bone, and Wells notes that the incision is consistent with a frontal craniotomy. Off-screen, they find out that the victim was Howard Compton, a 41-year-old food scientist who had surgery to correct his anosmia, who was reported missing by his business partner, Agatha Bloom. 

Booth and Brennan pay a visit to Bloom, a bromatologist with acute hyperosmia. She thinks Compton was working on something worth a lot of money, but she has little information beyond that and denies killing Compton.  Booth then questions Sam Gifford, the CEO of Tryon Foods. He reports that he wanted to hire Compton full-time, which would mean passing over Lauderbach for the job.  They then interview Lauderbach, who denies killing Compton, even though she didn't particularly like him.  She did test the stew and sent it out, although since it failed some quality tests, it went to their second-tier market, which includes schools, prisons, and retirement homes. Her alibi is solid -- she was out of town researching the use of bugs as alternate forms of protein.

The Jeffersonian staff are still working on isolating cause of death.  Wells finds partially remodelled comminuted fractures to the right anterior carpals and metacarpals. Daisy runs a histological analysis and finds out the fractures were just two weeks old. Compton did see a doctor for this, although he claimed he'd fallen.  Wells doesn't believe this, though, as they would expect to see a Colles' fracture rather than these comminuted ones. These suggest blunt force trauma instead of an accident.  Compton had been in touch with police because he thought he was being followed. Although he had the make, model, and plate number of the car that was following him, the DMV records turned up nothing. 

Working on the assumption that Compton was creating something super secret when he died, Hodgins and Wells test a bunch of foods from his laboratory. Their favorite is Hot Bacon, which they discover is a personal lubricant. A search of Compton's email shows threats from Raymond McCants, a sex toy distributor, who was upset because of Compton's delays in getting him the bacon lube.  Booth questions McCants, but he didn't do it.

Daisy and Wells finally figure out cause of death, based on a puncture wound on the clavicle suggesting perimortem sharp force trauma. The attack came at a downward angle, severing the subclavian artery. Wells checks the slashed tire from Compton's car against the injury to his body.  The tire was slashed by a Japanese garden knife.  Angela traces two deposits from Compton to Evelyn Cheevers, an environmentalist who admits to having slashed his tires but denies having killed him.  They were on the same side, she argues, and Compton was going to quit his job as soon as he exposed someone on the inside.  The puncture wound, Daisy and Wells find, had a hole along the side, much like the needles that anesthesiologists use.  Brennan, however, reasons that it was an injector used to marinate meat.  The marinade injector was designed by Bloom and Compton. In Angela's re-creation of Compton's death, the subclavian artery would have spurted blood all over the killer.  Meanwhile, Brennan realizes that one bone on the table is not Compton's -- it is a horse bone. She reasons that if Compton knew the company was using horse meat, it might be a PR disaster. This leads Booth and Brennan to question Gifford, Tryon's CEO, again.  He denies killing Compton, but Brennan has a warrant to search his hair and, when she shines a black light on it, she sees blood fluoresce. 

Comments
  • Forensic
    • As usual, Brennan's visual assessment of age and sex of the victim is based on real forensics, but the features she chooses -- gonial angle and tooth wear -- are not on their own sufficient to figure out demographics.
    • Oh jeez, their ID was apparently based on a facial reconstruction, even though the body had gone through a food processor.  Didn't Brennan say just last episode that a body was too smashed up for facial reconstruction? 
    • Actually, it wasn't entirely clear if the ID was from the facial reconstruction or the surgery.  Apparently surgery style can be traced to particular doctors?
    • Most forensic anthropologists are not also experts in animal bony anatomy.  I mean, enough to recognize if a bone is animal or human, sure.  But I doubt that Wells could ID a navicular of a horse that readily.  (Also, I can't find any good pictures online, but it doesn't look anything like a human navicular to me...)
    • I actually tried to do research on the blood-in-the-CEO's-hair plot point and failed to find any information to confirm (or deny) whether this is plausible.  Anyone out there know anything about how long blood will stay on hair and fluoresce under a black light?
    • Props to the prop people, though, for actually using a premolar when the teenage bully bit into the stew and the bullied kid asked if he'd broken a bicuspid.
  • Plot
    • Wait, so Compton was killed in the processing room and spurted blood everywhere, but no one thought to check the scene for blood?  I guess you could argue that since it's a rendering area, there would be lots of blood anyway, but Dexter always seemed to find clues in blood spatter.
    • And Gifford knew that having horse meat in the stew would be bad PR, but he figured having a human body in the stew wouldn't be a problem?
    • Why didn't anyone at the FBI check out Gifford's alibi?
    • Why was the FBI even involved?  They've stopped noting in the episodes why these are federal cases, so I don't always believe it's anything other than plot convenience.
    • Horse meat is not a big deal.  I guess it is when it isn't being inspected.  But jeez, Italian babies eat it.  I mean, Lauderbach is supposedly researching eating bugs.  Americans would sooner eat horses than bugs, IMHO.
    • The whole "Brennan doesn't feel different after getting married and therefore needs a bachelorette party" subplot was lame.  I am a little surprised she is choosing to wear a wedding ring, though, given the fact she has her hands inside dead people all day.
  • Dialogue
    • Hodgins mentions that Daisy is "one of us." What does that mean?  Why isn't Wells?  Daisy doesn't have her PhD yet, does she?
    • "I'm invoking Gödel’s closed timelike curve in a Lorentzian manifold.” – Brennan's justification for flirting while married requires three wikipedia pages to explain it, and even then it makes no real sense.
    • “I told her that you’re the best person ever, even though that can’t be confirmed empirically, but I don’t give a crap…” – Drunk Brennan




Ratings
Forensic Mystery - C. The mystery was a wee bit overwrought. Too many suspects, too many teenagers recreating Soylent Green.

Forensic Solution - C-. Buncha stuff off with this week's episode. I mean, facial reconstruction from itty bitty pieces?

Drama - C-. Eh, the mystery was just ok.  Points off for the silly Brennan-in-a-bar plot line, which really was not that interesting or funny.

Well, this review is super late.  The new Friday date makes it difficult for me to review the show, since weekends are utter chaos at my house.  No new episode next week, due to Thanksgiving.

November 25, 2013

Ancient Studies Articles - New podcast!

My good friend, colleague, and fellow Waheel Sarah Bond and I have started a new classically-themed podcast.  Sarah commented on Facebook that she'd love to subscribe to a podcast that had people reading their articles aloud.  This would help her (and lots more of us) keep up on the latest research in ancient studies, which has become increasingly interdisciplinary, by listening to research at the gym or during our commute.  I'd had a similar idea when teaching Presenting Anthropology last spring and, for the audio project week, had suggested that students might want to read articles aloud to help the visually-challenged.  No one took me up on this, so when Sarah suggested an article podcast, I got excited.

Our theme is interdisciplinarity, so the articles we feature cross-cut one or more themes in ancient studies, like classics, history, art, archaeology, anthropology, osteology, philology, etc.  Because this is a channel of distribution, we are also starting by featuring articles that are open-access.  Although neither of us has yet published any research articles open-access (me, for reasons I've outlined before), we both contribute a great deal to public outreach in ancient history (Sarah, through Twitter, blog posts, and op-eds) and anthropology (me, through this blog, social media, and my new column space in a pop-sci magazine), so we are both aware of the challenges of open access.  I am in the process, though, of obtaining permission to read articles from Elsevier, who has a very good "transformative use" policy.  So look for those in coming weeks.

The address to subscribe to the podcast is:  http://feeds.feedburner.com/AncientStudiesArticles.  You can simply go to File in iTunes and enter that URL under "Subscribe to Podcast".  We should be up on iTunes within the week, though, so you can navigate to it more directly.

And here's the part where you come in, dear reader.  If you like what we're doing and want to help out by reading an open-access article in ancient studies, please let us know! (Here's a giant list of open-access journals in ancient studies.)  Or, heck, just record yourself reading the next open-access article on your list and send the mp3 (or a link to it on Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) to me at poweredbyosteons@gmail.com.

We hope that this podcast will be of interest to a bunch of people, so please share widely!

November 16, 2013

Bones - Season 9, Episode 9 (Review)

The Fury in the Jury
Episode Summary
The Jeffersonian team is wrapping up one forensic case and about to start on a second one, while Dr. Brennan is serving on a jury. On trial is Peter Kidman, a professional soccer player, who is accused of having killed his wife, Charlene, with a kitchen knife in their home. There is no forensic evidence linking him to the crime, however, and a star witness, his friend Christopher Barnes who lived in his guest house, is going to be testifying for the defense. Kidman's sister Allison also backs up her brother's story and his love for his wife. Brennan heads to the Jeffersonian when released from court but is quickly called back by the judge, who sequesters the jury due to new information he cannot let the jury find out. The rumor is that Barnes is planning to switch sides, testifying for the prosecution.

Meanwhile, the body that the Jeffersonian team is working on was found in water and is wrapped in some sort of synthetic fabric. Brennan notes that pieces of the mandible, maxilla, and glabella are missing owing to some sort of blunt (force) trauma, so facial reconstruction will be impossible.  Length of the long bones and the sternal rib ends suggest the victim was male and in his mid-30s. The seventh rib shows a glancing blow from a gunshot. Based on decomposition and partial rigor, Saroyan estimates time of death at 32-36 hours prior. Hodgins notes that hatched trochophores confirm this estimate. The condition of the lung tissue and epiglottis tell Saroyan that the victim was not dead before he hit the water. Daisy finds a .38 bullet lodged in the gluteus medius; neither that one nor the one to the rib would have been the cause of death. 

Booth initially nabs a fisherman who was recently busted on a charge of carrying drugs.  The fisherman insists he didn't know he was carrying drugs; he simply took money to drop off a package.  But because the package was dropped off near where the body was found, Booth and Sweets are skeptical.  The fisherman also has a bloody baseball bat on his boat, which he says he uses to kill fish. The fabric on the victim, however, does not match the traps that the fisherman uses.

Daisy finds lipping on the victim's ilia and bony projections on his auricular surfaces, suggesting a vigorous, repetitive action like horseback or motorcycle riding. Further, some discoloration on the femur suggests a bone graft that was obtained approximately two years prior. Saroyan thinks they can extract DNA from the graft and use it to trace the graft to the hospital in which the procedure was performed. They find out that the graft was from a cadaver, and the recipient was Christopher Barnes, one of the key witnesses in the trial Brennan is on the jury for. Barnes rode motorcycles every weekend with Kidman, and they both got into an accident a couple years back, necessitating a graft for Barnes and giving Kidman a hip injury. Kidman put Barnes up in his guest house and helped with his medical bills. Due to legal reasons, though, Saroyan and Booth cannot tell the court about this new discovery, so no one knows why Barnes isn't showing up to testify.  In the jury room, Brennan manages to convince the other eleven people that there is reasonable doubt in Kidman's case. They return a verdict of not guilty, and he is released.  In the car on the way home, Booth tells Brennan about Barnes. She realizes the importance of that finding to the case and starts to question her decision to render a verdict of not guilty. If she can finger Kidman for Barnes' murder, however, she feels that she can settle the score.

Hodgins meanwhile finds that the fabric on the remains was a dust cover for a car or other vehicle, and it has particles of some sort of pesticide(?) spray on it. He also finds ginkgo biloba and pollen not native to the area, so he wants to figure out where Barnes was killed. Daisy helps by extracting bone marrow in order to look at the diatoms. Hodgins indeed finds a specific kind of algae, Didymosphenia geminata, which appears only in fresh water, and thinks it may have been from the cold water discharge pond from a nearby electrical plant. Testing the algae in Barnes' lungs comes up with the same species, and the diatoms confirm this. When the pond is searched by the FBI, a rock with blood and tissue on it is found at the edge, as is a citrine gemstone.  In checking into Barnes' laptop, Angela finds that he was soliciting one-night-stands online. She tracks an email from "Kinky Kelly" to the public library through the IP address. Then, using the time stamp on the email and the library's security camera, she finds that the woman who sent the email was Allison Kidman, Peter's sister. Indeed, the trees on Allison's street were sprayed around the same time as the murder. Booth and Sweets bring Allison in for questioning about Barnes' murder. Although she breaks down, she doesn't say anything on advice from her laywer.

Daisy and Brennan work to establish a pattern and scenario from the remaining injuries to Barnes' skeleton. A small bullet track is seen on the talus; it would have severed Barnes' achilles tendon, making him unable to escape his attacker. Hairline cracks on the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae could have come from someone with a powerful kick, so Brennan again thinks that Kidman was involved in Barnes' murder. Hodgins shines a black light on a pair of boots the FBI got from Allison's house and sees blood. However, Brennan is convinced that Allison couldn't have killed Barnes on her own, especially since she was at least a foot shorter than he was. She assumes that Allison called Peter to come help. Kidman, however, has an alibi. Because of the high profile nature of the trial, he has been under constant media scrutiny. On the night of the murder, he is seen receiving a pizza, and then he's not seen again until the next morning, when he comes out to pick up the paper. However, his bodyguard is seen coming and going around the time of the murder. Brennan realizes from the different gait in the footage of the guard entering and leaving Kidman's house that Kidman dressed up in his bodyguard's clothes and left. Kidman's motorcycling accident left him with a hip injury, which caused his peculiar gait.

Brennan and Booth confront Kidman with this information.  Kidman admits to having left the house in his bodyguard's clothing. But then Brennan shows him the brooch from the bodyguard's jacket.  It is missing a citrine gemstone which, by Kidman's admission, puts him at the scene of the murder. His lawyer is pissed that he just admitted essentially to have killed Barnes.

Comments
  • Forensic
    • What happened to Barnes' clothes?  They note he was found wrapped in what they later find out was a car cover, but originally they thought it was clothing.
    • As a woman who is taller than the average man (and therefore two standard deviations above average height for an American woman), I get queasy when length of long bones is used to estimate sex.
    • Since I now live in the Florida panhandle, I can say that that juror's accent wasn't from around here.
    • I'm not sure how bone grafts work exactly. But wouldn't a donor femur be used in several different recipients? How did the graft pop up only Christopher Barnes?
    • Brennan throws out the scientific method and forensic ethics when she decides that she wants to find Kidman guilty of Barnes' murder. That doesn't particularly fit with her logical, rational persona.
  • Plot
    • Were the gunshots ever explained? Did Allison inflict those? Why did she shoot Barnes three times if she was having a hard time going through with killing him? I mean, all it takes it one shot to the head, but she shot him in the foot and the butt.
    • What was the sequence of events in Barnes' death anyway? He was shot by Allison, then kicked in the back and smashed in the face by Peter, and then wrapped up and drowned by Peter? Why didn't Peter just shoot him and get it over with?
    • I don't know anything about the law, to be quite honest.  So why couldn't Saroyan and Booth tell the lawyers or judge what they found out about Barnes? I get that that could change the outcome of the trial, but why can't the jury find out that Barnes is dead and didn't testify because of that (rather than speculate on why the man didn't show to testify)?
    • Why was Barnes going to change his statement anyway?  Did Kidman stop paying his bills?  Did he grow a conscience?
    • Why did Allison have her car cover in her car (rather than leaving it at her house)? Do people do that?
    • How and when did the bodyguard leave Kidman's house?
    • If Kidman had an injury that made it painful to walk, how was he still playing soccer? And how did he kick Barnes in the back so hard it broke his vertebrae?
    • Who would meet a sexual liaison at an electrical plant?  Could they just get in? Or did they meet near a water run-off pond that was public?  Again, though, who would do that?
    • I'm surprised that Brennan was chosen for the jury. Booth mentions that he's never served because the defense never wants him. I can't imagine it'd be much different for Brennan, who often testifies for the prosecution and who is likely friendly with many judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officers.
    • Saroyan's identity theft storyline is back!  I'd begun to think that the writers had forgotten about it, since it's been like two months since they mentioned it last.  Turns out, Angela found the person who's been using her credit cards: Haley Kent, Saroyan's college roommate.
  • Dialogue
    • "I thought Daisy was covering for you." "I know, that's why I wanted to check in."  Daisy is definitely my least favorite intern.
    • "Murder is bad enough, but soccer? That's anti-American." -- Booth
    • "We have as much of a chance of Apollo or Santa protecting us as whatever anthropomorphized fantasy figure that you revere." - Brennan, saying things I'd love to say if I didn't live in a fairly conservative, religious town.




Ratings
Forensic Mystery - B+. Tying in the dead body and the trial was nice. But the real mystery was not who did it but how.

Forensic Solution - A-. The forensic findings were all pretty reasonable and helped solve the case.

Drama - D. So I'm giving this grade for the non-forensic part of the plot. While I was watching it, the plot was ok, but in reviewing my notes, I had so damned many questions about, well, everything that I couldn't give it much higher than this. So confusing, from the legal issues to the specifics of the murder. 

Next week: Apparently some school is making unwitting cannibals of its students.  Should be interesting!

November 12, 2013

Bones - Season 9, Episode 8 (Review)

The Dude in the Dam
Episode Summary
A couple teenagers in an environmental science class go check out a beaver dam and find a dead body in the middle of it, covered in goo from a bunch of giant slugs. At the scene, Brennan assesses the dead person as a Caucasoid male age 28-32 based on the (thick) supraorbital ridge, narrow (and tall) nasal aperture, and minimal dental wear. Based on insect activity, Hodgins puts time of death at three days prior.

Back at the Jeffersonian, after Wendell cleans the sticky goo off the bones, Brennan notices that the victim was missing his lateral maxillary incisor, an unusual genetic marker. He also sustained a spiral hairline fracture to the right humerus, suggestive of extensive rotation of the articular capsule as would happen when one's arm is twisted behind one's back, but the fracture shows remodelling indicating he sustained it three months ago. The missing incisor coupled with the victim's demographic profile means a positive ID: Sean Nolan, a male model, who was 30 years old and had a girlfriend. The girlfriend thought that Nolan was in Charlotte on a shoot, but his agent confirmed he hadn't booked anything.

Angela "runs an algorithm" to break into one of Nolan's online file-sharing accounts.  She finds a bunch of pictures of children taken with a telephoto lens while they were playing at Hobart Park. Booth and Brennan go to the park to investigate, and Brennan immediately notices that three of the kids in the playgroup, who also appeared in Nolan's photos, have a similar genetically-linked trait: Darwin's tubercle of the ear. One of the mothers confirms that the playgroup is for kids fathered by Donor 562 from the Camus Sperm Bank.

Booth then investigates Judith Lynn Franco, the manager of the sperm bank.  She noted that Nolan was a donor but that he was fired because he lied about his credentials.  He didn't graduate from Yale, so he couldn't be a sperm donor at that exclusive bank. Meanwhile, the staff of the Jeffersonian notes that the thickening of Nolan's femora and tibiae means he had been taking testosterone - HCG - for the last few years, likely to increase his sperm production so he could donate frequently. Booth then questions Nolan's gym trainer, who has priors for selling drugs. He initially denies it but then admits he was selling HCG to Nolan. He also inflicted the arm-twisting injury three months prior because Nolan owed him money. He did not kill Nolan, however, and puts Booth on the trail of a Mr. Robertson, who had bought Nolan's sperm off craigslist and was upset because his wife didn't get pregnant. Interestingly, it was Franco of the sperm bank who told the Robertsons about Nolan, which leads Booth to suspect Franco isn't being entirely forthcoming about her relationship with Nolan.

The Jeffersonian staff still needs to find cause of death, however. Blunt trauma all appears to have been caused perimortem, when the body was thrown down the hill from the rest stop to the stream. Cut marks on the cortical surfaces of several bones, though, suggest that sharp trauma inflicted on Nolan killed him.  Specifically, there were deep, wide, V-shaped cuts to his left fifth metacarpal, right phalanges and metacarpals, left ilium, and right femur. There are different, shallower cuts to the left pisiform, hamate, and anterior superior iliac spine. Wendell initially thinks there may have been two killers. Saroyan suggests that the large cut to the proximal femur was cause of death: if the femoral artery was nicked, Nolan could have bled out in a matter of seconds. But the implement used was likely a three-edged hoe, a kind used by the highway department and that would be located in a rest stop. Based on the use of a weapon of convenience and the location of the wounds - suggesting Nolan defensively covered his pelvis while being attacked - Sweets thinks the killer was a woman.

Booth calls Franco back in for questioning, and Brennan notices from her physical attributes that she is pregnant. Franco admits to being pregnant with Nolan's son. After speaking again with Nolan's girlfriend, who says that Nolan never wanted kids, they talk to Franco one last time. Brennan has also found a piece of fingernail embedded in Nolan's left infraorbital margin, and Booth has a warrant to get a DNA sample from Franco. But they get her to admit that she killed Nolan; he laughed at her when she revealed she was pregnant with his child, and she snapped.

In the B story, Brennan is in a manufactured flame war with Tess Brown (played by Nora Dunn), who also writes forensic mystery books but doesn't have Brennan's academic credentials.  I interpreted this as a thinly veiled reaction to Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta series.  Cornwell's books aren't as good as Reichs's, in my opinion, because she doesn't have the same solid forensic background Reichs does (also because her writing isn't as good).  And it just so happens that Cornwell's latest book came out yesterday, the day this episode aired.  Temperance Brennan would say that that's not a coincidence...

And finally, in the C story, Hodgins got bitten a month ago by Dermatobia hominis, the human botfly, and is letting its egg incubate in the back of his neck. He's already gotten an ultrasound of it and compares being a host extensively to sustaining life and giving birth.  This results in a lot of awesome-gross close-ups of the botfly larva hatching from his neck, and Angela eventually has to help him hatch it.  He ends up with a special mention from the Journal of Entomology for this wacky caper, and insists that this will help move research forward. (Doubtful. I mean, don't these things infect people all the time? Why is he special?)

Comments
  • Forensic
    • Using dental wear for estimating age-at-death is imprecise at best and negligent at worst. It's just not useful when assessing age of a person in a population with as varied diets as we have in the 21st century.
    • Caucasoid (and Mongoloid and Negroid) are problematic terms, even for many forensic anthropologists. They're just not used that often anymore.
    • It's actually unclear how frequent Darwin's tubercle is in the general population. I've only seen one study, done on a Spanish population in the 1980s, that puts the figure at 10%. Since I have this trait (as does my mom and my elder daughter), I'd like to have more recent figures from a broader population.
    • But hey, loads of points for using two different genetically-linked traits and dental records to ID the victim.
    • Histological examination of the femur actually could tell them approximately when Nolan started and stopped using testosterone. Surprised they didn't mention histology, since it was actually relevant to this case.
  • Plot
    • How did Franco, who seemed fairly petite, haul Nolan's body away from the rest stop? He was supposed to be, like, 6'2" and very muscular.
    • What happened to his clothes? He was only dead three days, and his body was fairly well skeletonized (which I suppose I can buy, since there was a lot of animal and insect activity), but where did his clothes and other personal effects end up?
  • Dialogue
    • "You've been letting a fly grow in your neck for a month?" - Angela to Hodgins
    • "I'm running an algorithm to see if we can break into his TopCloud account." - Oh, Angela...
    • "It reminds me of garments prostitutes were forced to wear in shame under the law of the Lex Julia." - Brennan, apparently not remembering that lex means law, or that in classical pronunciation, it would be you-lee-a (Lex Iulia). I'm not an expert on Roman jurists, so I don't know if the law required prostitutes to dress differently. Wouldn't surprise me at all, though.
    • "I saw The Fly, and it did not end well." - Wendell
    • "When the time comes, it will detach its anal hooks and slide out to greet the world." - Hodgins




Ratings
Forensic Mystery - A. Pretty solid mystery this week. I hadn't guessed the identity of the killer or her reason for it.

Forensic Solution - A-. Dropped this half a grade for using lame forensic indicators for the demographic assessment, but it's still an A because they actually confirmed the ID and because the injuries were well documented.

Drama - B+. The plot was interesting and snappy, but there was no sense of urgency to it, so it doesn't get an A.

Congratulations, Bones writers!  This is the first episode that I've enjoyed non-ironically in a while.

November 5, 2013

Bones - Season 9, Episode 7 (Review)

The Nazi in the Honeymoon
Episode Summary
Booth and Brennan are on honeymoon in Buenos Aires. Bored with hanging out on the beach, Brennan wants to go tour a morgue where a bunch of "desaparecidos" skeletons from Argentina's Dirty War are being identified by Dr. Leticia Perez. Brennan and Booth get a tour from an annoyed Perez, who hurries them out.  But Brennan notices one skeleton that's different from the rest: it's recent, judging by the black charring on the underside of the skeleton. Brennan estimates the age-at-death as 90 based on sternal rib ends and that he (no mention of how she determined sex) was Caucasian based on the long, narrow nasal aperture. Brennan ships some samples and artifacts back to the Jeffersonian and also sends x-rays of the bones. Perez determines time of death to within one month based on insect activity.

Perez is not interested in Brennan's help with this forensic case, but Brennan insists on talking to the police, so Perez brings Brennan and Booth to see Raphael Valenza, who operates out of a cafe.  Booth is initially skeptical of Valenza, knowing that cops in Buenos Aires are notoriously corrupt, but Sweets checks him out and finds that Valenza is clean. Valenza shows Booth the security camera footage from the archaeological site where the deceased was found. Meanwhile, Angela's facial reconstruction returns a hit: Miguel Silva. The Mercedes seen entering the site was his. Booth and Valenza go check out Silva's car and find a mysterious key.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Edison is working on the x-rays. Brennan and Perez note that some of the bones are calcined from the fire, but most are intact. Perez estimates the fire burned between 300-700 degrees, which Hodgins asserts was a wood fire.  He finds traces of gasoline, an accelerant, on the wood fragments Brennan sent. Edison finds interesting histological results: prolonged exposure to hydrogen cyanide or Zyklon B, a gas used in Nazi concentration camps.

Booth and Valenza check out Silva's basement, having initially determined that his much younger wife is not a suspect in her husband's murder.  They find the wine cellar full of Nazi paraphernalia and treasures like a van Gogh painting.  There is blood all over the place, along with a wooden splinter likely belonging to some sort of trunk or crate whose outline can still be seen on the floor.

Angela finds out that Silva was actually Hermann Haupt, the so-called Monster of Majdanek, and does some age-regression to show a resemblance between the 90-year-old man's driver's licence and his military ID. Perez finds perimortem fractures on the radius, ulna, metacarpals, and carpals, suggesting Haupt fought his attacker.  Then she drops the skull on the floor.  Oopsy daisy.  However, Brennan can now see the coronal suture interdigitations quite well and notes fragments of gold in them as well as intracranial discoloration suggesting a subdural hematoma.

Hodgins finds out that the wood splinter is from a larch tree and that it predates 1945 based on the fact that there is no cesium-134 or strontium-90 in it, both of which became prevalent in the atomic age.  Angela notes that crates of Nazi treasures were stored in larch crates, suggesting that what was at Haupt's home was indeed a crate, likely full of gold bars.  He was beaten to death with a bar of Nazi gold.

Booth and Valenza question a local fence about the gold. He admits finally that he bought it from Haupt's wife, Bianca.  They go question Bianca again; she admits to selling the gold but denies killing her husband. The wine cellar was open, she insists, and she simply took what she wanted, apparently not noticing all the blood all over the floor.  But Booth and Valenza think she did it and arrest her.

Perez tells Brennan that the case is over, since Bianca has been arrested.  Brennan shakes Perez's hand and notices the same avulsion near her thumb that the victim had.  She puts two and two together: Perez was Haupt's granddaughter, as the trait indicates polydactyly that was remedied in childhood. Perez admits everything: she found out about her grandfather's secret when he showed her the wine cellar. She refused to be a party to mass killing and refused his suggested inheritance. When Haupt started mocking her, calling her weak and a mestiza, Perez snapped and killed him with the bar of gold.

Comments
  • Forensic
    • They never did estimate sex from the skeleton. Sternal rib ends are good for people over 50. As usual, estimating ancestry from the nose is problematic. (For a good reason this is problematic, see the slur Haupt called his granddaughter above.)
    • Facial reconstruction is, as always, a crappy way to ID someone. Dental records, please.
    • What does Edison say he used for histology? A plane grading spectrograph?
    • Considering the femur is the largest bone in the body and it fully turns over about every 20 years, how exactly is there still trace gas from a concentration camp 50+ years ago that would show up on histological examination? I call BS.
    • Perez's hand does not have an avulsion, which is when a bone or muscle or tendon or something is pulled apart; it has an amputation, which is a cut.
    • Anyone know the frequency of polydactyly of the thumb? I thought that the extra finger was usually lateral to the pinkie. Nevermind, wikipedia confirms radial polydactyly is rare.
  • Plot
    • Why are Angela and Hodgins babysitting in Booth and Brennan's house? That's weird. (My guess is to save on set design...) Also, would Brennan allow Christine to watch TV? Isn't she like 2? Kids that age are supposed to get virtually no screen time. And finally, isn't Michael Vincent a full 9 months older than Christine? (Seeing as how he was named after Vincent Nigel-Murray, whose death prompted Brennan and Booth to have unprotected sex.) The boy actor looks much smaller than the girl.
    • Why didn't Bianca report all the blood in her house? Or leave sooner? It seemed like she had a few days or weeks between finding the gold and her husband turning up dead?
  • Dialogue
    • "We've all dropped human remains before." - Brennan. This is surely true, but a skull? No, I've never dropped something as big and important as a skull (nor have my students). That was my clue that Perez did it.



Ratings
Forensic Mystery - C-. More than most episodes, the killer was telegraphed pretty early on.

Forensic Solution - C-. No evidence was reported for sex estimation, and ancestry was sketchy. At least the age estimation was reasonable.

Drama - C-. Eh. Hard to have a lot of drama with a bunch of new people we don't know or care about in a far-away country.

Next week: Two episodes of Bones in one week?  We'll see if I can find time for that.  The real question is, since Bones is moving to Fridays, the day that TV dies, does this mean it's the last season?

November 3, 2013

Who Needs an Osteologist? (Installment 8)

Via Dr. Carlina de la Cova... National Geographic Channel needs an osteologist:


One could argue that by "kid" they mean "juvenile goat," but that limb bone is not juvenile.  And doesn't look like goat to me (looks like a deer metatarsal, but my zooarch skills are admittedly quite rusty). Thoughts?

Previous installments of Who needs an osteologist?

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